Historic Spitfire Flight Over Southampton

A re-enactment of the moment 75 years ago when a Spitfire took to the air for the first time took place on Saturday March 5th 2011.

The iconic fighter, piloted by Carolyn Grace, made a lap of Southampton International Airport with its undercarriage down, just like the 1936 test flight that paved the way for the aircraft to become a mainstay of the RAF during the Second World War.

She then treated the crowd to a display of aerobatics over the airport.

The aircraft, built in 1944 and credited with shooting down the first German plane on D-Day, had earlier been seen by thousands who came out in chilly conditions to see it fly over its birthplace, Southampton.

It was designed by the famous RJ Mitchell at Supermarine's factory in the south coast port and first flew from the then Eastleigh airfield - now Southampton International Airport.

RJ Mitchell never lived to see the Spitfire become one of the most famous aircraft in the world as he died in 1937 of cancer, aged just 42.

Mrs Grace, from Sydney, Australia, said:

"To be in Southampton for the 75th anniversary of the first flight, to be standing on the ground at the very spot that RJ Mitchell was standing looking at his achievement, it makes my knees go weak.

"His aircraft represents Britain at its best at a time it was on its knees.''

Mrs Grace owns the aircraft that flew in the war with 485 Squadron and she took over flying it after her husband Nick, who had restored it, died in a car accident in 1988. It is based in Bentwaters, Suffolk.

The Rolls-Royce Merlin powered Spitfire is now a two-seater aircraft, and carried the architect of a new Spitfire tribute, Nick Hancock, on the flight over Southampton.

Fundraising is under way to help raise the £2 million needed for Mr Hancock's design for a national landmark to commemorate the Spitfire.

The monument will sit two miles from the Supermarine Aviation site where RJ Mitchell developed the aircraft.

The test pilot, John "Mutt'' Summers, was at the controls of the Spitfire as it took off in the afternoon of March 5 1936 with little fanfare.

He reported back to the design team on the prototype K5054 aircraft saying: "Don't touch anything.''

The RAF, desperate for a modern fighter to thwart the Luftwaffe, immediately ordered 310 before the test flights had finished and the Mark I complete with eight machine guns in the wings entered service in August 1939 less than a month before the start of the Second World War.

The aircraft, affectionately known as the Spit, went on to fight throughout the war, firstly helping the Hurricane repulse the Germans during the Battle of Britain, and then taking the fight to Europe when the Allies invaded in 1944.

It is a myth that the Spitfire saved Britain from invasion in 1940 with its prowess in the Battle of Britain because only 182 were in service at the outbreak of the war. The reality is that Sir Sydney Camm's more numerous Hurricane was the mainstay of the RAF's Fighter Command repelling German bombers and fighters.

More than 22,000 Spitfires were built during the war and afterwards and around 50 worldwide are still airworthy.

Spitfire Over Southampton

Spitfire Over Southampton

Carolyn Grace with Spitfire