Miles M.52: Britain’s Top Secret Supersonic Research Aircraft

Published: December 16th, 2016     
Product Image
Book cover
Author: Tony Buttler
Reviewed by: Frank Landrus - IPMS# 35035
ISBN #: 9781910809044
Other Publication Information: Hard Bound, 8.5” x 11”, 160 pages
Price: $39.95
Product / Stock #: AD904
Product provided by: Specialty Press

Tony Buttler was born in 1956 and joined High Duty Alloys in Redditch in 1974 as a metallurgist. For nearly 20 years he was closely involved in the testing of aluminum and titanium airframe and engine components for many of the world's most important airplanes. It was during this timeframe that his interest in military aircraft grew into a passion. Since 1995, Tony has been a freelance aviation historian, with this book being his twenty-sixth major release. He has also written many titles for the Warpaint series of monographs as well as many articles for most of the popular historical aviation magazines.

The cover painting by Daniel Uhr depicts the Miles M.52 in flight ahead of its chase plane, a Gloster Meteor. This painting is reproduced again after the title page, pristine, without all the titles. I counted 112 black and white photographs, 18 color pictures, 20 tables, and 16 tables on 160 glossy pages.

Seventy years ago, the British cancelled the Miles M.52 contract. Tony Buttler has possibly assembled the most complete account of the Miles M.52 to date. Coordinating with Miles Aircraft archivists and accessing previously unpublished reports, drawings, and photographs, Tony Buttler provides an engaging story of what might have been. In the end, the post-war budget ax fell, ending the M.52 project. When the end came, there is still a mystery on what was actually completed on the three airframes. Some sources refer to the first airframe being 'nearly complete', 82% complete, or 91% complete. The issue is that it's not certain that these sources are referring to the first airframe or the original wooden mock-up. Parts were probably available for the second and third airframe, but that is also up for debate. Miles as a company didn't survive long after and the factory ended up in Handley Page's hands. What isn't up for debate is that unfortunately, most of the archives for Miles Aircraft Limited were destroyed in the early 1960s.

I found the chapter on the Vickers scaled down models of the M.52 quite interesting. A Mosquito B.MkXVI served as the carrier vehicle to deliver essentially three interesting outcomes. The first test vehicle presumably fell to the ocean floor after the carrier aircraft was tumbled about in a thunderhead. The second test vehicle exploded doing its best imitation of an iron bomb. The third and last test vehicle disappeared westerly into the ocean after being clocked at Mach 1.38. As these test vehicles were rocket propelled, their value to the M.52 program may be questionable, but still was an interesting event in British supersonic lore.

The Chapters include:

  • Introduction
  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter One: Origins
    • Setting the Scene
    • Outside Influence [Page 15]
    • Why Miles Aircraft?
  • Chapter Two: Research and Development [Page 25]
  • Chapter Three: Designing the M.52
    • Detail Design: The Wing
    • Detail Design: The Tail, Fin, and Power Controls
    • Detail Design: The Fuselage [Page 38]
    • Detail Design: Pilot Safety
    • Wind Tunnel Models Used for M.52 Research
    • Detail Design: Powerplant
    • Wind Tunnel Testing
    • RAE Research
  • Chapter Four: Development Trials
    • Replacement Tailplanes
    • Other Pilots and the 'Gillette' Falcon
    • High Speed Plans [Page 64]
    • Engine Test Beds
  • Chapter Five: Aircraft and Engine
    • Mock-up
    • Airframe
    • Wings
    • Fuselage
    • Cabin
    • All-Moving Tailplane
    • Fin and Rudder
    • Undercarriage
    • Flying Controls
    • Booster Jacks and Hydraulic System
    • Pilot Escape
    • Instrumentation
    • Minimization of Panels
    • Engine and Powerplant [Page 85]
    • Estimated Performance
  • Chapter Six: Cancellation and Controversy
    • 1945 Progress
    • The Axe Falls
    • No Longer Secret [Page 100]
    • Sir Ben Lockspeiser
    • Airframe Progress
    • Pilot
    • Performance
    • Would the M.52 Have Been the First?
    • 'Problem Area': Barnes Wallis
    • 'Problem Area': Swept Wings
    • 'Problem Area': Pilot Safety
    • 'Problem Area': Performance
    • 'Problem Area': Cost and External Forces
    • A Matter of Priorities
  • Chapter Seven: Vickers and the Supersonic Models
    • Supersonic Committee [Page 111]
    • In Detail
    • Carrier Aircraft, Observation and Ground Control
    • Test Vehicle Trials
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter Eight: The M.52 and the Bell X-1
    • 'Every Assistance'
  • Chapter Nine: The M.52 Legacy
    • Reheat
    • All-Flying Tailplane and Powered Controls
    • Thin Straight Wing [Page 135]
    • Nose Design
    • Data Acquisition
    • British Supersonic Research Beyond the M.52
  • Appendix One: Bancroft Review
    • Compressibility
    • Shock Waves
    • Thrust and Speed
  • Appendix Two: On Performance Estimates
  • Appendix Three: Capt. Eric Brown's Notes for Flying the Gillette Falcon
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography and Source Notes
  • Index

    I really appreciated Tony Buttler tone and his attempt at presenting just the facts. Previous books on the M.52 have presented one view, while Tony has at least presented both sides. His research into the documentation is refreshing and allows a clearer picture for the reader to decide. Tony Buttler is able to weave in a tremendous amount of design and flight data in conjunction with flight testing, the political drama of the day, and still manage to provide a compelling and readable storyline. Impressive.

    My thanks to Specialty Press and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

    Highly recommended!

  • Back cover
    Back cover
  • Page 15
    Page 15
  • Page 25
    Page 25
  • Page 38
    Page 38
  • Page 64
    Page 64
  • Page 85
    Page 85
  • Page 100
    Page 100
  • Page 111
    Page 111
  • Page 135
    Page 135

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