TSR-2

TSR-2

The British TSR-2 aircraft XR219 made its maiden flight from Boscombe Down in Wiltshire 27 September 1964. The British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2 was a cancelled Cold War strike andreconnaissance aircraft developed by the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) for the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The TSR-2 was designed to penetrate a well-defended forward battle area at low altitudes and very high speeds, and then attack high-value targets in the rear with nuclear or conventional weapons. Another intended combat role was to provide high-altitude, high-speed photo reconnaissance. Some of the most advanced aviation technology of the period was incorporated in order to make it the highest-performing aircraft in the world in its projected missions. Only one airframe flew and test flights and weight rise during design indicated that the aircraft would be unable to meet its original stringent design specifications which had been reduced as the results of flight testing became available.

Prior to the TSR-2, Britain’s Royal Air Force had deployed the English Electric Canberra bomber, capable of flying at high altitudes and subsonic speeds. Like the de Havilland Mosquito before it, as originally conceived, the Canberra carried no defensive weapons and relied on its high performance to allow it to avoid defences. The introduction of the radar-guided surface-to-air missile (SAM) was a significant threat to this tactic. SAMs had speed and altitude performance much greater than any contemporary aircraft; the Canberra, and other high-altitude aircraft like the V bombers or United States’ B-52 Stratofortress, were extremely vulnerable to these weapons. The first aircraft to fall victim to the Soviet S-75 Dvina (NATO name “SA-2 Guideline”) SAM was a Taiwanese RB-57, a reconnaissance version of the Canberra, shot down in 1959.

The solution was to fly lower; since radar operates in line-of-sight, detection of an aircraft flying at low altitudes is significantly hindered, thereby reducing time for enemy counter measures. In practice, trees, hills, valleys and any other obstructions reduce this range even more, making a ground-based interception extremely difficult. The Canberra was designed for medium- to high-altitude flight and was not suitable for continuous terrain-hugging flight; this would require a completely different aircraft.Low-level strike aircraft, or “interdictors”, grew into a new class of their own during the late 1950s. They generally featured high wing loading to reduce the effects of turbulence and cross-wind, some form of high-performance navigational radar to allow very low flight at high speeds, and large fuel loads to offset the higher fuel use at low altitudes. So the Ministry of Supply started work with English Electric in 1955, to create A new light bomber to replace the Canberra. These early studies eventually settled on an aircraft with a 2,000 nmi (3,700 km) ferry range, Mach 1.5 speed “at altitude” and 600 nmi (1,100 km) low-level range. A crew of two was required, one being the operator of the advanced navigational and attack equipment. The bombload was to be four 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs.

The envisioned “standard mission” for the TSR-2 was to carry a 2,000 lb (900 kg) weapon internally for a combat radius of 1,000 nautical miles (1,900 km). Of that mission 100 nautical miles (190 km) was to be flown at higher altitudes at Mach 1.7 and the 200 nmi (370 km) into and out of the target area was to be flown as low as 200 ft (60 m) at a speed of Mach 0.95. The remainder of the mission was to be flown at Mach 0.92. If the entire mission were to be flown at the low 200 ft (61 m) altitude, the mission radius was reduced to 700 nmi (1,300 km). Heavier weapons loads could be carried with further reductions in range. Plans for increasing the TSR-2’s range included fitting external tanks: one 450 Imperial gallon (2,000 L) tank under each wing or one 1,000-Imperial gallon (4,500-L) tank carried centrally below the fuselage. If no internal weapons were carried, a further 570 Imperial gallons (2,600 L) could be carried in a tank in the weapons bay. Later variants would have been fitted with variable-geometry wings

Sadly The TSR-2 was the victim of ever rising costs and inter-service squabbling over Britain’s future defence needs, which led to the controversial decision to scrap the programme in 1965. With the election of a new government, the TSR-2 was cancelled due to rising costs, in favour of purchasing an adapted version of the General Dynamics F-111, a decision that itself was later rescinded as costs and development times again skyrocketed. A replacement for the TSR 2 was eventually found in the Blackburn Buccaneer and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, both types being previously considered and rejected early in the TSR-2 procurement process. Eventually, the smaller Swing-wing Panavia Tornado was also developed and was adopted by a European consortium to fulfill broadly similar requirements to the TSR-2.

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Bell X-2 exceeds Mach 3

On 28 September 1956 USAF Captain Milburn G. Apt becomes the first man to exceed Mach 3 while flying the Bell X-2. The Bell X-2 was a research aircraft built to investigate flight characteristics in the Mach 2–3 range. The X-2 was a rocket-powered, swept-wing research aircraft developed jointly in 1945 by Bell Aircraft Corporation, the U.S. Air Force and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to explore aerodynamic problems of supersonic flight and to expand the speed and altitude regimes obtained with the earlier X-1 series of research aircraft.The Bell X-2 was developed to provide a vehicle for researching flight characteristics in excess of the limits of the Bell X-1 and D-558 II, while investigating aerodynamic heating problems in what was then called the “thermal thicket”.The Bell X-2 had a prolonged development period due to the advances needed in aerodynamic design, control systems, high-temperature resistant materials to be used, and other technologies that had to be developed.

