Replicating the design of an historical aircraft is a little like playing detective. It requires many painstaking hours of pouring over drawings and doing comparisons with photos of the particular series and model. Nowhere is this more the case than with the Spitfire. While we have some 3400 drawings at our disposal, representing everything that is publicly available, there are many more drawings which may now have been destroyed or are laying in some forgotten filing cabinet.
During the war much of the Spitfire’s production was decentralised, hived off to different smaller fabrication and manufacturing facilities.
These facilities would have been heavily affected by the bombings; even if not destroyed there were power, water and other service disruptions. It’s a wonder that people were able to produce any aircraft at all during this chaos. It speaks volumes to the courage and determination that went into making this great aircraft.
There were also components supplied on a turnkey basis, like the Dunlop Spade Grip, for which there are no formal drawings to be found. In those cases we have to rely on actual measurements taken from surviving equipment.
The basic series of drawings starts with the Mk.I and then variations to these designs were added. There are 38 different prefix codes listed below, signifying some of this variety:
All of this adds immense complexity to the task of recreating the designs. This week we were reminded of this while working on the throttle quadrant.
In keeping with our design philosophy, we are recreating the original Mk.IX quadrant before redesigning to accommodate rapid fabrication, reduced cost and simulator functionality. It’s been hard work but great fun, giving one a sense of what it must have been like in those anxious pre-war years slaving away at a drawing board, trying to get out a design as rapidly and effectively as possible while the spectre of the coming war loomed large.