the Gloster Meteor at Hendon (1)

On the very same visit to RAF Hendon when I saw the Messerschmitt Me 262, I also saw the first RAF jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor F8:

To be honest, compared to the German thoroughbred, the Meteor looked a bit of a tub, to say the least:

On the other hand, the engines were lots better than the German ones and eventually the Meteor would be purchased by Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Biafra, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, France, West Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Syria and the United States. Here are aircraft from Argentina, Belgium and Brazil :

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Having been initially negative about the Meteor, it is only fair to say that in the in-service trials between the Meteor and the propeller driven Hawker Tempest, the Meteor was judged the winner on all counts, except, conceivably, manœuvrability. Pilots of propeller driven aircraft often said that the Meteor was “exciting to fly”. Norman Tebbit, the politician and ex-RAF pilot, said of the Meteor:

“Get airborne, up with the wheels, hold it low until you were about 380 knots, pull it up and she would go up, well we thought then, like a rocket”.

The first Meteors to see action were with 616 Squadron who began by chasing V1 flying bombs over south eastern England from July 27th 1944 onwards. In early 1945, they moved out to Belgium and then Holland, carrying out armed reconnaissance and ground attack sorties but without meeting any Me 262s. The Meteors were painted all white to avoid friendly fire issues:

After the war, the Meteor came into contact with the Soviet Mig-15 both in Korea and in the Israel-Egypt war in the mid-1950s. It was found to be lacking in many respects.

More on the Meteor’s shortcomings next time.


Filed under Aviation, History, Personal, Science

25 responses to “the Gloster Meteor at Hendon (1)

  1. I always thought that the Messerschmitt was a good looking plane. I had an Airfix model in my collection.

  2. Something I didn’t know about Norman Tebbit

  3. I always wondered exactly how the pilots felt going from props to jets. It must have been exhilarating. The Meteor doesn’t seem quite as streamlined as I first thought.

    • It wasn’t ! In the Korean War the Mig-15 would outclass it totally in aerial combat and it tended to be used for ground attack as it was very steady as a gun/rocket platform. It would take the exquisite lines of the F-86 to sort out the Mig-15, an aircraft powered, incidentally by the Russian version of the Rolls-Royce Nene. The Soviets bought a few from Rolls-Royce and then built their own. Naughty! Naughty!

  4. Can you recommend any sources of information regarding the Meteor’s use during World War II?

  5. In Korea most aircraft couldn’t match it with the MiG-15. Hence why everyone wanted to fly the Sabre but the Meteor was older by then.

    • Absolutely correct. The Sabre was better than the Mig-15 but the Meteor couldn’t compete with the Mig-15. That’s why in the RAF it was often a night fighter, an all weather fighter, a ground attack aircraft and so on. The Meteor F8 was used as an ordinary fighter but I don’t think it was anything special from what I’ve read.

      • Actually I was told once the MiG-15 was a better plane than the Sabre but in any event going up against it you’d rather be in a Sabre or Meteor of Panther and so on. You know a lot more about it than me. 🙂

        REPLY: Not at all. I was just going by the kill ratios which were hugely in favour of the F-86s, but as I just thought to myself, the kill ratios might actually reflect the numbers of aircraft involved or the training of the pilots flying them. Actually, I’m not too proud of my knowledge of jets!

  6. I do love the Meteor, partly for its history and partly as it was one my father worked on. A great little aeroplane.

    • Somehow I don’t think you will enjoy the second part of this blog post quite as much. It is entitled “The Gloster Meteor at Hendon (2)” and examines in detail why the aircraft’s nickname was “The Meatbox”. Still, as somebody once said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time but with an aircraft called the Meatbox, you may struggle for all of the people all of the time”.

      • Oh dear! There have been many aircraft with unsavoury names and reputations, the B-26 Marauder, the F-104 Starfighter, but yet they were loved by many. I look forward to the second part John, and shall read it with an open mind!

  7. Chris Waller

    Given that Whittle invented the jet-engine in 1930, why did the powers-that-be not develop it pre-war? Was it perhaps that airframe design in the 1930s could not have accommodated the jet-engine? Or was it simply that attitudes in the Ministry were stuck in the past?

    • I think that the attitude was one of complacency. Stanley Baldwin had guaranteed that “the bomber will always get through” and we had the Bristol Blenheim which was very fast by the standards of the mid-thirties. And we had the Spitfire and the Hurricane as well. We just didn’t need jets!
      From what I have read, the various Ministries and the civil servants and the services top brass were only interested in not working hard, going home at four and in having a quiet life. Arthur Harris said that every single one of them should have been stamped on the forehead with “Can’t do it”. That included the Merlin engine in the Mustang, stopping the production of poor aircraft like the Stirling and the Halifax, and any one of hundreds of initiatives that were originally turned down, I have a dim memory that the SAS was in that category.
      I don’t think that the airframes in the late thirties would have been a problem, as was shown by the Germans who produced the turbojet Heinkel He 178 which flew on August 27th 1939. They had a different attitude to new ideas which is perfectly reflected in the differences between the Me 262 and the Gloster Meteor.

  8. Jan

    It must have been an exciting (and risky, one should remember) time to be an RAF/ FAA pilot back then. With new designs, from a plethora of British manufacturers, entering and leaving service. Rather different nowadays with the Typhoon’s 20 year gestation and who knows how long for the F35 Lightning.

    • It sounds as if you would enjoy the two books I recommended above, namely “Wings on My Sleeve: The World’s Greatest Test Pilot tells his story” by Eric Brown and “Empire of the Clouds: When Britain’s Aircraft Ruled the World” by James Hamilton-Paterson.
      Eric Brown talks about the days when new types were being developed every few months and “Empire of the Clouds” shows how the British were miles ahead in the new technologies until the problems with the Comet and the appearance of the Boeing 707.
      I think that the pilots were very impressed with the speed of the new jets but had problems with nose wheels as opposed to tail wheels and found the unforgiving nature of jet aircraft in emergencies extremely difficult to deal with, as we shall see in the next instalment.

  9. Jan

    The Meteor may have been homely, but her ugly sister is worth a shudder. So awful the RAF would only fly at night.

    The Me262 was excluded from early post-war speed trials so as not to show-up the poor, relative, performance of the British and American jets with their barndoor aerodynamics.

  10. WW II aircraft is my arena! To augment your post:
    1) the SWEPT wing Me 262:
    This on the relative merits of the Mig 15 and the F-86: [the British gift of their engine would prove a deadly error] the Mig 15’s design was superior to the Sabre, and was more heavily armed; however, the Sabre had power assisted control surfaces, a big advantage in overall maneuverability, and better control for the pilot.:

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