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Aeroplane Icons Series - Lightning, the all-British supersonic Cold War interceptor.
Aeroplane Icons Series - Lightning, the all-British supersonic Cold War interceptor.

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Cold War Warrior
poken of in hushed tones by those who remember the type in service and longed for by those too young to remember it in flight, the English Electric Lightning is one of the most iconic British jets ever built. The highly swept wings, the bulletlike nose cone and the ear-splitting crackle from its reheated Avon engines combined to make the aircraft unmistakable. It was the first operational British aircraft capable of achieving twice the speed of sound and although designed primarily as an interceptor to meet incoming Soviet bombers at heights up to 60,000ft, it was later developed for ground attack. The Lightning was clearly an aeroplane with much promise and export potential, yet despite a decade of development by the boffins at English Electric, it was struck down by a very British problem... indecision and ineptitude by policy makers and government bodies. Speaking frankly in his ‘Silver Flash’ article on page 22, the late Roland ‘Bee’ Beamont (the legendary test pilot) bemoans the Lightning project as, “bedeviled by prevarication and repeated Whitehall U-turns.” That said, the type served the RAF gallantly until 1988 and it was still winning gunnery competitions against all comers in its last year of service. I’ve yet to meet anyone who wasn’t inspired by the Lightning; whether an aviation enthusiast, a fighter pilot, a ‘wannabe’ pilot or a six year-old child, everyone seems to be touched by the exciting looks and rip-roaring performance associated with the type. Today, more than 55 years after it first flew, the aeroplane still looks ‘right’. Its aggressive, yet beautiful lines have not dated over the years and if a Lightning were sat on the flightline today, few would believe that it is a contemporary of the Ford Popular and the Austin Mini! Through the pages of this book, we have tried to bring the Lightning story to life. Period reports and articles from The Aeroplane have been combined with a mix of features about the aircraft in service and in preservation. We have also been able to publish some of the glass plate negatives that reside in The Aeroplane archive and have never seen the light of day. Of course, these pages can only scratch the surface of such a complex and lengthy story as the Lightning, but I hope that we have been able to do justice to what is, without doubt, a true icon. Steve Bridgewater Editor September 2011

Contributors: Martyn Chorlton, Wg Cdr J A Robinson AFC, Keith Gaskell, Adrian M Balch, Mick Jennings MBE, Gareth Stringer, Andy Hay Copy editor: Rebecca Gibbs Proof reading: Richard Hale

Published by

Printed by William Gibbons & Sons Ltd on behalf of Kelsey Publishing Ltd, Cudham Tithe Barn, Berry’s Hill, Cudham, Kent TN16 3AG Tel: 01959 541444 Fax: 01959 541400 Email: kelseybooks@kelsey.co.uk Website: www.kelsey.co.uk ©2011 ISBN: 9 781907 426223

English Electric Lightning 3

6 The Lightning Story - from P.1 to F.6
 The English Electric Lightning was the only all British, supersonic, single-seat jet fighter/interceptor to serve with the RAF. Martyn Chorlton looks at the genesis of a true icon.

34 Lightning Production
 Unlike first generation British jets such as the Meteor and Canberra, the later Lightning was never produced in massive numbers and did not see tremendous export success. Martyn Chorlton crunches the numbers to reveal what was built, when and for whom.

50 1,000mph!
n this extract from an article he wrote I for Aeroplane Monthly in February 1992, English Electric Chief Test Pilot Roland Beamont recalls reaching the magic 1,000mph figure in the P.1A.

20 In a Spin!
 Former English Electric Chief Test Pilot Roland Beamont recounts an unexpected event during the testing of the P.1A prototype.

56  ‘Learn to test, Test to learn’
 Wg Cdr J A ‘Robby’ Robinson AFC passed through the ETPS as a student, tutor and also became the school’s commandant. He fondly recalls the unit’s Lightning Years.

36 Lightning Losses
 Of the 339 Lightnings built, some 116 were lost in accidents and incidents. We look at the fates that befell them.

24 A Flash of Silver
 Legendary English Electric chief test pilot Roland Beamont looks back at his test flying of the prototype Lightnings between 1954 and 1958.

42 T.5 Alive
 One of the last few ‘live’ Lightnings is something of a dream come true for its owner. Steve Bridgewater speaks to Russell Carpenter about XS458.

64 Thunder City Lightnings
 For a decade Thunder City offered the final chance to see a Lightning aloft. Keith Gaskell looks back at the Lightning’s swansong.

4 English Electric Lightning

70  When I Was On Lightnings
 The Lightning instilled many happy memories in those associated with the type. So-called ‘When I Was On Lightnings’ (WIWOL) stories are the stuff of legends.

90 Thunder and Lightnings
 In an extract from his book RAF Coltishall, Fighter Station, Mick Jennings MBE looks back at the base’s Lightning years.

102 Warton at Work
 In the April 3, 1959 issue of The Aeroplane the British public was introduced to the new English Electric Aviation Ltd.

78  The Magic Carpet to Al Yamamah
 Martyn Chorlton tells the story of the Kuwaiti and Royal Saudi Air Force Air Force Lightnings.

98 Lightning Cut Away
 The inner workings of English Electric’s potent interceptor laid bare.

108 Lightning Units
 Martyn Chorlton looks at which units flew what, from where, and when!

112 Survivors
 Of the 337 Lightnings built by English Electric a small, yet healthy, number survive today. Gareth Stringer looks at those that survived the scrap man’s torch.

84 On Parade
 If ever there was an aircraft that captured the airshow-goers imagination it was the Lightning. Adrian M Balch looks back at the display career of the English Electric fighter.

100  The Last, Last Lightning Show
 The Lightning was a phenomenal display aircraft but few airshow appearances were as dramatic or emotional as the farewell flypast. Keith Gaskell recalls the ‘Last, Last Lightning Show’.

English Electric Lightning 5

The Lightning story - from
The English Electric Lightning was the only all British, supersonic, single-seat jet fighter/ interceptor to serve with the RAF. Martyn Chorlton looks at the genesis of a true icon.


he end of World War Two brought about an opportunity to combine Sir Frank Whittle’s efforts as an engine designer with a sudden influx of German aerodynamic data and technology. The Luftwaffe had already experienced the Messerschmitt Me262 and Me163 in service and, to a lesser extent, the Heinkel He162 and the Arado Ar234. Technology captured from the Germans also revealed a host of breathtaking designs and a clear and logical understanding of wing designs, and more importantly, their progress with the axial flow engine.

