E.E. Lightning F2

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Kittyhawk

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Here a couple of English Electric Lightnings, an all time favorite aircraft of mine and one I've wanted to build for ages . Unfortunately none of my customers wanted to order one so I was obliged to go to one and convince him that he absolutely needed it and while I was at it, thought I might as well build a couple.
I know something about most of the aeroplanes that I model but am quite ignorant about the Lightning so I hope that AES will come along with some insights.
For the first time, after building over 60 models my wife has got involved and told me that my normal rounded stands would not suit the Lightning and designed something more appropriate to its angular form. I think she was right and the new ones shown are a lot better for this aircraft.
The other thing that caused her a little consternation was the IFR tube under the port wing, the shape of the end ofwhich she immediately identified as being remarkably similar to a certain male appendage. In fact she accused me of vulgar artistic licence by embellishing its form and especially so when I explained its usage - that the Lightning would come up behind another aeroplane and poke its tube up a pipe sticking out of the other plane's bottom whereupon an exchange of fluids would take place.
Her response was that if she'd ever thought about it which she hadn't, but although ships are called 'she', she would have assumed that aeroplanes are gender neutral but obviously not - the dirty beggars.
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niemeyjt

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Beautiful. I remember the real thing at RAF Wattisham in the early 70s. They were noisy. Teachers at school about two miles away as crow flies had to stop when they took off on their tails.
 

Lorenzl

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I remembered reading this a while ago:
On 22 July 1966 Walter "Taffy" Holden, an engineer in command of No. 33 Maintenance Unit RAF with limited experience flying small single-engine trainer aircraft, inadvertently engaged the afterburner of a Mach 2.0-capable English Electric Lightning during ground testing. Unable to disengage the afterburner, Holden ran down the runway, narrowly missing a crossing fuel bowser and a de Havilland Comet taking off, before taking off himself. Flying without a helmet or canopy, the ejection seat disabled, and the landing gear locked down, Holden aborted his first two landing attempts. He landed on his third approach, striking the runway with the aircraft's tail as he adopted in his flare the attitude of a taildragger aircraft.
 

Sandyn

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That's a beautiful model. On of my favourite aircraft. In a test, one very fast Lightning XR 749, managed to intercept a U2 climbing to 88,000 ft. It could do mach 1 in a vertical climb. I remember seeing one take off at an airshow, going vertical and just disappear. The noise was incredible.
 

Tim Kyte

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Abingdon air show about 1980 there was one flying, sounded like the sky was being ripped in half when it did a vertical climb.
 

dickm

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Can't remember the details, but read somewhere of a guy birdwatching near the Norfolk coast, and being unable to understand why there was silence, then a tremendous blast of noise from out at sea, repeated several times. Finally discovered it was a Lighning flying towards the coast at its lowest speed, then doing the "stand on its tail" bit.
 

AES

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Well Kittyhawk, first I MUST congratulate you on producing yet another EXCELLENT "model"/"sculpture".

To my eyes, this is a first class representation of a Lightning Mk F2 (certain features present on your model clearly identify if as the F2 to me, and not the earlier F1 series, or later Marks F3 and onwards.

As far as identifying features, I used to work on "the things", so I do recognise those distinguishing features. But as to being "lucky" to have seen them, well that's another story. They were very "difficult beasts" to work on, to say the very least!

However, in terms of "performance", they really were, for their time (+ considering the UK Govt's marked reluctance to improve and update them as the RAF and EE wanted/planned to), they really were, in terms of their performance, head and shoulders above ALL of their contemporaries - e.g. Mig 21, Lockeed F104 Starfighter, Mirage, F4 Phantom, etc, etc.

For example their rate of climb was (even IS by today's standards) outstanding - at least 50,000 feet per minute up to at least 50,000 feet altitude!

And as someone above has said, capable of going MUCH higher with a zoom climb (they were officially limited to something around 70,000 feet I think, but there are many pilots' stories of zooming higher than that - and clearly NOT all just "shooting a line")!

And though the much famed (and delightful to air show visitors) "vertical climb" was very impressive, the pilots on our squadron at least told us that this was NOT the most "efficient" climb. Actually, something like about 60 to 70 degrees nose up was best in terms of climb to height performance, and from take off to at least 50,000 feet the "Frightening" would be accelerating all the way, easily going supersonic in that climb, and WITHOUT using reheat ("after burner" if you're American). All the other contemporary fighters of the world would be making something in excess of 30,000 feet per minute at best!

So in terms of what it was designed to do, i.e. protect the quite geographically small UK airspace from high-flying, high-speed bombers, the Lightning was undoubtedly without equal.

