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Post-WW2 British aircraft gallery

These photographs have been kindly contributed by Omar Fowler. Omar spent seven years in the RN Fleet Air Arm and three years at the Empire Test Pilots School at Farnborough in the late 1950's.

Firefly Trainer (open enlarged image in a new window) Fairey Firefly Trainer

The Firefly was derived from the Fairey Fulmar, and was designed as a fleet reconnaissance aircraft for the Royal Navy. First flown on 22 Dec 1941, the first versions were delivered in Mar 1943 to RNAS Yeovilton.

Throughout its operational career, it took on increasingly more demanding roles including fighter and anti-submarine tasks.

Main variants included:
- The F1 (1,990-hp Griffon XII engine);
- the FR1 (ASH radar underneath the engine);
- the NF2 (night-fighter);
- the Mk.IV (outer wing nacelles carrying fuel and an ASH scanner);
- the FR4 (two-stage supercharged engine);
- the AS5 (sonobuoys);
- the TT5 and TT6 (target tugs);
- and the T7 (anti-submarine trainer).

The Firefly remained in service post-WW2 in both the UK and Australia. In the Korean War it flew anti-ship missions off aircraft carriers, and in Malaya served in a ground-attack role. In 1956, the Firefly was replaced by the Fairey Gannet.

More info:

TT39 Mosquito (open enlarged image in a new window) De Havilland Mosquito TT39

Much has been written about this legendary wooden aircraft. The TT39 version's role was for the towing of targets and the calibration of radar. It was produced between 1946-47 and withdrawn from service in 1950.

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Westland Wyvern (open enlarged image in a new window) Westland Wyvern

The Westland Wyvern was a British single-seater strike aircraft. It began life as a 'Torpedo Fighter', intended to operate as daylight fighter and torpedo bomber. Designed by John Digby, it was a large aircraft because of the large engine (24 cylinders) and the intention to fit a turboprop at a later date.

The first piston-engined Wyvern (TS371) took to the air on 12 Dec 1946 with Harold Penrose at the controls. It soon established a bad reputation, mainly due to problems with the engine and propeller. Only fifteen piston-engined Wyvern's were built.

Two turboprop engines soon became available, the Rolls-Royce Clyde and the Armstrong Siddeley Python A.S.P.3. The Clyde (rated at 4,030 HP with a potential for much more) was Westland's preferred engine and it fitted into prototype VP-120 successfully. But the engine never went into production because Rolls-Royce wished to focus on turbojet production.

So Westland was forced to use the older Python engine of 3,760 HP which provided a top speed of 616 kmh and a range of 1455 km. This engine gained a bad reputation, being unreliable and having a slow reaction time. These problems were never satisfactorily resolved and the aircraft became very unpopular with those who had to fly it, one test pilot even considered the Wyvern lethal.

Carrier trials began on 21 Jun 1950 and the aircraft entered service in May 1953. It was in service with the Fleet Air Arm from 1954 to 1958 when it was withdrawn from service. It saw action against Egyptian forces in 1956 during the Suez crisis, 830 squadron seems to have been the only one that made any combat flights, losing 2 aircraft in 79 sorties.

A later version, the TF.4 had numerous small changes. Martin-Baker Mk. 2B ejection seats were installed and the cockpit was reinforced. Later modifications included perforated dive brakes, a flat windscreen, and provision for tip tanks.

Total production: 127 Westland Wyvern's were made.

Armaments: 4x 20 mm cannon, eight rockets, and either three 450 kg bombs, a 825 kg mine or a 20-in torpedo.

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Avro York (open enlarged image in a new window) Avro York

In 1941, Avro designer Roy Chadwick sketched out a long-range transport aircraft based on the Lancaster. It had a bigger fuselage of rectangular cross-section and an additional tailfin, but it used the Lancaster's wings, tail, undercarriage and engines.

It became the Type 685 York, and the prototype flew on 5 July 1942, it was to prove itself as a very useful military and civilian transport. Production began in 1943 and when construction ceased in November 1946 some 258 had been manufactured.

