Artefact of the Month

THE FD2 WORLD AIR SPEED RECORD HOLDER

The Fairey Delta 2 (FD2) was a British supersonic research aircraft produced by the Fairey Aviation Company in response to a specification from the Ministry of Supply for an aircraft to investigate flight and control at transonic and supersonic speeds. It had a long tapering nose which obscured forward vision during landing, take-off and taxiing on the ground, the problem being resolved by a drooping nose design. The engine was a Rolls-Royce Avon RA.14R with an afterburner.

Two aircraft were built, the first, WG 774, made its maiden flight on 6 October 1954, flown by Fairey’s test pilot Peter Twiss. On 28 October 1955, the FD2 achieved supersonic flight and following this success Fairey Aviation announced their intention to attempt the world air speed record set in 1955 by an American F-100 Super Sabre.

The FAI regulations for a world air speed record attempt at a non-restricted altitude, required the aircraft to fly over a 15-25 kilometre course once in either direction in level flight (tolerance of 100 metres).

Fairey decided to base the attempt at Boscombe Down and make the record 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 two 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 and this proved difficult to achieve. The solution was to fly the aircraft at an altitude that produced a condensation trail. RAF Tangmere’s No 29 Squadron Meteor night fighters were used to determine each morning the best trail making altitude. Camera sites were set up at RNAS Ford and Apuldram sewage works, near Chichester and by the beginning of March 1956 all was ready for the attempt.

On Saturday 10 March Twiss took off at 1122 hours – all seemed to go well and he landed back at Boscombe at 1145 hours, after only deviating in height over the course by 98 feet. After the photographic plates had been developed it was found that Peter Twiss had broken the record with an average speed of 1139.2 mph.

A MODEL OF THE FAIREY DELTA 2 WORLD AIRSPEED RECORD HOLDER BUILT BY MUSEUM VOLUNTEER DAVID BURLEIGH, WITH 3D DESIGN AND MACHINING BY PMT LTD PTY AUSTRALIA, IS DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S MERSTON AIRCRAFT HALL.

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