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Aviation History Month Day 17 - 17th of November 1954

It was On This Day in Aviation History that the Experimental Supersonic Aircraft Fairey Delta 2, WG744, ended up on her belly in the grass at the AF Boscombe Down Test Center after an engine failure.

WG744 on its belly in the grass The flight had started out as any of the other previous 13 flights with the aircraft. But when the aircraft was climbing through 30.000 feet (9.144) meter its pilot, Lionel P. Twiss ( Chief Test Pilot for Fairey Aviation Company Ltd) was unpleasantly surprised when the engine flamed out, at that moment he was about 30 miles from Boscombe Down.

Keeping his cool, Twiss realised that ejecting would possibly save his life but would mean the loss of a unique experimental aircraft. He decided to try and dead stick the aircraft back into Boscombe Down. At 2500 feet (762 meters) altitude he broke out of the overcast and selected the gear down. Due to the engine failure, there was not enough hydraulic pressure to lower and lock the gear down, and only the green down and locked light showed for the Nose Gear,

The aircraft touched down and the unlocked main gear gave away immediately when the nose gear hit the grass that also gave away and the aircraft slid to a stop on its belly. The lower fuselage and wings were seriously damaged. It would nearly take a year for the engineers to nurse the Fairy Delta 2 back to an airworthy condition. Amongst others, the wings had to be replaced. The wings built for stress and load testing were used as replacement wings.

The Fairey Delta 2 seen in a better condition (picture from Wikipedia)

After the aircraft was fixed the test program continued. And on the 10th of March 1956, Peter Twiss flew the aircraft into the record books when he reached an average speed of Mach 1.731 (1132 mph - 1822 kph) at an altitude of 38.000 feet (22.582 meters). In doing so he broke the previous record set by the US Air Force in a North American Aviation F-100C Super Sabre by 499 kph or 310 mph!

Production of the Fairey Delta 2 was limited to only 2 experimental aircraft. Both remain and are on display;

  • WG744 at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton as a BAC 221 (with a redesigned wing

  • WG777 at the Royal Air Force Museum at RAF Cosford

Specifications of the Fairey Delta 2;

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1

  • Length: 51 ft 7.5 in (15.74 m)

  • Wingspan: 26 ft 10 in (8.18 m)

  • Height: 11 ft 0 in (3.35 m)

  • Wing area: 360 sq ft (33.44 m2)

  • Empty weight: 11,000 lb (4,990 kg)

  • Gross weight: 13,884 lb (6,298 kg)

  • Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Avon 200 , 10,000 lbf (44 kN) thrust


  • Maximum speed: 1,300 mph (2,092 km/h, 1,100 kn)

  • Range: 830 mi (1,336 km, 720 nmi)

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