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Spitfire Mk.1 undercarriage system - Engine-Driven?


Johnson
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There has been some debate in recent months as to whether the Mark 1 Spitfire was ever fitted with the engine-driven hydraulic undercarriage system. I for one am quite convinced that it was. It is clearly present in the Mk.1 Spitfire (R6692) featured in the IWM film. But this was not convincing enough for everyone. A little light reading at tea time this evening provided a bit more evidence:

 

From 'Spitfire - A complete fighting history by Dr Alfred Price. Excerpts from Chapter 2 - Into Service written by Air Commodore Henry Illife Cozens, CB, AFC who commanded 19 Sqn when the first Spitfires were introduced into service in 1938;

 

'Yet another problem was what we called 'Spitfire Knuckle' : when pumping up the undercarriage it was all too easy to rasp our knuckles on the side of the cockpit'

 

'... we received a high-powered deputation from The Air Ministry, Fighter Command Headquarters, Supermarine, Rolls Royce and Goodness knows where. We discussed the shortcomings [of the Spitfire] at length and they promised to do what they could to overcome them. I remember that my own bandaged 'Spitfire Knuckle' made quite an impression on the Supermarine team.'

 

'The later Mark 1 Spitfires had an engine-driven hydraulic system to raise and lower the undercarriage, which did away with the need to pump and resultant 'Spitfire Knuckle'.

 

One might imagine that Air Commodore Cozens would get his facts right, and the above may have some bearing on the statements made at the end of the Editorial in INFO Eduard - October 2020, p5.

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There may have been some debate, but I don't think there's been much uncertainty.  Thanks for sharing that, though!

 

Edit: No sooner do I post than I remember I've got Mk.I manuals (electronic form) that include the revisions with the new system added.  As I said, not much uncertainty!

 

bob

Edited by gingerbob
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I think the only uncertainty is WHEN the changeover occurred, and at what serial number. I happen to subscribe to the "about the 600th aircraft" theory. Both N3200 and P9374 were recovered with manual hand pumps, and P9374 was the 557th Spitfire built.

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I agree entirely with Rolls-Royce that the only uncertainty is when the change occurred. I was prompted by the original post to look in my Spitfire references, all of which were surprisingly vague about

when it was changed. Morgan & Shacklady give detailed drawings of both systems, but merely acknowledge that the change took place. Bruce Robertson (in Spitfire-the Story of a Famous Fighter) gives anecdotal evidence

of use of the manual retraction system, but simply states that "on late production models [of Mk.1] an engine-driven pump was introduced . . ." His production history and variants list don't mention the change.

 

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9 hours ago, Fifer54 said:

all of which were surprisingly vague about when it was changed

And that's the problem. But they did have other things going on to occupy them!

 

6 hours ago, 72modeler said:

I am attempting to channel Edgar Brooks as we speak!

Don't worry Mike, I'm sure he's following!

 

19 hours ago, Rolls-Royce said:

N3200 and P9374 were recovered with manual hand pumps, and P9374 was the 557th Spitfire built.

We need to find an RXXXX Spitfire with the engine driven system.

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Hi Folks,

 

To help unravel the Holy Grail of Spitfire uncertainties (or one of them, the other being the way a Sutton Harness was fitted :D) @Ray_W found a useful diagram that shows the workings of the hand pumped undercarriage system;

 

51111287561_958e973af6_c.jpg

 

The header tank looks like this from the inside;

 

i-bMmdfHM-L.jpg

 

or this from the outside;

 

50250998802_a04f36e923_c.jpg

 

What we need is a very clear period photo of a Mk.1, showing the serial number and Sqn code, that doesn't have this tank.

 

That or dig up a wreck.

 

Cheers,

 

 

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I was just perusing the photos in WingLeader's Photo Archive on the Spitfire MK I. As terrific as the pictures in that book are, very few clearly show the tank, even on the aircraft with the original two-bladed props, which were certain to have it. Most were taken from the aircraft's port side at ground level, which went far to obscure the tank. Even shots from the starboard side were mostly full of glare from the perspex, making it difficult to see the top of the tank. Sigh.

My personal feeling is that this was not a common retrofit item, as it didn't enhance the aircraft's combat performance, instead adversely affecting it by adding weight even though it was relatively slight. This is not to say that a VIP's or commander's mount wouldn't have been so modified, as The Boss gets perks us mere mortals can only long for. In short, if a Mk I left the factory with the hand pump, it likely kept that setup to the end of its days...

 

Edited by Rolls-Royce
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No, I don't think that it was a common retrofit.  Perhaps a "wrecked" aircraft getting a deep rebuild.  Perhaps tomorrow I'll do a bit of poking around and see if I can find more clues...

