Ordered in 1943 as a Mk VII, the aircraft was eventually built by Vickers at Eastleigh as a PR. XIX and was not collected from them until November 1945. It never saw RAF Squadron service, instead operating Meteorological Research Temperature and Humidity flights from RAF Woodvale. These involved the pilots reporting on clouds, ice formation, turbulence, haze, visibility and prevailing weather conditions. During its short time with this unit, PM651 was forced to make two emergency landings including one at Halfpenny Green airfield in Staffordshire, after it was damaged in a flying accident.
After a period on display at RAF Andover and RAF Benson, the aircraft was loaned to Spitfire Productions for use in the iconic film “Battle of Britain”. It appears in ground shots in the hangars at RAF Duxford.
The aircraft then spent 16 years on display at the main gate at RAF Benson. By 1989 the aircraft had found its way into the Royal Air Force Museum but had been heavily stripped of essential parts for other Spitfire restorations. After some time in the Museum’s storage hangar at RAF Stafford, the aircraft was brought to the Conservation Centre at Cosford where restoration work commenced in October 2010. Work included building a new Elevator assembly and other conservation work. Finally the aircraft was repainted to its original paint scheme for display purposes.
The Spitfire PR. XIX was the last of the specialised photo reconnaissance Spitfires. It was unarmed and could carry two vertical cameras and one oblique camera mounted in the rear fuselage. With a top speed of 445mph the aircraft could reach 42,500ft in height.
There are significant differences between the Mk1 and PR. XIX Spitfires both on display at the Museum. The much more modern PR. XIX was fitted with the Griffon engine as opposed to the Merlin engine used in earlier models and was notably faster than its predecessor. The PR. XIX had extra fuel tanks in place of the machine guns that were fitted to the Mk 1 and a retractable tail wheel making its profile more streamlined for its flights at high altitude. Probably the most significant difference between the two Spitfires on display is the pressurised cabin in the PR. XIX, critical for the high altitude reconnaissance flights.
Clare Carr, RAF Museum Cosford Assistant Curator says:
“We are delighted to be able to display two models of such an iconic aircraft. They help to show the diverse roles in which the Spitfire served ranging from fighter interceptor to high altitude photographic reconnaissance.”
The Museum is open daily from 10am and admission is free of charge. For more information on the Museum, visit www.rafmuseum.org or call 01902 376200.
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