September 30, 2022

On display at the Commandant's house is a De Havilland Vampire FB52 [IB-1638] Jet fighter of the fifties vintage. The area where the aircraft is located is called the "Vampire Triangle". Before acquisition here in 1974, IB-1638 was flying with the Fighter Training Wing at Hakimpet. How this Vampire was flown to the Air Force Academy and the story on how it came to be unofficially added to the Academy's vintage aircraft collection is a tale by itself. Once it arrived in the Academy, it was towed to its current location and installed as the first vintage aircraft in the environs. There it was left for two and a half decades, untouched except for the occasional coat of paint during special events.

Click to Enlarge
De Havilland Vampire FB.52 [IB-1638] on display at the Vampire Triangle near the Commandant's residence in the Academy.
The perfect lines of the Vampire does not convey its previous dilapidated condition prior to the Academy's team carrying out its restoration work. The entire portion of the cockpit under the canopy was previously made of Balsa /Ply /Wooden construction. This had been replaced by Aluminum sheets molded to the shape. Click to Enlarge

The forward portion of the Vampire is made out of Balsa and plywood skin. The aircraft started showing deterioration in the late nineties. The condition of the aircraft was made worse by the presence of its Goblin Jet Engine. It is practice to remove engines before jet aircraft are prepared for display, but given the unofficial circumstances behind the acquisition of this aircraft, it is not surprising that this aspect was ignored. The presence of the engine inside the airframe had put such a tremendous strain on the aircraft that the aircraft started breaking up in two just aft of the cockpit.

Click to Enlarge In line with the markings of Vampires in the 60s, IB-1638 sports a large 'Y' on its nose, and on the nose undercarriage door. Note the supporting stilts for the Nose wheel.
Supporting stilts were made for the twin booms of the Vampire to help support their weight, as can be seen in this picture. Click to Enlarge

The entire restoration effort needs to be told in detail by itself. Suffice it to say that after some Herculean effort, the Vampire had been restored to its previous appearance.

The engine had been removed and is scheduled to be displayed in the AFA museum once it is cleaned up and made presentable. Probably one of the only complete Goblin engine units available in India. The Instrument Panel of the aircraft can be seen seperately in the Academy Museum.

Click to Enlarge De Havilland Vampire FB.52 [IB-1638] . These photos were taken recently in December 2005.
The Instrument Panel of IB-1638 was removed during the restoration and is now on display inside the Academy Museum. Click to Enlarge

 

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