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Aviation History Month Day 7 - 7 November 1945

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

66 years ago today, the first World Speed Record for a jet-powered aircraft was set.

The record-breaking aircraft EE454 in standard camouflage colours

This record was set by a highly decorated Royal Air Force pilot, Wing Commander Hugh J, Wilson. He was the Commandant of the Empire Test Pilot School at Cranfield. The aircraft used was a Gloster Meteor F Mk.IV, EE454, named Brittania.

It took months of preparation to get the aircraft ready, there were actually 2 aircraft modified for the record attempt. Two Meteor F Mk.III fighters, EE454 and EE455, were modified to the Mk.IV standard, this involved;

  • Installing Rolls Royce Derwent Series V turbojet instead of the standard Gloster Meteors Mk.III engines (Rolls Royce Derwent Series)

  • Nacelles lengthened

  • Wingspan was reduced, with reshaped wingtips

  • Trimtabs disabled and gaps sealed

  • Landing gear doors locks strengthened

  • The canopy was reduced in size

  • Armament and other unnecessary equipment removed

Gloster Meteor F Mk.IV, EE455, in its special golden-yellow paint

The aircraft surfaces were smoothed and EE455 received a special yellow/golden paint scheme. Prior to the record attempt, many test flights were performed to make sure the aircraft would be stable at high speed while flying at a low level. The stable flight was a must as the requirements laid down by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) for the record were very strict;

  • 4 passes to be made over a 1.62 nm (3 kilometer) course, Two passes in each direction

  • Maximum height 246 feet (75 meters) during straight flight

  • Maximum height at the end of each run in the turn 1312 feet (400 meters) 526.83 knots or Mach 0.8 ( 975.68 kph - 606.26 mph)

A video of the preparations for the speed record attempt

On the day of the record attempt, the weather was far from ideal but the go-ahead was given for the record attempt. Both aircraft flew the course 4 times and flew within the restrictions as laid down by the FAI. Both missions were flown within an hour of each other.. The highest average speed of the two missions was achieved by Wilson in EE454. The record recognised by the FAI was 526.83 knots - Mach 0.80 (975.68 kph - 606.26 mph)

A small clip of the actual record attempt is made available by British Pathé on Youtube, you can watch it by clicking here. Specifications of the standard Gloseter Meteor Mk.IV

  • Span: 37.2ft

  • Length: 41ft

  • Engine: Two Rolls-Royce Derwent V engines, 3,500lb thrusteach

  • Gross Weight: 15,175lb

  • Maximum level speed at sea level: 590mph

  • Maximum level speed at 30,000ft: 570mph

  • Rate of climb at sea level: 7,350ft/min

  • Cruise Range at normal load: 510 miles

  • Cruise Range with external tanks: 713 miles

  • Ceiling: 44,500ft

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