 

Edit: link to a prior discussion:

 

Edited by gingerbob
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First flight 5 Apr- that certainly is a good data point, assuming that you interpret correctly (and I have no reason to doubt you).

 

I have, in fact, done a bit of poking around, though extremely unfocused (or at least not well focused on THIS!), but nothing further to report yet.  I'd have thought that such an improvement might merit some flight test comments, but nothing has leapt to my attention.

 

bob

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There is a great side on image of P9450 https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-al61a-430-supermarine-spitfire-mkia-p9450-71171560.html. Someone may have the high definition image. I cannot see any evidence of the header tank. What is it number 613. FF 5-4-40 8MU 8-4-40 64S 2-6-40 damaged by Bf109 nr Rouen Sgt C L Hopgood killed 5-12-40

 

Edit: Thanks @Mark Postlethwaite just saw your earlier post.

 

Ray

 

 

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Thanks @Mark Postlethwaite - the photos of P9450 are excellent.

 

A good find Ray. Even at that resolution you can clearly see the top of the rear cockpit wall and no header tank.

 

Cheers Bob, a good reminder of the previous discussion on Spitfire K9938 SD-H.

 

And here's another of P9450. Lovely photo, one of my favourites, Jeffrey Quill (I believe) at the controls on a test flight;

 

y4mVBiKPJhCjhjopfBSsnHrG-Tcz2lS4_aUdcRKb

 

Here's an enhanced crop of the cockpit area. If P9450 had the header tank it would be very evident. No gunsight fitted at this time.

 

y4m03kI6W5BcsUtVEcOqkIyFtsAMjJ9IB9DtFRuw

 

And for reference; the two systems - manual U/C system (left) with the engine driven system (right) from Morgan and Shacklady, p69. These diagrams are in the chapter on the Mk.1.

 

y4migTmr5XSpmDkwLM1L9tPHThZkwSXafT0fUFFS

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6 hours ago, Johnson said:

Morgan and Shacklady, p69

 

My references are all back in Australia so everything is being done remote. 

 

5 hours ago, BS_w said:

Another view of P9450:

 

Well then that does look like some form of tank in the usual position for manual operation. The hunt continues for a clear image of a Mk. I without the header tank and a serial number for timing. 

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3 hours ago, Ray_W said:

Well then that does look like some form of tank in the usual position for manual operation.

It certainly does!

 

Fitted a bit lower? If so it kind of discredits the idea of a good photo from the stbd without the header tank as proof.

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1 minute ago, Johnson said:

so it kind of discredits the idea of a good photo from the stbd without the header tank as proof

 

Yes, kinda. If the position varied then little hope of a definitive answer without the conversion documentation. We do know we have Mk. II's coming out from June-July 1940, supposedly with the engine driven pump and that nice Spitfire maintenance video showing the engine driven pump. Has anything come up confirming the serial number of the latter aircraft?

 

 

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9 hours ago, Ray_W said:

 

My references are all back in Australia so everything is being done remote. 

 

 

Well then that does look like some form of tank in the usual position for manual operation. The hunt continues for a clear image of a Mk. I without the header tank and a serial number for timing. 

How about R7159 on page 35 of the Wingleader MK I book? It is factory-fresh, with no squadron markings. This one also has the IFF "cheese slicer" aerials introduced in late September of 1940. The angle the photo was taken from eliminated the glare one usually sees in photos of the area in question.

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3 hours ago, Rolls-Royce said:

How about R7159 on page 35 of the Wingleader MK I book?

It's a very good photo RR, and almost certainly fitted with the engine-driven system.

 

But the above photos of P9450 have rather discredited the idea that the absence of the tank in the rear stbd canopy proves it was engine-driven.

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10 hours ago, Ray_W said:

 

Yes, kinda. If the position varied then little hope of a definitive answer without the conversion documentation. We do know we have Mk. II's coming out from June-July 1940, supposedly with the engine driven pump and that nice Spitfire maintenance video showing the engine driven pump. Has anything come up confirming the serial number of the latter aircraft?

 

 

R6692 was the serial of the aircraft in the videos.

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20 minutes ago, Rolls-Royce said:

That may not be a tank, Charlie, although it really does appear to be one. The blown-up photo is rather grainy and ill-defined, but does not show the characteristic large fitting/cap and line on the top of known hydraulic fluid reservoirs for the manual pump system. If you notice, the pictures from the starboard side of the same aircraft do not reveal what appears to be an aluminum or aluminum-painted tank, and they are at a high enough angle to easily do so. In that grainy enlarged photo from the port side, I think what we're seeing is light reflecting from a perfectly or near-perfectly flat painted surface, not aluminum. That's my theory, anyway. 

 

Edited by Rolls-Royce
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