1,000mph and the ability to reach 36,000ft in 90 seconds. Miles came up with the diminutive M.52, which it began designing in 1942, and by 1944 it had received an order for three prototypes. Unfortunately, the Air Ministry signed an agreement with the

Even though performances by these early jets left their piston-powered predecessors far behind, there were many designers who believed that considerably higher speeds could be achieved. As early as 1943, the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) came up with Specification E.24/43, which called for an aircraft capable of reaching As early as 1943, the Ministry of Aircraft Production called for an aircraft capable of reaching 1,000mph and the ability to reach 36,000ft in 90 seconds. The Miles M.52 showed promise but was cancelled, being deemed ‘too risky’. However, an unmanned, scaled down version later reached Mach 1.38 in level flight.

USA to exchange research data on the subject of high-speed flight; while the Americans (specifically the Bell Aircraft Company) were given full access to the M.52, no such data was ever shared in return, and the information was used to fine tune the Bell X-1. By 1946, the new Labour government cancelled the project; the manned M.52 was seen as far too risky an undertaking. However, the design was not dead and was passed on to Vickers-Armstrongs and redesigned by Barnes Wallis as a radio-controlled ‘model’ version that was nearly a third smaller than the original M.52. On October 8, 1947, the first ‘model’ was dropped by a Mosquito at high-altitude but a failure in its Armstrong Siddeley Beta rocket engine caused the machine to explode not long after its release. Just six days later, American test pilot Chuck Yeager took the Bell X-1 through the sound barrier; Britain had missed its chance to lead the field in supersonic flight. However, the data and experience

6 English Electric Lightning

P.1 to F.6

The serials XA847, XA853 and XA856 were allocated to the first three P.1Bs, and on April 4, 1957, Beamont unleashed the next English Electric jet down Warton’s runway for the first time. XA847 behaved impeccably on its first outing, breaching Mach 1.2, and the P.1B completed 37 flights over the next two months.

gained from the M.52 and its smaller Vickers variant had not gone to waste, and in an event that seems to have been consigned deep within the history books, Barnes Wallis’s ‘model’ reached Mach 1.38 in level flight almost exactly a year after its first unsuccessful launch.

Canberra Kick Start
While the M.52 floundered, the lack of government interest in high-speed

Several British aviation companies began independent studies into high-speed designs but English Electric was already in a strong position thanks to ‘Teddy’ Petter’s Canberra design. The high-speed, high-altitude, jet-powered replacement provided know-how that was invaluable in the P.1 programme.

designs saw several British Aviation companies begin independent studies. English Electric was already in a strong position thanks to W E W ‘Teddy’ Petter’s design to Specification B.3/45. This twoseat high flying jet-powered replacement of the Mosquito would evolve into the Canberra, a design that would serve the RAF into the 21st Century. Preliminary designs and investigations began in 1946, and it soon became apparent that an enemy bomber approaching at Mach 0.85 and 50,000ft (projected figures for the B.3/45) could not be intercepted by a ‘modern’ RAF fighter such as the Meteor F.4. This was by no means a criticism of the Meteor, which was designed to operate at lower altitudes, but simply highlighted the disadvantages of this type, especially above 40,000ft.

Swept Wing
The Meteor’s straight winged design was obviously not the way forward, and Petter set about producing a new

aircraft with heavily swept wings. The sweep was designed to delay the effects of compressibility and, to give the new jet any chance of breaching Mach 1, two engines would have to be installed. Their location would also be a major feature of Petter’s ingenious new design. Rather than being placed out on the wings like the Meteor, or side by side like the Javelin, the new fighter would have the engines positioned on top of each other but fed by a single oval intake in the nose. It must have been a very exciting time in the design office at Warton when Petter and his team came together with their ideas in late 1946. By early 1947, Petter presented the design of the new supersonic fighter to the Ministry of Supply (MoS) and, despite its apathy towards such projects, he was pleasantly surprised to receive a design study contract, ER.103, for the production and development of a single aircraft. The requirement called for an experimental research aircraft capable

English Electric Lightning 7

As well as the new purpose-built wind tunnel built by English Electric, Short Brothers was also contracted by the RAE to produce an ‘airborne test vehicle’. This oneoff aircraft would have the unique ability to carry a selection of wing and tail layouts, and working closely with the data produced by the wind tunnel could prove or disprove design theories. The sweep range could also be adjusted through three positions: 50°, 60° and 69°. The resultant Short SB.5 (WG768) bore an uncanny resemblance to the design that English Electric was slowly formulating. It first flew from Sydenham on December 2, 1952, with Shorts’ chief test pilot Tom Brook-Smith at the controls, and by early 1953 the SB.5 had begun a series of test flights, beginning with its wings set at 50° and a T-tail fitted. After several months and many hours of useful flight data, a wing sweep of 60° and a low set tailplane was found to be the best layout. The low tailplane was preferred after it was discovered that the swept wing blanked out the effectiveness of the T-tail at high angles of attack.

under the guise of a Design Study For A Fighter With Transonic Performance, and by early October Petter was keen to move the project forward, following the recently issued Specification F.23/49 (OR.268). The team felt ready to proceed with a prototype aircraft.

All Change
However, in January 1950 Petter resigned from English Electric and, taking several of his design team with him, moved to Folland Aircraft, where he went on to design the Midge followed by the successful Gnat. There was now a great deal of internal manoeuvring of key staff within English Electric, and the company’s Chief Stress Analyst, Freddie W Page (later Sir Freddie Page and Chairman of British Aerospace), become the project manager for the P.1. He breathed fresh life into the project, overcoming many problems that were highlighted thanks to the data gained from the SB.5. In April 1950, the company received the all-important contract (6/Aircraft/5175/ CB.7[a]) for the design and manufacture of three prototype aircraft, constructed to F.23/49 specification. The contract demanded that five key items be produced. Firstly, one aircraft kitted out with just essential equipment and instrumentation for aerodynamic testing, handling and performance trials, and a second aircraft to be built as per the first, but fully equipped before final delivery. The contract also called for the supply of all necessary components from the airframe for structural testing, and all engine ducting needed for bench testing. A full non-flying mock-up was also to be built, plus a gun firing platform and all ground support rigs needed.

Ministry of Supply design study contract, ER.103, called for an experimental research aircraft capable of reaching Mach 1.5 at 36,000ft. Whilst English Electric created the P.1, its rival Fairey created the FD.2. Peter Twiss used the FD.2 to break the world speed record in March 1953 but plans to turn it into a fighter didn’t materialise. of reaching Mach 1.5 at 36,000ft. Worthy of mention is Fairey, which also produced a design to ER.103 criteria. The ensuing Fairey Delta FD.2 (WG774) was used by Peter Twiss to break the world speed record in March 1953, but it was not until the 1960s that the aerodynamic data it provided was used to full effect with the Concorde project.

