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Flying the early DH Vampire fighters with the "Elephant Ear" Intakes

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Flying the early DH Vampire fighters with the "Elephant Ear" Intakes

Old 17th Nov 2021, 11:15
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Flying the early DH Vampire fighters with the "Elephant Ear" Intakes

A friend recently sent me a photo of the single seat DH Vampire Mk 30 used by the RAAF in the early Fifties. I flew them in 1953. . The dual Vampire Mk 33 came in later. No dual in those days.

See: https://www.radschool.org.au/magazines/Vol58/Page16.htm





Test Pilot Brian "Black Jack" Walker test flew the RAAF version during his investigation into the diving characteristics of the Vampire after several fatal accidents caused by shock waves forming on additional engine air intakes on top of the fuselage in the Nene engine. The intakes were called Elephant Ears. I read Walkers book many years ago. It turned out that shock waves on those intakes occurred around 0.78 Mach which affected the tail plane and elevators, resulting in loss of elevator effectiveness. The aircraft nosed over and wasn’t recoverable unless the pilot acted quickly by extending the dive brakes and closing the throttle to prevent speed build up as soon as the slightest nose down tendency became apparent.

Walker came close to going in during the initial tests. He had rolled the single seat Vamp on its back around high altitude (41,000 ft comes to mind) and deliberately went into a steep dive until he felt the sharp nose down trim change. Too late he found the aircraft going ever steeper and not responding until below about 13,000 ft. His description in his book was terrifying. Remember those early Vamps did not have bang seats and there was no hope of jumping out at high speed. The fix was to remove the intakes situated behind the cockpit and place them under the fuselage. That made the Vamp pitch up at high Machs which was safer. We used to enjoy rolling the revised Vamps and pulling through and feeling the sudden pitchup when vertical.

Because some of the pilots on the fighter course were very inexperienced (230 hours total time when going on to the single seat Vamps (no dual Vamps then) it was easy for them not to recognise the initial symptoms followed by sharp nose down trim, as leading to danger. I believe the RAAF lost several pilots - all of whom were newly graduated. If I recall correctly two Vamps went in vertically while in close formation recovering from aerobatics. . Another went in while diving on another Vamp during a practice dog fight. When I arrived at the Williamtown in February 1953 the prangs had occurred several months earlier.

From then on, we were introduced to Mach runs after about four flights. We flew in formation with an instructor flying the second Vampire.He would order us into a dive and formate closely on your aircraft. Bad luck if you were in cloud. As soon as the instructor felt the first symptoms of nose down trim he would tell the student in the other Vampire to extend dive brakes and throttle back. I did my Mach run on 16 March 1953 in single seat Vamp A79-199. My instructor in the other Vampire was flying Officer “Blue” Philp DFC recently returned from Korea. Lovely bloke. I never felt the nose down trim so I suspect Blue was a bit twitchy and called his warning a bit early in case I was slow to react. A wise precaution.

One student had a close shave during his single pilot navigation exercise cross country trip in IMC and found himself into an inadvertent loss of control situation in turbulence (?) The Vampire went into a steep dive during attempted recovery. He went through Critical Mach (I think it was 0.78? nd was lucky to survive, recovering at 1500 ft He said the elevator had locked solid until in the thicker air.

Last edited by Senior Pilot; 17th Nov 2021 at 22:58. Reason: Add image for reference 👍
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Old 17th Nov 2021, 21:53
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Nice one. And the rad school story too. Love the history
Keep them coming.
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Old 18th Nov 2021, 03:00
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On arrival at Williamtown to attend the fighter conversion in early 1953, there was no engineering course on the Mustang or Vampire. We were handed a small booklet called Pilots Notes Mustang or the Vampire and then seated in the cockpit with an instructor watching you start the engine and then off you went for the first flight.

Endurance on the Vampire was around one hour and ten minutes unless you had drop tanks. Most sorties lasted about 50 minutes and on many occasions that could be in IMC with a VHF Direction Finder in the control tower operated by an ATC who would give you "steers" to the aerodrome and you hoped it would bring you in sight of the landing runway. It is a bit too complicated to explain further but you get the drift.
The only instructor advice I remember during the first solo preflight briefing before flying the Vampire, was that these aircraft final approach to land is a very flat angle because it is jet propelled and doesn't have the high drag of a piston prop driven aircraft such as the Mustang. One aimed to actually touch down at the runway theshold markers. I remember coming in to land flying about a one degree glide path which meant the Nene engine was spooled up in case of a go-around. - all visual of course. The cockpit of the Vampire was close to the ground (six feet) and it seemed like being on a skate board. 100 knots over the fence gave you a long float as we were told to add 10 knots for Mum and the kids.

