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View Full Version : Lots of good info on the Whirlwind - Long read.



Waldo.Pepper
06-14-2005, 01:40 PM
Flying under Fire. Volume 1 pages 45-64. (becoming a fav book of mine).

We thought we were on our way to becoming Canadian fighter pilots on Spitfires or at least Hurricanes; but at the end of the course when our squadron listings were posted, ten RCAF sergeant pilots were to be sent to 263 Squadron. "What was 263 Squadron?" we asked. "Where was it, and what did it fly?"
Somebody thought that 263 flew Whirlwinds. "What are Whirlwinds?"
We wanted to know. No one at the OTU, including the instructors seemed to know anything about the Whirlwind because it was on the "Secret List." All kinds of rumours began circulating, strange stories about this odd machine, heard second- or third-hand. Fairy tales would have been a better description. Other than it having two engines, the originators had no real knowledge of this fine aeroplane. One claim was that it could not fly on one engine. Later I would fly one back to base on one engine. Twice! Another story had it that, on a nose over, the four cannons, which were mounted virtually in your lap, would break loose and separate the top half of your body from the bottom half. Not so! I would seriously bend Whirlwind P7108 by running it off the runway into boggy ground, flipping the aircraft on its back. I was unhurt except for one toe. No sooner had the aircraft come to rest than a whole gang of airmen appeared and mightily lifted up the tail. I pulled the pin on my Sutton harness and landed square on my head. Crawling out from under, I vented my anger by giving the aircraft a mighty kick€"breaking my toe. This kept me off flying for a couple of days. Of course, expecting Spits or Hurricanes, we knew that we wouldn't like the Whirlwind at all.


It was clean, sleek, and relatively small for a twin-engined aircraft, with a forty-five-foot wingspan and a length of thirty-one feet, six inches. The fuselage was mainly of magnesium, which made it a little different from contemporary aircraft. A low-wing monoplane, it had very smooth surfaces and was built in three major sections. The engines were mounted on the wing centre section. Leading edged slats were installed initially, but these were permanently locked as a result of a fatal accident. One of the slats broke loose during a high-speed stall, causing the aircraft to crash.

The engines were Rolls-Royce V-12 Peregrines rated at 885 hp at 3,000 rpm, driving ten-foot diameter variable-speed propellers, which could not be feathered. There was a 67-gallon fuel tank in each wing feeding the adjacent engine, but there was no crossover from one tank to the other. The lack of feathering and crossover feed were two very unsatisfactory features. The throttle, pitch, fuel, and mixture controls were hydraulically operated by the "exactor" system. Armament was four 20-mm Hispano cannon mounted in the nose, immediately in front of the cockpit€"right in your lap€"with sixty rounds per drum-fed gun. The Whirlwind was the first Allied monoplane fighter to be designed around cannon armament.
The cockpit was roomy and well organized for its time. The seat was amply protected by armour plate, and the windshield was bulletproof. There was a substantial crash pylon right behind the pilot's head in case of a bit of unexpected (but extreme) nose-down, tail-up attitude. Access to the cockpit was by a three-foot retractable ladder, stowed in the fuselage during flight. The first prototype flew initially on 11 October 1938€"unintentionally€"as a result of a too-fast taxiing trial.

Number 75 Squadron flew one of the prototypes and two of the production aircraft during June 1940 but turned them over to 263 Squadron, which was reforming and re-equipping after a disastrous campaign on Gloster Gladiators in Norway. By the time 1 joined 263 Squadron, some twenty-one Whirlwinds had been lost or written off and there were only ninety-three left. Westland built only 114 out of an order for 440.1 flew thirty-three of the ninety-three Whirlwinds, probably more than anybody except Harald Penrose, Westland's chief test pilot.

What was it like to fly the Whirlwind? 1 can say that it was scary for those first few flights. There was no two-seat version for dual instruction, no way of learning how to manage an aircraft with two engines, how to taxi it, or become familiar with any odd characteristics. Much later we did get an Oxford, but only for twin-engined ground handling. Even the Whirlwind's landing speed€"in excess of 25 mph beyond that of the Hurrie or Spit€"was daunting. We didn't even have a manual for the aeroplane. Visibility from the cockpit was excellent and in my view, even better than the Mk VI Mossie that I later flew. The bubble canopy, which wound back on a single crank system for normal opening, was great. I don't think that there was an emergency canopy jettisoning system, because of the high fin and raised tailplane. The Pilot's Notes 1 picked up several years ago in the United Kingdom at the Shuttleworth Collection's bookshop make no mention of one.