Sound Barrier
By the spring of 1948, English Electric’s already highly experienced test pilot Wg Cdr Roland P ‘Bee’ Beamont was lucky enough to fly the XP-86 at the Muroc Test Centre in California. In doing so he also became the first British pilot to break the sound barrier, which was all very useful experience considering that he would be earmarked as the main test pilot for the ER.103 project. Relaying all of his findings back to English Electric resulted in Beamont becoming part of the design team – the first time a pilot had been allowed to be so intimately involved. Meanwhile, Petter’s design team set to work on the daunting task of producing a test aircraft capable of reaching Mach 2. The aerodynamics for the new aircraft were placed in the hands of two specialists, Dai Ellis and Ray Creasey, who had already established that the wing needed to have a sweep of approximately 60° to achieve the desired speed. The wing was only part of the battle, however, as there was much discussion regarding the positioning of the tail, with Petter favouring a low-set tail arrangement.

The Short SB.5 was used as an ‘airborne test vehicle’ capable of flying with a selection of wing and tail layouts. After several months testing and many hours of useful flight data, a wing sweep of 60° and a low set tailplane was found to be the best layout. Heavily criticised at the time as an extravagant waste of money, the SB.5 was an incredibly useful tool that helped the new English Electric supersonic jet to hit the ground running. After the English Electric programme was complete, WG768 was retained by the RAE and continued to serve as a low-speed research aircraft until 1968, hopefully confounding its critics.

From the outset, Petter had designed the P.1 to be powered by the Rolls-Royce Avon engine, but after development trial delays and committed production to the Canberra, none would be available for the proposed first flight date. It was therefore proposed that the un-reheated Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire S Assa.5 could be used as a temporary replacement instead. The airframe and mountings were suitably modified for the 7,500lb thrust Sapphire, which was calculated as being more than adequate for pushing the P.1 through Mach 1, despite the lack of reheat. However, the engine’s poor acceleration, coupled with the smaller quantity of fuel that the P.1 could carry, would make supersonic flight very difficult achieve. Flight control at supersonic speeds was also an unknown that demanded a new approach. Traditional cable controlled systems had a tendency to jam at high speeds, although the problem was partly solved by the introduction of hydraulic boosters. Irreversible hydraulic screw-jacks were therefore proposed for the P.1. These worked fine but had the disadvantage of removing all ‘feel’ from the pilot. To give the pilot an artificial feel, a ‘Q’ unit consisting of a collection of cams, cogs and springs was installed

The magic numbers of 60° sweep for the leading edge of the wing and 52° for the trailing edge were now set in stone. With a 5% thickness and a taper ratio of just 0.15, Ellis and Creasey were confident that compressibility could be delayed well beyond Mach 1. Once again, Petter approached the MoS with his team’s findings in early 1949. By March, J E Serby of the MoS wrote to Petter, granting preliminary approval for English Electric to proceed with the design that would evolve into the P.1. Mr Serby outlined the next stage of development with a request for a 1/4 scale model for Rolls-Royce, and two models for testing in the company’s own wind tunnel. By May, a formal contract was issued

In the spring of 1948, English Electric test pilot Roland ‘Bee’ Beamont was lucky enough to fly the XP-86 at the Muroc Test Centre in California. In doing so he also became the first British pilot to break the sound barrier.

8 English Electric Lightning

Beamont had been due to make the P.1A’s maiden flight on August 3, 1954, but as he entered the cockpit he accidently set off the enginebay fire extinguishers. It would take the remainder of the day to clean up the expellant, thus postponing the flight to the following day.

on each control run. Each unit gave the double benefit of giving the pilot a realistic return to his control input and stopping the pilot from overstressing the airframe by inserting a governor, which restricted the amount of control surface available as speed increased.

“As Beamont entered the cockpit he accidently set off the engine-bay fire extinguishers”
The system was first tested in October 1948, on a Halifax with an Automotive Products Ltd Servodyne fitted to the aircraft’s elevator controls. Two of the

aircrew involved in the trial were Beamont and Johnny Squier, both of whom would feature prominently in the future of the P.1 and the Lightning beyond. The parameters for the unit in the Halifax were set to a maximum speed of 650kts at 70,000ft, which was obviously way beyond the wartime bomber’s performance range, but the aircraft could provide data at the lower end of the performance envelope, from which the projected effectiveness of the unit at the higher end could be calculated. The units selected for the P.1 were produced by H M Hobson Ltd of Wolverhampton, which specialised in power systems for primary flight controls, utilising both irreversible double-acting rams and hydraulic motor-powered screw jacks.

P.1 Performance
Performance at the top end of the P.1’s flight envelope had already been confidently predicted, but calculations for the bottom end of the performance bracket were also estimated to give alarmingly high numbers as well. Approach and landing

speed was estimated to be in the region of 160kts and it was quite possible that the first landings would be carried out at speeds approaching 200kts. This effectively meant that Warton’s 1,700m runway was simply not long enough to handle the P.1, so it was decided that Boscombe Down would host the first flight and 19 subsequent shake-down flights. Construction of the P.1s was carried out at Samlesbury, near Preston and, by 1953, the serial WG760 had been allocated to the first aircraft, now referred to as the P.1A. As work progressed throughout the year the whole project was shrouded in secrecy, and it was not until the 1954 Defence White Paper that the existence of the P.1A was revealed. Even at this stage though, the manufacturer and even the most basic of details regarding the new aircraft were kept firmly under wraps. During May 1954, WG760 was completed and was having its ground systems tested at Strand Road in Preston. Once this task was complete, the aircraft was dismantled down to its major components and transported by road to Boscombe Down in June.

Maiden ‘Hop’
On arrival, the company engineers wasted no time re-assembling WG760, and following a few hydraulic issues and problems with the Sapphire engines, the aircraft was ready for its first taxi trial on July 24, 1954. With Beamont at the controls, WG760 began a series of ground trials that were completed by August 2. Everything from the braking system, the nose wheel steering and the brake ’chute was tested within the comfortable confines of Boscombe’s long runway.

On arrival at Boscombe Down, WG760 was reassembled and taxi trials began on July 24, 1954. Everything from the braking system to the nose wheel steering and the brake ’chute was tested within the comfortable confines of Boscombe’s long runway.

