The Fairey Delta 2 was a supersonic research aircraft.
One of many record-breaking aircraft to emerge in the rapidly developing post-war aviation scene, the FD 2 was Britain’s first supersonic delta, and the first aircraft with a nose that could be dropped to improve visibility at low speed, a feature later adopted by the Concorde. Two Delta 2s began a programme of research flights from 1954, generating an immense amount of data for future military and civil aircraft.
The Delta 2 was an aircraft ahead of its time. It flew at almost twice the speed of contemporary ﬁghters and showed the way for the designs of the following decade with its delta wing and supersonic speed. Unlike earlier supersonic record breakers, the Delta experienced no control problems when going through Mach 1.
Although it never became a long-range interceptor, as was contemplated after it flew, the Delta 2 was a great success in achieving its original purpose — investigating control and other problems experienced when breaking the ‘sound barrier’. The Delta 2 also gave the world advanced features, including its famous hinged nose, a tailless layout, ultra-thin wing, and fully powered ﬂight controls.
Delayed because of the priority enjoyed by the Fairey Gannet, a naval anti-submarine aircraft, this fine research aircraft was almost lost on its 14th flight in 1954, when pilot Lieutenant Commander Peter Twiss had an engine and hydraulic failure and made a masterly dead-stick landing at 426 km/h (265 m.p.h.) with only the nosewheel extended. Other ﬂights were successful, and paved the way for generations of supersonic aircraft to follow, with the Delta 2 making its first supersonic flight on 28 October 1955. On 10 March 1956 WG774, the first of two Delta 2 aircraft, with Twiss at the controls, captured the world air speed record for Britain, becoming the first conventional take-off aircraft to ﬂy faster than 1000 miles per hour (1610 km/h), reaching 1822 km/h (1,132 m.p.h.) at 11580 metres (38,000 ft.). Surpassing the previous speed record by a huge 499 km/h (310 m.p.h.). this was the biggest jump in speed for conventional aircraft ever recorded. The Delta 2 was also the first aircraft to attain supersonic flight at low altitude, flying at Mach 1.04 (1250 km/h) at 928 metres. The second Fairey Delta 2, WG777, flew for the first time on 15 February 1956.
The cockpit was pressurised and air-conditioned, and fitted with a Martin Baker ejection seat. It was as small as possible to reduce frontal area. In order to reduce glare for the pilot, the area in front of the cockpit was painted matt black. To give the pilot a better view on landing, the nose and cockpit area could be ‘drooped‘ by 10° using hydraulic power.
Small fences were fitted to the upper surface of the wing to control spanwise airflow during transonic flight. All ﬂying controls were hydraulic, with no manual reversion. Wing-mounted air inlets were designed to be the minimum size for supersonic ﬂight, but proved able to sustain flight at higher than envisaged speeds. The delta wing had probably the iowest thickness-to-chord ratio that had ever been seen up to that time. The fuel tanks were contained within the wings.
The Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet was also used in the Lightning ﬁghter, and in non-afterburning form it powered the Caravelie airliner and the Canberra bomber. The tailpipe was a variable ‘eyelid’ type. The engine was a very tight ﬁt inside the fuselage, with hardly any clearance between it and the aircraft's skin.
- Type: Single-seat supersonic research aircraft
- Powerplant: one 44.48-kN (10,000 lb.) Rolls-Royce FIA.2B Avon 200 turbojet
- Maximum speed: over 2092 km/h (1 ,300 m.p.h.) at 11580 m (38,000 11.)
- Range: 1335 km (829 mi.)
- Service ceiling: 14640 m (48,000 n.)
- Weights: empty 4990 kg (11,000 lb.); loaded 6298 kg (13,884 lb.)
- Dimensions: span 8,18 m (26 n. 10 in.), length 15,74 m (51 ft. 7 in.), height 3,35 m (11 n.), wing area 33.44 mg (360 sq.ft.)