The fabulous story of the restoration of a British Navy Supermarine Seafire Mk.XV
From time to time I let on that in the past I was a keen private pilot and before that a glider (sailplane) pilot. My son has been a commercial airline pilot for many years. Inevitably, one gets to know other pilots, a few of whom become firm friends. One such friend is Bob Derham who recently sent me this story about the restoration of a Supermarine Seafire. For anyone interested in classic aircraft, the story of this particular aircraft is fascinating.
Supermarine Seafire Mk. XV
This airplane is one of only four known Seafire Mk. XVs to exist in the world and it may be the only flying Supermarine Seafire Mk. XV in the world. Dr. Wes Strickler’s immaculate Supermarine Seafire Mk. XV (also known as the “hooked Spitfire”) is based in Columbia, MO, was restored by Jim Cooper, and made its first post-restoration flight in 2010. The Supermarine Seafire was a naval version of the Supermarine Spitfire specially adapted for operation from aircraft carriers. The Seafire’s mission was primarily as a short range interceptor. The name Seafire was derived by abbreviating the longer name “Sea Spitfire”.
The Mk XV variant of the Seafire was powered by a Griffon VI (single-stage supercharger, rated at 1,850 hp driving a 10 ft 5 in Rotol propeller. It appeared to be a naval Spitfire F Mk XII but was an amalgamation of a strengthened Seafire III airframe and wings with the wing fuel tanks, retractable tailwheel, larger elevators and broad-chord “pointed” rudder of the Spitfire VIII. The engine cowling was from the Spitfire XII series, being secured with a larger number of fasteners and lacking the acorn shaped blister behind the spinner. A vee-shaped guard forward of the tailwheel prevented arrestor wires getting tangled up with the tailwheel.
One problem which immediately surfaced was the poor deck behavior of this mark, especially on take-off. At full power the slipstream of the propeller, which swung to the left (as opposed to the Merlin, which swung to the right), often forced the Seafire to swing to starboard, even with the rudder hard over on opposite lock. This sometimes led to a collision with the carrier’s island. The undercarriage oleo legs were still the same as the much lighter Merlin engined Spitfires, meaning that the swing was often accompanied by a series of hops. This undercarriage also gave it a propensity of the propeller tips “pecking” the deck during an arrested landing and occasionally bouncing over the arrestor wires and into the crash barrier.
Wing span: 36ft 10in. Max takeoff weight: 7,640 lb. Max speed: 359 mph. Power: 1,850 hp.
When you watch the film, Jim Cooper makes it clear that there were others on the restoration project. But the film also makes it clear that without Jim this beautiful aircraft would never have been restored, let alone restored to a flying machine.
Settle back and enjoy!
Uploaded on Aug 18, 2010 by Scott Schaefer
“While Sarah Hill and I were taping the first Central Missouri Honor Flight special in the Ozark Hangar at Columbia Regional Airport in January 2009, I noticed Jim Cooper working on a plane in the corner of the hangar. I love airplanes and this sight piqued my interest.
The corner was enclosed by plastic from floor to ceiling and inside sat a plane, wings folded toward the ceiling and a paint job that left more to be desired. It was the Seafire XV – one of only a handful still in existence. As soon as I saw the plane and learned a few facts about it, I knew I wanted to do a story on it and follow Cooper through the rest of the restoration process.
Cooper had already been working on the Seafire for nearly a year and half by the time we met, but there was still plenty of work that had to be done. I started shooting that night and throughout the next year and half, whenever Cooper would move to a different stage in the restoration, he’d call and I would head to the hangar to shoot video. I didn’t shoot every part of the process, but tried to capture the big ones ?cleaning the plane, painting, revealing the paint job, testing the landing gear, testing the engine and of course the first flight.
After 10 trips to the airport, 130 miles and nearly 6 hours of video, it was time to start the editing process. Once all the video was in the system, I spent 14 hours typing the details from of every sound and interview captured in the video. That log was essential in writing the story. I needed to know exactly what was said in order to organize everything into a story that would hopefully hold people’s interest. After I had a rough script written, I began to edit the video. After about 15 hours in the edit bay tweaking every little audio and video cut? then re-tweaking them? I was finally finished. Nineteen months later. It was a tough job picking the best four minutes from six hours of video, but in the end, I think I accomplished what I set out to do.”
Leave you with another photograph.
If you wanted to see the aircraft in the air, then it will be at this year’s EAA OSHKOSH. I’ve always wanted to go but never made it! Anyone fancy baby-sitting some dogs and horses around the end of July? 😉
Thanks Bob for sending me the video link.