Not only did the X-2 push the envelope of manned flight to speeds, altitudes and temperatures beyond any other aircraft at the time, it pioneered throttleable rocket motors in U.S. aircraft (previously demonstrated on the Me 163B during World War II) and digital flight simulation. The XLR25 rocket engine, built by Curtiss-Wright, was based on the smoothly variable-thrust JATO engine built by Robert Goddard in 1942 for the Navy. Providing adequate stability and control for aircraft flying at high supersonic speeds was only one of the major difficulties facing flight researchers as they approached Mach 3. For, at speeds in that region, they knew they would also begin to encounter a “thermal barrier”, severe heating effects caused by aerodynamic friction. Constructed of stainless steel and a copper-nickel alloy, K-Monel, and powered by a liquid propellant (alcohol and oxygen) two-chamber XLR25 2,500 to 15,000 lbf (11 to 67 kN) sea level thrust, continuouslythrottleable rocket engine, the swept-wing Bell X-2 was designed to probe the supersonic region.

Following a drop launch from a modified B-50 bomber, Bell test pilot Jean “Skip” Ziegler completed the first unpowered glide flight of an X-2 at Edwards Air Force Base on 27 June 1952. Ziegler and aircraft #2 (46-675) were subsequently lost on 12 May 1953, in an inflight explosion during a captive flight intended to check the aircraft’s liquid oxygen system. X-2, crew, and support equipmentLt. Col. Frank K. “Pete” Everest completed the first powered flight in the #1 airplane (46-674) on 18 November 1955. By the time of his ninth and final flight in late July 1956 the project was years behind schedule, but he had established a new speed record of Mach 2.87 (1,900 mph, 3050 km/h). About this time, the YF-104A was demonstrating speeds of M = 2.2 or 2.3 in a fighter configuration. The X-2 was living up to its promise, but not without difficulties. At high speeds, Everest reported its flight controls were only marginally effective. High speed center of pressure shifts along with fin aeroelasticity were major factors. Moreover, simulation and wind tunnel studies, combined with data from his flights, suggested the airplane would encounter very severe stability problems as it approached Mach 3

A pair of less experienced but excellent pilots, Captains Iven C. Kincheloe and Milburn G. “Mel” Apt, were assigned the job of further expanding the envelope and, on 7 September 1956, Kincheloe became the first pilot ever to climb above 100,000 ft (30,500 m) as he flew the X-2 to a peak altitude of 126,200 ft (38,466 m). Just 20 days later, on the morning of 27 September, Apt was launched from the B-50 for his first flight in a rocket airplane. He had been instructed to follow the “optimum maximum energy flight path” and to avoid any rapid control movements beyond Mach 2.7. With nozzle extenders and a longer than normal motor run, Apt flew an extraordinarily precise profile; he became the first man to exceed Mach 3, reaching Mach 3.2 (2,094 mph, 3,370 km/h) at 65,500 ft (19,960 m). The flight had been flawless to this point, but, for some reason, shortly after attaining top speed, Apt attempted a banking turn while the aircraft was still above Mach 3 (lagging instrumentation may have indicated he was flying at a slower speed or perhaps he feared he was straying too far from the safety of his landing site on Rogers Dry Lake). The X-2 tumbled violently out of control and he found himself struggling with the same problem of “inertia coupling” which had overtaken Chuck Yeager in the X-1A nearly three years before.

Yeager, although exposed to much higher vehicle inertial forces, as a result of extensive experience flying the X-1 was very familiar with its character, was able to recover. Apt attempted to recover from a spin, but could not, and fired the ejection capsule, which was itself only equipped with a relatively small drogue parachute. Apt was probably disabled by the severe release forces. As the capsule fell for several minutes to the desert floor, he did not emerge so that he could use his personal parachute. While the X-2 had delivered valuable research data on high-speed aerodynamic heat build-up and extreme high-altitude flight conditions, this tragic event terminated the program before the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics could commence detailed flight research with the aircraft. The search for answers to many of the riddles of high-Mach flight had to be postponed until the arrival three years later of the most advanced of all the experimental rocket aircraft, the North American X-15.

BAC Concorde

BAC Concorde

On 26 September 1973, Concorde, the iconic retired turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner made its first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in record-breaking time. It is one of only two Supersonic planes to have entered commercial service; the other being the Tupolev Tu-144. Concorde was jointly developed and produced by Aérospatiale and theBritish Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty. First flown in 1969, Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued commercial flights for 27 years.Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights fromLondon Heathrow and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport to New York JFK andWashington Dulles; it profitably flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners. With only 20 aircraft built, the development of Concorde was a substantial economic loss; Air France and British Airways also received considerable government subsidies to purchase them. Concorde was retired in 2003 due to a general downturn in the aviation industry after the type’s only crash in 2000, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and a decision by Airbus, the successor firm of Aérospatiale and BAC, to discontinue maintenance support. Concorde’s name reflects the development agreement between the United Kingdom and France. In the UK, any or all of the type—unusual for an aircraft—are known simply as “Concorde”, without an article. The aircraft is regarded by many people as an aviation icon and an engineering marvel.

