Throughout 2023 and 2024 the trustees of the Newark Air Museum (NAM) have been in discussions with the Royal Air Force Museum (RAFM), regarding the loan of the Gloster Meteor F.8 (mod) WK935, which is often referred to as the Prone Meteor. The Loan Agreement was finalised on 21st June, 2024. Thanks to a lot of pre-planning and preparation work the Prone Meteor was moved from the RAFM Cosford site to NAM’s site in eastern Nottinghamshire on Monday June 24th, 2024.

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The Prone Meteor arrived at the Newark Air Museum on June 24, 2024. [Photo by Howard Heeley, Down to Earth Promotions]

Staff from the Michael Beetham Conservation Centre (MBCC) at Cosford supervised the move, which was undertaken by their preferred contractor SPH Plant Limited from Telford, Salop. During a subsequent two-day time period the MBCC staff reassembled the Prone Meteor, before moving into Hangar 2 on NAM’s Southfield Site. Local forklift hire was kindly arranged by AEM Lifting from Tuxford, Notts.

“The museum first contemplated trying to take the Prone Meteor on loan, at the suggestion of aviation historian Ken Ellis, whilst developing the Interpretation Plan for the other British prone trials aircraft, the Reid and Sigrist Desford,” Newark Air Museum trustee Colin Savill said.

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The one-of-a-kind jet is carefully unloaded at its new home. [Photo by Howard Heeley, Down to Earth Promotions]

“We are grateful to the Royal Air Force Museum staff at both London and Midlands, who have helped implement this loan agreement.” He concluded, “Securing the loan of the Prone Meteor allows us to display these two unique aircraft from the golden age of British aviation, together at one location; something that has never happened before!

An additional comment has also been made by Dr Harry Raffal RAF Museum historian, who said “We are delighted that through our loan of the Meteor F8 to Newark Air Museum new audiences will engage with this unique strand of the RAF story. The loan will provide an exciting new exhibit at Newark Air Museum whilst helping the RAF Museum share our collection more widely.”

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Meteor WK935 on display at the NAM. [Photo by Howard Heeley, Down To Earth Promotions]

Built as a standard Meteor F.Mk.8, WK935 was the last of 429 of this variant produced by Armstrong Whitworth, a total of 1090 F.8 aircraft being built up to May 1954. The fascinating prone pilot conversion was connected with the Bristol  Type 178, a 1951 proposal to specification F.124T which called for the development and construction of a delta winged, rocket-powered prone-pilot interceptor. Allotted to Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft at Baginton for conversion under contract to the Ministry of Supply, WK935 was converted to undertake research into the possibilities of flying an aircraft from the prone position together with power boosted flying controls trials.

Armstrong Whitworth added a specially built bubble canopy cockpit to the nose ahead of the nosewheel bulkhead with pilots’ adjustable foam rubber couch and full set of controls, with a small control stick in front of the pilot and leg operated rudder pedals behind and below the prone pilot, although a second pilot always flew in the conventional cockpit in case of difficulties. This safety pilot handled engine starting, re-lighting and fuel control. The tailfin was modified with additional area forward of tail plane, with a Meteor NF Mk.12-type fin giving more surface area for greater stability and to compensate for the extra fuselage length. At 52.5 feet this was the longest Meteor produced.