De Havilland DH 115 T.55 Vampire

The RNZAF operated six T.55 Vampire trainers (NZ5701-5706), which were export versions of the RAF’s T.11 variant. The first two aircraft arrived in Auckland aboard the ‚Zealandic‘ in June 1952, and were assembled at Hobsonville between June and August of that year.

Wing Commander Johnny Checketts subsequently test flew both aircraft. With the exception of NZ5706, which crashed into the Rangitikei river in 1957 (fortunately with the successful exit of both crew), the remaining five trainers were withdrawn from use circa 1959. NZ5701-03 were sold and broken up in 1963, NZ5704 and NZ5705 becoming instructional airframes. ZK-RVM is an ex-Swiss Air Force T.55 Vampire purchased by Brett and Jill Emeny of New Plymouth, which was entered onto the New Zealand Aircraft Register in August 1997. This particular aircraft was part of the Swiss Air Force from 1958 and carried the serieal number U-1225. It entered the Swiss civil register in June 1992 as HB-RVM following its sale by auction at Dubendorf Airbase in 1991.

The Vampire was popular with fighter pilots and it went into widespread service with the RAF and other air forces. In 1951 the RNZAF acquired Vampires, and a year later deployed No 14 SQN to Cyprus where they flew Vampires as part of New Zealand’s contribution to Commonwealth defence commitments. No 75 SQN was also equipped with Vampires and the small fighter remained in RNZAF service until the late sixties (although Canberra bombers had replaced it as New Zealand’s front line strike aircraft).

However the Vampire represented the first generation of jets; in terms of technology Vampires were little different from their piston-engine contemporaries. The Germans had led the world in researching into swept wing jet aircraft; after the war the Russians and Americans quickly exploited that knowledge. In the the Korean War the UN partners were shocked by the performance of the new Russian Mig 15; the swept wing fighter was superior to many Western fighters. The Americans quickly deployed F-86 Sabres to Korea to counter the new Soviet fighter.