By Ewan Foskett
Thursday, March 15, 2012
ONE of the earliest British jet fighter planes has been restored to its former glory.
The de Havilland Vampire, which was the second jet fighter to enter service with the RAF, is now proudly on display at Imperial War Museum (IWM) Duxford’s AirSpace Conservation Hall.
The WZ590 model of the aircraft has been going through a four-year conservation process at Duxford aerodrome, under the careful hands of the Cambridgeshire-based staff and volunteers – one of whom travelled from Australia to assist with the project.
The conservation team managed to source almost all of the T.11’s missing items (including an engine), and completely dismantled the plane and started again.
Chris Knapp, conservation manager, said: “It demonstrates the dedication of our staff and volunteers and helps us to uphold our reputation for excellence. We are particularly proud of the Vampire as it has involved more detailed conservation than we are usually able to undertake.”
The Vampire followed the first British fighter jet Gloster Meteor and had a very similar design to de Havilland’s fighter/bomber the Mosquito - and also consisted of a wooden fuselage.
Geoffrey de Havilland Jr, the de Havilland chief test pilot and son of the company’s founder, first test flew the prototype on September 20 1943.
Although it arrived too late to see combat during the war, the Vampire served with front line RAF squadrons until 1955 and continued in use as a trainer until 1966.