A York was used by the RAAF as a VIP transport during 1945-47. During the Berlin Airlift Yorks flew 58,124 of the 131,800 sorties conducted by the RAF.

The York was used by a number of British and Commonwealth airlines and charter companies during the 1940s and 1950s. BOAC used it on the Cairo to Durban route in late 1946. BSAA were also operators of Avro York aircraft on their routes to South America.

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Short Sturgeon (open enlarged image in a new window) Short Sturgeon

The Sturgeon was a large, but clean-looking twin-engined design with a distinctive glazed nose. 24 Sturgeon TT Mk.2 target tugs were built as were two S Mk.1 gunnery trainers.

The Sturgeon's role was as a naval liaison and target tug aircraft. It was originally intended as carrier-borne reconaissance bomber, but this requirement was dropped when WW2 ended and plans for large aircraft carriers were abandoned.

More info:
britishaircraft.co.uk (tech data/specs)

Bristol Brabazon (open enlarged image in a new window) Bristol Brabazon

Information about the Brabazon is available on a separate page in the Lost Classics section of this site.

Meteor - prone (open enlarged image in a new window) Gloster Meteor F8 'Prone Position'

This highly modified twin-cockpit Meteor F8 #WK935 was used in 1954 by the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine to evaluate how pilots coped with the effects of gravity while laying in a prone position.

Difficulties encountered by the pilots operating the aircraft's controls outweighed any advantages and the development of pressurised aviation clothing offered a simpler solution to the problem of counteracting 'g' forces.

More info:
nurflugel.com (excellent prone position site)

Sea Meteor (open enlarged image in a new window) Gloster Sea Meteor

There seems to be very little information available about the Sea Meteor, here is what I found on the faqs.org website:

"Following deck handling trials with a Meteor prototype in 1945, two Meteor IIIs were fitted with an arresting hook and reinforced landing gear, and used for carrier trials in 1948. The two aircraft performed takeoffs and landings from the HMS Illustrious and HMS Implacable. The Royal Navy was impressed by the navalized Meteor, but decided to obtain the Supermarine Attacker instead."

Sea Vampire (open enlarged image in a new window) De Havilland Sea Vampire

Originally to be called 'Spider-Crab' the Vampire first flew in 1943. Following the construction method of the 'Wooden Wonder', the De Havilland Mosquito, the centre fuselage of the Vampire was built out of plywood, though the tailbooms and wings were metal.

On 3 Dec 1945 a converted RAF Vampire made the first landing by a jet aircraft on an aircraft carrier (HMS Ocean). As a result, the Royal Navy ordered an navalised fighter based on the Vampire FB5. The poor acceleration of the turbojet made carrier take-offs difficult so it served mainly in training roles, giving FAA pilots jet experience. The first F20 flew in October 1948 and the last had been delivered by June 1949.

Several Vampires were modified as F21s which had reinforced undersides for "flexi-deck" landing trials on HMS Warrior. This involved removing the undercarriage and the aircraft landed by bouncing down onto the rubberised flight-deck. Although the trials were a success, the idea did not catch on and the Sea Vampire served in a purely training role as the T22 into the 1950's.

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Vickers Valiant (open enlarged image in a new window) Vickers Valiant

The first of the three British V-bombers (the other two were the Vulcan and the Victor), the Valiant was the first V-bomber to drop a nuclear weapon and was the first to go into action (against the Egyptian airfields in the 1956 Suez Crisis).

The Valiant was less able than it's siblings to stand up to the change in role to low-level penetration (forced upon the V-force by the improvement of Soviet air defences) so it ended up having a short life, much of it's service time was spent as a tanker.

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Vulcan (open enlarged image in a new window) Avro Vulcan

The Vulcan was the first delta-wing jet bomber, this wing configuration made it extremely agile for such a large aircraft. The first prototype flew in 1952 and the Vulcan became operational in 1956 armed with the Blue Steel nuclear air to ground missile. A total of 133 Vulcan bombers were produced.