But that performance came with a cost of course. Not only the already-mentioned VERY high cost of maintenance, but also VERY "short legs" ("our" F2s average sortie duration was 45 minutes, dropping to about 20 mins if lots of reheat was used). And the lack of general development and updating of the aeroplane as a "weapons system" meant that the (single) pilot workload was apparently VERY high indeed! It seems they were working much MORE than "a one-armed paper hanger"!

You really DID have to be "the best of the best" to be a successful Lightning pilot (the fail rate of already experienced fighter pilots being trained ("converted") on to the Lightning was apparently very high indeed.

And the IFR ("In Flight Refuelling") capability you've modelled, (VERY necessary with that limited fuel capacity, obviously!!) not only led to many ribald comments from everyone when first seeing it (the tip of the probe really DID look like a fine example of "gents tackle" while out on an exciting evening!), but actually doing the refuelling was, as at least one pilot described it, akin to trying to ram a yard of wet spaghetti up a struggling wild cat's "nether regions"!!!!!!!!

And the early Mark's Firestreak missiles, which I see you've also modelled, were not particularly brilliant either. Being infra-red only, any attack HAD to be made from the rear quarter of the target only, AND in heavy rain/cloud, the missile may well not "see" the target at all anyway!

But no doubt due to the age/nostalgia effect, I do look back on my time on Lightnings ("WIWOL" - When I Was On Lightnings) with no doubt heavily rose-tinted glasses.

For those that want to follow up on all the above about Gt. Britains first - and only - all home-grown supersonic fighter, there's plenty of stuff on YouTube.

And I THINK there's a group still in existence at a place called Bruntingthorpe (somewhere in the Midlands, sorry, don't know better than that). They have 2 (I think) Lightnings which although not flying ARE regularly taken out and fast-taxi'd, including I believe, a quick blast of reheat to wake everyone up.

There WAS also 3 or 4 Lightnings flying in South Africa under the name "Thunder City" but following the loss of a Mark T5 with it's pilot unfortunately, they have now been closed down. Having read the official SA Accident Report I am saddened but VERY pleased that that particular operation has been closed. From the report, a disaster waiting to happen - and it did unfortunately!
 
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AES

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As a P.S. to the above: I forgot to say that in my eyes anyway, "Mrs Kittyhawk's" model stand design is spot on. It fits the "spirit" of the aeroplane to a "T" IMO.
 

Kittyhawk

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Thanks for coming bye AES. Good informative stuff.
And since you're here, a couple of questions please.
I read on Google, the undisputed font of all knowledge (not), that if the Lightning was not carrying live missiles then it had to carry dummies - the reason given is that these were necessary to maintain the proper aerodynamic handling of the aeroplane. So, by inference then, fire off the missiles and the aircraft flies like a brick. Doesn't sound right to me.
And secondly, why is the IFR tube not parallel to the centreline of the aircraft? That10° or so of outward angle must create a bit of drag?
 

AES

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Hi Kittyhawk.

Like Google, I'm NOT "the" expert, but Yes, it's true about the Firestreak on the F2 (not sure about the later Marks when fitted with the Red Top missile).

There were 3 "types" of Firestreak:

1. The "LIVE" round (obvious - fully loaded and ready to fire and then go bang).

2. The "Acquisition" round. This was as per item 1. EXCEPT no explosive and no rocket motor. This is what was usually carried, and was used exclusively for all regular flying training exercises. When set up by the pilot and on-board radar, the "seeing eye" in the missile (right up at the front, behind the glass "pyramid sections") would "look" for the target. Once acquired, the seeing eye would lock on to the target and inform the pilot that there was a firing solution. When the pilot pressed the trigger, nothing happened except that a picture/s was taken showing the successful set up. That/those pix were used for debriefing after the exercise and that was the end of that. The missile did not leave the launch rails. (As the aircraft normally went off in a pairs sortie, they would then change over and "A" became the target with "B" as the hunter. And so on and so on, until it was time to go home - lack of fuel, see above).

3. The "Drill" or "Dummy" round. Exactly the same size, shape, and weight as the other 2 above.

And yes, the "normal fit" (apart from doing QRA, when 2 x Live rounds were fitted!) was 1 x "Acquisition" and 1 x "Drill". I presume on grounds of cost (I've no idea what an "Acquisition" round cost - or a Live round either) but as it was the same as the "Live" round apart from the motor + "bangy stuff", I guess an Acquisition round was "not cheap")!

But the 3rd, the drill round was cheap (-ish anyway I guess) no doubt being simply a lump of metal. It was for training ground crews in loading/unloading missiles, but was also "always" carried for "aerodynamic" reasons. Google is dead right, without those 2 missiles on their stub pylons, the Lightning was speed-limited. As said, something to do with the aerodynamics, and at a guess I'd say that was something to do with "area rule". But I don't know that for a fact, and beyond the very basics I don't really understand area rule either! And neither do I know what the numbers/limitations were either, sorry.

