MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #8 Westland Wyvern by Ed Ward

ImageLike all the most interesting aircraft, the Wyvern was slightly obscure, not particularly successful, and quite dangerous. Weighing 650 pounds shy of a loaded Dakota it was nonetheless expected to operate off dinky 1950s RN carriers. Tellingly, its main claim to aviation immortality derives not from any superlative quality of the aeroplane itself but a desperate desire to escape it: the world’s first underwater ejection was from a Wyvern. Suffering from the standard post-war British aircraft ailments of lengthy development and unrealised potential but unlike such ‘world-beaters’ as the perennially overrated TSR.2, it did make it into service. Wyverns even flew strike missions over Suez.
But this is by the by, for the Wyvern remains the most fantastic looking airscrew driven aircraft ever to fly, a nose that goes on forever surmounted by contra-props, an elliptical Spitfire-esque wing, slightly cranked a la Corsair, a massive, elegantly curved fin and rudder that is impossible to draw properly (try it) combined with pretty elliptical tailplanes topped off with finlets. (Finlets!) Also it is a post-war FAA aircraft and therefore blessed with the most attractive camouflage scheme ever to grace a military aircraft.
Like its namesake, the Wyvern is unlikely, brutish and wonderful.
Ed Ward is an illustrator, writer, historian and regular Hush-Kit contributor (like the Wyvern, he is unlikely, brutish and wonderful)
See his fantastic artwork 
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6 comments

  1. Nick S

    Excellent work, Ed. Westland test pilot Harald Penrose said of the Wyvern, “it was very nearly a good aeroplane…” If you get a chance to read his “No Echo In The Sky”, I recommend everyone do so — truly rhapsodic writing on manned flight.

  2. Pingback: Hush-Kit bottom ten: The ten worst carrier aircraft | Hush-Kit
  3. Andy Roper

    Ahh!-the whistling wyvern! I’ve been a fan of this ugly duckling since I first laid eyes on it at the fleet air arm museum on a school trip in the early 70’s-the chinese kit firm Trumpetter make two versions of this wonderful thing in 1/48th-both superb.
    She was far too heavy(see also Spearfish) and came into service at a time when defences on modern warships effectively rendered her obsolete. The skyraider was far more versatile and was far less of a handful for the poor chap in the cockpit- torpedoe planes were history by the time her squadrons were formed- yet another example of our aircraft industries& the ministry of supply procrastinating and lacking real vision. Q how many single engine turboprop WARPLANES were there in the early fifties? the gannet + two or three others. Very nearly a good aeroplane&very nearly unique! Andy Roper.

    • duker

      The Gannet wasnt single engined ! It had twin Armstrong Siddeley Mambas connected via a gearbox to contra rotating propellers. Putting two engines together like that is common for turbo shaft helicopters so the concept is fine.
      Ideal for cruising on one engine to save fuel

      • Prof. Anthrax

        Quite true. That was the idea behind the Double Mamba. You’d use both engines for takeoff and landing, then gain extended patrol time by alternating engines.
        There are pictures out there of Gannets schlubbing along on one engine with one prop feathered. They’re trippy at a glance.

  4. Stuart Willard

    I’m still trying to get over the ‘perennially overrated TSR2’. Must admit the Wyvern’s stats don’t suggest it was nearly a very good aircraft but I defer to HP on that though I will never accept his opinion of the Whirlwind.

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