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*Nov 1967 — Guest-starred prominently in classic British fantasy drama TV series "THE PRISONER", "Many Happy Returns" episode, produced and starring Patrick McGoohan. Reg No. had changed to 'MBA634' by then.

The Prisoner TV Series Logo
Patrick McGoohan getting into Gloster Meteor WA634 in THE PRISONER TV Show episode 'Many Happy Returns' in 1967

Close-up and flying footage probably at Chalgrove airfield for the day. McGoohan's main protagonist "Number Six" gets ejected out of the Meteor, although that footage was provided separately by Martin-Baker and not filmed by the production company.

Gloster Meteor WA634 preparing to take off in THE PRISONER episode 'Many Happy Returns' in 1967

'THE PRISONER' TV series 'Many Happy Returns' episode images featuring our Gloster Meteor WA634, are courtesy of ITV Studios

Patrick McGoohan as "Number Six" in the back seat of Gloster Meteor WA634 during 1967 for 'THE PRISONER' British TV series
Gloster Meteor WA634 on THE PRISONER TV show in 1967 ('Many Happy Returns' episode)
The pilot manually ejects "Number Six" out of the back seat of Gloster Meteor WA634 in 'THE PRISONER' episode 'Many Happy Returns'

The pilot ejects "Number Six"out of the Meteor's rear seat

"Number Six" gets ejected out of the rear seat of WA634 / MBA634 by the pilot in 'THE PRISONER' episode, 'Many Happy Returns'. Image: Martin-Baker

Image: MARTIN-BAKER

"Number Six" gets ejected out of the rear seat of WA634 / MBA634 by the pilot in 'THE PRISONER' episode, 'Many Happy Returns' with the Martin-Baker stock footage actually used in the show

GLOSTER METEOR T.7

Manufacturer: Gloster Aircraft Co.

Model: Meteor T.7 / Meteor 71/2  / 'Meteor Special'

Registration: WA634 / MBA634

UAS Location: Hangar 2
UNDER RESTORATION

Served with: Martin Baker

Maximum Speed:  623mph

Engines: 2 x Rolls-Royce Derwent 9 turbojets, 3,600 lbf thrust each

Service Ceiling: 43,300 ft

Range: 600 miles

Length & Height: 44 ft. 7 in x 13ft

Wing Span: 37ft  2 in

Operational Life: 1949 - 1967

The Gloster Meteor, a prominent aircraft in aviation history, made its debut in the mid-1940s. As the first operational jet fighter for the British Royal Air Force (RAF), the Meteor was a groundbreaking advancement in military aviation technology. It played a crucial role in the Second World War and beyond, revolutionising aerial combat with its speed and agility.

Originally designed as a single-seat fighter, the Meteor underwent a remarkable transformation to become the Gloster Meteor T.7 two-seat Trainer variant including acquiring an F.8 tail (which Martin-Baker Aircraft later named WA634 officially as the "Meteor Special").

 

These modifications aimed to provide an effective training platform for pilots transitioning from propeller-driven aircraft to the new era of jet-powered aviation.

 

The addition of a second seat allowed for an instructor to guide and mentor the trainee pilot, facilitating the development of necessary skills and techniques required for jet operations.

The longer fuselage (including the F.8 tail) of the two-seater trainer Meteor T.7, significantly reduced the aerodynamic instability that the early Meteors were notorious for.

The history of the Gloster Meteor T.7

Built by Gloster Aircraft Co at Hucclecote, Glos. to contract No.6 / ACFT / 2982 / CB7(b) as one of over 640 standard Meteor T.7 trainers built for various air arms between 1948 and 1954, including some 500 for the RAF.

 

Serial block WA590 - WA639.

 

10 Nov 1949 —  Awaiting collection.

 

11 Nov 1949 — Issued on Transfer to Gloster Aircraft Co. for test installation of cabin refrigeration system including flight trials.

 

8 Dec 1949 — Delivered to Gloster Aircraft Co. having flown 1.15 hours on test up to this time.

 

7 Mar 1951 — Allotted to Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment for tropical cockpit cooling trials, initially at Glosters' Moreton Valence airfield. Had still flown only 8 hours.