English Electric Lightning 9

For WG760’s first flight the speed was restricted to just 450kts, and an altitude of 17,000ft was reached. The flight only lasted for 33 minutes but now Britain could finally boast its own supersonic fighter. On at least one occasion during these ‘ground’ trials, Beamont exceeded 125kts and very briefly WG760 lifted from the runway. Not only did this give confidence to the pilot and the engineers, but it also confirmed that the design was spot on, and Beamont immediately confirmed that the aircraft was very stable at low speeds. Having already familiarised himself with the SB.5, Beamont and the engineers were ready for the next step, the maiden flight. August 3 was chosen as the day for the first flight, but as Beamont entered the cockpit he accidently set off the enginebay fire extinguishers. It would take the remainder of the day to clean up the expellant, thus postponing the flight to the following day. On August 4, the process began again, and with Beamont safely strapped into the cockpit, WG760 taxied out to the runway accompanied by a Canberra chase-plane. After priority clearance was received from ATC, Beamont opened the throttles to full power at 0958hrs, launching WG760 down the runway for a faultless take-off. Speed was restricted to just 450kts during the first flight and an altitude of 17,000ft was reached. The aircraft flew much as expected, although Beamont later reported that the ailerons were very sensitive and, once the gear and flaps were retracted, WG760 displayed a habit of pitching down. The airbrakes also incurred heavy buffeting but the only technical fault was the total failure of the radios straight after take-off. Quoting from Beamont’s flight test report: ‘In this short flight the aircraft proved to be pleasant and straightforward to fly, with the take-off and landing operations lacking in complication.’ The flight only lasted for 33 minutes but now Britain could finally boast its own supersonic fighter. that would become so familiar to all who remember the Lightning days. With throttles pushed to maximum, the airspeed indicator settled at Mach 0.98 at 30,000ft, and with supersonic flight tantalisingly close, would go no faster. With fuel already low, Beamont took the opportunity to carry out a maximum speed turn back to Boscombe and landed without incident. The following day he would learn that that the on-board Airspeed Indicator (ASI) was wrong and that he had actually become the first British pilot to break the sound barrier in level flight. Rectification work was carried out on August 12, and the following day, with increasing confidence in WG760, Beamont once again roared down the runway. At 40,000ft he levelled out and opened the throttles, but once again the jet gave the impression of sticking at Mach 0.98. However, keeping the throttles at maximum finally pushed the aircraft through the sound barrier to Mach 1.01. Beamont quickly moved the flight controls in all three axes, revealing no problems at all. WG760 continued on to just over Mach 1.08 before the fuel reached a dangerously low level, forcing a return to Boscombe Down.

“Britain could finally boast its own supersonic fighter”
Onwards and Upwards
The second flight of WG760, on August 5, was slightly more eventful, as Beamont experienced an aileron lock-up while performing a 2G turn at 400kts. After delicately returning the precious aircraft to Boscombe, Beamont initially thought that it was FOD (Foreign Object Damage) that had caused the problem. No FOD was found, but it was discovered that the aileron system was calibrated for longitudinal accelerations and not for fast turns. A decision was made to carry out one more flight before WG760 was subjected to the first of many waves of modifications. So, on August 11, Beamont pointed WG760 towards the heavens in a fashion

Two Up
By September 23, Warton’s new, longer runway had been completed, allowing Beamont to fly the P.1A back to Lancashire. On November 28, 1954, WG760 chalked up

WG763, the second P.1A, differed from WG760 by virtue of the many lessons and data gained from the original aircraft. The most significant differences were the addition of a removable 2,000 Imp Gal ventral fuel tank and a pair of 30mm Aden cannons in the upper nose. The flaps were modified to the single hinged type and the aircraft first flew on July 18, 1955.

10 English Electric Lightning

On September 5, 1957, the second P.1B, XA853, joined the programme, with Desmond de Villiers making the maiden flight. It is seen here boasting what appears a false canopy painted below the fuselage.

“The Lightning F.1 was about to launch the RAF into a new era”
its 50th flight and by this time the second P.1A (WG763) was reaching an advanced stage of construction. Many lessons and data gained from the original aircraft were incorporated into the WG763, the most significant difference being the addition of a removable 2,000 Imp Gal ventral fuel tank. A pair of 30mm Aden cannons was also fitted in the upper nose and the flaps were modified to the single hinged type. By early summer 1955, WG760 had reached the maximum possible speed attainable from its two dry thrust Sapphires: Mach 1.4. A few days later, the second P.1A, WG763, joined the programme when it made its maiden flight from Warton on July 18, with Beamont at the controls. As planned, WG760 was then grounded in order to fit a pair of re-heated Sapphires. The new engines had a lower dry thrust of 5,000lbs each but once reheat was engaged this was raised to an eye-watering 10,000lbs. On its first flight with the new engines on January 31, 1956, WG760 reached a height of 40,000ft in just three and a half minutes and reached Mach 1.4 with little trouble. At Mach 1.45 longitudinal control began to suffer but this did not stop the aircraft from reaching its full maximum of Mach 1.56 in February. By late 1956, WG760 was grounded again, this time for a pair of new wings with 55° sweep outside of the leading edge notch. This new design gave several

advantages including greatly increased stability at lower speed, which doubly increased flying time due to more internal space for a larger fuel tank. The wing was now squarer at the tip and the original leading edge flaps – which were proving ineffective – were removed. Early flighttesting was promising and, while WG760 was flown to its limit, Freddie Page decided that the Mach 2 barrier would be breached by the next link in the evolutionary chain.

P.1B - The Intermediate
Work began on an advanced version of the P.1A in 1954, with data gleaned from WG760. In August 1955, the MoS finally issued a contract for the production of three P.1Bs. Once again, the aircraft would be hand-built, but a contract for a further 20 Development Batch (DB) P.1Bs would see the arrival of production jigs. Despite being only the second version of the breed, the design of the P.1B had

English Electric P.1B XG332 was the penultimate aircraft from a batch of 20 Development Batch (DB) aircraft.

