Aviation Historian 11
K.Hayward - High Anxiety
Flying from Blackburn's airfield at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor in 1959 are the first two prototypes, XK486 and XK487, together with (background) the fifth machine, XK490, which was the original weapons trials aircraft, fitted with a rotating bomb bay
Ordering a pre-production batch, rather than the usual single prototypes, meant that there were sufficient trials aircraft to permit a far more efficient test programme.
NEWLY-APPOINTED TAH Editorial Board member Gregory Alegi recently found this photograph while looking for something else. We are sure we’ve seen it before, but cannot recall the occasion or the story behind it. Can anyone from the readership provide chapter and verse? If so, please contact the Editor or the Managing Editor.
A magnificent Cyril Peckham study of the prototype Hawker P.1067, WB188, in 1951, the year in which the shapely fighter made its maiden flight. The Hunter, as it became, was the Swift’s main rival for the high-altitude interceptor role. It too suffered from development problems, but went on to become a world-class success.
Although the P/F-51H never underwent the rigours of combat or operation from primitive airfields, the USAF decided to have its tailwheel fixed down. These P-51Hs were assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group.
One of the major overhaulers of Mustangs was Grand Central Aircraft, located at the historic airfield of the same name in Glendale, California. Mustangs for Latin America and the USAF were flown from Kelly AFB and overhauled, retaining their retractable tailwheels.
The Gloster Javelin FAW.1 all-weather interceptor entered RAF service in February 1956, having suffered from its own considerable development problems. A “thin-wing” development of the type was planned, for which components and sub-assemblies were completed, but the project was ultimately cancelled in the summer of 1956.
Swift F.7 XF118 was one of ten operated by the Guided Weapons Development Squadron at RAF Valley from June 1957 until December 1958, and was used for intensive trials of the Fireflash air-to-air missile, an example of which is seen mounted beneath the wing.
Swift FR.5 WK315 served with No 79 Sqn, which replaced its Meteor FR.9s with the variant in June 1956, operating the Swift in the fighter-reconnaissance role in Germany until the end of December 1960.
Swift FR.5 WK303/'H' of 79 Sqn in a dive. The aircraft would go supersonic in a dive, with a tendency to drop a wing, give a slight kick on the elevator and perhaps a forward movement of the control column as Mach 1.0 approached.
Fg Off Alan “Harv" Harvie on the downhill run of a loop in Supermarine Swift FR.5 WK303 of No 79 Sqn in June 1960. This squadron received its Swifts in 1956.
The Supermarine Type 535 research aircraft, serialled VV119, was essentially the prototype of what would develop into the Swift, and was used memorably in the filming of David Lean’s The Sound Barrier.
A characteristically superb portrait of the first pre-production Swift, WJ960, by the doyen of aviation photographers, Charles E. Brown. This production prototype was essentially similar to VV119 but with longer-span ailerons. Built at Hursley Park, the aircraft made its maiden flight on August 1, 1951, from Boscombe Down.
Supermarine test pilot Lt-Cdr Mike Lithgow in Swift F.4 WK198 on his arrival at RAF Idris in Libya in September 1953, where he set a new world air speed record. No doubt Supermarine’s management was delighted to have broken the previous record set by Hawker Hunter WB188 only three weeks previously.
Swift F.1 WK198 was modified to become the prototype Mk 4 (given the company designation Type 546), and is seen here on a test flight before Mike Lithgow’s assault on the world air speed record. The Mk 4 introduced a variable-incidence tailplane, which, it was hoped, would alleviate the type’s notable pitch-up characteristics.
The Swift F.1 served with only one unit, No 56 Sqn, with which it entered service in February 1954 at Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire. Nearest the camera is WK208, lost after it became uncontrollable on May 13, 1954. All Swifts were grounded for two months as a result.
The Swift F.3 variant - the first of which, WK247, is seen here - was similar to the F.1 and F.2 but introduced reheat for its Rolls-Royce Avon engine. All 25 F.3s ordered were built, but none entered squadron service. All except WK248, which went to the College of Aeronautics, were instructional airframes by the end of 1956.
To supplement Mike Goodall’s article on Supermarine’s “Battle Planes" in TAH8, we offer these drawings of the P.B.29E, dated “12/11/15”