July 16: Design flaw meant Spitfires were death traps

From: Allen Jenkinson, Lipscomb Street, Milnsbridge, Huddersfield.

THOSE dewy-eyed over the Spitfire, following events such 
as the Buckingham Palace flypast (The Yorkshire Post, July 11) 
are not aware of the record of these “icons” of killing and disfiguring British and Allied pilots in the worst way 
possible – fire.

The designers of the Messerschmit 109 and Focke Wolf 190 – Nazi Germany’s primary single seat fighter aircraft – placed the main fuel tanks below and behind the pilot.

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When they were punctured and the escaping fuel set on fire by tracer rounds, the burning petrol would be blown backwards by the slipstream, away from the pilot, making escaping a burning plane more survivable.

Not so the designers of the Spitfire and Hurricane; they stuck the fuel in two pressurised tanks right in front of the pilot, all 80-plus gallons of it, so when they were hit the burning petrol was blown straight back filling the cockpit. This is why there are many images of badly-scarred Second World War RAF pilots but not so Luftwaffe pilots.

The myth that the Spitfire won the Battle of Britain has been perpetrated for far too long, it was the pilots who knowingly flew these potentially lethal fire traps.