On 12 October, three days after beginning this course, the flight commander asked my tutor if I was ready to fly the aeroplane. Assured that 1 was, he told me to get my parachute and sign out Whirlwind P7003.1 sat in the cockpit for what seemed like an hour€"actually about ten minutes€"being vigorously grilled by the flight commander. Suddenly he slapped me on the shoulder and told me to get it into the air. Since this was the first time I had even sat in the aeroplane, luck had to be the rule.

As 1 sat in that cockpit on 12 October, I knew very little about this curiously unconventional aeroplane. All I could think of was how in hell do 1 get the **** thing up, and more important, how do 1 get it down again? My mind was filled with all the half-believed rumours about it being a hard aeroplane to fly, a killer that couldn't fly on one engine. It was also said that if that you lost an engine on takeoff, the plane would proceed to roll upside down, or, on the other hand, it might climb out of sight. There was no shortage of pukka gen. (RAF slang for accurate information, a term originating years earlier in the Far East.)
Unlike the Spit and the Hurricane, which had monstrous cooling radiators hanging down below the wings or fuselage, the Whirlwind had its rads set right into the leading edges of the wings, inboard of the engines. While it was very clean-looking, this feature made the engines prone to overheating on the ground, so a quick takeoff€"as soon as you started the engines€"was essential, and I had a long way to taxi. There were two engines to deal with, and I wasn't completely familiar with the RAF's new system of hand brakes. I had to taxi this two-engined, marginally cooled thing with a scant supply of air pressure. It was a daunting picture.
But this was it. Don't let the rads boil. Remember, it will fly on one engine at 140 mph€"no, better make it 150! I was just a little worried, but I told myself that I'd already coped with 194 hours of flying so I should be able to put in at least one more.
When I looked around to see if everything was clear, my two ground crew€"bless their souls€"who obviously knew that this was my first flight in the Whirlwind, gave me great big grins and vigorous thumbs-up signals. I started the engines. Quickly now, hydraulic pressure okay, check flaps down and up, pressures building, set max cooling flap, cooling and oil temperatures okay, plus-two boost, check prop, pitch change okay, open up to plus-five boost, check them on four mags, taxi out. Prime the exactors again, run the engines up to plus-nine boost at 3,000 rpm, complete minor cockpit check. Then quickly taxi out onto the runway.
My takeoff was remarkably quick. Little, if any, differential throttle (to control swing) was needed. The tail came up very quickly, and the large rudder kept the aircraft straight down the runway. Three hundred feet up, I rolled the coupe top closed. The Whirlwind was the first fighter to have a retractable tail wheel as well as a single-piece canopy that wound back and forth on rack-and-pinion rails. These were nice features.
So, now we're in the air, boost back, revs back, and climbing away at 180 mph. I level off and cruise at 240. Temperature is okay, so I close the cooling flaps, try a few gentle turns, risk a slightly steeper one, and then some dives and climbs. Wow! This thing climbs like a bat out of hell. 1 throttle back one engine, add a little boost to the other and with a touch of rudder trim it flies hands off. I sit back relax, and enjoy. Pretty soon realization comes that maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to cope with this machine, and possibly convince the CO to post me to a Spitfire squadron.
Okay, now it's time to land. Join the circuit downwind, throttle back to 150 mph, prime the exactors, lower undercarriage, set the cooling flaps, turn in, props fully fine, slow down a little, flaps down a little more, set at 125 mph, come over the fence at no less than 110, and drop onto the runway. (While there was a runway at that particular time, we usually operated from grass fields.) Whoops! I didn't get the final speed down quite enough. So I float for a bit. Never mind, there's plenty of room on this one thousand-yard runway. Those great big Fowler flaps really slow you down.
Wow! One year and two days after being sworn in, I had finally flown a real fighter on a real fighter squadron

And later on he makes these observations that I found interesting.

€œThe procedure for dive bombing airfields was to fly out down on the deck below radar until we were within fifteen minutes of the target, where we climbed in weak mixture at a rate of 1,000 feet per minute until we reached 15,000 feet. We heard the Spit pilots screaming that we were climbing too fast and that they couldn't keep up, particularly in weak mixtures so we had to slow down and waft through the air with our cooling flaps open. At 15,000 feet we came in just past the target, usually slightly to the right, did a ninety-degree turn to the left behind it, and then, as we reached it, peeled off, again in another ninety-degree turn. We dove straight down onto the targeted airfield€"at a screaming great rate of knot, I assure you.