Re the IFR probe being stuck out to the side at an angle: I don't really know why either. At a guess, I'd say it was simply to ensure that when hooked up to the basket, the receiver (the Lightning, being a lot smaller than the tanker) would be position well to the side of the wake turbulence from the tanker.

That's just a guess, but I can say that even in the days when I was slimmer than now, I had to squeeze quite a bit when climbing the cockpit ladder BETWEEN the IFR probe and the face of the ladder. The probe was pretty close to the side of the fuselage.

So there you go - all just guesses really, not much of an "expert" am I really? MAYBE a bit better than Google, but not all that much!

Cheers

P.S. I missed the final part of your missiles question, sorry Kittyhawk. Our pilots got to do one "Missile Practice Camp" a year, if I remember correctly, it any have been two. At that exercise they got to fire one missile each. As well as the single seat F Mark 2s, that included our one-off Mark T4, two seat trainer (it had no guns but carried 2 Firestreaks). IF I remember correctly the standard load was 1 x Live round and 1 x Drill round. So after firing his live round at MPC, he'd come home carrying just one Drill round missile on just one side. I THINK that for the purposes of getting back home, that didn't matter much. The restriction when no missiles were fitted I THINK applied to overall flying and handling through the performance envelope. As said - I THINK!!
 
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siggy_7

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Those are some beautiful models. I've never seen a Lightning fly sadly, as much as I would dearly love to. My Dad strapped in to fly in one on more than one occasion but never went up as the aircraft went tech each time. Ref the aircraft's short legs, I was told by another pilot that if you took off in a Lightning, engaged full reheat and stuck it in a turn, you'd run out of fuel before you made it round to perform a circuit and land! I'm not sure how much truth there is in that but I do know it had a notoriously small fuel load for the rate at which it could drink it.
 

morqthana

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That's a beautiful model. On of my favourite aircraft. In a test, one very fast Lightning XR 749, managed to intercept a U2 climbing to 88,000 ft.
That must have surprised the U2 pilot.

[Not the U2, but a similar philosophy:

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]

It could do mach 1 in a vertical climb. I remember seeing one take off at an airshow, going vertical and just disappear. The noise was incredible.
Yo - I saw one at an airshow do that too - stood on its tail, reheat on and ad astra it went. By the time you could hear the PA again you could just make out a little bright dot as the announcer said "he's at about 15,000' by now".

It was a good day for noise - another was a Buccaneer coming in at low level, flat-out. Obviously not quite supersonic, but pretty darn close, so we watched it bobbling towards us in silence and then an awful lot of noise arrived all at once.

But actually the sound that was most like the sky being ripped apart was made by a piston-engined prop plane. In a dive the tips of the propellor on a T6 Harvard go supersonic.
 

AES

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Those are some beautiful models. I've never seen a Lightning fly sadly, as much as I would dearly love to. My Dad strapped in to fly in one on more than one occasion but never went up as the aircraft went tech each time. Ref the aircraft's short legs, I was told by another pilot that if you took off in a Lightning, engaged full reheat and stuck it in a turn, you'd run out of fuel before you made it round to perform a circuit and land! I'm not sure how much truth there is in that but I do know it had a notoriously small fuel load for the rate at which it could drink it.

I don't know for sure siggy, but at a guess, although that pilot's comment was undoubtedly exaggerated, just how much he was exaggerating was most probably "not all that much"! Certainly, as above in my previous, "ours" came back home after about 25 mins if they used a lot of reheat. "A fart and a squirt" indeed!

And it was said, more than once, that the "only" reason the Lightning had any wings at all was because they needed "somewhere" to put the fuel (!); plus some method of placing the red & green navigation lights at a reasonable distance apart!

Obviously another exaggeration, because according to all the pilots talk, plus articles, books, etc that I've heard and read, the Lightning wing was indeed VERY good. Especially so in it's retrofitted Mark F2A and Marks 3 and onwards guise.

Not only "in it's time" either, because I seem to remember reading an article by, I think Ian Black (a very well-known Lightning expert), that even against something as modern as a US F15, the Lightning could hold it's own - aerodynamically and power to weight ratio at least!

Where the modern kit prevailed was of course, first in duration (as above - the F15 had at least 2 hours unrefuelled I think), and second, because of having a fully-integrated missile/radar weapons system (plus MUCH better radar even when "just" on search). PLUS their Sidewinder missiles were apparently MUCH better than the Firestreaks (but we are talking another, later generation altogether there don't forget).

