BOAC de Havilland Comet 1XB at RAF Cosford

This BOAC de Havilland Comet 1XB was on display at RAF Cosford. These photographs go across three visits to RAF Cosford, in 2008, 2015 and 2017. As you scroll through the photographs you will see the planes underneath and next to the Comet change.

The first flight of the Comet, the world’s first jet powered airliner, took place on 27 July 1949. With a cruising speed of 725kph (450mph) and a range of 4024 km (2500 miles), the prototype established many records on long distance flights. With jet engines and a pressurised cabin, it offered unprecedented levels of comfort and speed for the 36-40 passengers.

Unfortunately several disasters were to befall the Comet; in 1952 and 1953 there were take-off accidents and a Comet broke up in a violent storm over India. On 10 January 1954, the first production Comet crashed into the Mediterranean whilst en route from Rome to London. This was closely followed by a similar incident involving a Comet en route from Rome to Johannesburg, resulting in withdrawal of the Certificate of Airworthiness. The cause was found to be fatigue failure of the pressure cabin.

After further development of the type, the Comet 4 was used as an RAF transport aircraft and formed the basis of the design which later became the Nimrod.

Vickers Varsity T Mk I

The Varsity was a versatile twin piston-engined aircraft brought into RAF service in 1951 for crew training as a replacement for the Wellington T10. This Vickers Varsity T Mk I was on display at RAF Cosford.

The aircraft had been designed three years earlier in response to an Air Ministry specification and had been put into production once proving trials and operational tests had been completed. To adapt the successful Valetta design for a general purpose crew trainer, the Varsity was given a nose-wheel undercarriage and an under fuselage pannier bomb-aimer’s station. The Museum also has an example of the Valetta which is awaiting major restoration.

The most outstanding quality of the Varsity was that it could provide excellent training for pilots, flight engineers, radio operators, navigators and bomb aimers simultaneously. The latter were seated in a very large ventral gondola which contained bomb aiming equipment and a small quantity of training bombs.

The prototype Varsity T MkI made its maiden flight on 17 July 1949. The RAF took its first deliveries in October 1951 which went to No.201 Squadron, Advanced Flying School at Swinderby, Lincolnshire. Production of the Varsity T MkI for the RAF ceased on 28 February 1954 after a total of 163 had been built.

WL679 was built by Vickers Armstrong at Bournemouth and released from their factory on 25 September 1953. This was the last Varsity to fly with Royal Air Force Insignia, but in the very distinctive livery of the Royal Aircraft Establishment. It landed at RAF Cosford on 27 July 1992 and signalled the end of an era spanning over 43 years.

Comper Swift

This Comper Swift was on display at RAF Cosford.

The Comper C.L.A.7 Swift is a British 1930s single-seat sporting aircraft produced by Comper Aircraft Company Ltd of Hooton Park, Cheshire.

In 1923 Flying Officer Nicholas Comper formed the ‘Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club’ (CLAC) for apprentices at RAF Cranwell. The CLAC built three successful light aircraft, all designed and flown by Comper with the majority of the construction work being carried out by the apprentices.

Having gained this experience Comper left the RAF to set up the Comper Aircraft Company. Their first product was the Comper Swift which was produced from 1929 until 1934.

The Swift was available in either red or blue and became one of the most popular racing aircraft of the 1930s. This example, G-ACGL, was built in 1933 and registered to Alex Henshaw of Mablethorpe.

Henshaw won several trophies in this aircraft. The most notable success was the Siddeley Trophy at the 1933 Kings Cup, only a year after he had gained his pilot’s license. He went on to become one of Britain’s foremost competition pilots and record breakers and served as a test pilot flying Spitfires and Lancasters during the Second World War.

Hawker Hurricane Mk IIc

The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter aircraft of the 1930s–40s that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. for service with the Royal Air Force (RAF).

This Hawker Hurricane was on display at RAF Cosford.

It was overshadowed in the public consciousness by the Supermarine Spitfire’s role during the Battle of Britain in 1940, but the Hurricane inflicted 60 per cent of the losses sustained by the Luftwaffe in the engagement, and fought in all the major theatres of the Second World War.

Bristol Type 188

A Bristol Type 188 at RAF Cosford.

Built mainly of stainless steel, this aircraft was designed to investigate the effects of heat on aircraft structures at very high speeds. To protect the pilot against heat build-up a special cockpit refrigeration system was installed. Nicknamed ‘Flaming Pencil’, only two Bristol 188s ever flew, a third being used for ground tests.

Data collected during test-flying could be transmitted directly to a ground station for immediate evaluation. The data provided was essential for the development of the proposed Avro 730 high-speed, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The prototype 188, XF923, made its maiden flight on 14 April 1962 and its public debut at Farnborough in September of that year.

Both Bristol 188s were powered by de Havilland Gyron Junior engines; the first British engine designed for sustained running at supersonic speeds. Experience gained with this engine was later applied to the Olympus engines which power Concorde.

Although a maximum speed of Mach 1.88 was reached this fell short of the required Mach 2 performance. This, combined with fuel leaks, an endurance of only 25 minutes and the cancellation of the Avro 730, led to the cancellation of the Bristol 188 project in 1964.

Fairey Delta 2

The Fairey Delta 2  was a British supersonic research aircraft produced by the Fairey Aviation Company in response to a specification from the Ministry of Supply for a specialised aircraft for conducting investigations into flight and control at transonic and supersonic speeds. Features included a delta wing and a drooped nose. On 6 October 1954, the Delta 2 made its maiden flight, flown by Fairey test pilot Peter Twiss; two aircraft would be produced. The Delta 2 was the final aircraft to be produced by Fairey as an independent manufacturer.

Fairey Delta 2

The Fairey Delta 2 was the first jet aircraft to exceed 1000 mph in level flight. On 10 March 1956, it set a new world speed record of 1,132 mph. The Delta 2 held the absolute World Air Speed Record for over a year. It continued to be used for flight testing, and was allocated to the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in 1958.


The TSR-2 was a cancelled Cold War strike and reconnaissance aircraft developed by the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) for the Royal Air Force in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

This is one of the three prototypes, XR220, at RAF Cosford.

The TSR-2 was designed to penetrate a well-defended forward battle area at low altitudes and very high speeds, and then attack high-value targets in the rear with nuclear or conventional weapons.

Although never developed beyond the prototype stage, the British Aircraft Corporation TSR2 was one of the most exciting and controversial British combat aircraft designs of the 1960s.

The cancellation of the project is a subject of great debate to this day.