An Aussie's travels to air shows, aviation museums and more around the world
Spitfires Down Under
Australia and New Zealand have a unique warbird scene which is dominated by World War Two era aircraft. One of the most classic fighters of that period was the British built Supermarine Spitfire, an aircraft that was flown by both RAAF and RNZAF pilots during the war.
New Zealand did not actually own any Spitfires outright. In the Pacific theatre they operated the Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk and Vought F4U Corsair fighters but RNZAF pilots did fly Spitfires on behalf of the RAF in Europe and North Africa (RNZAF Squadron 485 operated in Europe).
The RAAF on the other hand not only had pilots flying RAF Spitfires in Europe, North Africa and Burma (RAF serialled aircraft were flown by RAAF Squadrons 451, 451, 453 and 457 in Europe an North Africa) but also operated 656 Spitfires in the Pacific theatre (Squadrons 79, 85, 452 and 457). The RAAF aircraft were delivered between 1942-1945 and included the following Spitfire variants: 246 Mk. Vc, 251 Mk.VIII and 159 HF Mk.VIII.
The Spitfire was used by the RAAF as an interceptor to protect northern Australia and later New Guinea from Japanese air attacks. The Spitfire’s range was found to be a bit short-legged for Pacific operations but remained alongside the Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk as the main RAAF fighter until the much longer ranged CAC Mustang (Australian built P-51) was introduced in 1945. RAAF Spitfires were disposed of between 1946 – 1952.
Luckily there are quite a few of Supermarine Spitfires remaining in both countries. These include 4 flying examples (2 in Australia and 2 in New Zealand).
In addition to the flying Spitfires there is about 20 non-flying examples of various models in museums and private collections around both countries. These aircraft are either restored and on display, in storage or in various states of restoration.
I have seen all 4 flying examples at various air shows in Australia and New Zealand and it never gets old seeing a Spitfire take to the skies. The graceful lines of the aircraft, especially the elliptical wing accompanied with speed and the sound of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine are pure magic!
Museums the aircraft featured are displayed in and further information on the aircraft: