Like 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)
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