The de Havilland Vampire needs no introduction. The aircraft was originally designed to meet the British government’s 1941 specification E.6/41. First flight of the Vampire prototype took place in September 1943. After the war the Vampire became a commercial success and was eventually delivered to the air forces of over 30 countries.
Among the export customers was Finland whose small air force (“Ilmavoimat”) was in dire need of new equipment in the early 1950s (last Messerschmitt Bf 109s were retired in 1954). The first single-seater Vampires were delivered to Finland in January 1953 and subsequently served with the No. 11 Fighter Squadron (HävLv 11). Vampires were phased out (replaced by Folland Gnat and Fouga Magister -aircraft) in the early 1960s.
The pictures in this blog post depict “VA-2”, c/n VO692, a Mk.52 variant. The aircraft served with several Ilmavoimat units (including HävLv 11, 33, 13, and 21) and was finally retired in 1962. It then spent almost 10 years as a “gate guardian” near the Halli air base, and as is evident from the pictures, its mixed wooden structures (plywood and balsa) did not fare particularly well in Finnish weather. In the 1990s the aircraft was restored and is now displayed at the Finnish Aviation Museum – the full history of “VA-2” is described in an article in Feeniks 1.1997 (see bibliography below).
The first pictures depict the aircraft at the Halli air base in July 1979, after the aircraft had spent years outdoors. The last two pictures show the resplendent restored aircraft, photographed at the Finnish Aviation Museum in June 2007.
Some good reference sources (this is by no means a complete list):
- de Havilland Vampire in Finnish Air Force (Partonen); Suomen Ilmavoimien lentokoneet 5; Apali 2013
- de Havilland Vampire (Harrison); Warpaint Series 27; Hall Park Books
- Early Jet Fighters – When British jets ruled the skies; Aeroplane Collectors’ Archive; Kelsey Publishing Group 2013
- Feeniks 1.1997 (journal of the Finnish Aviation Museum Society)
- IPMS-Mallari 1 (journal of the Finnish IPMS)
- Suomen Ilmailuhistoriallinen Lehti 2/2006
- Svenska Flygvapnets Jaktflygplan 1926-84 (Karlström); Flygplansritningar 2; Allt om Hobby 1985
- Vampire – de Havilland’s Twin-Boomed, Ground-Attack Jet Fighter; Aeroplane Icons 12; 2013