 

17 Apr 1951 — Ferried from Moreton Valence to Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down, Hants for further trials including hot climate trials at Khartoum in the Sudan.

 

Aug 1951 — Earmarked for Type D auto pilot development flying.

 

26 Sep 1951 — Returned from A & AEE to Gloster Aircraft Co. for return to standard fit on completion of trials.

 

6 Dec 1951 — Allotted to Gloster Aircraft Co at Moreton Valence for measurement of undercarriage door and uplock hook leads flight tests. altitude of 40,000 feet, using the same type of seat.

History of our Gloster Meteor T.7 WA634

Gloster Meteor T.7 WA634 when in storage at RAF Cosford. Image: Erwin Stam
Gloster Meteor T.7 WA634 currently being restored at the Ulster Aviation Society. Image: Mark J. Cairns
Front cockpit of Gloster Meteor T.7 WA634 being restored at the Ulster Aviation Society. Image: Mark J. Cairns

One noteworthy aspect of the Gloster Meteor T.7 is its association with Martin-Baker, a pioneering company in the field of ejection seats.

 

Martin-Baker collaborated with the Meteor's design team to integrate their ejection seat technology into the aircraft.

 

The purpose was to enhance pilot safety during emergency situations, such as mid-air malfunctions or combat damage.

Mid-section of the Gloster Meteor T.7 WA634 has been joined with the cockpit section at the UAS

The WA634 Meteor uniquely served as a testbed for Martin-Baker's innovative ejection seat technology.

 

The integration of ejection seats into the Meteor T.7 marked a crucial milestone in enhancing pilot safety, ensuring their ability to safely eject from the aircraft in emergency situations.

In conclusion, the Gloster Meteor T.7 stands as an iconic aircraft that revolutionised aerial combat with its early jet propulsion at the end of the Second World War.

 

Its development into the two-seat Trainer T.7 variant allowed for effective pilot training, while its later collaboration with Martin-Baker propelled major advancements in ejection seat technology.

3 Sep 1955 — Used for the first live ground level ejection; Squadron Leader John S. Fifield D.F.C A.F.C was safely back on the ground at Chalgrove six seconds after ejecting from WA634 as it travelled along the runway at 120 mph (145 knots), flown by chief test pilot Capt. John 'Scotty' Scott.

 

The modified Mk.3 seat took him to a height of 70 feet, and his parachute opened at 30 feet.  Photos - Aeroplane Monthly May 96 p.42; Royal Air Force Yearbook 2002 p.20; Meteor from the Cockpit (Caygill).

 

Oct 1955 — S/Ldr Fifield again ejected from WA634, this time from an altitude of 40,000 feet, using the same type of seat.

 

17 Oct 55 — Aircraft suffered Cat 3 damage from bursting of ejection guns.

 

14 Sep 1957 — Ejection seat demonstrations at Battle of Britain Day displays at RAF Biggin Hill and RAF Benson. The aircraft had also appeared in the annual September Battle of Britain displays in 1955 and 1956.

 

14 Nov 1957 — Damaged when the aircraft struck a Rook in flight, damaging the starboard mainplane; mainplane replaced.

 

5 May 1958 — Used for runway ejection by German pilot, Rolf Bullwinkel at the Hanover Airshow at Langenhagen Airport.

 

Oct 1961 — Loan to Martin-Baker again extended for testing of new multiple stage rocket propelled ejection seats (intended to facilitate escape from high-speed aircraft at ground level and operational altitude), proving of seat modifications and testing of aircrew equipment assemblies by in flight ejection.

 

A 'bubble' canopy was designed and blown and fitted to the forward cockpit by Martin-Baker so as to provide a 'through the canopy' ejection facility to the pilot and later transferred to ejection test Meteor WA638.

 

Photos as fitted to WA634 - Aeroplane Monthly May 96 p.42; Meteor; Glosters' First Jet Fighter (016776) p.68; The Gloster Meteor (Shacklady) p.71.The rear cockpit area was again reinforced

 

The Gloster Meteor T.7 WA634 aircraft was capable of performing ejection seat tests at speeds up to 510 Knots.