English Electric Lightning 11

already advanced to an appearance resembling the Lightning that would eventually enter service. Externally, the most notable difference was the replacement of the oval intake with a circular one. Within this was a striking looking conical bullet that housed an AI.23 AIRPAS (Airborne Interception Radar & Pilot Attack Sight System) radar designed by Ferranti. The cockpit and the canopy were raised, providing the pilot with a much improved field of vision, and an early example of an HUD (Head Up Display) was also fitted. Additional electronics were installed to help aim the 30mm Aden cannon, and pylons were fitted either side of the lower forward fuselage for a pair of Blue Jay (Firestreak) missiles. However, the most significant difference between the P.1A and the P.1B was the power-plant. The original intended engine, the Rolls-Royce Avon, was now available and the P.1B was fitted with a pair of Avon RA.24 Mk.210s with a dry thrust of 11,250lbs each. Compared to the earlier Sapphire, the Avon was incredibly advanced and was fitted with a four stage nozzle which made the unit very smooth and comparatively efficient throughout the speed range. The engines were started using Plessey AVPIN (Isopropyl Nitrate) gas units and the fuselage was modified to accommodate the larger Avon. Other modifications included the fitment of a hot air bleed turbine for electrical power and the airbrakes were redesigned to eliminate the earlier P.1A buffet. The undercarriage was also changed, mainly the nose unit, which now retracted forward and was a much simpler and lighter design. Nosewheel steering was also removed, with the aircraft now being controlled on the ground by differential breaking. However, one feature from the P.1A remained, namely the short fin, which was later to prove inadequate to cope with the aerodynamic effects of the increased fuselage area and the power of the larger engines.

Lightning F.1A XM144 was first flown on March 14, 1960, and joined 74 Sqn, before serving with 226 OCU and Target Facilities Flights at Leconfield, Wattisham and Leuchars. She ended her career with 23 Sqn and spent a while on the gate at RAF Leuchars before being scrapped in 1994. She is seen here visiting Bentwaters in 1970. Image: Caz Caswell down Warton’s runway. XA847 behaved impeccably, breaching Mach 1.2 on its first outing and, within the following two months, the P.1B had completed 37 flights. It was ironic that only weeks earlier Duncan Sandys, MP, had naïvely recited in his infamous 1957 Defence White Paper that manned fighters would become a thing of the past, in favour of an all-missile defence capability. While many significant and worthwhile projects were scrapped forthwith, English Electric’s supersonic jet was, thankfully, left alone. The P.1B’s handling was far superior to the original aircraft and, with twice the power at its disposal, English Electric was confident that the aircraft would breach Mach 2. The only issue with the P.1B was a loss of longitudinal stability when the ventral tank and missiles were fitted. This problem had already been predicted and revolved around the lack of fin, which was already being redesigned. On September 5, 1957, the second P.1B, XA853, joined the program with Desmond de Villiers at the controls. Both P.1Bs now set to work clearing any anomalies that may develop prior to the pre-production aircraft starting their own flight test programme. The last ‘hand-built’ aircraft, XA856, took to the air from Warton with Beamont at the controls on January 1, 1958. This aircraft performed 34 ‘shakedown’ flights before being transferred to Roll-Royce at Hucknall, where it continued to work as part of the Avon development program until June 1967.

“The AI.23 automatically locked-on, the radar tracked the targets’ movements, and a powerful computer processed the information”

Saved from Sandys
The serials XA847, XA853 and XA856 were allocated to the first three P.1Bs and on April 4, 1957, Beamont was ready to unleash the next English Electric jet

The first of 20 pre-production or DB (Development Batch) P.1Bs, XG307, left the production line at Samlesbury in late March 1958, with Beamont carrying out its first flight on April 3. The P.1 family gained a more familiar name when the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Dermot Boyle, broke a bottle of champagne over the nose of XA847 at Farnborough on October 23, 1958, and declared that the fighter would be known as the Lightning. It was to be an exciting few weeks for XA847 as, on November 25, it became the first British aircraft to exceed Mach 2, once again in the hands of Beamont. Despite this outstanding achievement, the only celebration was a small commemorative metal plate that was riveted to the port side of the forward fuselage.

Lightning F.1A XM138 first flew on December 30, 1960, and served with various units during its career. It is seen here in the markings of the Air Fighting Development Squadron.

12 English Electric Lightning

19 Sqn Lightning F.2 XN733 is seen here on approach to Gütersloh in July 1973. The aeroplane had been built in 1962 and during her time with 29 Sqn she appeared at the 1970 SBAC show at Farnborough. She was finally withdrawn in January 1977 and ended her days as a decoy at Laarbruch. Image: Bob Archer Meanwhile, the remaining DB P.1Bs, XG308 to XG337, were rolling off the Samlesbury production line. All were in the air by September 1959, and this influx of aircraft introduced several test pilots, including Peter Hillwood, Johnny Squier, Tim Ferguson, Keith Isherwood, Jimmy Dell and Don Knight to the type. Each P.1B was allocated a specific area of the test programme to contribute to. For example, the first two aircraft, XG307 and XG308 (later joined by XG310 and XG311), were heavily involved in handling trials with tasks that included stalling and spinning. Weapons carriages and their firing were performed by XG309 (guns), XG313 (rockets) XG322 (Firestreak and Red Top), XG325 (Firestreak), XG328 (Auto-attack trials) and XG329 (guns), although the earlier P.1Bs, XA847 and XA853, had already made inroads into the aircraft’s weapons development. Others, including XG312, XG326 and XG331 were involved in shaking down the Lightning attack system, the Ferranti AI.23.

While a large number of the early developmental trials were carried out by English Electric (soon to be BAC) at Warton, the Aircraft & Armaments Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down was also heavily involved in preparing the Lightning for service with the RAF. Al Merriman (later Air Commodore) was serving with ‘A’ Squadron, A&AEE at the time and one of many trials he was involved with was the AI.23. “My most memorable flight was to establish whether the lock-

follow system could hold lock on a target down to the minimum range of about half a mile, at very high closing speeds,” he recalls. “I planned to use a Javelin flying at Mach 0.95 as target, while I attacked it head on at Mach 1.7, giving a closing speed well over Mach 2.6. This would be roughly equivalent to a Lightning at Mach 1.2 to 1.4 meeting the then-predicted threat flying at Mach 1.3 to 1.4. To give me time to reach Mach 1.7 over the Channel meant starting the two aircraft about 200 miles apart. Radar guidance would be essential and normally we relied on Sopley radar for surveillance. However, they advised that the fighter controllers were not permitted to conduct a head-on interception for flight safety reasons. “After some discussion with Fighter Command, a concession was given for one sortie as long as we took full responsibility for collision avoidance. The fighter controllers themselves were as keen as mustard to participate. Nothing like it had been done or seen by them before. In the event they did a marvellous job and the radar performed exceptionally well. I spotted the Javelin visually at about four miles and was able to slide past with about 200 yards lateral separation. The Javelin pilot (another A Squadron test pilot) reported a massive jolt when the shock wave from the Lightning hit him. Some years later, when the Javelin was used to calibrate the Concorde instruments while flying at various supersonic speeds, a substantial minimum separation distance was laid down in order to avoid structural damage to the Javelin’s fin from shock waves!” All of the DB aircraft contributed greatly to the development of the

The major feature of F.2As was the cranked and cambered wing. In total, some 30 F.2s were converted to F.2A standard and the first entered RAF service with 19 Sqn in January 1968, followed by fellow Gütersloh residents 92 Sqn, by August of the same year. Here a lineup of F.2As from 92 Sqn graces the ramp on May 1, 1977. Image: Bob Archer

English Electric Lightning 13

Lightning, allowing the first full production variant, the F.1, to enter service earlier than originally planned.

