Was this the cause of some of the Flying Saucer reports?

In the late 1940s Britain was trailing far behind in supersonic aircraft design. To try to retrieve matters in 1950 the Ministry of Supply issued a specification for a supersonic research aircraft, and Fairey set about meeting this with a delta-winged aircraft designed for investigation into flight and control at transonic and supersonic speeds. In 1951 Fairey Delta 1 with its famous thin delta wing was produced at the Stockport factory. Fairey Delta 2 (FD 2) first flew in 1954 and in 1956 broke the World Air Speed Record being the first aircraft to exceed 1,000 mph in level flight.

This final design was a single-seat aircraft powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon engine with an afterburner. To improve the pilot's forward view during landing, taxiing and take-off, the cockpit and nose section could be hinged downwards by ten degrees. Later, a similar arrangement was used on Concorde. Fairey test-pilot Peter Twiss flew the first FD2, WG774, on its maiden flight on 6 October 1954, and there followed 400 test flights. During an early one, fuel starvation caused loss of engine power and subsequent loss of hydraulic pressure which necessitated a main wheels up & an undrooped snoot crash landing.
The idea of a record attempt occurred to the pilot after the aircraft effortlessly passed the sound barrier without using full power or reheat. The Ministry of Supply only reluctantly allowed "their" aircraft to be used and it was done at Fairey's expense. However the RAF co-operated and their radar stations, presumably the south coast ones, were used to guide the aircraft along the shortest route to the starting gate, this being essential as the colossal fuel consumption using the afterburner limited the endurance severely. Hence the RAF were well aware of the appearance of this aircraft on their radar screens as during its life, as more than 400 test sorties were flown. Otherwise its existence was not generally known until after the record was secured.

Thus in early March 1956 several attempts were made on the World Air Speed Record, but although the aircraft flew amply fast enough in each, the vertical telephoto cameras could not catch the high altitude aircraft over the start and end lines of the measured course at the right instant, such images being essential for ratification. Only on the eighth attempt was all successful enough and Twiss officially broke the record by more than 483kph (300mph). The nine mile course was along and just inland of the English south coast at 38,000 feet, centred on Portsmouth and Chichester. This new record at 1820kph (1132mph) was a significant achievement considering the old record had only been set the previous year by an American F100 Super Sabre, and was so much slower.

Only two Fairy Deltas were ever built, and the British did not want any further development because of their supersonic bangs, and also because the age of the fighter was considered by the Government to be over. In October 1956 FD2 went to Cazaux near Bordeaux for a month of low flying trials, hosted by Dassault and the French air force. This revealed that supersonic bangs were no more intense from 5000 feet and indeed were heard over a much smaller area. Also it was found that the hydraulic flying controls needed strengthening and after modifications back home, months of testing at slower speeds followed. By then the political situation in France prohibited a return for low level supersonic testing and the embargo continued at home. Thus it was not until July 1958 that the necessary tests were conducted in Norway, Twiss having flown FD2 across from Newcastle to hand the aircraft over to Sqdn. Leader J.O. Matthews to conduct further testing. After that Twiss was fully employed on both the development of the Gannet and the Rotadyne. In March 1959 when Fairey was taken over by Westlands they did not choose to develop FD2 and the aircraft was handed over to R.A.E. Farnborough. It is presently on display at the RAF museum, Cosford. The wing design was used by Dassault in the highly successful Mirage and some aspects were used in Concorde.

The above picture was downloaded (and is used here with kind permission) from the British Aircraft Directory site. You can also read the full history of this amazing little aircraft. All the information above was sourced from the Peter Twiss autobiography entitled "Faster than the Sun", published by Grub Street, ISBN 1-904943-37-3

UTube film of the Pathe News report of the record breaking flight.

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