Scheduled flights began on 21 January 1976 on the London–Bahrain and Paris–Rio (viaDakar) routes, with BA flights using the “Speedbird Concorde” call sign to notify air traffic control of the aircraft’s unique abilities and restrictions, but the French using their normal callsigns. The Paris-Caracas route (via Azores) began on 10 April. The US Congress had just banned Concorde landings in the US, mainly due to citizen protest over sonic booms, preventing launch on the coveted North Atlantic routes. The US Secretary of Transportation,William Coleman, gave permission for Concorde service to Washington Dulles International Airport, and Air France and British Airways simultaneously began service to Dulles on 24 May 1976. When the US ban on JFK Concorde operations was lifted in February 1977, New York banned Concorde locally. The ban came to an end on 17 October 1977 when the Supreme Court of the United States declined to overturn a lower court’s ruling rejecting efforts by the Port Authority and a grass-roots campaign led by Carol Berman to continue the ban. In spite of complaints about noise, the noise report noted that Air Force One, at the time a Boeing VC-137, was louder than Concorde at subsonic speeds and during takeoff and landing. Scheduled service from Paris and London to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport began on 22 November 1977.in 1977, British Airways and Singapore Airlines shared a Concorde for flights between London and Singapore International Airport at Paya Lebar via Bahrain. The aircraft, BA’s Concorde G-BOAD, was painted in Singapore Airlines livery on the port side and British Airways livery on the starboard side. The service was discontinued after three return flights because of noise complaints from the Malaysian government; it could only be reinstated on a new route bypassing Malaysian airspace in 1979. A dispute with India prevented Concorde from reaching supersonic speeds in Indian airspace, so the route was eventually declared not viable and discontinued in 1980.

During the Mexican oil boom, Air France flew Concorde twice weekly to Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport via Washington, DC, or New York City, from September 1978 to November 1982. However The worldwide economic crisis during that period resulted in this route’s cancellation; the last flights were almost empty. The routing between Washington or New York and Mexico City included a deceleration, from Mach 2.02 to Mach 0.95, to cross Florida subsonically and avoid creating a sonic boom over the state; Concorde then re-accelerated back to high speed while crossing the Gulf of Mexico. On 1 April 1989, on an around-the-world luxury tour charter, British Airways implemented changes to this routing that allowed G-BOAF to maintain Mach 2.02 by passing around Florida to the east and south. Periodically Concorde visited the region on similar chartered flights to Mexico City and Acapulco. From 1978 to 1980, Braniff International Airways leased 10 Concordes, five each from Air France and British Airways. These were used on subsonic flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Washington Dulles International Airport, flown by Braniff flight crews. Air France and British Airways crews then took over for the continuing supersonic flights to London and Paris. The aircraft were registered in both the United States and their home countries; the European registration as covered while being operated by Braniff, retaining full AF/BA liveries. The flights were not profitable and typically less than 50% booked, forcing Braniff to end its tenure as the only US Concorde operator in May 1980

The fastest transatlantic airliner flight was from New York JFK to London Heathrow on 7 February 1996 by British Airways’ G-BOAD in 2 hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds from takeoff to touchdown. Concorde also set other records, including the official FAI “Westbound Around the World” and “Eastbound Around the World” world air speed records.On 12–13 October 1992, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first New World landing, Concorde Spirit Tours (USA) chartered Air France Concorde F-BTSD and circumnavigated the world in 32 hours 49 minutes and 3 seconds, from Lisbon, Portugal, including six refuelling stops at Santo Domingo, Acapulco, Honolulu, Guam, Bangkok, and Bahrain. The eastbound record was set by the same Air France Concorde (F-BTSD) under charter to Concorde Spirit Tours in the USA on 15–16 August 1995. This promotional flight circumnavigated the world from New York/JFK International Airport in 31 hours 27 minutes 49 seconds, including six refuelling stops at Toulouse, Dubai, Bangkok, Andersen AFB in Guam, Honolulu, and Acapulco. By its 30th flight anniversary on 2 March 1999 Concorde had clocked up 920,000 flight hours, with more than 600,000 supersonic, much more than all of the other supersonic aircraft in the Western world combined.On its way to the Museum of Flight in November 2003, G-BOAG set a New York City-to-Seattle speed record of 3 hours, 55 minutes, and 12 seconds.

By around 1981 in the UK, the future for Concorde looked bleak. The British government had lost money operating Concorde every year, and moves were afoot to cancel the service entirely. A cost projection came back with greatly reduced metallurgical testing costs because the test rig for the wings had built up enough data to last for 30 years and could be shut down. Despite this, the government was not keen to continue. In 1983, BA’s managing director, Sir John King, convinced the government to sell the aircraft outright to British Airways for £16.5 million plus the first year’s profits. King recognised that, in Concorde, BA had a premier product that was underpriced. Market research had revealed that many customers thought Concorde was more expensive than it actually was; thus ticket prices were progressively raised to match these perceptions. It is reported that British Airways then ran Concorde at a profit, unlike their French counterpart. Between 1984 and 1991, British Airways flew a thrice-weekly Concorde service between London and Miami, stopping at Washington Dulles International Airport.Until 2003, Air France and British Airways continued to operate the New York services daily. Concorde routinely flew to Grantley Adams International Airport, Barbados, during the winter holiday season. Prior to the Air France Paris crash, several UK and French tour operators operated charter flights to European destinations on a regular basis; the charter business was viewed as lucrative by British Airways and Air France.In 1997, British Airways held a promotional contest to mark 10th anniversary of airline’s move into the private sector. The promotion was lottery to fly to New York held for 190 tickets valued at £5,400 each, to be offered at £10. Contestants had to call a special hotline to compete with up to 20 million people.

