The Oldest Meteor

Have I mentioned the Meteor before? I ought to look through the annals of this blog but I don’t honestly think I have. My friend Paul Bird the architect used to talk about form following function when we were students together, and to a certain extent the early jet aircraft were expressions of that philosophy. The Meteor is another of those iconic aircraft shapes which I associate with my childhood, or youth, and I do remember being excited when Airfix and Frog released their models of the F.3 and F.4 respectively.

(Above) White-painted Gloster Meteor F.3 EE239 ‘YQ-Q’, of No. 616 Squadron at B58/Melsbroek, Belgium. A flight of Meteors was detached from 616 Squadron to 2nd TAF to provide air defence against the Messerschmitt Me 262, being joined by the whole Squadron in March 1945. During the initial deployment, the Meteors were painted white to aid identification by other Allied aircraft. Royal Air Force- 2nd Tactical Air Force, 1943-1945. http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//54/media-54754/large.jpg

The reason for this particular ramble is that my sister Hilary referred me to a UK news item about the retirement of an airworthy Meteor night-fighter at Bruntingthorpe over the weekend. I still haven’t worked out which one it is / was although there can’t be too many contenders. I have a feeling it must be NF.11 / TT.20 WM167 but I’ll be happy to be proved wrong.

I am struggling to remember if I’ve ever seen a Meteor flying around. I did take a photo of a very rusty example stored on the outer fringes of Duxford airfield in the early 80s. It was either F.4 VT229 or F.4 VT260, both of which are preserved in the USA. There was a Javelin next to it, if I recall correctly.

So that got me thinking. Where are the oldest Meteors located? I know I’ve seen the prototype DG202/G at Cosford, and someone on Wikipedia is at great pains to point out it’s the prototype F9/40 and was never actually called a Meteor. OK, fair enough, but after that?

Gloster F9/40 prototype (can you call it a Meteor?) DG202/G on display at the RAF Museum London in November 2011 Photo by Nick-D CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons
  • F9/40 DG202/G, first prototype with the RAF Museum. Picture above
  • Meteor F.4 EE531, noted at the Midland Air Museum located at Coventry Airport near Baginton, Warwickshire. If you’re going to be strict about the F9/40, then this is the oldest complete production Meteor in the UK.
  • Meteor F.4 EE549 at the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum (on the site of the former RAF Tangmere) Chichester, W. Sussex. EE549 was the “Star Meteor” which set the world absolute speed record of 616 mph on 7 September 1946.

Argentina? I know that the Fuerza Aérea Argentina received a number of ex-RAF and newly built Meteors. It turns out several of them are preserved and many of them are very old. Here’s a list of the older examples in the order of their former RAF serials, remixed from the Wikipedia page:

  • Meteor F.4 I-027, ex-EE527, Museo Regional Interfuerzas, Santa Romana, San Luis. Four digits senior to EE531 at Bagington, this is in my view the oldest complete production Meteor extant.
  • Meteor F.4 I-025, ex-EE532, displayed on plinth on the Avenue of the Air Force, outside the Escuela de Aviación Militar, Córdoba.
  • Meteor F.4 I-029, ex-EE537, being restored for the Museo Regional
  • Meteor F.4 I-019, ex-EE553, displayed on plinth at the Northern Roundabout of the Avenue Spinetto Santa Rosa, La Pampa. Painted as I-021, condition poor.
  • Meteor F.4 I-014, ex-EE575, displayed on plinth in Goya, Corrientes.
  • Meteor F.4 I-038, ex-EE587, Junin Aeroclub, Junin, Buenos Aires.
  • Meteor F.4 I-041, ex-EE586, Museo Nacional de Aeronáutica de Argentina, Morón, Buenos Aires.
  • Meteor F.4 I-031, ex-EE588, Either at the Liceo Aeronáutico Militar de Funes, Funes, Santa Fe, or Aeroclub Las Parerjas, Las Parjas.
Gloster Meteor F.4 C-041 (ex-RAF EE586) taken at the Museo Nacional de Aeronautica in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2006 Photo by Francisco Infante via Wikimedia Commons
Gloster Meteor F.4 C-025 (ex-RAF EE532). Third oldest extant production Meteor displayed on plinth on the Avenue of the Air Force, outside the Escuela de Aviación Militar, Córdoba in 2012. (Arqueologia Aeronautica)

For the benefit of the American readership there are actually four preserved Meteors as follows:

  • Actually airworthy is Meteor T.7 N13Q, ex-G-BWMF, ex-WA591 at the World Heritage Air Museum in Detroit, MI
  • Wouldn’t you know it. Kermit Weeks has Meteor F.4 N229VT, ex-VT229 under restoration or at least in storage at Fantasy of Flight, Polk City, FL.
  • Meteor F.4 VT260 – (I must dig out my photo) is at Planes of Fame in Chino, California. (Picture below)
  • Meteor NF.11/TT.20 WD592 is at the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum, Edwards Air Force Base, CA.
Gloster Meteor F.4 VT260 on display in the ‘Jet & Air Racers’ hangar at the Planes of Fame Museum, Chino, CA, USA. February 2016. Photo by Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK. CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

We then come to the issue of bits of old Meteors. I tracked down a couple in the UK just as I thought I’d finished writing this article.

