When talking about Czechoslovak pilots fighting in exile during WWII we keep coming across Spitfire, the legendary English fighter aircraft. It was flown by our airmen, including Frantisek Fajtl, whose 100th anniversary of the birth we commemorate this year, on the West Front. A completely rare machine, the Spitfire version Mk.XVI based in Bremgarten, Germany, will be displayed on the Aviation Fair 2012 by pilot Dan Griffith. Recently the aircraft flies in marking of the Canadian Tangmere Wing Commander "Jack" Charles from March 1945. This version of Spitfire is also tied closely to the story of Slovakian ace Otto Smik, the Commander of the 127th Squadron, who was shot down on his Mk.XVI by German Anti-Aircraft defence near Zowlle railway station on November 28th 1944.
The Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XVI was developed from the Mk.IX to address performance improvements to keep the edge in aerial combat at lower altitudes. The Mk.XVI used the Packard Merlin 266 engine rated at 1700 horsepower and optimized for lower-altitude operations. The aircraft was armed with two 20mm Hispano Cannons and two Browning 0.5 inch machine guns. It was capable to carry one 500 lb (227 kg) or two 250 lb (114 kg) bombs. The Mk.XVI would serve through the end of the war, many of which adopted the clipped wingtips and bubble canopies. A total of 1,054 Mk.XVIs were produced.
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XVIe in colours of W/Cdr. Jack Charles (left picture) is a diamond in the collection of Stephen Stead, a show pilot and regular attendant of the Aviation Fair. Photo on the right shows Otto Smik, the Slovakian airman, who laid down his life on this type of aircraft fighting for his homeland. He was only 22 years old those days.
Left photo: "Tear top canopy"- tak byly označovány stroje opatřené kapkovitým překrytem kabiny, produkované současně s letouny klasického provedení. Za příklad slouží tento snímek Spitfiru LF Mk.16 RW396 (FJW-L) ze stavu Central Gunnery School, sídlící v Leconfieldu, u níž sloužil v poválečných letech i stroj TE184, hvězda letošní Aviatické pouti.
Hlavní dodávky Spitfirů LF Mk.XVIE směřovaly v konečných měsících války v Evropě ke squadronám 2nd Tactical Air Force (RAF). Foto vpravo zobrazuje dvojici "šestnáctek" 443(RCAF) squadrony, která tuto verzi obdržela v lednu 1945 na základně Évere v Belgii. Jak vidno, letouny se stavěly ve dvou variantách rozpětí křídla. Z archivu Zdeňka Hurta.
Serial number TE184, like all other Mk.XVI’s, was built at Castle Bromwich and was delivered to No.9 MU at Cosford on 30th May 1945 to be placed in store. On 12th October it was transferred to No.20 MU at Aston Down and 11 months later, on16th September 1946, it moved to No.6 MU at Brize Norton. There followed a two-year spell in store until 7th September 1948, when TE184 was issued to No.203 Advanced Flying School (later renamed No.226 Operational Conversion Unit). It remained in service with the OCU until 27th February 1950, when it was transferred to No.607 RAuxAF based at Ouston, where it was one of a pair of Mk16 Spitfires on charge with the unit, the rest of the aircraft being Mk22’s or Harvards. This posting was a short one, as on 13th June the aircraft was placed in store at No.33 MU Lyneham, remaining there until 9th November, when it joined the Central GunnerySchool at Leconfield. 30th January 1951 saw an accident which resulted in Cat.3R damage being sustained, but on 27th February this was recategorized as Cat.5(GI) and TE184 was converted to ground instructional use and delivered to No.64 Reserve Centre at Long Benton, Newcastle upon Tyne, with the maintenance serial 6850M.
1952 saw a move to No.1855 squadron ATC at Royston, Lancs., and here it remained on static exhibition until February 1967 when it was taken to RAF Bicester. It was then used as a static airframe in the film The Battle of Britain. On completion the aircraft was moved to Finningly to join the museum collection there. Superficial restoration work being carried out and the codes “ME-M” applied in yellow, but in August 1970 it was transferred to No.5 MU Kemble for restoration and respray as “LA-A” prior to its delivery to No.23 MU Aldergrove in late 1971 for storage on behalf of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra Manor. By March 1977 the museum was in a position to place the aircraft on outside display, but it was soon seen to be deteriorating in the maritime climate and it was placed in side as a conservation measure.
Sold to Nick Grace in 1986. Registered G-MXVI to Myrick Aviation Services February 2nd 1989 and rebuilt as a high back Mk.XVI with first flight on November 23rd 1990. Sold to Alain de Cadenet in 1995. To Hawker Restorations on 5th December 1996. Repainted in free French Air Force markings (2002). Moved to OFMC at Duxford until its future has been decided.
Recently restored at Booker by PPS. The G2 Trust's MKXVI Spitfire TE184 took to the skies again after overhaul by PPS in the hands of test-pilot Jonathon Whaley on the 20th of February 2009. Sold to Stephen Stead in April 2011.