IWM Duxford shows newly-conserved aircraft for the first time
IWM Duxford's newly-conserved de Havilland Vampire WZ590 was presented to the media today, Tuesday 13 March.
Also part of a large gathered audience were members of Friends of Duxford and Duxford Aviation Society.
Steve Woolford, Head of Interpretation and Collections, made a welcoming speech, thanking IWM Duxford staff and volunteers for their dedication and commitment to the conservation of the aircraft, which has taken four years to complete.
Conservation team staff and volunteers were in attendance for photographs, including Dr Rohan Nelson, who travelled all the way from Canberra in Australia to assist with the conservation of the Vampire and who was in attendance at the aircraft presentation.
The aircraft was then rolled out of the Conservation Hall in AirSpace and onto the airfield jet pan for further photographs.
The Vampire will be transferred to the Battle of Britain exhibition this week, where it will go on permanent display to the public.
Chris Knapp, Conservation Manager, 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. 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.”
Basil Gowring, who flew Vampires during the 1950s, recently reminisced on his experiences, “I flew a lot from Duxford, having joined 65 Squadron in December 1953, flying Meteors from there until mid 1956. I was posted away, to 233 Operational Conversion Unit at Pembrey, as a staff instructor and it was there where I flew most of my Vampire time - mostly in the single-seat Marks 5 and 9, and also the two-seat trainer version, the T11 - initially without ejector seats but later with the ejector seat equipped version. I did keep flying the T11s on subsequent tours, usually on gunnery instruction or occasionally when conducting instrument rating tests on other pilots. I returned to No 65 Squadron at Duxford for a further tour of flying, this time in the Hunter Mark 6 version. My subsequent fighter tours were all on various versions of the Hunter.
Returning to the Vampire, I always found her to be a pleasure to fly, both in the twin- and single-seat versions. When taxying on the ground, one sat much closer to the tarmac than in , for example, the Meteor or Hunter and , when landing, one had to "get right in" to the observed runway to avoid an over-high round out. Considering the limited power of the single-engined Vampire, compared with the twin -engined Meteor or more potent Hunter, the "Vamp" nonetheless leapt off the ground with fair alacrity and showed a reasonable rate of climb. We used to do formation training at 30,000 feet and above and, provided you kept the engine power up, the Vampire proved pleasant to fly. It had a good rate of turn, at high and lower levels, provided one kept plenty of power on. When doing simulated combat training some good hassles with the simulated enemy could be had - provided again that you retained plenty of power on. Needless to say, continued use of higher power settings had an effect on the fuel state, particularly at the lower levels, so sometimes training sorties were relatively brief!
The Vampire was a good gunnery platform, when firing at a towed banner target over a firing range. The aircraft's general agility allowed you to safely get into the optimum range from the target to get good results. For air to ground firing, similarly the aircraft could be flown into an optimum firing position before the need to pull out, to clear the ground and avoid loose shrapnel from one's own firing!
Although my experience on the Vampire was much less than on my "main" aircraft - the Meteor, Hunter, and Vulcan bomber, I still look back to those pleasurable days flying the mighty Vampire.”
de Havilland Vampire WZ590
de Havilland Vampire T.11, serial number WZ590 (construction number 15165) was delivered to the RAF in November 1953, where it was issued to No.228 Operational Conversion Unit, RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire.
Between April and December 1954, the aircraft was at Marshalls of Cambridge for the fitting of a new clear-view canopy and ejection seats. When this work was completed, the aircraft was returned to its unit at RAF Leeming.
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 for possible refurbishment and sale to other nations.
de Havilland Vampire WZ590 was amongst 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 or a number of other smaller items, such as radio-fit armaments and fillet fairings. The museum has managed to source almost all of the missing items and the aircraft is now all but complete.
The aircraft has had deep conservation work, undertaken over a period of nearly four years. During this time, the aircraft has been completely dismantled and conserved as required.
The emphasis has been to keep as much originality as possible, and so, if the component in work was not damaged or corroded, then it was simply cleaned and protected with a microcrystalline wax.
This was possible on much of the interior sections of the aircraft, but unfortunately, the aircraft was repainted at IWM Duxford in the late 1970s in a rather inaccurate rendition of a No.8 Flying Training School scheme.
Further close inspection revealed much surface corrosion to the external skins and damage to the fabric on the wooden fuselage. Because of this, the external paint was removed and the corrosion treated. The fuselage was also stripped of its original fabric, with new fabric applied.
de Havilland Vampire T.11 WZ590 has been finished in the colours it wore when in service at No.5 Flying Training School, RAF Oakington.
All images are copyright Darren Harbar / www.focalplaneimages.co.uk