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    United Kingdom
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1958 de Havilland Vampire T55 Twin-Boom Jet Trainer
Registration no. G-HELV

The de Havilland Vampire was commissioned by the Royal Air Force during World War 2, entering service just too late to see combat. This was the second jet fighter to enter RAF service (the Gloster Meteor being the first) and it continued to serve with frontline RAF squadrons until 1955. It was then retained by the RAF as a jet trainer until 1966. The Vampire was powered by a single de Havilland Goblin turbojet engine producing 3,500lbs thrust, which was capable of propelling the aircraft to a top speed of 548mph.

The first public appearance by a Vampire was to lead the Victory Day Parade Flypast over London on 8th June 1946. This is just one of this nimble little fighter's many claims to fame. It was also the first RAF aircraft to exceed 500mph; the first jet aircraft to land on an aircraft carrier; and the first jet aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

Almost 3,300 Vampires were built, a quarter of them under licence in other countries. The design would be later modified to become the Venom. Surprisingly, the main fuselage 'pod' was of wooden construction and this is one reason why the Vampire is such a rare aircraft today. Due to the challenges involved in keeping these fragile aircraft aloft, it is thought fewer than ten are capable of flight now, including Classic Air Force's Vampire.

Classic Air Force's de Havilland Vampire is a Swiss-built T55 two-seat trainer variant: the export version of the T11 trainer used by the Royal Air Force. It has served the Classic Air Force as an air show exhibit and a capable jet trainer, its dual controls making the Vampire an important crew currency and training aircraft.

The fuselage 'pod' was built in the UK by William Lawrence & Co Ltd of Nottingham and delivered to de Havilland on 29 January 1958, with construction number '975' and build number 'WLS-DH-103'. On 20th December of the same year, the pod was shipped to Switzerland where F&W at Altenrhein completed the airframe (under licence from de Havilland) and delivered it to the Swiss Air Force with serial number 'U-1215'. During its service with the Swiss Air Force, 'U-1215' served at a number of bases, including Emmen, Altenrhein, Sion and Dubendorf. It remained in service until May 1990, completing 1,955 flying hours.

After retirement from the Swiss Air Force, the last 27 Vampires were offered for sale at auction, and in March 1991, 'U-1215' was purchased by Bournemouth-based Hunter Wing. The aircraft was ferried to the UK on 28th August that same year and registered 'G-HELV' with the CAA on 17th September 1991. Soon after, its Swiss markings were removed and it was repainted in RAF camouflage.

'G-HELV' was acquired by Mike Collett and Air Atlantique in March 2004 and has been displayed at air shows by the company ever since. Today, this iconic aircraft retains its fictitious RAF camouflage as well as the incorrect RAF serial 'XJ771'. It is airworthy and is currently undergoing its annual check, which is scheduled for completion on 31st August 2015. The airframe has 'clocked up' 2,133 hours and the engine 256, and we are advised that the Permit to Fly is in the process of renewal.

Please note, if the aircraft remains in the EU, VAT of 20% will be added to the sale price. The Aircraft will be flown back to base at Coventry following the sale. Purchasers are to make arrangements to collect the aircraft within 21 days of the auction.

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Bonhams Collectors’ Car department