The world’s only flying example of a Seafire Mk. XV made its first
appearance at EAA AirVenture 2010.
Mustang, a couple of TBM Avengers, and an
AT- 6 that originally belonged to EAA
founder Paul Poberezny.
But not everything is in flyable condition.
On the project side of Doc's hangar is the
other Seafire Mk.XV. It was rescued out of
the jungles of Burma. “We had recovered a
group of airplanes in Burma years ago,” said
Doc Wes. “Some Mk.IX Spitfires, a number of
Chipmunks, and a Mk.XV Seafire [SR 462].”
Because the Seafire was the rarest of the
bunch, Doc Wes opted to restore it first—that
was until this one, PR 503, came up for sale.
“I was attracted to this airplane because
the Seafire is not on the front pages of histori-
cal annals,” said Doc Wes. “It came out late in
the war, so it didn’t have the pizzazz of the
Spitfire. What intrigued me most, however,
was the more powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon
Mk. VI engine that made the Seafire special,
enabling it to launch off the short decks of
British aircraft carriers in a hurry.”
aluminum and red colored spinner housed a
four-bladed wood propeller, while the fuse-
lage sported the familiar colors of the British
roundel. But oddest of all was a tail hook dan-
gling below the rudder.
SEAFIRE PR 503 HISTORY
Although the Seafire and its land-based Royal
Air Force cousin the Spitfire share many of
the same features, they were by all accounts
different. The Seafire was designed to launch
from carriers and intercept the Luftwaffe
invaders that were pummeling England during the Battle of Britain. Early Seafire models
were modified examples of Mk.IX Spitfires
Even before war broke out in Europe, soldiers in the British Royal Navy saw the Spitfire as a carrier-borne fighter. Unfortunately, due to political reasons, the admiralty's request for the Seafire was turned down in favor of inferior aircraft. One argument was that, if the Spitfires were taken off the production line and turned into Seafires (Sea Spitfires), there may have been a shortage of available fighters to take on the daily Luftwaffe attacks during the Battle of Britain. But as the war progressed into the early 1940s, the need for a new British carrier-launched fighter was evident. EVOLUTION OF A FIGHTER
Unlike its American-designed and -built counterparts like the F4F Wildcat, F4U
Corsair, and F6F Hellcat, all of which were purposely built to take the abusive punishments of no less than a “controlled crash” as they landed on a pitching carrier
deck, the Seafire was more or less a stopgap measure that literally took a great land-based fighter design and attempted to navalize it.
The problems were evident early on as the first Seafire model, known as the
Mk.I, had troubles not only landing on the decks of carriers, but also staying
in one piece. Soon, reinforced strips were incorporated around fuselage weak
points, and the development of a newly designed arrestor hook system, called
the sting hook, became standard. Eventually more than 2,300 Seafires were
built of various Marks, including the Mk.I, Mk.II, Mk.III, Mk.XV, Mk.XVII, Mk. 45,
Mk. 46, and Mk. 47. Some of the early Marks saw combat off the coasts of Italy
and France in the European theater, while others were used extensively in the
Pacific theater. The big change for the Seafire came with the Mk.XV model with
the powerful V- 12 Griffon engine.
The mating of such powerhouses was bittersweet for the Royal Navy pilots. Although
they could launch in a hurry and climb to Combat Air Patrol altitudes much faster
than ever before, they had to get used to the torque of the engine pulling them the
“wrong way”—to the right, where the conning tower was stationed. The Mk.XV
entered service too late to see any combat, and it probably would have had great
success against Japanese kamikazes. The excess torque problem was eventually rectified with the Mk. 47 Seafire that used six-bladed contra-rotating propellers.