Into RAF Service
The much anticipated order from the Air Ministry for the full production version of the Lightning F.1 was received in November 1956. Contract 6/Acft/12715 initially called for 20 aircraft, but one was to be produced as a static airframe. Given the serials XM134 to XM147 and XM163 to XM167, the first aircraft, XM134, made its maiden flight in the safe hands of Beamont from Samlesbury to Warton on October 3, 1959. The F.1 was powered by a pair of Avon 200R (RA24R) engines that could deliver a reheated thrust of up to 14,430lbs apiece. Fitted with a VHF radio, a pair of 30mm Aden cannons in the nose and two Firestreak missiles, all ably assisted by the AI.23 radar, the Lightning F.1 was about to launch the RAF into a new era. After just 14 shakedown flights, XM134 was ready for its next operator, the A&AEE at Boscombe Down, and on March 31, 1960, the aircraft was flown down to Wiltshire by Jimmy Dell. In the meantime, 74 ‘Tiger’ Sqn relinquished its previous Hawker Hunter and became the RAF’s first supersonic squadron. The Coltishall-based unit began to receive its first F.1s in late June 1960 and, despite deliveries being slow, steadily worked itself up into a cohesive unit.

Lightning F.3 XP737 is seen at RAF Valley during her tenure with 226 OCU. The aeroplane was built in 1964 and also served with 23, 29 and 11 Sqns before crashing into the Irish Sea on August 17, 1979 after the undercarriage failed near Valley. Image: Bob Archer external cable ducting for the missile pylons and a new UHF radio. The engines were upgraded in name only (to the Avon 210AR), although the four-position reheat throttle control was revised. The F.1A first entered service with 56 Sqn in December 1960, followed by fellow Wattisham residents 111 Sqn in April the following year. By 1965, the type had already been superseded on the operational squadrons by later marks, although a pair was brought out of semi-retirement for 5 Sqn between 1970 and 1972. The vast majority of F.1s and F.1As were passed onto 226 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) and Target Facilities Flights (TFFs), and several continued to serve into the early 1970s. breathing system and an autopilot. The Avon 210AR now had a fully variable reheat control rather than a staged one. The F.2 was destined to serve with just two operational units, 19 and 92 Sqns, both based at Leconfield, with deliveries commencing in December 1962 and April 1963 respectively. By 1965, both units were moved to West Germany under 2nd TAF control, and the F.2 became the first Lightning to serve overseas. However, it was clear that the F.2 still had untapped potential and, in late 1963, XN795 was returned to Warton for conversion to F.2A standard. The aircraft gained a new fin and could house either an enlarged 610 Imp Gal ventral fuel tank or a mixed fuel/Aden-gun pack setup. This would also be a feature of later variants. The major feature of subsequent F.2As was the cranked and cambered wing which was first tested successfully on P.1A WG760 in 1956. In total, some 30 F.2s were converted to F.2A standard, and the first of the mark entered RAF service with 19 Sqn in January 1968, and with 92 Sqn by August of the same year. Both units were now operating together at Gütersloh. The F.2A served the two squadrons until early 1977, when it was replaced by the Phantom FGR.2.

Quantum Leap
Fighter Command had not experienced such a leap in technology since it was formed back in 1918. With a top speed of over Mach 2 and a ceiling around the 60,000ft mark, the Lightning could reach its operational altitude approximately 2½ minutes after take-off. The jet could accelerate to Mach 2 in under 3½ minutes and Mach 1 could be breached without selecting reheat. The Lightning was also the first RAF single-seat fighter to introduce an integrated weapon system with all systems – including the engines, armament, fire control radar and autocontrols – fully coordinated. The AI.23 gave the pilot the ability to search above and below the horizon simultaneously until the target was spotted on his radar screen and, once automatically locked-on, the radar tracked the targets’ movements while a powerful computer processed the information. This data, including heading of the target, was passed to the pilot so he could close to missile-firing range and launch the Firestreak electronically.

Cranked and Cambered
The next single-seater in the Lightning range was the F.2, and a batch of 50 aircraft was ordered in December 1959. This was later reduced to 44 aircraft (XN723 to XN735 and XN767 to XN797), with deliveries commencing from September 1962 onwards. Jimmy Dell broke the Beamont monopoly of taking the first of a new mark into the air when he took XN723 on its maiden flight from Samlesbury on July 11, 1961. The F.2 differed only subtly from the earlier mark, and its only external modification was a small air scoop on the spine that fed a standby turbo generator for the DC electrical supply. Internally, the cockpit was partially revised with an Integrated Flight System, liquid oxygen

Lightning F.3
The F.3 raised the Lightning to another level and was the most prolific mark built, dominating Fighter Command’s operational squadrons between 1964 and 1966. It was the F.3 that introduced the more powerful

Lightning F.1A
The second part of the original F.1 contract called for 28 advanced F.1A versions (although aircraft XM217 and XM218 were never built). The Lightning was evolving fast and the F.1A (XM169 to XM192 and XM213 to XM216) saw the capability of the aircraft increase by another notch, and the first of the new mark, XM169, made its maiden flight from Samlesbury on August 16, 1960. Externally, the main difference from the earlier mark was the fitment of a long refuelling probe under the port wing, which extended forward of the pilot to give good visibility. Other changes included a windscreen rain dispersal system,

Jimmy Dell took XP693, the first Lightning F.3, into the air from Samlesbury on June 16, 1962. XP693 was retained by BAC for trials work and is seen here at Binbrook in 1987. Image: Keith Gaskell

14 English Electric Lightning

and XR747 to XR751). 74 Sqn was the first operational unit to receive the F.3 at Leuchars in December 1964, followed by 5, 11, 23, 29, 56 and 111 Sqns.