Again, the Spits couldn't keep up. We were heavier and a little faster diving. We would release our bombs at about 6,000 feet, pulling up gently but keeping the nose down. We would be doing about 400 to 440 mph. Hell, we were back home in about ten or fifteen minutes which was pretty nice. The Spitfires were left to deal with the hornets' nest that we had stirred up.€

€œThere was no question that the Whirlwind was an aeroplane ahead of its time. Along with its [imitations, it embodied some very interesting innovations. Compared to the Mk I Spit or the Mk I Hurricane, the Whirlwind was far in advance in speed and rate of climb to 15,000 feet. We had tremendous capability low down, but once we got to 15,000 feet performance dropped off disastrously. It was, however, a very successful fighter-bomber and one might wonder why its potential was never developed.€

But, in spite of it all, the Whirlwind was the best machine that I have ever flown in my fifty years in the air. It was just great, no question about it. It was easy to fly and the only tricky thing was that tremendous jump in speed with which we were faced for landings and takeoffs. Once we got that down, we could land the thing without an airspeed indicator, relying only on the sound. It was indeed a very fine aeroplane.

Since 1 later flew the Mossie I've been asked to compare it with the Whirlwind. Basically, there can be no comparison: they were built for different purposes and in different time frames€"each had its own genesis. 1 loved to fly both aircraft. I believe the Whirlwind had a quicker response on the controls and was fully capable of aerobatics. Compared to the Spit, it had a heavy punch of four 20-mm cannon concentrated in the nose; but the fuel tankage and the ammo supply were limited. The Mosquito VI was also a great aeroplane to fly, although not quite as aerobatic but with an even heavier punch. I liked the greater endurance of the Mossie, and the fact that it didn't rattle quite as much in a high-speed dive.

Waldo.Pepper
06-14-2005, 01:40 PM
Flying under Fire. Volume 1 pages 45-64. (becoming a fav book of mine).

We thought we were on our way to becoming Canadian fighter pilots on Spitfires or at least Hurricanes; but at the end of the course when our squadron listings were posted, ten RCAF sergeant pilots were to be sent to 263 Squadron. "What was 263 Squadron?" we asked. "Where was it, and what did it fly?"
Somebody thought that 263 flew Whirlwinds. "What are Whirlwinds?"
We wanted to know. No one at the OTU, including the instructors seemed to know anything about the Whirlwind because it was on the "Secret List." All kinds of rumours began circulating, strange stories about this odd machine, heard second- or third-hand. Fairy tales would have been a better description. Other than it having two engines, the originators had no real knowledge of this fine aeroplane. One claim was that it could not fly on one engine. Later I would fly one back to base on one engine. Twice! Another story had it that, on a nose over, the four cannons, which were mounted virtually in your lap, would break loose and separate the top half of your body from the bottom half. Not so! I would seriously bend Whirlwind P7108 by running it off the runway into boggy ground, flipping the aircraft on its back. I was unhurt except for one toe. No sooner had the aircraft come to rest than a whole gang of airmen appeared and mightily lifted up the tail. I pulled the pin on my Sutton harness and landed square on my head. Crawling out from under, I vented my anger by giving the aircraft a mighty kick€"breaking my toe. This kept me off flying for a couple of days. Of course, expecting Spits or Hurricanes, we knew that we wouldn't like the Whirlwind at all.


It was clean, sleek, and relatively small for a twin-engined aircraft, with a forty-five-foot wingspan and a length of thirty-one feet, six inches. The fuselage was mainly of magnesium, which made it a little different from contemporary aircraft. A low-wing monoplane, it had very smooth surfaces and was built in three major sections. The engines were mounted on the wing centre section. Leading edged slats were installed initially, but these were permanently locked as a result of a fatal accident. One of the slats broke loose during a high-speed stall, causing the aircraft to crash.

