Unfulfilled Promise - Napier Heston J.5 Racer


Napier-Heston J.5 World Air Speed Record Aviation Aircraft Art Print by Airplane Artist Charles J. Thompson GAvA


Designed at a time of great advance in aeronautics, the Napier-Heston J.5 or simply the Heston Racer could have been one of the great names in the annals of British aviation, to rank alongside the Schneider Trophy winners and the Mew Gull. 


Purposely built for the winning of the Absolute Air Speed record, then held by Germany, the Heston was financed by Lord Nuffield, owner of the Morris car group. Preceding what would happen with the De Havilland Mosquito, the J.5 was made almost entirely of wood with copious amounts of varnish and lacquer to ensure as high a quality of finish as possible. 


The small airframe was neatly fitted around a then secret 2,450hp Napier engine, the forerunner of the Sabre, which would later power both the Hawker Typhoon and Tempest. This engine and its associated radiator would however be the undoing of the aircraft as on its first flight, the radiator malfunctioned with the resulting steam scalding the pilot. The ensuing crash resulted in substantial damage and with Britain already at war any further development was curtailed.


Though by no means a success, the top speed of the J.5 is reckoned to be somewhere in the region of 480mph, which would have beaten the 469mph of the Bf-209 and the technologies it proved would later be used in some of Britain's most successful aircraft of WWII

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