I have seen a WW2 movie where the pilot of the Supermarine Spitfire has difficulties to extend the landing gear as the engine is no longer running.

This would be reasonable if the gear normally needs hydraulic or electric power to be extended, otherwise probably just an attempt to add more tension to the plot. Would running out of fuel (no engine power) make the extension of the Supermarine Spitfire landing gear more difficult or different from usual?

  • $\begingroup$ From the manual looks like it was hydraulic power with CO2 cylinder backup. Ok this is the answer. That interceptor is more complex than I assumed. $\endgroup$
    – h22
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 10:45

1 Answer 1


Early models of Supermarine Spitfire (prior to the 175th production aircraft) had no hydraulic gear extension system, according to Wikipedia:

At the same time the manual hand-pump for operating the undercarriage was replaced by a hydraulic system driven by a pump mounted in the engine bay


The movie could show the normal extension of the undercarriage, using a lever, but a lost engine would not impact the operation.

After the 175th aircraft, the gear was hydraulics powered, so without engine running, the pressure could be insufficient. The design included an emergency extension using a $\small \textrm {CO}_2$ cylinder:

enter image description here

Source: 1940 Spitfire Manual

The system is visible on this image (black bottle with red handle "Emergency Only"):

enter image description here


The hydraulic gear control box is at the center.

  • $\begingroup$ So it would appear that Dunkirk got this bit slightly wrong, as there is a scene where a pilot pumps a handle up and down repeatedly to lower the landing gear, violating the instructions in the last sentence of paragraph (b). $\endgroup$
    – David K
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ Chassis control handle - how very British..... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ Paragraph (b) refers to later Spitfires with the CO2 emergency system. If the Spitfire in the movie was an earlier version, the landing gear would have to be pumped down. "the manual hand-pump for operating the undercarriage was replaced by a hydraulic system driven by a pump mounted in the engine bay" $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 0:35
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @mins, Yes, I was only responding to "David K". "Dunkirk" was correct providing it was an early Spitfire. There are so many other things wrong with the movie, I highly doubt they researched it well enough to fully understand variations in the workings of the Spitfire undercarriage systems. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 0:59

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