Built for speed
I’m guessing that unless any of you were aircraft designers in the 1950s and 60s you’re probably not going to guess what today’s photo is part of….
When we visited the RAF Museum in Hendon on Monday we had a quick look around the shop and I found a box of these – titanium spare parts for the TSR2 aircraft. The TSR2 (which stands for Tactical Strike and Reconnaissance Mach 2) was commissioned by the UK government in 1957 for use during the Cold War. Research and development continued for several years and the first plane flew in 1964. However, in the 1965 budget the project was cancelled to save money, despite the fact that the plane was already being tested and was near to completion. Apparently the test pilots were having lunch in a local pub near Boscombe Down when the cancellation was announced. They rushed back to the base to try and get the prototype into the air in order to try and persuade the government to change their minds only to find that the aircraft had already been impounded.
Of the prototype aircraft that were made only two now survive – one at the other RAF Museum at Cosford near Wolverhampton and the other at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in Cambridgeshire. From what I’ve read it seems the TSR2 was years ahead of its time and what’s more it was all British. Even today, 55 years after its cancellation, there’s still a lot of strong feeling in some quarters about the subject and the BBC Radio 4 broadcast a play about the aircraft in January this year called ‘The Killing of TSR2’.
It’s strange to think I’ve got a little piece of aviation history sitting in my house – had things gone differently this little piece of titanium could still have been flying around faster than the speed of sound!