For aircraft enthusiasts: One of the greatest unsung heroes of aviation.
We take air travel by jet plane for granted, since it made doing business or taking a holiday so much easier, you book a flight, pack up, check in and a few hours later you're there.
That all started of course with the DeHavilland DH-106 Comet, which was the first jet powered airliner to go in service.
BUT it wasn't the first jet powered airliner ever to fly though because the boffins at Hawker-Siddeley who owned DeHavilland were smart enough to realize that in order to make a jet powered airliner, you have to do more than just bolt some jet engines to an existing prop liner airframe and take it to the skies.
This is an Avro Tudor, a four engine airliner version of the Avro Lincoln Bomber.
The Tudor was the first British built airliner with a pressurized cabin which made it a perfect candidate for jet conversion, because experience with the Gloster Meteor and the DeHavilland Vampire Jet-fighters had shown that the higher speeds and the increased cruising altitude of a jet plane, that an unpressurized cabin could be fatal for passengers who in general weren't going to be wearing a G-suit or an oxygen mask.
So in 1948 a full year before the Comet took to the skies, the very first jet powered airliner took to the skies, a converted Tudor.
As you can see, this Tudor has RAF roundels and a military number. Because it was figured that a jet airliner could also be of good use to the military and Hawker-Siddeley wasn't going to pay for all their research out of their own pockets.
Powered by four Rolls Royce Nene engine, the Jet-Tudor was used by the RAF for high altitude tests, the results of which were used in the Comet's development, you have to remember, back then there were no computers to calculate the results beforehand, they had to work by putting a plane in the air and seeing how it performed.
Meanwhile, the idea of a Jet version of the Tudor also had commercial appear and so the type was modified to be fitted with the four Nene engines as standard issue and with a tricycle under carriage replacing the taildragger outfit the Tudor had, creating the first TRUE jet airliner: the Avro Ashton.
But as you can see again: RAF roundels and a Military serial number, the very first British jet airliner would NEVER be used as such.
Hawker-Siddeley built 6 Ashtons which all went to the Royal air force as test aircraft, developing the technology which made jet travel as we know it today possible. The Astons were instrumental as testbeds for new kinds of pressurization, engines, navigational equipment. Whenever a new kind of a equipment was developed that could be of use with an airliner, it was usually an Ashton that took it to the skies.
This Ashton was used to test the Bristol Olympus engines, which was the engine that powered the Concorde supersonic airliner.
The Ashton never saw a single civilian passenger boarding, let alone being part of the glamorous jet-set, which the Comet, the Caravelle and the Boeing 707 pioneered but without the Ashton breaking ground, those planes probably wouldn't have been so successful.
But history is never kind on unsung heroes, the RAF disposed of the Ashtons and they were all scrapped, the only surviving airframe is from the second Ashton ever made, it was used to train police units and later partially scrapped, the fuselage laying in a forest for years before it was finally salvaged and is now in the Newark Air museum in Winthorpe.
Banged up and derelict, this sad looking hull is the only survivor of the plane which changed air travel into what we know it to be today: the Avro Ashton.
I dig it. Thanks for posting.
On the subject of aviation, there's a beautiful movie coming out called "The Wind Rises" based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi Zero fighter.
At least they got the windows right...unlike the Comet.
Thanks for posting.
As always, another awesome writeup. I look forward to these.
Have you ever considered doing up a "For Aircraft Enthusiasts" blog?
Another cool post. Thanks.
Thanks for doing these, Blazer. Well done and informative.
I've been intrigued by the Avro Arrow, but that's at least as much a political story as an airplane story....
Interesting assembly, like the B-36 Peacemaker they've opted to go with very few ribs and used mostly stringers.....
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