Battle of Britain: Turn Around Time

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by michaelmaltby, Jul 25, 2009.

  1. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    I came across this on a UK website (Little Known Fact WW2) which i find very revealing:

    "The turn-around time (re-arm, refuel etc.) for the Spitfire was 26 minutes. That of the Hurricane, only 9 minutes from down to up again. During the Battle of Britain the time spent on the ground was crucial and as one fitter/mechanic of No. 145 Squadron quipped: "If we had nothing but Spits we would have lost the fight in 1940."

    Can anyone confirm/refute this..?

    MM
     
  2. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    I would think they would both be about the same 9 minutes sounds a little quick since they didn't have one point refuelling and loading 8 guns would take alittle time , the think is they were harder to start when hot
     
  3. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    I find the difference in time between the 2 times very hard to imagine. At the same time I recall a colleague who worked on Spitfires during WW2 talking about how fussy the various service panels on Spitfires were compared to Mustangs which used Zeus fasteners. I am wondering where the source of those numbers I quoted originally came from.

    MM
     
  4. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Surely turning round an aircraft involves more than filling up with fuel and ammo. Wouldnt the oil and coolant levels need to be checked and topped up. What about the oxygen system I cant imagine that was a quick job refilling the oxy tank. I have read somewhere that it took an hour plus to get a Spitfire or Hurricane back in the air.
     
  5. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I will have to look but if I remember from several books I have, the rate was about 20 minutes. Don't remember if a specific crate was named but assumed they were talking about Spits.
     
  6. Hop

    Hop Member

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    From Hurricanes Over Malta by Cull and Galea:

     
  7. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Good post, Hop. That's telling.

    MM
     
  8. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Wow that is some slick work those RAF ground crew boys could show Formula 1 pit crews a few tricks. I presume that was with a fuel tanker they couldnt have done it that fast filling up from jerry cans surely.
     
  9. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    That really is amazing!
     
  10. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Most of the refuelling was done from cans, the few tankers (converted buses) were for the first few aircraft to land.
    It is well known that the incomming pilots were replaced by experienced Malta pilots what isn't as well known is that some of the Malta pilots who took their aircraft had never flown a Spitfire before. It was considered safer to give the new Spits to experienced Hurricane pilots than send up the newly arrived pilots from the carrier.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Not quite the same thing but it provides a clue.

    Per "The Blitzkrieg Myth" by John Mosier.
    During the invasion of France Luftwaffe aircraft averaged 3 sorties per day. RAF aircraft averaged 2. French aircraft averaged 1.

    I have no other source for these sortie rates so I cannot confirm them.
     
  12. merlin

    merlin Member

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    Sorry, I too don't have a quote - I remember reading - The Forgotten Air Force - (the Polish Air Force). Where pilots who fled Poland and escaped from the detention camps of Roumania, to join the French Air Force, who amazed at the attitude of the French pilots at for example dispersal, and sortie rates.
     
  13. Negative Creep

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    One of my books states 35 minutes. Although I imagine that was between standard sorties, not at the height of the batlle
     
  14. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    Is it like the old joke "How many people does it take to change a light bulb?"

    The more ground personnel = a quicker turnaround?

    According to Group Captain Colin Frankland Gray DSO DFC, turnaround time, which meant refuelling, rearming and adding O2 rarely exceeded "twelve minutes for a whole Squadron (Spitfires)". However he doesn't mention how many personnel were involved.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    My father is ex an RAF instrument fitter he never worked on Hurricanes (much to his regret) and he only ever worked on photo recc Spitfires. So he cant be certain about what happened during the war but he did work on Vampires, Night Fighter Meteors and Sabers and he says the by the book turnaround time was an hour with 4 ground crew. However by throwing men at the job and cutting safety corners he said they could turn round an aircraft in 20 to 30 minutes.

    In his opinion it wouldnt be possible to re-arm an aircraft in 4 minutes he says loading the ammo belts of 20mm and .50 cal was a time consuming job that if rushed could mean the guns jammed possibly killing the pilot. He says that was the one job that was never rushed. Just as he was finishing in the RAF the Hawker Hunter was coming into service and he says that had a 4x30mm gun pack that was a self contained unit of guns, mounts and ammo boxes that could be changed in 10 minutes by 2 men a direct result of the problems in getting planes with wing mounted guns re armed.

