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’
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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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