Braking was via a pneumatic system (like the early F27 in later years) and if taxiing a long way to the tarmac especially if a crosswind existed, it was all too easy to run out of compressed air to the brakes. Continuous application of the brakes in a crosswind (no nosewheel steering) caused the brakes to heat up. On arrival at the tarmac a marshaller guided you into the lines and when he signalled for you to stop on the alloted spot. it was consided rather cool to squeeze the brake lever on the control column harder than really necessary, thus causing the nose wheel oleo to compress and make the Vampire "nod" Stupid stuff of course - but it was common practice.
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Old 18th Nov 2021, 11:17
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Centaurus's anecdotes about the only thing worth reading on here these days.
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Old 19th Nov 2021, 03:30
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Victim of a bored god

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Test Pilot Brian "Black Jack" Walker.

Centaurus, did you know Blackjack? The antics he got up to were unbelievable. He claimed to have test flown every Canberra bomber built in Australia. He also had aircraft 104 type endorsements.

Blackjack used to smoke foul smelling native twist tobacco from Papua New Guinea, which permeated for months in every aircraft he ferried for us.

He was a real character, mates with Bobby Gibbes, passed away many years ago now.
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Old 19th Nov 2021, 03:51
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I have a newspaper photo of a RAAF pilot who was a friend of the family in a Vampire. It would have been taken in the late1960's I think.

In 1970 he and his navigator were KIA in VN flying a Canberra. Thankfully the site was located in 2009 and their remains repatriated.

Home at last.
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Old 19th Nov 2021, 11:39
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Centy and Taily.

'BlackJack ', or 'Blackie', would have test flown all the Vampire Mk35's as well when he was at Hawker De Havs.

I saw him put on a show in a Beech Debonair at Quirindi in 1964 when I were a lad. (The airshow where the two RAAF Sabres collided and one pilot sadly was killed).

You would have thought 'Blackie' was flying a Spitfire, amazing. Everyone talks about Ray Hanna and Lee Jones as superb, but BlackJack was just as good.

Didn't he used to put on Vampire shows at Bankstown?

He flew Beaufighters in WW2 among others.

I would love to get hold of his book. Anyone got the title?

Cheers, JO.
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Old 19th Nov 2021, 21:23
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judge.oversteer It's "Black Jack : 50 years as a Pilot", ISBN 187559308X (see https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/1882564)

A couple of other links that may be of interest:

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P10679867
https://pngaa.net/Vale/vale_june97.htm

FP.

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Old 20th Nov 2021, 02:08
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FP.
many thanks for that.
JO.
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Old 20th Nov 2021, 21:03
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One thing that has always puzzled me is why the RAAF painted Fin Flashes on the rudder on early Vampires. Some Winjeel and C47 also had this odd position. Never seen it on RAF aircraft. Did the RAAF call them 'Rudder Flashes' or did the painters not know what a fin was? I know, in the overall scheme of things who cares, but I'd love to know why. The picture above has the correct position but many Mk31's had the markings on the rudder.
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Old 21st Nov 2021, 01:33
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Never seen it on RAF aircraft
The RAF aircraft carry fin flashes to this day, they have had fin or rudder flashes since the days of the RFC.

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Old 21st Nov 2021, 02:13
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Very true Megan, the RAF had full rudder flashes up to World War 2. I have seen Hawker Hurricanes with a full rudder but post war the RAF only had the small flashes on the fin. I have never seen a small flash on the rudder of a RAF aircraft. I lived on RAF bases up to migrating to Australia as a teenager. I use to ride my bike and watch the Vampires doing circuits at RAF Struby in Lincolnshire. T11's which are more or less the Mk35. Anyhow, as I said nobody would be interested in my trivial query and it doesn't matter. The wife wants the grass cut.

Last edited by By George; 21st Nov 2021 at 09:09.
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Old 21st Nov 2021, 06:53
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Not read it yet George but you may find it of interest.

http://www.adf-serials.com.au/newsle...0Spring%20.pdf
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Old 21st Nov 2021, 08:56
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Thanks Megan, great article. It would seem the application of dayglo paint on the fin was the reason they moved the fin flashes to the rudder in 1961. I shall sleep better tonight.

Pretty little aeroplane the Vampire, not many jets with a wooden front end either. As a kid you always knew what was over the house by that distinctive whistle.
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Old 25th Nov 2021, 21:49
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Centaurus - these stories are just pure gold. Keep 'em coming!
Would I be able to email you?
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Old 26th Nov 2021, 10:39
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Charlotte. Check your PM's. I noticed your Bristol base. I flew 737-200's for Paramount Airways out of Bristol in 1989. Loved the job and the staff.
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