Provision for a two-seater Lightning had been on the drawing board very early on in the fighter’s development. Based on the F.1, the first two-seat variant was designated as the T.4, with a widened cockpit to accommodate an instructor and pupil in a side-by-side layout. Attack sights and radar displays were duplicated and the cannons were deleted from the upper nose. Although originally contracted to build 30 T.4s, only 19 were built (XL628, XL629, XM966, XM968 to XM974 and XM987 to XM997) plus two prototypes, the first of which was lost prematurely after the fin failed during high-speed flight. The vast majority of T.4s served with the Lightning Conversion Squadron (LCS) and 226 OCU, with deliveries beginning in 1960 and continuing until January 1963. The T.5 was based on the F.3 and it therefore enjoyed the extra power of the Avon 301R, which could propel the trainer at over Mach 2 at 36,000ft. The first T.5 was XM967, which was removed from the T.4 line and transported by road to Filton, The Lightning fleet served the RAF throughout the Cold War period and finally retired in 1988, by which time the aircraft had shed their flamboyant colours in favour of subdued greys and greens.

The F.6 inherited the ability to be fitted with a pair of 260 Imp Gal over-wing fuel tanks from the earlier F.3. XS919 first flew in on September 28, 1966 and served with 11, 56, and 5 Sqns, ending her career with 11 Sqn at Binbrook. The aeroplane is now in private hands in Devon. Avon 301R with 16,360lbs of reheated thrust each, but it still retained the original straight-edged wing. The mark also had the larger square cut fin, no cannons and an upgraded AI.23B that could control either the Firestreak or Red Top missiles. The OR946 cockpit was now finally complete and a novel feature was the provision of over-wing ferry tanks, making long range deployments a much more straightforward affair. Once again it was Jimmy Dell who took the first F.3 (XP693) into the air from Samlesbury on June 16, 1962. XP693 was retained by BAC, and XP695 became the first of the breed to enter RAF service when it joined the Central Fighter Establishment (CFE) at Binbrook on January 1, 1964. Out of the original batch of 50 aircraft, 47 were built (XP693 to XP708 and XP735 to XP765), followed by a second batch of 23 F.3s (XR711 to XR728

English Electric Lightning 15

“By August 1967 the last of 278 Lightnings had been delivered to the RAF”

Although originally contracted to build 30 T.4s, only 19 were built – including XL629. This aircraft now guards the gate at Boscombe Down. where Bristols had been contracted to produce the forward fuselages of the new trainer. Jimmy Dell made XM567’s first flight from Filton on March 3, 1962, followed by 22 more T.5s (XS416 to XS423, XS449 to XS460, XV328 and XV329), the first being delivered to 226 OCU at Coltishall in April 1965. With missilecarrying capability, the two-seaters allowed students to undertake dual weapons training on the supersonic fighter.

Interim to Ultimate
The final mark of the Lightning saw the best parts of the F.2A and F.3 rolled into one, and was initially designated the ‘F.3A Interim’ before becoming the ‘F.6 Interim’. These early F.6s were effectively F.3s, with the cambered wing and enlarged ventral fuel tank from the F.2A. The first batch was part of the original contract for 45 F.3s. Some 22 of these (XR752 to XR773) were built as F.6 Interims

On September 8, 1970, 28-year-old American exchange pilot Captain William Schaffner scrambled from RAF Binbrook in this Lightning F.6 (XS894) to intercept a fast-moving object over the North Sea. Some reports suggest Captain Schaffner claimed the object was a conical shape with an intensely bright blue light. Radio contact was lost and soon after the aircraft ditched in the sea. It was later recovered in remarkable condition, but though the canopy was closed there was no sign of the pilot. Conspiracy theories abound. and were ordered in February 1962. The prototype (XP697) started out as an F.3 and was converted by Bristols to F.6 standard and first flown by Beamont

16 English Electric Lightning

All 20 Development Batch English Electric P.1Bs were in the air by September 1959, and this influx of aircraft introduced several test pilots – including Peter Hillwood, Johnny Squier, Tim Ferguson, Keith Isherwood, Jimmy Dell and Don Knight – to the type. Each P.1B was allocated a specific area of the test programme to contribute to, and XG331 was involved in shaking down the Lightning attack system, the Ferranti AI.23. The aeroplane was officially named ‘Lightning’ on October 23, 1958.

on April 17, 1964. Lightning F.6 Interim XR752 became the first to enter service when it joined the CFE on November 11, 1965, by which time a contract for 33 new-build F.6s was under way (XS893 to XS904 and XS918 to XS938). This would bring the total number of the RAF’s last, and ultimate, Lightning to 55 examples. The F.6 first entered service with 5 Sqn at Binbrook in December 1965, and by August 1967 the last of 278 Lightnings had been delivered to the RAF. Like its predecessor, the F.6 had inherited the ability to be fitted with a pair of 260 Imp Gal over-wing fuel tanks. This, combined with the 600 Imp Gal ventral tank, and the capability to refuel air-to-air, made it the most versatile of Lightnings. In September 1966, the F.6 entered service with 74 Sqn, and using the over wing tanks the unit moved to Tengah, Singapore the following June. In doing so they become the only Lightning unit to be permanently based in the Far East.

The Lightning was replaced in RAF service by the Phantom and the Tornado F.3. The UK’s last flying Lightning (XP693) is seen here with an example of the latter. Throughout the 1970s, the Lightning was the backbone of the United Kingdom’s air defence and continued to be its mainstay until the arrival of the Phantom, from 1974. This was not the end though, as 5 and 11 Sqns at Binbrook slowly became the last bastion of this great fighter which was only supposed to have had a ‘shelf-life’ of no more than a decade. Thanks to engineering TLC and a host of avionics and weaponry updates, the Lightnings lived on until 1988, at which time the Tornado F.3 took up the responsibility of defending the country. The Tornado F.3 itself was retired in 2011 after 25 years service and it, in turn, passed the baton to the Typhoon. The Typhoon may be a potent singleseat twin-engined fighter like the Lightning, but its European roots mean it is far from the best of British. The claim of being the only all-British, supersonic, single-seat jet fighter to serve with the RAF falls singly to the Lightning – a true British icon.

The demise of Fighter Command on April 25, 1968, saw the Lightning force on display en masse with formations provided by 5, 11, 23, 29 and 111 Sqns as well as 226 OCU.