The engines were Rolls-Royce V-12 Peregrines rated at 885 hp at 3,000 rpm, driving ten-foot diameter variable-speed propellers, which could not be feathered. There was a 67-gallon fuel tank in each wing feeding the adjacent engine, but there was no crossover from one tank to the other. The lack of feathering and crossover feed were two very unsatisfactory features. The throttle, pitch, fuel, and mixture controls were hydraulically operated by the "exactor" system. Armament was four 20-mm Hispano cannon mounted in the nose, immediately in front of the cockpit€"right in your lap€"with sixty rounds per drum-fed gun. The Whirlwind was the first Allied monoplane fighter to be designed around cannon armament.
The cockpit was roomy and well organized for its time. The seat was amply protected by armour plate, and the windshield was bulletproof. There was a substantial crash pylon right behind the pilot's head in case of a bit of unexpected (but extreme) nose-down, tail-up attitude. Access to the cockpit was by a three-foot retractable ladder, stowed in the fuselage during flight. The first prototype flew initially on 11 October 1938€"unintentionally€"as a result of a too-fast taxiing trial.

Number 75 Squadron flew one of the prototypes and two of the production aircraft during June 1940 but turned them over to 263 Squadron, which was reforming and re-equipping after a disastrous campaign on Gloster Gladiators in Norway. By the time 1 joined 263 Squadron, some twenty-one Whirlwinds had been lost or written off and there were only ninety-three left. Westland built only 114 out of an order for 440.1 flew thirty-three of the ninety-three Whirlwinds, probably more than anybody except Harald Penrose, Westland's chief test pilot.

What was it like to fly the Whirlwind? 1 can say that it was scary for those first few flights. There was no two-seat version for dual instruction, no way of learning how to manage an aircraft with two engines, how to taxi it, or become familiar with any odd characteristics. Much later we did get an Oxford, but only for twin-engined ground handling. Even the Whirlwind's landing speed€"in excess of 25 mph beyond that of the Hurrie or Spit€"was daunting. We didn't even have a manual for the aeroplane. Visibility from the cockpit was excellent and in my view, even better than the Mk VI Mossie that I later flew. The bubble canopy, which wound back on a single crank system for normal opening, was great. I don't think that there was an emergency canopy jettisoning system, because of the high fin and raised tailplane. The Pilot's Notes 1 picked up several years ago in the United Kingdom at the Shuttleworth Collection's bookshop make no mention of one.

On 12 October, three days after beginning this course, the flight commander asked my tutor if I was ready to fly the aeroplane. Assured that 1 was, he told me to get my parachute and sign out Whirlwind P7003.1 sat in the cockpit for what seemed like an hour€"actually about ten minutes€"being vigorously grilled by the flight commander. Suddenly he slapped me on the shoulder and told me to get it into the air. Since this was the first time I had even sat in the aeroplane, luck had to be the rule.

As 1 sat in that cockpit on 12 October, I knew very little about this curiously unconventional aeroplane. All I could think of was how in hell do 1 get the **** thing up, and more important, how do 1 get it down again? My mind was filled with all the half-believed rumours about it being a hard aeroplane to fly, a killer that couldn't fly on one engine. It was also said that if that you lost an engine on takeoff, the plane would proceed to roll upside down, or, on the other hand, it might climb out of sight. There was no shortage of pukka gen. (RAF slang for accurate information, a term originating years earlier in the Far East.)
Unlike the Spit and the Hurricane, which had monstrous cooling radiators hanging down below the wings or fuselage, the Whirlwind had its rads set right into the leading edges of the wings, inboard of the engines. While it was very clean-looking, this feature made the engines prone to overheating on the ground, so a quick takeoff€"as soon as you started the engines€"was essential, and I had a long way to taxi. There were two engines to deal with, and I wasn't completely familiar with the RAF's new system of hand brakes. I had to taxi this two-engined, marginally cooled thing with a scant supply of air pressure. It was a daunting picture.
But this was it. Don't let the rads boil. Remember, it will fly on one engine at 140 mph€"no, better make it 150! I was just a little worried, but I told myself that I'd already coped with 194 hours of flying so I should be able to put in at least one more.
When I looked around to see if everything was clear, my two ground crew€"bless their souls€"who obviously knew that this was my first flight in the Whirlwind, gave me great big grins and vigorous thumbs-up signals. I started the engines. Quickly now, hydraulic pressure okay, check flaps down and up, pressures building, set max cooling flap, cooling and oil temperatures okay, plus-two boost, check prop, pitch change okay, open up to plus-five boost, check them on four mags, taxi out. Prime the exactors again, run the engines up to plus-nine boost at 3,000 rpm, complete minor cockpit check. Then quickly taxi out onto the runway.
My takeoff was remarkably quick. Little, if any, differential throttle (to control swing) was needed. The tail came up very quickly, and the large rudder kept the aircraft straight down the runway. Three hundred feet up, I rolled the coupe top closed. The Whirlwind was the first fighter to have a retractable tail wheel as well as a single-piece canopy that wound back and forth on rack-and-pinion rails. These were nice features.
So, now we're in the air, boost back, revs back, and climbing away at 180 mph. I level off and cruise at 240. Temperature is okay, so I close the cooling flaps, try a few gentle turns, risk a slightly steeper one, and then some dives and climbs. Wow! This thing climbs like a bat out of hell. 1 throttle back one engine, add a little boost to the other and with a touch of rudder trim it flies hands off. I sit back relax, and enjoy. Pretty soon realization comes that maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to cope with this machine, and possibly convince the CO to post me to a Spitfire squadron.
Okay, now it's time to land. Join the circuit downwind, throttle back to 150 mph, prime the exactors, lower undercarriage, set the cooling flaps, turn in, props fully fine, slow down a little, flaps down a little more, set at 125 mph, come over the fence at no less than 110, and drop onto the runway. (While there was a runway at that particular time, we usually operated from grass fields.) Whoops! I didn't get the final speed down quite enough. So I float for a bit. Never mind, there's plenty of room on this one thousand-yard runway. Those great big Fowler flaps really slow you down.
Wow! One year and two days after being sworn in, I had finally flown a real fighter on a real fighter squadron

