John Charnley: solving problems with the Meteor

John Charnley recounts a test flight in a Meteor jet fighter to resolve a problem encountered in the Korean War.

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1952, ’53, Korea, and the Americans were using F86s and were using Meteors. And we weren’t doing very well. And indeed we were breaking them, the Meteors. I say we, that’s the RAF, because they were attacking ground targets and then they were pulling away and in the pull away, if they exceeded X Gs, whatever X might be, the wings came off. Doesn’t help. So we were asked to take a look at this in – in Aero Flight and so we put some instruments and some measuring equipment on a Meteor, twin seat Meteor, a ground attack pilot, Taffy Ecclestone, and I sat behind him. In this case he was up front, I was behind. And we had to climb out over Boscombe Down or Bristol or somewhere over there and somewhere about Boscombe, started descent from whatever, 15,000 feet or something, against a target that had been put out on the airfield at Farnborough for us. Taffy says, ‘Right, we’re off, John. We’re doing, we’re going down.’ To start with you can’t see much of the target but then as it gets closer you suddenly see the target. And I could see this from behind and suddenly there’s Taffy Ecclestone going, de-de-de-de-de-de-de. And then we’re on top of the target, ohhh, and we pull away and you think, 'dear God, I hope these wings aren’t going to fall off.' And what - you know, 'what was that?' Taffy said, ‘5g.’ ‘Five? And how far are we going?’ ‘We ought to go a bit further, you know, we ought to go a bit further.’ We didn’t. I’d had a – had enough. It wasn’t that I’d had enough but I was conscious – at least let me put it this way, as I think back, I wanted to see the results at 5g before I went any further. And I could persuade myself and others that we’d got enough at 5g to tell us what should be done about it and there was no need to go any further until we’d done something. 

  • Interviewee John Charnley
  • Duration 00:02:16
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 11/24/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/30

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