 

13 Mar 1962 — Squadron Leader Peter Howard of the Institute of Aviation Medicine carried out the first of 50 live airborne rocket seat tests in WA634; he described the ride as ‘very smooth’ .The aircraft, flown by John Fifield, was travelling at 290 m.p.h. at an altitude of 250 feet.

 

Apr 1962 — Withdrawn for major servicing following test flight at the end of the month. By 11th April 1962 the aircraft had flown 323.45 hours (935 landings) and made 670 ejections.

Starboard side roundel on the Gloster Meteor T.7 WA634 at the Ulster Aviation Society. Image: Mark J. Cairns

18 Jan 1952 — To Martin-Baker Aircraft Co Ltd at Higher Denham, near Uxbridge, Middx. for ejection seat trials. The company had asked for a Meteor T.7 to modify for testing of their Mk.3 high-speed ejection seat (intended for use in supersonic aircraft), replacing their Meteor Mk.3 EE416.

 

7 Apr 1952 — Returned to Gloster Aircraft Co. at Moreton Valance for fitment of a Meteor Mk.8 rear fuselage and tailplane to overcome 'snaking' at high speeds.

It was thereafter referred to by Martin-Baker maintenance staff as a 'Meteor 71/2' (officially as the ‘Meteor Special’) and successfully completed 10 test flights in its modified state from 5 July 52 prior to return to Martin-Baker.

 

The rear cockpit floor was strengthened and all flying controls removed from the same position; the bulkhead between the two cockpits was replaced by a stronger structure and the hood framing and glazing over the rear crew location was cut away.

 

Flew in overall silver with type D roundels and black serials. Photos – RAFM photo collection ref. P256; Air Britain Digest Dec 63 p.144; Royal Air Force Yearbook 2002 pp.18-19. Colour Artwork - Aeroplane Monthly May 96 p 41 showing the aircraft with original and modified canopies.

 

24 Jul 1952 — Returned to Martin-Baker at Higher Denham for ejection seat trials. Loan period extended several times.

 

31 Aug 1953 — Test flown for 25 minutes at Chalgrove to assess the aircraft's performance following the fitting of two Martin-Baker ejection seats, with the rear canopy cut away to allow test ejections to be made from the rear cockpit which had a Mk.3 seat fitted and a Mk.2 seat was fitted in the front cockpit, making this aircraft the first T.7 to have such an installation for the pilot. ‘George’ the dummy and seat were ejected over the airfield.

 

11 Mar 1955 — Dummy ejected at low level from the rear cockpit of WA634 at Chalgrove using the Mk.3 seat. Photo – Aeroplane Monthly May 96 p.43.

 

Jun 1955 — Featured in a live broadcast by the BBC from RAF Benson with a commentary by Raymond Baxter.

15 May 1962 — Engines inhibited.

 

31 Aug 1962 — Released from trials work.

 

6 Sep 1962 — Struck off RAF charge for spare aircraft use at Chalgrove, Oxon. Along with sister aircraft Meteor T.7 WA638.

 

Sep 1962 — The aircraft was purchased by Martin-Baker outright.

Image: MARK J. CAIRNS

Image: MARK J. CAIRNS

Image: MARK J. CAIRNS

Image: MARK J. CAIRNS

12 Dec 1967 — Final ejection seat test flight. Late 1960s view at Chalgrove beside WA638; Flypast October 2005 p.31.

 

Late 1973 — Noted lying dismantled on Chalgrove airfield marked 'MBA634'

 

Aug 1974 — Moved to RAF St. Athan by road by 71MU Bicester and displayed at the Station Museum there on behalf of the RAF Museum.

14 Sep 1974 — Displayed at the Battle of Britain open day – still in ‘MBA634’ markings from 'The Prisoner' era in 1967 – Control Column Nov 74 p.170.

 

1986 — Aerospace Museum, RAF Cosford, Salop following the wind - down of the St. Athan regional collection. Photos – Meteor In Action (027670) p.38; Flypast October 2005 p.31.

 

2015 — In store at RAFM Cosford.

Early Dec 2022
 — UAS Volunteers dismantled it for transportation over three days at RAFM Cosford, and transported by road back to Maze Long Kesh hangar 2 at the UAS for re-assembly and restoration during 2023.
 


Bulk of WA634 History research text kindly provided by Andy Simpson.

Image: ERWIN STAM

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