Unfortunately On 25 July 2000, Air France Flight 4590, registration F-BTSC, crashed in Gonesse, France after departing from Paris Charles de Gaulleen route to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, killing all 100 passengers and nine crew members on board the flight, and four people on the ground. It was the only fatal accident involving Concorde.According to the official investigation conducted by the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile (BEA), the crash was caused by a titanium strip that fell from a Continental Airlines DC-10 that had taken off minutes earlier. This metal fragment punctured a tyre on Concorde’s left main wheel bogie during takeoff. The tyre exploded, a piece of rubber hit the fuel tank, and while the fuel tank was not punctured, the impact caused a shock-wave which caused one of the fuel valves in the wing to burst open. This caused a major fuel leak from the tank, which then ignited due to sparking electrical landing gear wiring severed by another piece of the same tyre. The crew shut down engine number 2 in response to a fire warning, and with engine number 1 surging and producing little power, the aircraft was unable to gain height or speed. The aircraft entered a rapid pitch-up then a violent descent, rolling left and crashing tail-low into the Hôtelissimo Les Relais Bleus Hotel in Gonesse. On 6 December 2010, Continental Airlines and John Taylor, one of their mechanics, were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but on 30 November 2012 a French court overturned the conviction, saying mistakes by Continental and Taylor did not make them criminally responsible. Prior to the accident, Concorde had been arguably the safest operational passenger airliner in the world in terms of passenger deaths-per-kilometres travelled with zero, but had a rate of tyre damage some 30 times higher than subsonic airliners from 1995 to 2000. Safety improvements were made in the wake of the crash, including more secure electrical controls, Kevlar lining on the fuel tanks and specially developed burst-resistant tyres.

The first flight after the modifications departed from London Heathrow on 17 July 2001, piloted by BA Chief Concorde Pilot Mike Bannister. During the 3-hour 20-minute flight over the mid-Atlantic towards Iceland, Bannister attained Mach 2.02 and 60,000 ft (18,000 m) before returning to RAF Brize Norton. The test flight, intended to resemble the London–New York route, was declared a success and was watched on live TV, and by crowds on the ground at both locations. The first flight with passengers after the accident took place on 11 September 2001, landing shortly before the World Trade Center attacks in the United States. This was not a revenue flight, as all the passengers were BA employees.Normal commercial operations resumed on 7 November 2001 by BA and AF (aircraft G-BOAE and F-BTSD), with service to New York JFK, where passengers were welcomed by then mayor Rudy Giuliani.. This aircraft flew for 22,296 hours between its first flight in 1976 and its final flight in 2000.On 10 April 2003, Air France and British Airways simultaneously announced that they would retire Concorde later that year. They cited low passenger numbers following the 25 July 2000 crash, the slump in air travel following 11 September 2001, and rising maintenance costs. Although Concorde was technologically advanced when introduced in the 1970s, 30 years later its analogue cockpit was dated. There had been little commercial pressure to upgrade Concorde due to a lack of competing aircraft, unlike other airliners of the same era such as the Boeing 747. By its retirement, it was the last aircraft in British Airways’ fleet that had a flight engineer; other aircraft, such as the modernised 747-400, had eliminated the role.

On 11 April 2003, Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson announced that the company was interested in purchasing British Airways’ Concorde fleet for their nominal original price of £1 (US$1.57 in April 2003) each. British Airways dismissed the idea, prompting Virgin to increase their offer to £1 million each. Branson claimed that when BA was privatised, a clause in the agreement required them to allow another British airline to operate Concorde if BA ceased to do so, but the Government denied the existence of such a clause. In October 2003, Branson wrote in The Economist that his final offer was “over £5 million” and that he had intended to operate the fleet “for many years to come”. The chances for keeping Concorde in service were stifled by Airbus’s lack of support for continued maintenance. It has also been suggested that Concorde was grounded because airlines could make more profit carrying first class passengers subsonically and that the Air France retirement of its Concorde fleet was the result of a conspiracy between Air France Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta and Airbus CEO Noel Forgeard, In addition A lack of commitment to Concorde was cited as having undermined BA’s resolve to continue operating Concorde.

Battle of Britain Day

Battle of Britain Day is celebrated annually on 15 September to commemorate the large-scale aerial battle of the same name, which took place on 15 September 1940, (German: Luftschlacht um England or Luftschlacht um Großbritannien). In Canada, the commemoration takes place on the third Sunday of September.

Nazi Germany had conquered most of Western Europe and Scandinavia by June 1940 and the only major power standing in the way of a German-dominated Europe was the British Empire and the Commonwealth. After having several peace offers rejected by the British, Adolf Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to destroy the Royal Air Force (RAF) in order to gain air superiority or air supremacy as a prelude to launching Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious assault by the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) onto the British mainland.

So during July 1940, the Luftwaffe started attacking Merchant Shipping on the English Channel. On 10 July 1940, the first Luftwaffe bomber fleets began attacking convoys and Royal Navy forces in English ports and Channel. The results were positive and the Germans succeeded in forcing the British to abandon the channel convoy route and to redirect shipping to ports in north-eastern Britain. With this achieved the Luftwaffe began the second phase of its air offensive, attacking RAF airfields and supporting structures on the British mainland. The codename of the offensive was Unternehmen Adlerangriff (“Operation Eagle Attack”). On 12 August, it flew its first missions in this regard. On 13 August, the Luftwaffe carried out its largest attack to date on the mainland. Christened Adlertag (“Eagle Day”), the attack was a failure. Nevertheless, the raids continued, at great cost to both sides. The impact of the German offensive on RAF airfields and Fighter Command is disputed. Some historians believe that the attacks were not having much effect and that the Germans were losing the attrition battle, while others believe the RAF was faltering.

