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Gloster Meteor

The Gloster Meteor was the RAF's first jet fighter aircraft.

Development began in November 1940 following the appearance of the turbojet designed by Frank Whittle. Designed by George Carter of the Gloster Aircraft Company, eight prototypes were produced; in the beginning the craft was named the Thunderbolt, but confusion with the American Republic P-47 led to a name change to Meteor.

Gloster Meteor at Waddington, England, 2001.
Larger version

The Gloster Meteor made its first test flight on March 5, 1943, the fifth prototype, piloted by Michael Daunt[?], making it into the air powered by two de Havilland Halfors H.1 turbojets. This was not the first flight by a jet-powered aircraft in Britain: that had taken place almost two years earlier on May 15, 1941 That flight was made by an experimental Gloster E. 28/39 powered by a single Whittle W.1 engine with 390 kg of thrust. The initial production Mk. I had a maximum speed of 417 mph at 3000m and had a range of 1610 km, powered by two Rolls-Royce W.2B/23C turbojet engines providing 771 kg of thrust each (the Halfors engines had been reserved by de Havilland for that company's own Vampire[?] jet aircraft). It was 12.60 m long with a span of 13.10 m, an empty weight of 3695 kg, and a maximum take-off weight of 6255 kg. The construction was all-metal with conventional low straight wings, the turbojets were mid-mounted in the the wings, and the tailplane was high-mounted to keep it clear of the jet exhaust. It was armed with four 20 mm Hispano cannons.

The first aircraft were delivered to the Royal Air Force on July 12, 1944 and one was also sent to the US in exchange for a Bell YP-59A Airacomet[?] for comparative evaluation. The Meteor Mk. I saw action for the first time on July 27, 1944 against the V1 Flying Bomb. The Meteor never saw aerial combat against the Luftwaffe despite flying missions over Germany from January 1945, using the Mk. III variant from bases in Belgium.

Production of the aircraft continued until 1954 and almost 3,900 were made, mainly the Mk. 8. The Meteor was also operated by the airforces of Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Egypt, Israel, Syria and Sweden.

Although many Gloster Meteors survive in Museums and collections only five remain airworthy, four in the United Kingdom and a F8 fighter which was exported to Australia in 2002.


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