The Vulcan bombers were relegated to a conventional role in 1966, when the Royal Navy's Polaris submarines became operational. Later, some Vulcans were converted to the role of Strategic Reconnaissance.

The Vulcan made its mark in aviation history during the Falkland Islands War of 1982. Several Vulcan bombers were converted back to bomber status and flew several bombing raids against the Port Stanley Airport and several radar sites.

These missions, code named Operation Black Buck, held the record for the longest (distance) bombing raid in history. This record has since been broken by the Strategic Air Command during Desert Storm in 1991. The Black Buck missions were flown from the Ascension Islands to the Falklands and back, a distance of over 7,700 miles.

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Victor (open enlarged image in a new window) Handley Page Victor

Designed as a strategic bomber to RAF specifications, the prototype first flew in 1952 and went into production for RAF Bomber Command in 1956. The Victor was the last of the 'V' bombers to enter RAF service in 1958. Equipped with up to 35 conventional bombs or a Blue Steel nuclear mid range missile, the Victor retained a nuclear capability until 1975.

A number of Victors were converted into tankers for in-flight refuelling. The wing, fuselage and bomb bay tanks have a total capacity of 57,607 kg of fuel. They continued in this role into the 1990s and played a prominent part in RAF Tornado operations in the 1991 Gulf War.

The Victor was finally withdrawn from service in 1993, having lasted nine years longer in service than any of the other V bombers, albeit not in its original role.

More info:

FD2 SBAC (open enlarged image in a new window) Fairey Delta 2 (FD2)

The FD2 was the first aircraft to exceed 1,000 mph in level flight.

In the late 1940s Britain was trailing far behind in supersonic aircraft design. To try to rectify matters the Ministry of Supply issued a specification for a supersonic research aircraft to investigate flight and control at transonic and supersonic speeds.

The FD2 was a single-seat, delta-winged aircraft powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon engine with an afterburner. To improve the pilot's forward view during landing, taxiing and take-off, the cockpit and nose section could be hinged downwards by ten degrees, a feature later used on the Concorde.

There were two FD2 aircraft built. The first FD2 #WG774 was flown on it's on its maiden flight by Lt Cdr Peter Twiss on 6 Oct 1954. On the 10 Mar 1956 Twiss set a new World Absolute Speed Record of 1820kph (1132mph) between Ford and Chichester in Sussex, UK.

This beat the old record by more than 300mph which was quite an achievement considering the old record had only been set the previous year by an American F100 Super Sabre.

Interesting Fact: The Fairey Marine Motor Cruisers company manufactured boats called the Huntress and the Huntsman 28. These were used in the James Bond movie From Russia with Love. The 'bad guys' boat was driven by Peter Twiss, driving one of the other boats was former Fairey Marine sales director Charles Currey.

More info:
au.af.mil (Peter Twiss bio)
studenten.net (photos)
1000aircraftphotos.com (photo)

Avenger (open enlarged image in a new window) Grumman Avenger

The prototype TBF (later known as the Avenger) flew on 1 Aug 1941 and immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour less than a week later (7 Dec 1941) was ordered into production.

The first production models, manufactured by Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. were completed on 3 January, 1942. Grumman built a total of 2,293 TBF Avengers between 1942 and December 1943 when Eastern Aircraft (a Division of General Motors), built a further 2,882 (designated TBM) and over 4,600 of the TBM-3 which had a larger engine and strengthened wings to carry rocket projectiles.

The Royal Navy obtained 402 aircraft under the Lend-Lease scheme, 832 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm was the first to be equipped with them in early January 1943. They were initially designated the Tarpon Mk.1 but in January 1944 were redesignated as the Avenger Mk.1. Avengers of the British Pacific Fleet, 848 squadron made the first attack by British warplanes on the Japanese mainland.

Avengers were used aboard aircraft carriers in an anti-submarine role, and in a shipping strike role in the English Channel and North Sea. The Avenger finally retired in 1962 from the Fleet Air Arm. A total of 9,839 had been built. In civilian life the Avenger found a useful role as a fire bomber and many are still in use in Canada.

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