WL 181

North East Aircraft Museum      

WL181 (shown) was one of the last F8s to be constructed (WL158-WL191 was the last batch).



George Carter of Gloster had built the first British jet, the F9/40, which first flew on 15. May 1941.

In 1940, the Air Ministry issued an order for a twin-engined jet designed by George Carter. Eight were built under the initial order and the first flight was on 5. March 1943.

Carter had decided that only a twin-engined aircraft could offer sufficient thrust from the comparitively low-powered engines then available.

The engines are installed in the wings because

  • the design of armament incorporation is made easier
  • it reduces problems with effects of the slipstream on the rear fuselage and tail components.

The Meteor was originally planned to fly with a Welland engine (formerly known as the W2B) built by Rover Motors of Coventry. Delays led to the first flight taking place with a De Havilland Halford H1 engine. This was on 5 march 1943, from Cranwell. These delays led to only 8 prototypes being built, from the 12 originally anticipated.

Of these original eight aircraft, only one survives in the RAF Cosford Museum. This is the first prototype DG202 i.e. the first built, not the first to fly ( DG202 first flew on 24. July 1943 ).

The first production aircraft first flew on 12. January 1944.

Gloster Meteor of the North East Aircraft Museum

Service in World War 2


The Meteor was the only British (to be more precise, the only Allied) jet aircraft to see action in the 2nd. World War.

From 21. July 1944, 616 Squadron, based at Culmhead in Somerset but soon to move to Manston, converted to Meteors from Spitfires. From 27. July, they were actively used against V1s. The first chance to destroy one of these missiles failed because the aircraft's guns jammed. And on 4. August, F/O T.D. Dean also found that his guns were jammed in a similar situation - on this occasion, however, he used his wing tip to down the V1. Minutes later, another pilot actually shot one down. In total, thirteen V1s were destroyed by 616 Squadron before the Allies over-ran the missile bases in Northern France.

The F3 entered service with 616 Squadron in December 1944. On 17 January 1945, they moved to Colerne in Wiltshire, where all their F1s were replaced.

On 20 January 1945, four Meteors were sent to the Continent, although they were kept behind Allied lines. Apparently they were forbidden to fly over enemy territory for "security reasons".Despite attempts to explain their existence to the troops, by March it was necessary to paint the planes all white to try and stop Allied forces firing at them.

On 17. April 1945 they were finally allowed to enter enemy territory, but only two encounters took place with the Luftwaffe. One was when a single Meteor encountered a Fieseler Storch, which managed to force-land before being destroyed by the Meteor on the ground. The other was a potential encounter with several Focke-Wulf 190s, which was cut short when some Spitfires and Hurricanes appeared on the scene - cut short because the Spitfires and Hurricanes opened fire on the Meteors thinking they were Messerschmitt 262s.

Otherwise, the Meteor was used as a successful ground-attack aircraft.

There were two fatalities on 29. April when two Meteors crashed in cloud over Deutschland.

The continually moving around during this period meant that Meteors were often using grass airfields. There is even one documented case of a Meteor landing in a ploughed field to refuel and then taking off again.

616 Squadron was disbanded on 29 August 1945. Altogether 30 Meteors saw war service

High Speed Flight


The first attempt by a Meteor F4 on the World Speed Record took place on 7. November 1945, over Herne Bay (EE454 flown by Group Captain Willie Wilson). The record was successfully raised by to 975.845 km / hr, although the previous official record of 754.97 km / hr had stood since 1939, frozen because of the hostilities.

On 14. June 1946, the RAF High Speed Flight was re-formed, at Tangmere with six Meteor F4s. On 7. September of the same year, a new world record of 990.971 km / hr was set (by EE549), flying over a 3 km. course between Rustington and Angmering in Sussex.

Further attempts were unsuccessful and the High Speed Flight was disbanded on 26 September 1946.

Gloster Meteor of the North East Aircraft Museum



The first manned ejection occured on 24 July 1946, when Bernard Lynch ejected from a Meteor T7 using a Martin-Baker ejection seat.

In April - June 1948, modified Meteors carried out successful carrier operations.

The cockpit is indicative of its wartime origins. There are few navigation aids.

Korean War


The RAF had no fighters in the Korean War, but 77 Squadron of the Australian Air Force re-equipped with Meteor 8s (from Mustangs). The Australian Air Force must have known that the Meteor was no match for the current generation of aircraft, it appears that maybe all Sabres were being directed towards the USAF at the time. The Meteors were operated from 30. July 1951 onwards, and it appears that it took a couple of encounters with Mig-15s before it was officially recognized that the Meteors were outclassed - they were then switched to a ground-attack role (actually ahead of the British Air Force in adopting this role) , generally away from regions inhabitated by Migs.

77 Squadron lost 53 aircraft (out of 93 delivered) and 32 pilots for three Mig-15s claimed shot down.

The Meteors of 77 Squadron were replaced by Australian-built Sabres in 1955.

The Meteor F8


In reality, by the time the F8 was introduced, the Meteor was past its prime as an interceptor (it had no swept wings) as the Australian Air Force found out, as detailed above, but it was still effective as a ground-attack aircraft. Nevertheless, the F8 became the RAF's premier front-line jet fighter in the early 1950s, and the F8 was built in greater numbers than other variants. In 1955, it began to be replaced in this role by the Hunter, although in the same year it was briefly in Malaya and Meteors actually remained in front-line service with the RAF until August 1961.

