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

(Jacob Rumans) #1

The need for speed
In 1945, the RAF re-formed its High-Speed Flight, last extant before the war when it operated the Schneider Trophy-winning seaplanes. Its purpose
was to claim for Britain the outright world air speed record, in those days a source of great pride. Months of preparation went into the speed record
e ort. Two Meteor F3  ghters, EE454 and EE455, were modi ed on the production line to the new F4 version to attempt the record. The standard
B.37 Rolls-Royce Derwent Series I turbojet engines were replaced with Derwent Series V turbojets and lengthened jet nacelles. The wings were
shortened, the tips reshaped and the canopy was cut down and strengthened. All trim tabs on  ight control surfaces were disabled and their
edges sealed. Landing gear and gear door up-latches were strengthened to prevent them from being sucked open at high speed. The aircraft were
lightened and all armament deleted. The surfaces were smoothed and painted in a gloss  nish. EE454 retained the standard camou age pattern,
while EE455 was painted in a distinctive yellow-gold colour. Flying EE454, Gp Capt H. J. Wilson re-set the ‘speed bar’ at 606mph on
7 November 1945. The course was an 8 mile (12.9km) straight away from the Herne Bay Pier to Reculver Point, along the south coast of the Thames
Estuary. Gp Capt E. M. Donaldson raised the mark yet further, to 616mph in EE549 on 7 September 1946. Neither of these records, however,
exceeded Heini Dittmar’s 623mph uno cial record velocity in one of the Me 163A rocket  ghter prototypes. Test pilot Roland Beamont had
previously taken EE549 to its compressibility limit at 632mph, but not under o cial record
conditions, and outside its o cial safety limits. A standard Meteor F4 also gained a 100km closed-
circuit record at a speed of 542mph.

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