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Aces of Aviation

Gloster Meteor Mark III of Eric Greenwood

Gloster Meteor Mark III of Eric Greenwood

Gloster Meteor Mark III piloted by Eric Greenwood, in Herne Bay, the 7th November 1945.

Wingspan: 11.33 meters.

Length: 12.60 meters.

Height: 3.96 meters.

Engine[s]: Two Rolls-Royce Derwent V of 3500 pounds of thrust.

Maximum speed: 970 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 15240 meters.

Range: 515 kilometers.

The months immediately after the end of the Second World War constituted a period on which Great Britain kept for a short term the worldwide supremacy regarding aeronautical technology, similarly as how such country had it immediately after the armistice of 1918. At the lead of this supremacy was the Rolls-Royce Ltd., company whose first turbojet engines propelled the Gloster Meteor, the only turbojet fighter aircraft which entered service during the war in the Allied side. Determined to demonstrate this supremacy in the most theatrical way, it was decided to sponsor the apparition of this aircraft in the race for the worldwide flight speed record. Thus, the workers at the Gloster Aircraft Company began to prepare two Meteor aircraft at the end of the summer of 1945. In that time the Chief Test Pilot of the company was Eric Stanley Greenwood.

Born the 28th November 1908, Greenwood served in the Royal Air Force between 1928 and 1933 before becoming Chief Pilot of the British Flying Boats during one year. He joined the recently formed Hawker Siddeley Group in 1936, and operated as Auxiliary Test Pilot of Armstrong Whitworth between 1937 and 1941. During the following three years, as Chief Test Pilot of the Air Service Training Ltd., he was in charge of the experimental flights of all the American fighters - as well as some bombers - which entered service in the RAF. In 1944 Greenwood joined the Gloster Aircraft Company, being immediately in charge of the developmental flights of the Meteor, which in that time entered service with the 616th Squadron of the RAF.

The fortunate combination of the structure of the Gloster Meteor and the Rolls-Royce Derwent turbojet engines was confirmed by the flight reports provided by Greenwood, and the Meteor Mark III was modified to hold huge nacelles for housing engines of great power, raising the speed of the aircraft to the theoretical maximum of 940 kilometers/hour at sea level, or 0.76 Mach. With the suppression of the armament, a special finish in the external surfaces and a careful selection of the most favorable meteorological conditions it was expected to surpass the mark of 965 kilometers/hour.

Two Meteor of similar characteristics, serialized as EE454 and EE455, were piloted by Group Captain Hugh Wilson, one of the most experienced turbojet pilots in the RAE Farnborough, who had trained the pilots of the 616th Squadron, and by Eric Greenwood, respectively. The 7th November 1945, flying in a three-kilometer race in Herne Bay, in Kent, Wilson set a new worldwide flight speed record as his aircraft reached 975,66 kilometers/hour, beating by far the record of 754,8 kilometers/hour set by Fritz Wendel six years before. Greenwood's aircraft, depicted in the illustration, reached 970 kilometers/hour. The photograph below shows the Meteor EE454 while supported by jacks in Moreton Valence airbase, in Gloucester, during the preparations for the flight in which it achieved the worldwide flight speed record.

Greenwood had been as well the first pilot in the world who manned a turboprop aircraft, a Meteor serialized as EE227 and propelled by Rolls-Royce Trent engines, which flew from Church Broughton the 26th September 1945. He remained in the Gloster Aircraft Company during some years, until he joined the Beagle Aircraft Ltd. in 1956, where he became Deputy Managing Director.

Gloster Meteor Mark III of Eric Greenwood