According to some sources, the Meteor was given the nickname "Meatbox" because of its bad handling at altitude and high speed. An upper speed limit of Mach 0.8 was established.

The Meteorites


An instructor with the Central Flying School (Flt. Lt. C R Gordon) led a team of four Meteor T.7 aircraft as the Central Flying School's official team during the 1952 and 1953 seasons.

"The Meteorites" were the first RAF display team to be given a name; until that time teams were known only by their squadron numbers.

The aircraft retained their standard bare metal (silver) colours; towards the end of the season they gained high visibility yellow anti-collision training stripes.

"The Meteorites" disbanded at the end of the 1953 season.



  • F1 Entered RAF service towards the end of the war. Equipped with Rolls-Royce Welland engines,

  • F3 Powered by Derwent engines with 8.9kN thrust. Sliding canopies. Introduced into 616 Squadron on 18. December 1944. An F3 (EE416) was used for the first live airborne ejection in Britain on 24. July 1946. The nose section of EE416 is on display in the Science Museum.

  • F4 First flown on 17 May 1945, powered by the Derwent 5, which was actually a scaled-down version of the Nene engine. This was the first post-war variant. It had a pressurised cockpit, but no ejector seats. The thrust of the engine was 75% more than the original, and the rate of climb was nearly double that of previous variants. It entered RAF service in 1947.

  • F8 The last single-seat fighter version. First flew on 12. October 1948 and entered the RAF in December 1949. Ejection seats were fitted as standard and it had a fully transparent cockpit canopy. Powered by the Derwent 8 rated at 16.0kN. It was built in greater quantity than any other mark.

  • T7 Tandem trainer, appeared in 1948, based on the F4. The World's first dual-control jet trainer.

  • FR5 Only one was ever built. It crashed during its maiden flight in June 1949.

  • FR9 Fighter-reconnaissance version, final single-seater version

  • PR10 Photo-reconnaissance version. After 1951 in Kenya, Malaya. Took over the role of reconnaissance Mosquitos, whose last recce was on 15. December 1955.

  • NF11 The night fighters were intended as interim aircraft and were succeeded by the Javelin. Two man, they had a T7 cockpit but also, for example, an F8 rear fuselage and tail assembly. The guns were moved from the fuselage to the wings. Delivery to the RAF commenced in late 1950, and they were fully withdrawn by August 1961. 338 were built for home use, 20 for export

  • NF12 100 built

  • NF13 Tropicalized version. 40 built

  • NF14 100 built

Other Countries



A contract for 100 F4s ( plus 20 surplus Lancasters and Lincolns ) in 1947 created a crisis with the USA. There was supposed to be an arms blockade against Argentina, because of Juan Peron's sympathy for Nazi Germany.

Further orders were placed but were never fulfilled.

During the anti-Peron uprising in 1955, government pilots flew Meteors against rebel forces, losing two. Rebels captured three Meteors when they overran the city of Cordoba, and then used them against the government, although they had to use petrol because of the lack of aviation fuel. This resulted in one aircraft exploding when its engine overheated.

The Meteor remained in service with Argentina until the late 1950s, and was replaced by the F-86 (Ironically, given the American Government's previous resistance to arms sales).

(see The Korean War) 111 aircraft. Formed a 3 plane aerobatic team called the Meteorites.
From 1949, 474 aircraft of different marks (F4, F8, NF11). 180 F8s were built by Avion Fairey from kits supplied by Fokker, and a further 37 from kits supplied by Gloster themselves.

From 1952, Brazil received 70 aircraft (F8 and T7) , which were paid for with 15,000 tons of raw cotton, because of Brazil's shortage of convertible currency.

1 F3 temporarily
From 1949, 20 F4, 9 T7, 20 F8, 20 NF11.

12 FR9s.

An order for 10 F4s and 1 T7 was delayed until 1949 due to an arms embargo. 5 further T7s were delivered.

An order of 1949 for 24 F8s was again delayed by another embargo from October 1951. In the end only four were delivered in February 1953.

In 1955, eight F8s were supplied and six NF13s.

Egypt used the F8 to attack Israeli positions in 1956, escorted by Mig-15s. Subsequently most were destroyed on the ground (and two in aerial combat). An NF13 attempted an attack on an RAF Valiant.

Ordered 2 F4s as engine test-beds. From 1952, 32 NF11, 14 T7, 2 NF13, 1NF14. Used the NF11 in Algeria.

In June 1956, 11 F8s and 6 T7s went to Israel, followed by 7 FR9s in 1954 and 6 NF13s were ordered in 1956 (of which 3 were delivered prior to Suez and three by early 1958).

On 29. August 1956, two F8s engaged four Vampires of the Egyptian Air Force, shooting one down. Two days later a further two Vampires were brought down. During the 1956 war they kept away from the Migs of the Eygptian Air Force, and provided close escort for bombers, Dassault Mysteres, and transport aircraft.


From 1947, 241 aircraft in total. 155 F8s were built in the Netherlands by Fokker.

3 T7s.
After an arms embargo was lifted - 2 T7s in Nov. 1952, 12 F8s from Dec. 1952, and 7 F8s in 1956. 2 FR9s. 6 NF13s in June 1954.

Gloster Meteor of the North East Aircraft Museum



Other Meteor Pages on the Internet