Royal Aero Club - Blog

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Fairey Delta 2 - Record-Breaker
One of the roles of the Royal Aero Club is to act as official observer and sponsor for any aviation-related record attempt made within the UK, responsible for submitting the verified data to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) for homologation. The last time they were called upon to do so was for an attempt on the absolute air speed record on 10 March 1956 - 60 years ago today. The Fairey Delta 2 was built as a research aircraft to investigate the performance of a delta wing at supersonic speeds. It was clear that it could easily beat the existing air speed record then held by the USA, so an attempt was prepared under a veil of secrecy as “Exercise Metrical”. To establish an absolute air speed record, the aircraft had to make two passes over a course of between 15 and 25 km at a defined altitude, within tight constraints. A course was laid out in West Sussex and camera timing equipment was provided by the Royal Aircraft Establishment. The Club provided an observer at each end: Major Robert Mayo and Captain Hubert Broad. After a succession of delays and problems, two successful passes were made over the course and a new record was set at 1,132 mph (Mach 1.74), the first record to be set above 1,000mph, and the largest ever incremental increase in the record. The photograph (above), signed by the pilot, Lieutenant-Commander Lionel Peter Twiss, is taken from a photograph album donated to the Collection by Philip Mayne, who was an Official Timekeeper to the Royal Aero Club. The photograph (below right) is also from the Collection. The image (below left) is of a painting by Mary Eastman that is part of the Collection, on loan to the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton.