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3rd of December 1945

It was on this day in (naval) aviation history that the first jet-powered aircraft landed and took off from an aircraft carrier,

The De Havilland Sea Vampire, LZ551/G catches the arresting wire aboard HMS Ocean

The landing and take-off took place on the aircraft carrier HMS Ocean the 13.190 ton light aircraft carrier had a 695' 6" long flight deck.

The aircraft in question was the second prototype of the de Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire, (LZ551/G) piloted by Lieutenant-Commander Eric Melrose Brown, Chief Naval Test Pilot at RAE Farnborough. A decorated World War two veteran.

The Sea Vampire over the deck of HMS Ocean (Source Wikicommons)

The de Havilland Sea Vampire was the Navy version of the de Havilland Vampire. It was a very versatile aircraft that set many records and achieved many firsts. The history of the vampire dates back to January 1941 when de Havilland started to design a single-engine jet with air inlets in the wing leading edge at the wing root. The engine designed for the aircraft was based on Sir Frank Whittle's pioneering work and featured a centrifugal compressor, producing 3000 lbs of the thrust. (Nothing compared to today's jet engine thrust rating, but at those days a huge amount of thrust.)

The airframe was built using the same techniques as used for the highly successful de Havilland Mosquitto fast bomber. On the 20th of September, the first Vampire (LZ548/G) took to the sky from Hatfield Aerodrome in the UK, it was piloted by Geoffrey de Havilland Jr., son of the company founder. This was the second jet flying in the United Kingdom, 6 months after the Gloster Meteor. The test program revealed only one major issue and that was directional stability.

This was corrected by changing the tail design. In May 1944 the first order for 120 Vampires was received by de Havilland, shortly followed by an increase of the order to 300 aircraft.

Sea Vampire Mk.1, (LZ551/G) and HMS Ocean on the 3rd of December 1945

Over the years 43 versions and derivatives of the Vampire would be developed and built. Specifications for the de Havilland Sea Vampire;

  • Role - Single-seat fighter trainer

  • Power Plant - One DH Goblin 2 of 3,000lbs thrust

  • Wingspan - 38ft

  • Length - 30ft 9ins

  • Height - 8ft 10ins

  • Weight - 12,660lbs loaded

  • Max Speed - 526mph

  • Range - 1,145 miles at 350mph

  • Armament - Could carry 4 x 20mm guns

The landing of the Sea Vampire is recognized as the first Jet powered aircraft landing on an aircraft carrier by the Guinness Book of World records, click here to see the entry.

This is contested by the US Navy ever since. The reason for this lies in the fact that on the 6th of November 1945

Ensign Jake West of VF-41, flying a composite-powered (separate piston and jet engines) Ryan FR-1 Fireball had entered the pattern to land aboard USS Wake Island when his Wright R-1820 piston-engine failed. He managed to air-start the Fireball’s General Electric I-16 (J31) engine and – so the story is generally reported – completed the landing under jet power alone, catching the last wire and hitting the first barrier, which had been raised due to the emergency landing. (see also the blog from 6th of November by clicking here) As this was a "hybrid" propellor / jet aircraft, it was not a pure jet and the credits went to the British carrier landing.

The Ryan FR-1 Fireball jet engine lay out

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