Napier Luton – Flight Development Establishment (FDE)
With World War II looming the Air Ministry needed to expand aircraft engine production servicing and testing. As such D Napier & Son had a base at Luton Airport used for Flight Development. The Napier Luton Flight Development Establishment (FDE) was initially used for flight testing the Hawker Typhoon as well as the prototype and production Hawker Tempests. These aircraft were fitted with the Napier Sabre engine. Development work involved trying to find beter ways of cooling the engine. The chin radiators could cause ‘terminal’ accidents if emergency landing in water or with undercarriage failures.
After the war Luton FDE grew and became involved in the development of rocket engines and de-icing systems. Derivatives of the Napier Spraymat de-icing system are used on all types of aircraft today including the Boing 787 Dreamliner.
Luton FDE was also the location for installation and testing of many new applications for Napier engines. Early on a Vickers Warwick III No. HG248 was fitted with two Sabre engines. Later Avro Lincoln aircraft had firstly a Napier Naiad turboprop and then a Napier Nomad engine installed in the front nose section of the aircraft. Then the Napier Eland was flown in Varsity and Convair aircraft.
Initially consisting of a series of hangers next to the grass landing strip Napier Luton grew with a large office block and production area being constrcted to the side of and behind the hangers.
As well as flight test Napier Luton was used for deveoping the Sraymat De-Icing system and rocketry systems. It also had a model shop and comprehensive metallurgical laboratory which often took in work from other local businesses.
The Napier Luton remains today and site is now part of GKN Transparencies. Even some of the hangers remanin where the Avro Lincoln was pushed in sideways on skates!