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Aces of Aviation

Hawker Typhoon Mark IB of Roland P. Beamont

Hawker Typhoon Mark IB of Roland P. Beamont

Hawker Typhoon Mark IB from the 609th Squadron of the Royal Air Force, piloted by Flight Commander Roland P. Beamont in April 1943.

Wingspan: 12.67 meters.

Length: 9.72 meters.

Height: 4.52 meters.

Engine[s]: Napier Sabre IIB of 2200 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 658 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 10360 meters.

Range: 1450 kilometers.

Armament: Four Hispano 20-millimeter cannons; two 454-kilogram bombs or eight 27-kilogram rockets.

The Hawker Typhoon survived a disastrous chain of misfortunes during the first period of its career, mainly due to the hurried development of engines and fuselage structures. That it became one of the most effective ground-strike fighters of the second half of the Second World War was largely due to the work and achievements of Roland Prosper Beamont.

Born the 10th August 1920, "Roly" Beamont had put his hopes in joining the Royal Air Force College of Cranwell, but he had to be content with a short service mission, awarded to him in April 1939. Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War he was sent to the 87th Squadron, in France, where he achieved his first victory the 13th May 1940, against a Dornier Do 17. During the Battle of Britain he destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 110 the 15th August and a Bf 109 ten days later. He was then awarded the Distinguished Flying Service and later sent to the 79th Squadron, still piloting the Hawker Hurricane.

In the late 1941, he was incorporated to the Hawker Aircraft Limited, in Langley, Buckinghamshire, where he took part in the production trials of the Hurricane. He had also chance to fly some of the first Typhoon just after they left the production line. Choosing to fly the Typhoon in the RAF, he was ascribed to the 56th Squadron, receiving the first of such aircraft in North Weald, Essex. Then he was transferred as Flight Commander to the 609th Squadron in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, and promoted to Squadron Commander in place of Paul Richey.

During 1942 the Typhoon suffered repeated accidents and began to acquire a sinister reputation. Two main causes were diagnosed: engine failures due to breaking of the lubrication circuit, and breaking of the tail during flight due to defects in the rear transport joint. Nobody was in better position to point to these failures than Beamont, who after transferring his squadron to Manston, in Kent, performed numerous missions over the French coast, some of them nocturnal, in search of enemy trains. The aircraft that he piloted by then, serialized with the number R-7752, is the one depicted in the illustration. His success in this campaign was represented by the numerous victory markings, depicting crosses and locomotives, painted under the emblem of his aircraft.

It was the suitability of the Typhoon for ground-strike missions what convinced Beamont that the aircraft had to evolve towards this role, despite the fact that the RAF was still using the majority of the other Typhoon as interceptors. Thus, Beamont returned to the Hawker Aircraft Ltd. when his service period ended, in May 1943, to take part in the test flights of the Typhoon. Once the trials of the aircraft loaded with rockets and 227-kilogram bombs ended, Beamont continued with the Tempest.

Promoted to the rank of Wing Commander, Beamont returned to active service flights as Chief of the 1st Tempest Wing, which comprised the 56th and 486th Squadrons. In such role, he became the third in the ranking of record pilots in the defense that the Tempest carried out against the V-1 flying bombs, whose offensive began in June 1944. Beamont claimed 32 victories upon this kind of aircraft, apart from another ten upon conventional aircraft. Shortly later he was downed and taken prisoner, and did not return to England until 1945.

Beamont left the RAF in 1947 to join the Gloster Aircraft Company, becoming Chief Test Pilot of the English Electric. In this position he was the first on piloting the Canberra turbojet bomber and the Lightning supersonic fighter, and achieved several worldwide records of altitude and distance.