Thursday, November 24, 2011

Legendary Aircraft: British Electric Lightning

The Lightning was the fastest interceptor of its time. Its first prototype was made in 1954. In 1959 it was already put into operation and since then successfully defended the borders of Great Britain till 1988. One of the notable features of this aircraft is its vertical climb speed - 100 m per second. It allows it to reach a height of 11 kilometers in 3 minutes.

Its two copies are now inside of this once-secret Cold War-era hangar located at the former military airfield near Leicester. They are maintained in a ready-to-flight status by several old volunteer men. Several times a year the museum arranges their "jogging" along the runway which not only attracts a huge crowd of spectators but also helps to raise funds for their restoration.

One of the museum workers' name is John. He is a former technician who has served the Lightnings for all his life. And now having become retired, it is still one of his favorite activities.

To open the cockpit you must firstly pump the compressor. Several minutes of pumping with the help of this lever...

And you're in the cockpit.

A tiny mirror sight, almost like in the airplanes of WWII.

The cockpit is rather close. Devices are everywhere. To reach some of them turns out to be quite difficult. Most likely, the plane was designed for very small pilots.

No computers. All is controlled by hydraulics and analog devices.

An ejection seat is intended to save but as it turned out its capabilities are limited. For example, this model does not work at a speed of less than 90 knots.

And this is another aircraft which stands in the same hangar. The engine is removed and it is being prepared for "jogging". After each flight, the aircraft requires a 72 hour service!

A separate model of cockpit is certainly not so interesting as in a real plane.

A fuel tank at the bottom of the aircraft.

A part of the engine.

The Lightning had already been decommissioned for a long time. But recently one company in South Africa offered pay flights on one of them. The company contained a unique collection of military aircrafts, and invited all the rich to make that flight which will be remembered for a lifetime.

On November 14, 2009 experienced pilot Dave Stock died when flying the Lightning at one of the aviation shows. Its engine caught fire. That caused a system breakdown. Flying in front of a forty-thousand crowd of spectators the aircraft began to lose control. The pilot was able to divert the aircraft in a safe direction. He tried to eject THREE TIMES but the catapult failed. In the last seconds of his life he asked the air traffic controller to tell his family that he loved them very much, and then crashed near the airfield.
But "Show must go on!" - and the performance continued. Silver falcons changed their program and performed the flight called "Left us" when one of the aircraft goes out of the formation and heads towards heaven.
Yes, airplanes are sometimes broken and crash but when a catapulted chair does not work, it is already a very serious problem. The remaining two Lightnings were banned from flying forever. As for that African company, it doesn't exist anymore.
via westernstorm


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