Duxford: jet fighter restored to former glory

ONE of the earliest British jet fighter planes has been restored to its former glory and is now sitting proudly in a museum.

The de Havilland Vampire, which was the second jet fighter to enter service with the RAF, is now 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 travelling from Australia to assist with the project.

It was revealed last Tuesday in front of the media.

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.


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Conservation manager Chris Knapp said: “This is another successful project completed to our high conservation standards.

“It demonstrates the dedication of our staff and volunteers and helps us to uphold our reputation for excellence.

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“We are particularly proud of the Vampire as it has involved more detailed conservation than we are usually able to undertake.

“Many components within the aircraft are still in the original paint and condition that they were during the aircraft’s time in service.”

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 frontline RAF squadrons until 1955 and continued in use as a trainer until 1966.

FACTFILE

• de Havilland Vampire T.11, serial number WZ590, was delivered to the RAF in November 1953.

• In November 1959, the aircraft was transferred to No.5 Flying Training School, RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire.

• In March 1962, it moved to No.8 Flying Training School at RAF Swinderby. It continued flying for about a year or so, after which it was withdrawn from service.

• With the introduction of the Jet Provost in the advanced jet trainer role, the Vampires were gradually phased out of RAF service and placed in storage. Between February 1963 and January 1969, 77 Vampire T.11s were sold back to Hawker Siddeley Aviation.

• de Havilland Vampire WZ590 was among this number. However, no market was found for the aircraft and it was gifted by Hawker Siddeley Aviation to the IWM (Imperial War Museums) in 1973. It arrived at IWM Duxford without an engine.

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