The Early Years - The Pedigree Behind The Spitfire

The Early Years - The Pedigree Behind The Spitfire

The Supermarine aircraft factory (originally established as Pemberton-Billing Ltd in 1913), was extremely well known throughout the British Isles by the late 1920's and early 1930's. This was because a number of Supermarine seaplane models had won the coveted Schneider Trophy in 1922, 1927, 1929 and 1931.

Schneider Trophy

The Schneider Trophy, initially launched in 1912 by French financier, Jacques Schneider, was a legendary race only for seaplanes. This race was run over a particular course, usually triangular in shape. Each aircraft would perform timed laps of this circuit, with the fastest declared the winner. The race, although initially instituted by Schneider to advance aviation technology, eventually became all about speed. Any manufacturer winning the trophy for three events in a row, would keep it.

Supermarine Schneider Trophy Hat-trick

The Supermarine factory had won the Schneider Trophy once before, in 1922. Reginald Mitchell had been chief engineer at the company from 1920. With a series of Supermarine seaplanes specially designed with the trophy in mind, Mitchell began to start hitting his peak.

His first Schneider Trophy win came in 1927 when a Supermarine S5, piloted by Sidney Webster clocked an average speed of 281.66mph around the circuit. The race was now held every second year, and this allowed Mitchell more time to perfect his seaplane designs.

In 1929, Supermarine were once again the victors, this time with the S6, which now broke through the 300mph average speed barrier. It completed the course at an average speed of 328.64mph.

Now with a chance of winning the Schneider Trophy outright, Supermarine initially received a shock when the British government withdrew their financial support to the project. A private donation by Lady Lucy Houston quickly got the project back on track, and the Supermarine S6.B won the title on 13 September. The only other contestants in the race were British manufactured planes as both the German and Italian entries were not ready on time. Whether it would have won had the German and Italian's arrived for the competition is unknown. What is known is that the S6.B did win with an average speed of 340.08. It went on to break the magical 400mph mark later that month.