In 1946, when Britain was only months away from breaking the sound barrier and becoming the world's leading aviation nation, why was the top secret Miles M.52 supersonic research aircraft mysteriously cancelled ?
In 1946, when Britain was only months away from breaking the sound barrier and becoming the world's leading aviation nation, why was the top secret Miles M.52 supersonic research aircraft mysteriously cancelled?
Written by the last two remaining people directly involved in the project, this is the story the aviation industry has waited 65 years to read.
ABOUT THE MILES M.52
In December 1943, at the height of World War II, a top secret contract (E.24/43) was awarded to a little known aircraft company. The contract was to build the world's first supersonic jet, capable of 1,000mph, and the company given this monumental task was Miles Aircraft. The engine Power Jets. was to be provided by Frank Whittle's company,
Miles quickly produced initial designs and started researching the problems associated with breaking the sound barrier. Their only reliable source of data on supersonic objects proved to be the Armament Research Dept, who carried out wind tunnel tests on bullets and shells. From this and other aerodynamic data, Miles developed an exceptionally thin-winged bullet-shaped aircraft. Then, in August 1944, all this research was inexplicably passed to the Americans.
By the end of 1945, the first of the three prototypes was virtually complete and only weeks away from taxiing trials. The second, destined for the high-speed tests and the attempt at the sound barrier, was almost 80% complete. In early February 1946 Capt Eric Brown, of RAE's Aerodynamics Flight, was confirmed as the test pilot for the project and October 1946 was set for the high-speed and supersonic trials.
But just a few days later, on 12 February 1946, Miles were ordered to stop production. No plausible explanation has ever been given for this sudden cancellation, when Britain was only months away from breaking the sound barrier and becoming the world's leading aviation nation.
Eric Brown and others, directly involved in the project, have now come together to re-examine the reasons put forward, and to seek to solve the mystery behind the cancellation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Captain Eric Brown CBE, DSC, AFC, QCVSA, was on a University of Edinburgh exchange course in Germany in 1939 - the first he knew of the war was when the Gestapo came to arrest him. They released him, not realising he was a pilot in the RAF Volunteer Reserve.
Eric Brown joined the Fleet Air Arm and went on to be one of the greatest test pilots in history. He holds the Guinness World Record for the largest number of aircraft types flown, 487 in total - a record which is very unlikely ever to be broken. After the war he commanded the prestigious RAE Aerodynamics Flight at Farnborough, playing a key role in the flight testing of an entire generation of aircraft.
He is the only man alive who has flown every major (and most minor) combat aircraft of World War II as well as all the early jets. In 1945 he went to Germany to track down and flight test as many of the Nazi aircraft as possible. In total he flew 55 different types, including the suicidally dangerous Me 163B rocket plane. During his search he also had unique opportunities to interview (among others) Hermann Goering, Willy Messerschmitt, Kurt Tank and the fanatical Nazi aviatrix, Hanna Reitsch.
Today, aged 92, he remains a living legend among aviation enthusiasts, is in great demand as a lecturer and appears regularly on aviation history documentaries. He has also been advising the Royal Navy on the design of their new aircraft carriers.