De Havilland at 100: Fatal Success

De Havilland at 100

Tony Buttler delves into the story of de Havilland’s radical ‘bat jet’ – including tragic deaths, famous names, records and possibly the biggest first in British aviation. But was it all worth it?

De Havilland DH.108 VW120 undertaking a test flight on September 7, 1948 accompanied by the ‘High Altitude Record Breaker' Vampire F.1, TG278. It is likely famed test pilot John Derry is flying the ‘Swallow’

Aviation giant de Havilland first flew what became Britain’s second operational jet fighter – the Vampire – in 1943. It was, therefore, no surprise to find the company spearheading development work to obtain the utmost performance from what was then a new form of propulsion. The de Havilland DH.108 was one of the first British research aircraft to complement the jet engine with advanced aerodynamics, such as a swept wing, and the shunning of horizontal stabilisers. It was built purely as a test machine, with the resulting data being made available for later use in both military and civilian designs. 

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