However Hitler was dissatisfied with the progress being made. Prompted by an RAF raid on Berlin in late August 1940, he ordered the Luftwaffe to concentrate its attacks upon London. It was thought the move would draw RAF Fighter Command up into a large, decisive battle. Initially, the change in strategy caught the British off-guard. The first daylight attack of this type occurred on 7 September and caused extensive damage and civilian casualties. Some 107,400 long tons (109,100 t) of shipping was damaged in the Thames Estuary and 1,600 civilians were killed or injured. Hitler was dissatisfied with the Luftwaffe and its failure to destroy Fighter Command quickly. He dismissed over-optimistic reports from the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL or High Command of the Air Force), particularly the Chief of the Luftwaffe general staff Hans Jeschonnek, who asserted the RAF was on its last legs. Confident the RAF was nearly defeated, Jeschonnek requested terror bombing to be enacted as a final blow. Hitler refused, and only allowed attacks on industry, communications and public utility targets.

Over the next few days, bad weather prevented more large attacks. On 9 and 11 September, only smaller raids were carried out. It gave Hugh Dowding AOC (Air Officer Commanding) Fighter Command, the chance to prepare and reinforce his forces. The British, possibly through the use of Ultra intelligence, recognised the German change in strategy and duly prepared for further attacks on the capital although The intelligence from ULTRA at this stage in the war tended to be fragmented.

In August, Operation Adlerangriff (Eagle Attack) was launched against RAF airfields in southern England. By the first week of September, the Luftwaffe had not gained the results desired by Hitler. Frustrated, the Germans turned towards the strategic bombing of cities, an offensive which was aimed at British military and civil industries, but also civilian morale. The attacks began on 7 September 1940, but were to reach their daylight climax on 15 September 1940 when the Luftwaffe launched its largest and most concentrated attack against London in the hope of drawing out the RAF into a battle of annihilation. Around 1,500 aircraft took part in the air battles which lasted until dusk. The action was the climax of the Battle of Britain.nRAF Fighter Command defeated the German raids. The Luftwaffe formations were dispersed by a large cloud base and failed to inflict severe damage on the city of London. In the aftermath of the raid, Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion. Having been defeated in daylight, the Luftwaffe turned its attention to The Blitz night campaign which lasted until May 1941.

Leonard Cheshire VC OM DSO and two bars, DFC

Best known for his work for disabled people, Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and Two Bars, DFC was Born 7 September 1917 In Chester, and was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, Stowe School and Merton College, Oxford. Whilst at Oxford he became friends with John Niel Randle. On one occasion at Oxford he was bet half a pint of beer that he could not walk to Paris with no more than a few pennies in his pocket; he won his bet. He stayed in Germany in 1936 with a family in Potsdam and whilst there, witnessed an Adolf Hitler rally. Cheshire caused great offence by pointedly refusing to give the Nazi salute. Cheshire graduated jurisprudence in 1939.

Having learnt basic piloting skills with the Oxford University Air Squadron he joined the RAF following the outbreak of the Second World War. He was initially posted in June 1940 to 102 Squadron, flying Armstrong Whitworth Whitley medium bombers, from RAF Driffield. In November 1940, Cheshire was awarded the DSO for flying his badly damaged bomber back to base. In January 1941, Cheshire completed his tour of operations, but then volunteered immediately for a second tour. He was posted to 35 Squadron with the brand new Handley Page Halifax and completed his second tour early in 1942, by then, a Squadron Leader. August 1942 saw a return to operations as CO of No. 76 Squadron RAF. The squadron had recently suffered high losses operating the Halifax, and Cheshire immediately tackled the low morale of the unit by ordering an improvement in the performance of the squadron aircraft by removing the mid-upper and nose gun turrets along with exhaust covers and other weighty non-essential equipment. This allowed the bombers to fly higher and faster. Losses soon fell and morale rose accordingly.

Many Halifax bombers did not return and there were reports the Halifax was unstable in a “corkscrew” which was the manoeuvre used by bomber pilots to escape night fighters. So The test pilot Capt. Eric Brown DSC, flying uncrewed except for an accompanying flight engineer, undertook risky tests to establish the cause. The fault was in the Halfax’s rudder design and Cheshire became enraged when Handley Page at first declined to make modifications. During his time as the Commanding Officer of 76 Squadron at RAF Linton, Cheshire took the trouble to recognise and learn the name of every single man on the base. He was determined to increase the efficiency of his squadron and improve the chances of survival of its crews, to this end he constantly lectured crews on the skills needed to achieve those aims. The crews knew he was devoted to their interests and when, on an operation to Nuremberg, they were told to cross the French Coast at 2,000 ft (the most dangerous height for light flak). Cheshire simply refused, stating they would fly at 200 ft or 20,000 ft. Typically, Cheshire inspired great loyalty and respect among 76 Squadron.

In 1943, Cheshire published an account of his first tour of operations in his book, Bomber Pilot which tells of his posting to RAF Driffield and the story of flying his badly damaged bomber (“N for Nuts”) back to base. In the book, Cheshire fails to mention being awarded theDSO for this, but does describe the bravery of a badly burnt member of his crew.Cheshire became Station Commander RAF Marston Moor in March 1943, as the youngest Group Captain in the RAF, although the job was never to his liking and he pushed for a return to an operational command. These efforts paid off with a posting as commander of the legendary 617 “Dambusters” Squadron in September 1943. While with 617, Cheshire helped pioneer a new method of marking enemy targets for Bomber Command’s 5 Group, flying in at a very low level in the face of strong defences, using first, the versatile de Havilland Mosquito, then a North American Mustang fighter.On the morning before a planned raid by 617 squadron to Siracourt, a crated Mustang turned up at Woodhall Spa, it was a gift for Cheshire from his admirers in the U.S. 8th Air Force. Cheshire had the aircraft assembled and the engine tested as he was determined to test the possibilities of the fighter as a marker aircraft. He took off, in what was his first flight in the aircraft, and caught up with 617′s Lancasters before they reached the target. Cheshire then proceeded to accurately mark the target (a V-1 storage depot) for the heavies which landed three Tallboys on it. He then flew back and landed the Mustang in the dark.

