Originally named the "Spider Crab," the aircraft was entirely a de Havilland project, exploiting the company's extensive experience in building with moulded plywood for aircraft construction. Many of the basic design features were first used in their Mosquito bomber. It had conventional straight mid-wings and a single jet engine placed in an egg-shaped, aluminium-skinned wooden fuselage, exhausting in a straight line.Design work began at the de Havilland works at Hatfield in mid-1942, two years after the Meteor. The first prototype was flown on 20th September 1943 by Geoffrey de Havilland Jr, the de Havilland chief test pilot and son of the company's founder. The design was distinctive with a twin boom tail with a tail plane above the exhaust. The Vampire was being of the first fighters without a propeller and used a tricycle landing gear system which was still rather in the 1940s.
On 8 June 1946, the Vampire was introduced to the British public when Fighter Command's 247 Squadron was given the honour of leading the flypast over London at the Victory Day Celebrations.
The Vampire was a versatile aircraft, setting many aviation firsts and records, being the first RAF fighter with a top speed exceeding 500 mph. On 3 December 1945, a Sea Vampire piloted by Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown became the first pure-jet aircraft to land on and take off from an aircraft carrier. On 14 July 1948, six Vampire F.3s of No. 54 Squadron RAF became the first jet aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Vampire was used by some 31 air forces and 3,300 were built. It served in front line service until 1955 and continued as a trainer being finally retired in 1966.
Artist Paul Howard.
Available as an A3 size or 20x16 print.