Fairey FD2 Record Flight

Painting_Fairey FD2 about to start its westward record run


This painting was prepared just in time to be taken along to the 27th June 2006 Royal Aeronautical Society's Historical Group Meeting commemorating the 10th March,1956, record breaking flight, in which Peter Twiss flew the Fairy Delta 2 over the measured course on the South Coast, to take the first speed record to exceed 1000mph.

The speed measured over the course, at an altitude of 38,000ft, was 1,132mph, handsomely exceeding the previous record of 822mph, set by a North American F-100 Super Sabre.

In the painting, there was a real problem in suggesting speed without the luxury of the streaked background blurring that would have worked nicely for a low-altitude flight, and a 'level flight' painting would have lacked the drama I felt was needed.

A banked turn seemed to offer something of the required drama, so I asked the pilot what bank angle was typical for the turns made at each end of the measured course, and was surprised to find that as much as 45 to 50 degrees of bank were needed to haul the 'plane round in the tight turns required.
Since the fuel-thirsty afterburner could only be used for the acceleration and the measured course sections of the flight, the tight turns scrubbed off a great deal of speed, such that the aircraft was accelerating over the entire measured course, implying that its terminal speed must have been well in excess of 1,132mph, which was, of course, the average (both ways) speed over the measured sections.

Since the FD2 was a slender delta, I was somewhat surprised that the foreshortening resulting from the angle which I had chosen to depict the 'plane made the wing leading edge sweep look far too small, giving an impression of a sweep angle closer to that of a Vulcan than of the FD2.
I was so bothered by the effect, that I had to make a model of the FD2 and photograph it from the appropriate angle, in order to prove for myself that the painting was indeed correct, and it was only the extreme near 'head on' view that made it 'look wrong'. One of the attendees at the RAeS meeting told me that he had seen the same effect on a picture of the Convair F 102.

The aircraft is shown beginning to come out of the turn at the eastern end of the course, to commence its westward journey over the measured part of the course.
I know that the aircraft left a clear vapour trail, as shown in the painting, because the final timing photograph for the record flight actually failed to capture the 'plane itself, but the position of the 'just out of picture' FD2 could be accurately assessed from the start of the vapour trail, which was, thankfully, clearly visible in the timing photograph!

The performance of the FD2 was quite remarkable, and it is a credit to Fairey Aviation that they went ahead with the record flight out of their own pockets, with virtually no financial help from official quarters.
Something I was not aware of until the meeting was the fact that the FD2 incorporated some degree of Area Rule compliance as a result of the careful positioning of the fin, which prevented the overall cross sectional area from changing too abruptly towards the wing's trailing edge.

If Fairy's proposed fighter development stemming from their work with the FD2 had been allowed to materialise, Britain would have perhaps been able to reap the export success later enjoyed by the Dassault Mirage series, which used many of the research findings from the FD2 programme!

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