The Gloster Meteor was developed as Britain’s first jet powered fighter and first took to the skies on 5 March 1943, with 616 Squadron becoming operational with type in July 1944. The aircraft was developed over a number of years, originally with Rolls-Royce Welland engines developed by Sir Frank Whittle, and eventually with the Rolls-Royce Derwent engines. As a first-generation jet fighter the design was not aerodynamically advanced, and the Meteor was not always easy to fly. However, almost four thousand were built and they flew with many foreign air forces. The final RAF aircraft were retired from their role as target tugs in the 1980s.
An unforeseen advantage of the Meteor’s design was that the engines were spaced well apart from the robust fuselage, and this made the aircraft perfect for developing and test-firing ejection seats. Martin-Baker still use two Meteors to this day for this demanding and important task.
Our aircraft is a hybrid built for test and evaluation work. It has a trainer (T7) cockpit and centre section, Fighter Reconnaissance nose with a camera mount, and the tail, wings and larger engines of the fighter variant. It spent all of its life with the Royal Aircraft Establishment, latterly at West Freugh near Stranraer. It is rumoured that whilst in service here it was flown by a USAF pilot on an exchange posting – none other than NASA Astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The museum rescued the Meteor from the West Freugh fire dump in the late 1970s.
The Meteor has recently been restored to the markings it last flew in at West Freugh.