Eighty years after its first flight, Chris Gibson profiles de Havilland’s entrance into the jet age with the Vampire – one of the most significant British warplanes of the 20th Century

RAF Vampire FB.9s pass the famous Aden Crater, an ancient volcano housing much of Aden city

Eighty years ago, on September 20, 1943, a small twin-boom aircraft taxied out to the runway at the de Havilland airfield at Hatfield. At the controls was Geoffrey de Havilland, son of the company founder and chief test pilot. As he eased the throttle forward and released the brakes, the aircraft accelerated along the runway and lifted off. It was the first flight of the first of more than 3,000 Vampires.

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