The Spitfire’s elliptical wing explained

Spitfire aficionados Tony Hoskins and Hugh Hunt discuss the design of the most famous aircraft wing ever made.


In the 1930s, RJ Mitchell began his venture into designing a new fighter aircraft to replace the Gloster Gauntlet, and the resulting aeroplane would become a symbol of hope during World War II. The most recognisable element of this aeroplane – other than its sound – was the shape of its wing. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the elliptical wing is arguably the most iconic shape to come from British engineering in the past century.

The reasoning for the elliptical wing was simple: the design called for a shape which needed to be thin to avoid creating too much drag, but it had to be thick enough to house the retractable undercarriage, armament, and ammunition. It was decided that an elliptical planform was the most efficient aerodynamic shape for an untwisted wing, leading to the lowest amount of induced drag. In the above video Tony Hoskins and Hugh Hunt, both Spitfire experts, discuss this revolutionary design and the colossal impact it had on the performance of the Spitfire, leading to the ultimate victory in the Battle of Britain.