And later on he makes these observations that I found interesting.

€œThe procedure for dive bombing airfields was to fly out down on the deck below radar until we were within fifteen minutes of the target, where we climbed in weak mixture at a rate of 1,000 feet per minute until we reached 15,000 feet. We heard the Spit pilots screaming that we were climbing too fast and that they couldn't keep up, particularly in weak mixtures so we had to slow down and waft through the air with our cooling flaps open. At 15,000 feet we came in just past the target, usually slightly to the right, did a ninety-degree turn to the left behind it, and then, as we reached it, peeled off, again in another ninety-degree turn. We dove straight down onto the targeted airfield€"at a screaming great rate of knot, I assure you.

Again, the Spits couldn't keep up. We were heavier and a little faster diving. We would release our bombs at about 6,000 feet, pulling up gently but keeping the nose down. We would be doing about 400 to 440 mph. Hell, we were back home in about ten or fifteen minutes which was pretty nice. The Spitfires were left to deal with the hornets' nest that we had stirred up.€

€œThere was no question that the Whirlwind was an aeroplane ahead of its time. Along with its [imitations, it embodied some very interesting innovations. Compared to the Mk I Spit or the Mk I Hurricane, the Whirlwind was far in advance in speed and rate of climb to 15,000 feet. We had tremendous capability low down, but once we got to 15,000 feet performance dropped off disastrously. It was, however, a very successful fighter-bomber and one might wonder why its potential was never developed.€

But, in spite of it all, the Whirlwind was the best machine that I have ever flown in my fifty years in the air. It was just great, no question about it. It was easy to fly and the only tricky thing was that tremendous jump in speed with which we were faced for landings and takeoffs. Once we got that down, we could land the thing without an airspeed indicator, relying only on the sound. It was indeed a very fine aeroplane.

Since 1 later flew the Mossie I've been asked to compare it with the Whirlwind. Basically, there can be no comparison: they were built for different purposes and in different time frames€"each had its own genesis. 1 loved to fly both aircraft. I believe the Whirlwind had a quicker response on the controls and was fully capable of aerobatics. Compared to the Spit, it had a heavy punch of four 20-mm cannon concentrated in the nose; but the fuel tankage and the ammo supply were limited. The Mosquito VI was also a great aeroplane to fly, although not quite as aerobatic but with an even heavier punch. I liked the greater endurance of the Mossie, and the fact that it didn't rattle quite as much in a high-speed dive.

snafu73
06-14-2005, 02:22 PM
Thanks a lot, very interesting, first hand accounts of the Whirlwind must be very rare.

Waldo.Pepper
06-14-2005, 08:22 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">first hand accounts of the Whirlwind must be very rare. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>


'Tis why I made the post. Stuff on the Whirlwind is rare. I wish I could find the Pilos notes he speaks of. That would be interesting.