    My dads memory isnt brilliant these days but he is pretty definite on those times.
     
  16. slaterat

    slaterat Member

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    The Hurricane MK Is wing guns were faster to load than the Spitfire MK Is. The Hurricanes mgs were located closer together and were loaded from the top of the wing, the Spitfries guns were spaced farther apart and loaded from the bottom.

    Slaterat
     
  17. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Ah hah. :) That explains something. Thanks Slaterat.

    MM
     
  18. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I'm not familiar with the gun installation on either type although I have some familiarity (from long ago!) with similar weapons (not cannon). Loading from the bottom,if that was indeed the case, would, I think, be extremely fiddly. I have read that there was so little room in the Spitfire wing that cocking the weapons was extremely difficult and that armourers made up their own tools from bits of wood and wire coat hangers to achieve this whilst keeping some skin on their knuckles!
    I have also read that turnarounds for these types was around the half hour mark. I have no idea about refuelling but I do not believe that it would have been possible to rearm eight machine guns in ten minutes!
    Throwing more men at a job does not always make it quicker,how many men can actually access the weapons at once?
    Just my completely intuitive and unscientific tuppence worth.
    Steve
     
  19. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    From what I've learned over the years, it seems that the average time to turn around a Spit or Hurricane, during the BoB , was around 12 to 15 minutes, although it was normally nearer 20 to 25 minutes under normal circumstances, that is, not in a heck of a rush!.
    Re-fueling was done from bowsers normally fitted with overhead hose gantries, enabling a quicker re-fuel time, whilst at the same time the oxygen would be re-filled and pressurised, and the radio checked etc. The normal compliment of armourers was two, but this was doubled, with two men (minimum) working on each wing at the same time.
    On the Hurricane, the four Brownings per wing were mounted in one bay, side by side, with the ammunition trays alongside. Once the top coverof each gun is opened, and the working parts cleared, it takes just a couple of seconds to load the belt onto the feed tray, check that it's aligned, then close the cover, checking it's locked properly. One man would 'lap in' the ammunition belts into the ammo trays, ensuring all of the disintegrating links were in line, without any kinks, which ccould, and would, cause a stoppage due to mis-feed. As he was doing this, the other armourer would be preparing the guns. Given that there were no problems, such as a previously jammed round still in the breech, or jammed between breech and block, then it would be possible to load the ammo trays, lay out the belts and load each gun in well under ten minutes.
    The Spitfire was more complex, with the guns spaced out along the wing, and the ammunition was held in pre-loaded metal boxes, which were loaded into the wings from beneath, which meant that two men would have to load each box, then lock it in place, and feed the gun-end of the belt to another armourer, on top of the wing, before closing the cover, which was hinged at the front, and locking the latches, which were not Dzeus fateners, but button screws. This had to take place four times on each wing, with each gun station having a separate cover for the ammo box and the lower side of the gun bay.
    On the top of the wing, the other armourer would have to feed in the belt, lock the top cover, then fiddle, probably with his home-made tool, to **** each gun, before replacing the individual cover for each gun, and screwing it into place to ensure it was firmly locked down.
    The rest of the procedure was as per the Hurricane, although the latters' radio and internal systems were perhaps easier to access through one large, removable side panel.
    On later Marks of the Spitfire, especially those with the 'E' wing, which dispensed with the .303 MG's, re-arming was easier, as the ammunition bay was alongside the main gun bay, with a much larger access hatch on the top of the wing, giving easier access and working conditions.
     
  20. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    How many men would have been needed for a fast turn round I have been thinking about it and it would seem to need a minimum of 10
    4= re arming
    2= re fueling 1 on the hose 1 on the fuel tanker
    1= instrument fitter checking radio and instruments
    1= air frame rigger
    1= filling oxygen
    1= NCO in charge

    Is this too many or too few could some jobs be doubled up ie the instrument fitter hooks up the oxygen and then checks instruments whilst it is filling the oxy bottle.
     
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