Mustang vs Spitfire – which is best?

I have an ongoing debate with a friend of mine on this topic. Steven is Team Mustang, he believes it is a more reliable and powerful aircraft (he is an aircraft engineer so his reasons make sense). I believe the Spitfire was more capable as a fighter and holds more significance in aviation history than the Mustang (I also grew up in the UK so please read a LOT of bias in my opinion).

It’s important to note that myself or Steven have neither flown in a Spitfire nor a Mustang (but are very open to offers), but as with most aviators we nevertheless have strong opinions on the subject.

Biggin Hill Airshow – May 1981

Let’s get quantitative for a moment – here are some performance stats of the two aircraft:

SPITFIREMUSTANG
Max takeoff weight6,700 lb / 3,039 kg12,100 lb / 5,490 kg
Cruise speed272 mph / 237 kts362 mph / 315 kts
Max rate of climb2,600 ft/min3,200 ft/min
Service ceiling36,500 ft41,900 ft
Range (approx)430mm1,400nm

Based on those numbers you could say the Spitfire was slower, couldn’t carry as much, ran out of fuel faster, and would therefore be outperformed by the Mustang every time. But pilots who have flown the Spitfire tell of how agile it was, and that whilst it may not go as high, nor as fast, it could out-manoeuvre the Mustang in a head to head battle any day of the week.

My favourite part of this debate though is eventually we both come around to finding reasons to like each other’s preferred aircraft. Steven will admit the Spitfire was a deadly combatant in the Battle of Britain and I will watch the Mustang display at airshows and realise what a wonderful aircraft it really is.

The truth is there is no “better” aircraft out of the two, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a favourite. I like having a strong opinion, but holding on to it loosely. I think that’s our job as aviators, to use all the available information to make a decision rather than thinking we’re right all the time. Because we’re not!

I ran a quick poll on Instagram to ask the audience what they thought, I haven’t shown this to Steven yet…

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