Duxford Autumn Air Show Report

Sunday 16th October 2011

The undoubted star of IWM Duxford's Autumn Air Show was the beautiful Meteor T.7 of Air Atlantique's Classic Flight, based at Airbase, Coventry. It was an eagerly awaited debut display appearance by this stunning restoration project, with Dan Griffith scheduled to bring her in during the morning of the show. There was still a chance that it wouldn't be ready in time to display, so those enthusiasts gathered at the M11 end of the airfield scanned the skies hoping, oddly, that they wouldn't be seeing the inimitable profile of the NF.11 version as a substitute. We needn't have worried as Dan duly arrived in the gleaming silver T.7, fresh out of the paint shop.

Phil Whalley's report from the show concentrates on WA591, with photography from the UKAR team.

The theme for Duxford's Autumn show was the Korean War, giving the chance to present the ultimate in piston development and the early jet aircraft that took part in that conflict. Classics such as the Skyraider, Sea Fury, Mustang, Spitfire and F-86 Sabre gave able demonstrations, but all were eclipsed by the Meteor T.7 WA591 - registered G-BWMF (standing for Great Britain Whittle Meteor Flight) - especially once the stunning images taken of it in the favourable light conditions appeared on the pages of UKAR, and subsequently in many of the UK's aviation magazines. The T.7 took sixteen years to restore and is now the world's oldest airworthy jet aircraft. Built in 1949 the jet trainer entered RAF service soon after, seeing time with various training units - with which it suffered a number of incidents requiring major repairs at Glosters and Avro - until its final operational posting with 5 Maintenance Unit Apprentice School at Kemble, one of a number of periods that '591 had spent at this then RAF base. Fittingly the Meteor made its first flight after rebuild in June of this year from Kemble (officially titled Cotswold Airport) after its detailed restoration.

The airframe had been sourced from RAF Woodvale in Cheshire in 1995 where it had been on display as a 'Gate Guard', and like many such aircraft clearly in need of 'rescue' and a more fitting existence. A group of enthusiasts titled themselves 'Meteor Flight' and began the long process of returning '591 to flight. That flight took place on 14 June - with Dan Griffith at the controls - and after ironing out a few snags the Meteor was relocated to Airbase at Coventry who would be operating the aircraft having helped complete and fund the latter stages of the restoration. This trainer version of the 'Meatbox' will also allow for the tuition of additional pilots to convert to their NF.11 version. The T.7 made a static appearance at RIAT, just down the road from Kemble, at Fairford, flying in on the Thursday 'arrivals day' before the show still sporting a patchwork primer and undercoat scheme. After the Meteor's appearance at Duxford a night-shoot at its Airbase home gave the enthusiasts another, much different, chance to get a look at this stunning machine. Hopefully 2012 will see WA591 at many events up and down the country, at which she will undoubtedly continue to take star billing.