This development work in target marking was the subject of some severe intraservice politics; Cheshire was encouraged by his 5 Group Commander Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane, although the 8 Group Pathfinder AOC Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett saw this work as impinging on the responsibilities of his own command.Cheshire was nearing the end of his fourth tour of duty in July 1944, having completed a total of 102 missions, when he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the only one of the 32 VC airmen to win the medal for an extended period of sustained courage and outstanding effort, rather than a single act of valour. His citation noted:In four years of fighting against the bitterest opposition he maintained a standard of outstanding personal achievement, his successful operations being the result of careful planning, brilliant execution and supreme contempt for danger – for example, on one occasion he flew his Mustang in slow ‘figures of eight’ above a target obscured by low cloud, to act as a bomb-aiming mark for his squadron. Cheshire displayed the courage and determination of an exceptional leader. Itlso noted a raid in which he had marked a target, flying a Mosquito at low level against “withering fire”.

When Cheshire went to Buckingham Palace to receive his VC from King George VI, he was accompanied by Norman Jackson who was also due to receive his award on that day. Cheshire insisted that despite the difference in rank (Group Captain and Warrant Officer), they should approach the King together. Jackson remembers that Cheshire said to the King, “This chap stuck his neck out more than I did – he should get his VC first!” The King had to keep to protocol, but Jackson commented he would “never forget what Cheshire said.” Cheshire was, in his day, both the youngest Group Captain in the service and, following his VC, the most decorated. In his book, Bomber Command (2010), Sir Max Hastings states “Cheshire was a legend in Bomber Command, a remarkable man with an almost mystical air about him, as if he somehow inhabited a different planet from those about him, but without affectation or pretension”. Cheshire would always fly on the most dangerous operations, he never took the easy option of just flying on the less risky ops to France, a habit which caused some COs to be referred to derisively as “François” by their men. Cheshire had no crew but would fly as “Second Dickey”, with the new and nervous to give them confidence. Cheshire had strong feelings on any crew displaying LMF (Lack of Moral Fibre, a euphemism for cowardice) when subject to the combat stress of Bomber Command’s sorties (many of which had loss rates of 5% or more). Thus Cheshire transferred LMF cases out of his squadron almost instantaneously (like every other RAF squadron did at the time) This was also because he argued that a man who thought he was doomed would collapse or bail out when his aircraft was hit, whereas Cheshire thought if he could survive the initial shock of finding his aircraft damaged, he had more of a chance of survival. On his 103rd mission, Cheshire was the official British observer of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki.His vantage point was in the support B-29 Big Stink. After serving as the British observer on theNagasaki nuclear attack he resigned from the Air Force. However During the Second World War he became a highly decorated British RAF pilot. Among the honours Cheshire received as a pilot is the Victoria Cross. He was the youngest Group Captain in the RAF and one of the most highly decorated pilots of the War, .

After the war, Cheshire lived with his wife Joan at the “VIP (for Vade in Pacem – Go in Peace) Colony” he established for veterans and war widows at Gumley Hall, Bedford Gardens – one of several new ventures he started after leaving the RAF in 1946. Joan followed him to Le Court, near Petersfield,Hampshire (a mansion which Cheshire had bought from his aunt) where, with three children of her own, Joan took charge of the nursery. Cheshire and Joan Botting subsequently investigated many religions, from Seventh Day Adventist to Methodist to “High Anglo-Catholic” – but none of them provided the answers they were looking for. Cheshire’s aim in establishing the VIP Colony was to provide an opportunity for ex-servicemen and women and their families to live together, each contributing to the community what they could, in order to help their transition back into civilian life. He hoped that training, prosperity and fulfillment would result from united effort and mutual support. He saw the community as one way of continuing to work towards world peace. The community, however, did not prosper and the project came to an end in 1947.Atthe beginning of 1948, Cheshire heard about the case of Arthur Dykes, who had been one of Cheshire’s original “VIP” community at Le Court, and was suffering from cancer. Dykes asked Cheshire to give him some land to park a caravan until he recovered, but Cheshire discovered that Dykes was terminally ill and that this diagnosis was concealed from him. He told Dykes the real position and invited him to stay at Le Court. Cheshire learned nursing skills and was soon approached to take in a second patient, the 94-year-old bedridden wife of a man who had just been taken off to hospital after suffering a stroke. She was followed by others, some coming to stay and others to help. Although Le Court had no financial support, and his situation was financially perilous most of the time, money somehow always seemed to arrive in the nick of time to stave off disaster.

Dykes died in August 1948. After completing the arrangements for his funeral, Cheshire idly picked up a book a friend had sent him. It was One Lord, One Faith by Vernon Johnson, a former High Anglican clergyman who, against every cherished instinct and prejudice, had converted to Roman Catholicism because, as he put it, “I could not resist the claim of the Catholic Church to be the one true Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ to guard and teach the truth. Joan Botting had converted to Jehovah’s Witnesses.On Christmas Eve, 1948, Cheshire was received into the Catholic Church. The next day, Joan Botting and her children, Mavis, Gary and Elizabeth, moved out of Le Court for good. At the beginning of 1949, eight patients were staying at Le Court.Six months later, there were 28. Cheshire dedicated the rest of his life to supporting disabled people, combining this with lecturing on conflict resolution.

