Inside The Archive: The Vampire – Australian Aviation

The de Havilland DH-115 Vampire T.35 joined the ranks of the Royal Australian Air Force in 1946, three years after it flew for the first time for the British RAF. Initial development of the single-seat fighter jet was commissioned by the RAF during WWII, though the jet arrived too late to ever see combat.

Powered by a single de Havilland Goblin engine, the turbojet was considered experimental in its time, due to its use of just one, powerful engine. The planes pod-shaped design was constructed out of a mix of wood and metals, and was initially dubbed the Spider Crab. It measures a length of just over 9 metres, with a wingspan of 11.5 metres.

The aircraft was later developed into new variants, that included a twin-seat night fighter, a flight trainer, and a carrier-based aircraft dubbed the Sea Vampire. In total, 3,987 de Havilland Vampires were built between 1943 and 1961, and deployed across six countries including Australia.

From 1949, de Havilland Australia built 80 of the single-seat single-engine fighter-bombers at their Bankstown manufacturing factory. The first Australian-built Vampire flew for the first time in June 1949, powered by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) versions of the Rolls-Royce Nene engines, which required a greater intake cross-section than the Goblin. These were the first jet engines to be built in Australia, and done so under licence at the CAC facility in Melbourne.

The de Havilland Vampire forms a part of the RAAFs Temora Historic Flight. The Temora Historic Flight Vampire - construction number 4139 - was built in 1951 and delivered to the RAAF on 22 May 1958. It was utilised by the Central Flying School at East Sale in Victoria, and was subsequently transferred to No. 1 Applied Flying Training School at Pearce in Western Australia.

The Vampire spent much of the rest of its tenure in the RAAF in the west, until it was ultimately disposed of in January 1970. The aircraft, A79-617, was sold and exported to the USA, where it was stored for many years, before being returned to flying condition and operated privately. A79-617 was then bought by David Lowry in 1998, who shipped the plane back to Australia for extensive restoration and repainting. In February 2001, Lowry donated the Vampire to the Temora Aviation Museum.

It remains the only Australian-built Vampire flying in Australia.

This aircraft is now part of the Air Force Heritage Collection after being donated by the Temora Aviation Museum in July 2019.

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Inside The Archive: The Vampire - Australian Aviation

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