Aircraft museum’s popular Sea Vixen is ‘true Cold War Warrior’

PUBLISHED: 11:38 03 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:42 04 June 2020

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum’'s Sea Vixen. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum.

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum’'s Sea Vixen. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum.

de Havilland Aircraft Museum

Alistair Hodgson, curator of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum, shares some of the Hertfordshire museum’s special attractions and hidden secrets. This week it is the DH.110 Sea Vixen.

The business end of the Sea Vixen -  the tail and two jet exhausts. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum.The business end of the Sea Vixen - the tail and two jet exhausts. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum.

An aircraft exhibit that’s particularly popular with our visitors is the DH.110 Sea Vixen.

It’s a big brute of an aircraft, and visitors can sit in the cockpit and get a feel for what it would have been like to be in control of a 17-ton supersonic naval jet fighter.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Sea Vixen.

Developed in the early 1950s as a supersonic fighter for the RAF and the Royal Navy, the first prototype DH.110 Vixen broke up in mid-air during a high-speed display at the Farnborough Airshow in 1952, killing the two crew and 29 spectators on the ground.

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum'’s Sea Vixen in earlier days with its wings folded. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum.The de Havilland Aircraft Museum'’s Sea Vixen in earlier days with its wings folded. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum.

This led to a complete redesign of the aircraft, and the RAF lost interest in the project as a result.

However, the Admiralty kept faith with de Havilland and the Vixen was redesigned specifically as a carrier-borne fighter and entered service as the Sea Vixen in 1959.

In total, nearly 180 Sea Vixens were built and they all served with the Royal Navy, flying from aircraft carriers until 1972.

Although some parts were built at Hatfield, most of the manufacturing was done at de Havilland’s Christchurch factory on the South Coast.

The front office - part of the pilot’s cockpit in the Sea Vixen. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum.The front office - part of the pilot’s cockpit in the Sea Vixen. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum.

The Sea Vixen was the first fighter to dispense with guns and rely entirely on heat-seeking missiles – also built by de Havilland – as its armament.

As it turned out, Sea Vixens never fired a shot in anger.

They were true ‘Cold War Warriors’ and never took part in a real conflict.

Our Sea Vixen was built in 1960 and served aboard three aircraft carriers: HMS Centaur, Victorious and Eagle.

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum'’s Sea Vixen pictured at dusk. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum.The de Havilland Aircraft Museum'’s Sea Vixen pictured at dusk. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum.

From 1969 to 1976 it was land-based at the Royal Aircraft Establishment and was used in trials of the ship-borne catapult launching systems.

It came to the de Havilland Aircraft Museum in 1976 and has been outdoors ever since.

But it will soon be brought into our new hangar, where it will be restored to its former glory.

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney, is currently closed.

The oldest aviation museum in the UK, it is dedicated to the preservation and display of de Havilland aircraft and the company’s heritage.

For more on the museum, visit www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk


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