Supermarine Spitfire prototype K5054
Eastleigh, 5th March 1936
Click to enlarge image
Of course, this site wouldn’t do without the colour profile of the all-important Spitfire prototype, K5054.
The Spitfire prototype, with the serial number K5054, made its maiden flight from what is now Southampton airport on the 5th March 1936. Its construction began over one year previously, in December 1934.
When the prototype was rolled out at prior to its first flight in March 1936, it had no paint finish except for registration number and RAF roundels. Interestingly, the cowling panels had markedly brighter shade than the rest of the airframe. Also, different grades of aluminium used for fuselage panelling could, depending on the lighting conditions, give it a rather patchy appearance, especially at the cockpit door, radio hatch and the wing fillets.
Also, the undercarriage covers were not yet fitted at this point.
In was in this shape that the prototype made it first flight in the hands of “Mutt” Summers. The aircraft was reported to handle beautifully. This was perhaps just as well, because even before the prototype had completed its official trials the RAF ordered 310 Spitfires.
Top, bottom and front views of the same aircraft. At the time of its first flight, K5054 did not have wheel covers in place. Also, note that many details of the panelling were very different from the subsequent production aircraft.
A few days later, prior to its first official presentation, K5054 received its famous overall light blue finish. Actually, Supermarine used a high gloss but rather short-lived automotive lacquer in an effort to reduce drag prior to high-speed trials.
Many minor modifications and refinements were subsequently made to the Type 300 as suggested by flight trials over the following months. The original ‘diagonal’ horn balance was replaced with a reduced “straight” type, ejector exhausts replaced the flush-fitted stacks, tail wheel was mounted in place of the fixed skid. Different propellers were also fitted.
Eventually, K5054 emerged as the pattern for the production version of the Spitfire Mk. I. At the later stage of its career it was camouflaged in standard RAF scheme of Dark Green and Dark Earth over silver lower surfaces.
K5054 met its unfortunate end in a fatal crash on 4 September 1939 at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough.