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Schneider Trophy to Spitfire: The Design Career of R.J. Mitchell Hardcover – 24 Jul 2008
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About the Author
John K. Shelton MA, PhD, has a special interest in industrial archaeology and aviation history. Until his retirement he was head of Humanities at Staffordshire University. He was involved in setting up the 'Spitfire Room' at Stoke-on-Trent Museum. He lives in Staffordshire.
Top customer reviews
This well conceived and organized work tells us a number of things. First, Mitchell's design path was quite severely evolutionary in nature with clear progression of development from one design to another following the general trajectory of aircraft development from 1920 to 1937. Second, Mitchell was primarily a flying boat and racing seaplane designer with the Spitfire the only successful landplane he did! Third, Mitchell created a very skilled and capable design team that contributed greatly to his sucess and was capable of carrying out all the development work that virtually doubled the performance of the Spitfire in it's life. Fourth, he designed aircraft strictly to his analysis of their intended role and what characteristics were required for that specific application. Thus it was by no means odd that the last design before the iconic high performance Spitfire was the wire braced pusher engined biplane amphibian Walrus which had a quite useful wartime career.
All this is quite different from the view of R.J. Mitchell as Romantic (in the philosphical sense) hero struggling to assert his individual genius on an uncaring world as depicted by Leslie Howard in the film Spitfire (The First of the Few). But in my view reality is often much more complex and interesting than legend, as I find it to be in this case. I don't think this book reveals anything new or startling but presents the facts in a very clear and well organized way.
I wish the author had presented more to us about the working methods of Mitchell and his design team, including pages of sample calculations and working drawings but John Shelton wrote, quite well, the book he wanted to write and I highly recommend it.
I enjoyed the way that Dr Shelton describes R J Mitchell's life, from a fantastic array of Supermarine seaplanes and amphibian aircraft to the world-beating Schneider Trophy machines.
This book also shows what happens when a great engine (The Merlin) is teamed with a great Engineer(Mitchell)resulting in the legend that is the Spitfire.
All to soon, I had reached chapter 9; Epilogue, only to be delighted to find four very interesting and informative appendices.