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Marty Tibbitts recently took his first flight in Meteor T7 WA591 - or 'Queenie' as we all know her. She was rescued from gate guardianship at RAF Woodvale by Hal Taylor's Meteor Flight and, with support from the Classic Air Force, returned to flight in 2012. At time of writing she's the world's oldest flyable jet.

Marty founded the World Heritage Aviation Museum in Detroit for the express purpose of protecting and restoring cold-war era aircraft, so WA591 is a perfect fit. While we'll be sad to see her leave on her epic journey to the USA, we console ourselves with the knowledge that she'll be maintained and respected. Above all she'll continue to fly; a machine as beautiful as this needs to live, not become a stuffed animal in a dusty museum.

The prospect of flying a 68 year old jet across the Atlantic isn't something to be considered lightly. The T7 has a maximum range of around 600 miles - less than a third of the route taken by Alcock and Brown in 1919. Equipped with ferry tanks, she can make it by shutting down one engine at cruise height, but the task still calls for preparation, professionalism and - above all - nerve.

Marty's a highly experience pilot, and he can call on the expertise of experienced Meteor jockeys like Dan Griffith and Jon Corley to make sure everything's properly prepared, be it the aircraft or its pilot.

Co-pilot's view of the Meteor T7 in flight Jon Corley can attest at first hand that a long-distance flight in an aircraft of this vintage isn't to be approached lightly. Back in 2013, he and Trevor Bailey worked hard to get her to the Pardubice Airshow in Czech Republic. They didn't quite make it, but fortunately Europe is a lot drier than the mid-Atlantic. Not quite making it to the east coast of america would be a much more significant problem! You can read Trevor's memories of that trip on our articles page. He snapped the photo on the left as Queenie crossed the Dutch coast. Their flight included a bingo-fuel landing on an old Russian airbase, just ahead of a potentially lethal thunderstorm. That's the thing with old aeroplanes, every flight's an adventure.

Of course, their flight ended safely, because everything had been properly planned and prepared in advance. Which brings us back to Marty's preparation for his mammoth undertaking. He's doing plenty of checking-out in the Meteor. He'll need to know her every whim and foible. Every possible scenario will need to be considered; there'll be weeks of planning, practising and preparing before the mission can be signed off as safe and achievable.

And then the day will come when we'll gather to watch her leave Britain, probably forever.

Yes, we'll be sad to see her leave, but in the meantime we have the rare pleasure of seeing our gracious Queenie flashing her silver wings in the sunshine - just a few more precious times before we say goodbye.


Jem Shaw

Jem Shaw

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

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