In 1948, Cheshire founded the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, which provides support to disabled people throughout the world. It is now one of the top 30 British charities. Other organisations set up by Leonard Cheshire are:The Ryder-Cheshire Foundation,set up by Leonard Cheshire and his wife Sue Ryder at the time of their marriage in 1959. this deals with the rehabilitation of disabled people, through ENRYCH and the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, through Target Tuberculosis. In 1953, Cheshire founded the Raphael Pilgrimage in order to enable sick and disabled people to travel to Lourdes. The Leonard Cheshire Disability & Inclusive Development Centre is a joint project by Leonard Cheshire Disability and University College London. In 1991 he was created Baron Cheshire in recognition of his charitable work and Cheshire also founded the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief, for whom the Roger Waters concert “The Wall – Live in Berlin” was held. Cheshire opened this concert by blowing a Second World War whistle. Cheshire was also concerned about future remembrance and was influential in the concept of the National Memorial Arboretum, founded by David Childs. Leonard Chesire sadly died 31 July 1992. He However his legacy lives on And The amphitheatre at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas is dedicated to the memory of Leonard Cheshire.

SR-71/ Avro Vulcan

On 1 September 1974 The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird set (and holds) the record for flying from New York to London in the time of 1 hour, 54 minutes and 56.4 seconds at a speed of 1,435.587 miles per hour (2,310.353 km) the Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft. It was developed as a black project from the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft in the 1960s by Lockheed and itsSkunk Works division. Clarence “Kelly” Johnson was responsible for many of the design’s innovative concepts. During reconnaissance missions, the SR-71 operated at high speeds and altitudes to allow it to outrace threats. If asurface-to-air missile launch was detected, the standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and outfly the missile.The SR-71 served with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. A total of 32 aircraft were built; 12 were lost in accidents, but none lost to enemy action. The SR-71 has been given several nicknames, including Blackbird and Habu. Since 1976, it has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft, a record previously held by the YF-12.

601px-XH558_PlanformThe Prototype Avro Vulcan No.698 first flew on August 30 1952, . Now a famous example of British engineering heritage, the Vulcan was designed to carry Britain’s new nuclear deterrent, codenamed “Blue Danube”. Its vast size and large delta wing ensure it is perfectly distinctive today, let alone in 1952, when some thought they’d seen an alien spaceship. It was, indeed, the first large delta wing aircraft (leading directly to Concorde), and featured innovations such as electrically-operated flying controls and an early version of ABS braking. Compared with its Avro Lancaster predecessor, which had first flown just 11 years before the Vulcan prototype climbed into the sky, its speed and agility were astonishing.The plane only entered combat once, and not in its nuclear capacity, when it flew 8,000 miles to Port Stanley Airport on the Falkland Islands in 1982, dropping bombs that prevented Argentina operating its own Mirage III fighters.

Two years later the Vulcans were withdrawn from service and today only one, XH558, still flies. This is owned by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, which returned XH558 to the air in 2007. Since then the charity has managed to display the Vulcan at numerous airshows, which attract up to seven million people (including me) annually. Now Airshow organisers talk about ‘the Vulcan Effect’ and have also described the aircraft as a national treasure.” AVro Vulcan XH558 (civil aircraft registration G-VLCN) The Spirit Of Great Britain is the only airworthy example of the 134 Avro Vulcan V bombers that were operated by the Royal Air Force from 1953 until 1984. Vulcan XH558 served with the RAF between 1960 and 1985 in the bomber, maritimereconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling roles.

XH558, was the twelfth Vulcan B2 built,it first flew in 1960 and was delivered to No. 230 Operational Conversion Unit RAF at RAF Waddington on 1 July 1960. Almost immediately the aircraft moved with 230 OCU to RAF Finningley where the aircraft spent some eight years before returning to Lincolnshire in 1968. Most of its operational service was with the units of the Waddington Wing including No. 50 Squadron RAF. The aircraft was converted to a SR2 Maritime Radar Reconnaissance in 1973 and flew with 27 Sqn, subsequently to the air-to-air refuelling variant K2 in 1982. It was returned to standard B2 configuration in 1985 and was the last Vulcan in service. From 1986 to 1992, it was the RAF’s display aircraft.After service with the Royal Air Force, the aircraft was sold to C.Walton Limited and delivered by air to Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome on 23 March 1993. The aircraft was kept in a serviceable condition and would undertake fast taxi runs along Bruntingthorpe’s main runway. The RAF operated XH558 as a display aircraft from 1986 until 1992, when budget cuts forced its retirement.It is presently operated by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust as a display aircraft, funded entirely by charitable donations and the UK Lottery’s Heritage Fund.It is registered with the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority as G-VLCN but has an exemption to fly in Royal Air Force markings as XH558 and has been flying regularly at various air shows like Duxford, Waddington, Fairford and Cosford.

The Avro Vulcan is an iconic example of British aerospace trchnology at it’s best it is an iconic example of of intense post-war innovation during a period of intense global tension, that made British aviation technology the envy of the world And was the first successful large delta wing aircraft, leading directly to Concorde and the Space Shuttle, and delivering performance and agility so close to a jet fighter’s that it was given a fighter-style control column in place of the traditional bomber pilot’s yoke. Today that agility allows XH558 to deliver amazing air displays, from accelerating dramatically along the runway, to it’s stunning performance. Vulcan XH558 flies thanks to the generosity of her supporters who give their time and money to supplement the Trust’s commercial income. She would not fly without them.

