Arguably the ultimate version of the Spitfire, the unarmed Rolls-Royce Griffon powered PR.XIX reconnaissance aircraft relied on speed and stealth to survive in the combat area. This version of the Spitfire still holds the world altitude record for a single piston engined aircraft, set at 51,500 ft. in February 1952 by Flight Lieutenant Ted Powles.
First entering service with the RAF in 1944, the Spitfire PR XIX was a superb reconnaissance platform and continued in service long after the end of the Second World War. Powered by the mighty Rolls Royce Griffon engine, these ultimate Spitfires travelled at speeds over 100mph faster than the first Squadron machines and could attain far greater altitudes. In February 1952, Flight Lieutenant Ted Powles flew Spitfire PS852 to an incredible altitude of 51,500ft during a reconnaissance flight over the Chinese Island of Hainan.
Flying with RAF No.81 Squadron out of Kai Tak airfield in Hong Kong, Powles set an altitude record for the Spitfire and for single engine piston fighters which still stands to this day, acting as an enduring legacy of these magnificent machines. The scheme worn by Ted Powles Spitfire on his record breaking flight has recently been applied to one of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire PR XIXs (PS915), following the completion of a ‘major plus’ refurbishment of the aircraft. It will hopefully be seen enthralling Airshow audiences throughout 2017.