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Artefact of the Month

No 29 SQUADRON’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD AIR SPEED RECORD ATTEMPTS

In November 1950 the standard RAF Fighter Command Station establishment changed to a one day squadron and a one night fighter squadron. At Tangmere, No 43 Squadron with its Gloster Meteor F4s moved to Leuchars and was replaced by the Mosquito NF36s of No 29 Squadron from West Malling. In August 1951 the squadron’s Mosquitos were replaced with Meteor NF11s, joining No 1 Squadron’s Meteor F4s on the station.

In 1946 No 29 Squadron provided Mosquito NF36 aircraft to fly the observers monitoring the RAF’s High Speed Flight Meteors attempting the World Air Speed Record from Tangmere. In 1953 the Hawker Aircraft Company decided to attempt the World Air Speed Record with their modified prototype Hawker Hunter WB 188 flown by the company’s Chief Test Pilot Squadron Leader Neville Duke. Again, the attempt was based at Tangmere and the same 3km course was flown off the Sussex coast at Rustington, near Littlehampton. Support was again provided by Tangmere’s No 29 Squadron with its Meteor NF11s.

In 1956 the Fairey Aviation Company decided to attempt the record with its Fairey Delta 2 aircraft flown by its test pilot Peter Twiss. Fairey decided to base its attempt at Boscombe Down and make the attempt at 38,000 feet over a course between Chichester and Ford, Sussex. To time the aircraft, a camera-chronometer method was used. In this, the aircraft had to be photographed on each timed run, at the beginning and end of the course by cameras – the time interval between the two photographs being recorded by an electronic chronometer. However, obtaining the photographs required visual identification of the aircraft by the camera operators on the ground. RAF radar units assisted in this but it still proved difficult to achieve with a fast moving jet aircraft at 38,000 feet. The solution was to fly the aircraft at an altitude that produced a condensation trail. Tangmere’s No 29 Squadron Meteor night fighters were again utilised, this time to determine each morning the best trail making altitude.

A PAINTING BY CHRIS GOLDS AFC OF No 29 SQUADRON METEOR NF11 NIGHT FIGHTERS HANGS IN THE MUSEUM’S LIGHTNING F3 COCKPIT SIMULATOR ROOM. THE SIMULATOR IS FINISHED IN No 29 SQUADRON MARKINGS – THE LAST RAF SQUADRON TO BE EQUIPPED WITH THE TYPE.

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