But despite the range + 2 crew advantage + better radar and missiles advantages too, the Lightning was apparently a much better air combat machine that the F4 Phantom it seems, even though the powers that be in UK eventually replaced the Lightning with the Phantom.

And Yes. The US were apparently NOT really surprised about the Lightning out-climbing/high-flying "with" the U2. At their request, special secret (at the time) trials were conducted, and even before the Gary Powers incident, they KNEW that albeit with a bit of a struggle and with a special zoom climb set up, the Lightning could indeed get up there with the U2. So it was only a matter of time before the Russians got up there too. So it transpired of course, as we all now know.

But if you're talking about the SR 71 Blackbird that really IS comparing apples with pears of course!

P.S. There's a lot of "apparently's" and similar in the above. That's because I am NOT, and never was, a pilot. But I did work on the things, and I did (and still do) take probably more than the average amount of interest.

What I really DO know, and that VERY well too, is that working on Lightnings was an absolute PITA! Probably "the worst aeroplane ever" (to paraphrase the beer advert).

As a P.S: Siggy, I'm sorry your Dad never got the promised flight. But if it's any consolation, as well as Bruntingthorpe to go and see, there's a LOT of video stuff on YourTube. Just search there directly, or via Google, etc. Key words are "English Electric" and/or "BAC", plus of course "Lightning".

Cheers
 
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Richard_C

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Brilliant models Kittyhawk, and also my favourite jet fighter.

There is one in non flying preservation at IWM Duxford in the air space hall, with red top and firestreak alongside.

I can't add much to what has been said about the aircraft although I did work at HSD Lostock in the mid 70's where we made (among other things) red top and had a Firestreak repair programme - repair not after use of course but after x hours flight under the wing or if the guidance systen was giving errors. If I recall, and I'm not an engineer, AtoA missiles weren't that reliable but we belived 'ours' had a better hit rate than 'theirs'. I think in the Korean war cannons were far more successful.

Its worth thinking about the political climate though. I was 10 when lightning went into service and we all knew about the threat (real or perhaps imagined). We really did expect an attack from Russia in the late 50's and early 60's, Kruschev and his Generals still wanted to expand socialist communism as an act of faith, it was in the communist manifesto much as soem faiths are duty bound to spread the word. An attack on the UK might have been the first step and it would have been a real test of NATO, would the USA have retaliated knowing that US cities would be attacked in return? The UK had no Submarine based nuclear deterrent, the US had only just started the Polaris programme, ICBMs were in their infancy, Blue Steel seemed to be more liability than assest, so the only viable deterrent we had was the V bomber fleet, Vulcan Victor and Valiant. Had we been attacked, we needed enough time to get those off the deck so defending the airfields in East Anglia for 15 minutes or so was a prority. Russian heavy bombers were getting bigger and flying higher and faster. Ground to Air (Bloodhound) was limited and the bombs would have been released before the aircraft got in range so the choices were an expensive 24/7 air picket of fighters over the North Sea or something that could get there quick. The Hawker Hunter, lovely as it was, couldn't catch a cold at altitude hence the lightning: stack 2 big engines, just enough fuel to get to target and sit a pilot on top.

Range was an issue for some operations and certainly for training but for its prime purpose it didn't really matter. Once those 2 firestreaks had been launched, chances are there would have been no base to return to. (V bomber crew instructions were to 'use own initiative' after bomb launch, a euphamism for sorry, no clue but I doubt we will be here to welcome you home.)

They were very worrying times. I read an account of a V Bomber squadron leader during the Cuba crisis. On the day that it all came to a head he was having breakfast when a jeep arrived and he was told that he was wanted on base immediately. He told his wife to listen and of she heard the squadron take off she was to collect the childern from school and drive to her sisters house in Scotland. He and the crew then sat in the fully armed aircraft on 5 minute ready for 13 hours. Imagine, knowing that if you are ordered to take off there will be no coming back. As we know, K and K compromised and we all lived.

The Lightning was perfect for its very specific and limited task, and I'm jolly pleased it never had to do it. Kittyhawk's models are a perfect representation and I'm jolly pleased he made them.
 
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rafezetter

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I also remember being at an air show in the 70's and having one fly directly over our heads (when that was allowed), I was about 6 and because it was the "announcement flypast" annoucing it's prescence at the show as it had obviously flown in from elsewhere, I wasn't ready for it and went "f'in' hell !!" I was sat on my fathers shoulders at the time. I immediately expected a rollocking but he actually laughed and just went "yeah".

Oh I also remember that there is (or was until recently) one flying lightning in South Africa, as it was used on a TV program about space with Prof Brian Cox, who was lucky enough to go up in it.
 
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