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Category Aviation Books, Subcategory Aviation Magazin, ISBN/Box 9781907426476, Publisher/Brand IPC Publishing, Format a4, No. Pages 130, Version sb, Language English
THE STORY of the Gloster Meteor is one of the greatest in the history of the aviation industry and one we generally take for granted. This pioneering aircraft was not particularly advanced, was given very little chance to prove itself in combat but, as a ‘first-generation’ jet, its arrival launched the RAF into a new era.
Development of the jet engine, thanks to the eff orts of Frank Whittle, began in 1936, and as with all military projects, the outbreak of the Second World War saw his work accelerate to the point of the first flight of the E.28/39 from Cranwell in May 1941. Less than two years later, the F.9/40 was off the ground and, by August, the first Meteor F Mk 1s were entering service with 616 Squadron. This was an incredible achievement which saw the Meteor poised to re-equip a host of RAF squadrons during the immediate post-war era. By 1950, the best of the day fighter breed had arrived in the shape of the F Mk 8 and, for the next five years, over 30 operational units were flying the type, up until the arrival of the ‘second generation’ Hawker Hunter.
The ubiquitous T Mk 7 saw hundreds, if not thousands, of potential pilots experience their first taste of jet flying and, sadly for many, their last. Approximately 890 Meteors were lost in RAF service, resulting in the deaths of 434 pilots; and this was during peace-time. The period during 1950 and 1953 was so bad (150 losses in 1952 alone) that the whole method of flying training was being questioned but the bottom line was that the Meteor was not a difficult aircraft to fly although it was certainly not ‘viceless’. It was a challenging machine, especially when fl own asymmetrically, when airspeed was critical and the brute strength required on the rudder pedal to keep the beast straight was considerable. It was in this configuration that many pilots were caught out and those who survived their training to serve on an operational squadron were advised not to practice the technique because it was generally described as ‘too bloody dangerous!’
Regardless, the Meteor was a huge success story for the Gloster Aircraft Company and the industry as a whole. Armstrong Whitworth benefitted enormously from subcontracts and later production orders for all of the night-fighter variants. Overseas orders were healthy as well with all marks, from the F Mk 3 onwards, seeing service across the globe. It was with foreign air forces that the Meteor saw more action with coups and revolutions in Argentina and the Suez campaign for the Egyptian NF Mk 13s. It was the F Mk 8s of 77 Squadron, RAAF in Korea that chalked up the highest operational combat record, flying 4,836 sorties, shooting down six Mig-15s albeit for the loss of 30 of its own. Hopelessly outclassed by the Mig-15, the Korean War was the type’s only full opportunity to show its metal but, by 1950 the type was being superseded by the world’s swept wing jets.
Today, any self-respecting aviation museum has at least one Meteor of some description on display but considering nearly 4,000 were built, a mere five remain airworthy. In Britain, we are lucky that four of them live here, two of them, WA638 and WL419, both T Mk 7/F Mk 8 hybrids, still work for a living with Martin-Baker at Chalgrove. Also, NF Mk 11 WM167 (G-LOSM) and recently restored Meteor T Mk 7 WA591 (G-BWMF) are both operated by Air Atlantique’s Classic Aircraft Trust. Overseas, only one Meteor is still flying and this is ex-RAF ex-VZ467, an F Mk 8 which is displayed in the colours of 77 Squadron, by the Temora Aviation Museum in New South Wales.
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