The Imperial War Museum has what it describes as a cockpit section of F.3 EE416. This aircraft was delivered to Martin-Baker in November 1945, and it was from EE416 that the very first live ejection test in the UK was carried out on 24 July 1946.

The Jet Age Museum in Gloucester has the cockpit and nose undercarriage leg of F.3 EE425 which was presented to the museum by the son of the former Chief test Pilot at Gloster Aircraft. https://jetagemuseum.org/meteor-f3-cockpit-ee425/

How about Australia? I came across a reference to Meteor F.3 EE427 was sent to Australia post war and re-serialled A77-1. Unsurprisingly it made the first flight of a jet aircraft in Australia, but was damaged in a heavy landing in Darwin in early 1947. (Written off 2/14/47 after heavy landing at Darwin, NT. Broken up 5/21/47. Struck off charge 5/11/49). From what I can gather only a few odd bits survive at the Darwin Aviation Museum, previously known as the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre. You can see some photos of the aircraft itself in complete and derelict state (and indeed the piece that’s on display in Darwin) at http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a77.htm

The Fundamental Things Apply

Eighty years since the first flight.   Which means it was twenty years ago this summer that I was sitting at Duxford with my late dad watching the Spitfire Diamond Jubilee Airshow.   And what would he have thought about the return of the two Mark 1 Spitfires?   He’d have  loved it.  I read somewhere years ago that there are more airworthy Spitfires now than there were in 1960.  This number must be steadily increasing.

Supermarine Spitfire Ia N3200 (G-CFGJ)
Supermarine Spitfire Ia N3200 (G-CFGJ)
By Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK
CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Personally I always thought there was something exotic about the so-called “low-back” or bubble-canopied mark IX and Mark XVI  Spitfires. You saw them preserved  all over the place. I even took a few pictures of TD248 while it was still on top of a pole at RAF Sealand  in the 1980s.   I never thought I’d see one flying around,  and now we have three, at least since TE311 flies with the BBMF and RW386 is in Sweden.  I was going to include RW382  but I’d forgotten it was restored from low-back to high-back configuration.

supermarine_spitfire_mk_xvi_nr
Not up a pole any more. Spitfire LFXVIe TD248 flying at Duxford

The influx of Mark XIVs and Mark XVIIIs from India have given us a couple more exotic models.  I followed NH904 (now N114BP formerly G-FIRE) from England in the 1980s to Palm Springs,  California and took its picture in 2010.  It’s painted to look like a Mark 24 Spitfire of 80 Squadron for some reason.   At some point I ought to travel down to Dallas and catch the Mark VIII MT719 since there aren’t many of those around at all.

Spitfire FRXIVe NH 904
Spitfire FRXIVe NH 904 N114BP (formerly G-FIRE) at the Palm Springs Air Museum, June 2010. (Own Photo)

The Seafires have been an amazing addition, and we have somewhere down the line the prospect of EN224, the prototype Spitfire Mark XII, and one of the  Seafire FR46s that Peter Arnold recovered some time  ago also taking to the skies.   Anticipation is a wonderful thing.

Happy News from England: G-BPIV “L6739” Flies

I read on Twitter that the Aircraft Restoration Company (ARCo) had got their Bristol Blenheim Mk.1 back into the air. My congratulations, I’ve been following the whole Blenheim story since the 1980s, and it’s nice to see the work has reached a conclusion and she’s back in the air.

I can’t find a photo of the finished product that isn’t copyrighted and I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, so here’s a picture from 2010 that has a Creative Commons license.

Do, however visit this link and see some beautiful pictures of G-BPIV taking to the skies last week: http://www.globalaviationresource.com/v2/2014/11/20/aviation-news-she-flies-bristol-blenheim-mk-i-l6739-g-bpiv-takes-to-the-skies-at-iwm-duxford/

Blenheim Mk I reconstruction
Blenheim Mk I reconstruction by the Aircraft Restoration Co at Duxford, for the owners, Blenheim (Duxford) Ltd. The reconstruction is based upon a restored Bolingbroke airframe with restored Blenheim Mk I nose section.
by Chad Kainz (Chicago, USA)
(CC BY 2.0) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

And for the Blenheim aficionados here’s a pic of a Finnish Air Force example:

Blenheim Mk.1 Landing at Luonetjärvi Airfield, March 1944