Sadly At the end of the 2015 flying season, Vulcan XH558 will land for the last time. By then, she will have far exceeded the 250 flying hours promised before her restoration and will have completed significantly more flying hours than any other aircraft of her type.The Vulcan to the Sky trust have done everything possible to see whether another year might be possible. a detailed evaluation of the factors that affect her continued flying life has been conducted, most critically, the way she is flown has been modified in order to extend engine life and minimise fatigue.

The feasibility of XH558’s continued airworthiness has been evaluated by three expert companies – BAE Systems, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group and Rolls-Royce, together known as the ‘technical authorities’ – who have collectively decided to cease their support at the end of this flying season. Without that support, under Civil Aviation Authority regulations, XH558 is prohibited from flying. Although XH558 is believed to be as safe as any aircraft flying today, her structure and systems are already more than ten percent beyond the flying hours of any other Vulcan, and maintaining her superb safety record requires expertise that is increasingly difficult to find. specialists have been brought out of retirement specifically to work on XH558; a solution that is increasingly impractical as the necessary skills and knowledge become distant in their collective memories. It is true that seeing and hearing XH558 overhead is a thrilling experience, but even on the ground, XH558 is fascinating and exciting and will hopefully inspire and educate a new generations of young people, to learn the engineering and technical skills which built XH558.

Shrewsbury Steam Rally

Coalbrookdale Engine

This years Shrewsbury Steam Rally takes place Sunday 27 and Monday 28 August (Bank Holiday Monday) at Onslow Park, Shrewsbury. This year there will be over a thousand different exhibits on display including Steam-powered tractors, steam Rollers, Fairground showman engines, Historic military vehicles, Veteran and classic cars and commercial vehicles, Classic motorbikes, Vintage tractors, Vintage fairground organs and other machinery, Plus a range of oil and steam-powered static engines. The Main Arena will play host to a variety of events including a range of ploughing and threshing demonstrations on the working field, showing the history of farming as it has changed through the last century. Teams of shire horses will plough part of the site, as part of the heavy horses display, steam-powered cultivation will also be demonstrated. There will also be a birds-of -Prey display in the main arena demonstrating falconry.

London Steam Carriage

Shrewsbury Steam Rally will also be exhibiting one of the the first railway locomotives in the world, The Coalbrookdale Locomotive in association with the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. The Coalbrookdale Locomotive was originally Designed by Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick and built by the Coalbrookdale ironworks in 1802. Trevithick disagreed with James Watt’s assertion that ‘high-pressure steam’ was extremely dangerous and set out to prove so. However James Watt had taken out many patents on all aspects of steam engines to prevent others even experimenting. Despite this, Trevithick and one or two men (even one of Watt’s staff) began working on small high-pressure steam engines in secret for pumping water and road steam engines. In 1801 when Watts’ patents finally ran out Richard Trevithick took up the challenge in the form of two road vehicles. Then In 1802 Trevithick took out a patent for his high pressure steam engine. To prove his ideas, he built a stationary engine at the Coalbrookdale Company’s works in Shropshire in 1802. The Coalbrookdale company then built a rail locomotive for him. Sadly the only known information about it comes from a drawing preserved at the Science Museum, London, together with a letter written by Trevithick to his friend, Davies Giddy. The design incorporated a single horizontal cylinder enclosed in a return-flue boiler. A flywheel drove the wheels on one side through spur gears, and the axles were mounted directly on the boiler, with no frame. In 1803 Trevithick built another steam-powered road vehicle called the London Steam Carriage, which attracted much attention from the public and press when he drove it that year in London from Holborn to Paddington and back. However It was uncomfortable for passengers and proved more expensive to run than a horse-drawn carriage and so the project was abandoned. In 1989 GKN Sankey in association with The National Vulcan Insurance Company decided to build a replica the Coalbrookdale Locomotive using letters from Trevithick himself and a drawing held by what was the original patents office in London. It was assembled by a team of nine apprentices and was later donated to the museum on the 18th of July 1990.

The Portsmouth Action Field Gun Display Team will also be performing a truly spectacular event called the South Africa Challenge, involving a Command 1 tonne, 12-pounder field gun and limber (a two-wheeled cart designed to support the trail and the stock of a field carriage) which will be raced across the main arena. The display in its present form was started in 1907, inspired by the exploits of the Navy during the Boer War in 1899. From 2001 the Field Gun crews and staff of Portsmouth Action Field Gun (PAFG) have been committed to continue to train for and display these competitive Field Gun runs. In 2001 the ‘field gun run’ was resurrected by a crew and staff comprising ex-field gunners and civilians who wanted to prove that a civilian field gun crew had the ability to perform competitive field gun runs using the same drill and equipment over the same course as the former Royal Naval gunners did for a hundred years. A South Africa Challenge was performed at The International Festival of the Sea (IFOS) in Portsmouth in June 2005. The South Africa Challenge involves two teams racing each other to dis-assemble and re-assemble the Field Gun on the carriage and fire (a blank) at each end of the run. Six full competitive field gun runs were completed with a fastest time recorded of 3 minutes and 33 seconds. In 2010 the crew trained at Mill Rythe Holiday Centre on Hayling Island, and achieved the target of having 2 running crews by the end of 2010 to coincide with the re-introduced British Military Tournament (BMT) at Earls Court.

The Red Arrows aerobatic display team will also be doing a fly-past of the Shrewsbury steam Rally. The highlight of Steam Rally will be the Grand Parade set to nostalgic music and poetry, involving all kinds of other vehicles, from Steam Traction Engines, Showman Engines, military vehicles historic lorries classic motorbikes and classic cars,