The Bat Out Of Hell

Every so often I have come into contact with the DeHavilland Vampire and it has always been a memorable experience – this last model exhibition was no exception.

While the bulk of the model expo was chiefly plastic modelling, there was a useful admixture of the R/C scale boats, one tramway layout, and this Vampire. I was amazed when I moved to the tail of it to discover it was a flying model.

It’s real, and a model of a real aircraft. And nearly everything about it is OTT fabulous – from the working suspension on the wheel struts to the turbojet engine buried deep within, to the detail of the pilot. Everywhere I looked the sheer size of it astounded.

The level of detail incorporated was also impressive, though you could tell it was carefully chosen not to make the plane too delicate for flight. I can only imagine that a flying day is carefully selected and the transport, setting-up, fuelling, and flight planning are undertaken with as much care as would be given to the 1:1 jet.

It would be the darling of a RAAF station if it were flown there and I’ll bet you would have to keep the big wigs as well as the tarmac crew back from it with barriers.

This is only the 4th Vampire I have ever seen. The 3rd was a museum piece in the eastern states preserved in a hangar, the 2nd a sad relic propped up on Albany Highway as a soft-drink advertisement.

The 1st was apparently the most impressive, though I have blanked it from my memory. I was being taken round the fairgrounds of the Calgary Stampede in 1951 on the shoulders of my father when a flight of RCAF Vampires came in and made a low pass over the crowd. My folks always told me that the noise was so terrific that I went into hysterics and had to be taken home. And yet years later I survived a Bay City Rollers concert…

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