Aeroplane Aviation Archive — Issue 33 The World’s Fastest Aircraft

(Jacob Rumans) #1

he Gloster Meteor holds a very special
place in British aviation history. It may
have been too late to play a major role
in World War 2, as well as just being beaten
into service by Germany’s Messerschmitt
Me 262, but as far as the RAF was concerned,
it truly ushered in a new era being its  rst
operational jet  ghter. It was also a record-
breaker, securing the outright world air
speed record.
When Germany’s He 178 became the world’s
 rst jet aircraft on 27 August 1939, the UK Air
Ministry became increasingly concerned that
it was losing the lead in the new technology
that had been forged by the inventor of the
jet engine, Frank Whittle. Consequently, the
UK’s  rst jet aircrat, the Gloster E28/39, took to

Gloster Meteor

the air from RAF Cranwell on 15 May 1941.
Having proved the concept, the next step was
a production jet aircraft for the RAF. Given
its close relationship with Whittle and Power
Jets, the Gloster Aircraft Company became
the obvious choice to build such a machine.
After much delay, the Meteor, as the aircraft
eventually became,  rst  ew in 1943. The
Whittle engine, now known as the Rolls-
Royce Welland, was selected for production
Meteor Is. They began arriving with No 616
Squadron in July 1944, not long after the
troubled Me 262 had entered Luftwa e
service. The Meteor’s  rst mission was
mounted later in the month from Manston,
Kent, against V-1  ying bombs. The unit, and
the aircraft’s,  rst two V-1 ‘kills’ were scored

Top: A rare image of a Meteor I, displaying the type’s original rounded wingtips. The faired over gun
ports and prototype ‘P’ letter signify its use as an experimental test aircraft. At the outset, the Meteor I
had four 20mm Hispano cannon mounted in the nose, and this armament persisted throughout the
type’s RAF service. Only the number of rounds carried would change. On the later night  ghters, the
cannon were moved to the outboard sections of the wings.

Left: Heralding the dawn of a new age. A stunning image of RAF Meteor F4s ‘attacking’ a Lancaster.
None of the early jets could ever truly be described as easy to  y. The technology relating to engines
and systems was in its infancy, and there was by de nition no pool of experience on such machines
from which to draw.
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