WEST SYSTEM: Bringing a ‘Vampire’ back from the dead with epoxy resin
It’s probably not the kind of vampire most people instinctively think of; the ‘Vampire’ we’re referring to is of course the British jet fighter developed by de Havilland during the Second World War. When talented and highly-skilled master carpenter Les Somner was challenged by a friend to restore one, he couldn’t resist taking it on.
Gluing your fingers together as you painstakingly recreate your aircraft model kits was a rite of passage for many of us in days gone by. Not many, though, would have the patience of Les to take on the task of reconstructing a real-life aircraft. But then again, when you learn about its history, it would be hard not to be captivated by the Vampire’s story.
A pioneer of the skies
The de Havilland DH.100 Vampire entered service with the RAF in 1945 and were the first jet fighters to be powered by a single jet engine. Many variants were produced, including a special Sea Vampire, which was the Royal Navy’s first jet fighter and was designed to be operated from the seas. This became realistic after a Sea Vampire, flown by legendary pilot Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown, became the first pure-jet aircraft to land on and take off from an aircraft carrier, on 3 December 1945.
The Vampire continued to achieve several aviation firsts, including on 14 July 1948 when six Vampire F.3s flown by the RAF became the first jet aircraft to successfully fly across the Atlantic Ocean. A few months earlier a modified MK I had set a new world altitude record of 59,446ft (18,119m). The Vampire was introduced to the British public for the first time on 8 June 1946 when Fighter Command’s 247 Squadron was given the honour of leading the flypast over London at the Victory Day Celebrations. Almost 3,300 Vampires were manufactured and they saw service in Air Forces across the world.
How epoxy played its part
The fuselage of the Vampire was constructed extensively with hardwood over a balsa wooden core. When Les assessed the repair work needed he found the whole forward fuselage nacelle was in desperate need of refurbishment. Les achieved this with a WEST SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin® and 205 Fast Hardener® mix and Episize™ 280g Satin Weave Glass Cloth in order to provide an abrasion-resistant covering.
It was a monumental project and with the challenge successfully overcome, the Vampire now sits proudly in Les’ garden and makes for a pretty interesting ornament!
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