English Electric Lightning 17

Lightning in profile
P.1A WG760

P.1B XA847

Lightning F.1 XM143 226 OCU

Lightning F.1A, XM184, 111 Sqn

Lightning F.2, XN768, 92 Sqn

18 English Electric Lightning

A pictorial guide to the Lightning’s evolution
Illustrations courtsey of Andy Hay www.flyingart.co.uk

Lightning F.2A, XN777, 19 Sqn

Lightning F.3, XP696, AFDS

Lightning F.6, XR753, 23 Sqn

Lightning T.4, XL628

Lightning T.5, XV328, 29 Sqn

English Electric Lightning 19

In a spin!
Former English Electric Chief Test Pilot Roland Beamont recounts an unexpected event during the testing of the P.1A prototype


he first flight of the English Electric P.1 had taken place at Boscombe Down on August 4, 1955. Over the next two years it achieved a high success-rate test programme, which proved that the design philosophy (considered radical at the time) of a 60° wing sweep with a low all-moving tailplane and irreversible hydraulic-powered flying controls incorporating ‘Q’ and spring ‘feel’ was correct for this important breakthrough.

and their confidence was rewarded by a contract for two development prototypes to AM Specification F.23/49, with the proviso that a full-size low-speed semiscale replica would be designed by the RAE and built, in a quicker timescale than the P.1 by Short & Harland.

Short SB.5
This research aircraft, dubbed the Short SB.5, would have facilities for varying the wing sweep settings and the tailplane position, in order “to investigate the longitudinal stability of the English Electric proposal.” In fact the SB.5 soon demonstrated (in 1953) that the low tailplane configuration was eminently suitable, and eventually that the RAE’s ‘preferred’ high T-tail was unsatisfactory and potentially dangerous.

The P.1 was in fact Britain’s first aircraft with supersonic performance, and in the design phase this philosophy had been challenged strongly by some ‘establishment’ aerodynamic experts on the grounds, they claimed, that the low-tailplane configuration relative to a 60° sweep ‘shoulder’ wing would result in unacceptable, possibly dangerous, pitch instability problems. The English Electric design office, under Teddy Peter, remained adamant,

Pushing the Envelope
By 1956 the full initial flight envelope of the P.1 had been investigated up to

Former fighter pilot Wing Commander Roland ‘Bee’ Beamont CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar was responsible for the initial test flying of many notable aircraft including the Lightning, Canberra and BAC TSR-2. He was also responsible for the international trials of the Tornado MRCA. He died on November 19, 2001 at the age of 81.

20 English Electric Lightning

The maximum usable angle-of-attack of the P.1 in the landing configuration was found to be limited by the speed at which the tail bumper would touch the ground at the same time as the main wheels. This occurred at about 14.5˚incidence and, at typical landing weight, this occurred at about 140kts IAS in a flared landing. 675kts indicated air speed (IAS) or Mach 1.1 in level flight, and to Mach 1.4 in a shallow dive on the ‘constant energy line’ the then new term for ‘terminal velocity.’ This is where thrust equals drag (T=D) and increasing the dive angle only increases rate of height-loss without a significant increase in speed. With some minor changes to the power control gearings, control-runs and geometry including improvement in static balancing of the flying control system to eliminate some un-demanded control inputs, which had resulted from thrust changes affecting the exceptionally low static-friction in the control runs the P.1 was regarded as a total success. This pointed to similar success for its upcoming operational fighter development, the P.1B Lightning.

High Alpha
However, one corner of the flight envelope had not been fully explored – the High Alpha regime beyond normal operating conditions. At the high angle of attack associated with this new class of aircraft with highly swept or delta wings, a new overriding limitation had been reached, dubbed ‘ground angle’. The maximum usable angle-of-attack of the P.1 in the landing configuration was

found to be limited not by lift coefficient or stability of control responsiveness problems on final approach, where the values were all precise and confidencemaking. In fact, the minimum landing speed was dictated by the speed at which the tail bumper would touch the ground at the same time as the main wheels. This occurred at about 14.5˚incidence. At typical landing weight this was about 140kts IAS in a flared landing, but in a higher descent rate arrival this could be 10kts higher and gave the risk of minor tail-end damage. So, this being a finite limit that nothing could be done about, and as the landing run measured performance was to specification and satisfactory, further investigation of high alpha had been limited to stall-approaches in clean configuration which had demonstrated that the P.1 remained fully responsive and controllable down to at least 30kts below the touchdown speed. But now, at the end of the programme, we needed to look at the 1G and accelerated stall.

In late 1956 WG760 had been fitted with a new wing configuration with a cambered leading edge, the first stage towards improving cruise-drag for later and heavier Lightning developments. It was with this wing that the stalling trials began. Before commencement, an anti-spin parachute was installed and, after some initial self-jettisoning failures in test had been overcome, acceptable reliability

“Then the nose pitched down and yawed left; I came out of my stupor and realised that we were spinning!”

The author gets airborne from English Electric’s home airfield at Warton, Lancs at the start of another test sortie in P.1 WG760.

English Electric Lightning 21

was achieved in two consecutive air streams, and the first stalling tests began on June 4, 1958. In previous tests I had taken the P.1 down to 120kts at 20,000ft in the clean configuration with fully responsive controls and only mild buffet vibration, but with full up elevator had not been able to prevent a descent rate of about 200ft/min. On the flight on June 4, this time with flap and undercarriage down, level flight was held down to 112kt IAS (at almost full power to balance the high induced drag) with no other change resulting. With normal responses from small and cautious control displacements we were again at the T=D point. We had not yet found the stall, but for the next flight the Meteor NF.11 chase aircraft was set up with Don Knight as pilot and John Whitaker with a cine camera. The schedule called for a slowdown at 20,000ft, again to the full power with almost full back-stick T=D point, followed by a gradual reduction of power until either a full stall occurred or lack of elevator trim power allowed the nose to drop and IAS to increase. The flight was to be recorded by onboard instrumentation and the chase Meteor filming.

Nowhere Fast
It was a fine, clear day as the small formation headed north over Blackpool, away from the sun’s glare. As before, the P.1, nose-high at around 21˚AOA (there was no incidence gauge in those days!), reached T=D at 122kts IAS with the Meteor wallowing and struggling to keep in station behind and ‘up-sun’ for photography. In my small, but by now very familiar, cockpit everything seemed extremely normal except that at full throttle (max dry) with the nose pointing at the sky we were not going anywhere at all! I eased the stick back to the aft stop and the ASI dropped through 110kts; the descent rate increased and at 108kts, quite suddenly and very smoothly, the P.1 rolled away to port.

The Short SB.5 was used to test varying degrees of wing sweep settings and tailplane position. It soon demonstrated that English Electric’s low tailplane configuration was eminently suitable and that the RAE’s ‘preferred’ high T-tail was unsatisfactory and potentially dangerous!

“I started to ease the stick forward from neutral but nothing much happened!”

There was no yaw or buffet, the nose was still high and I felt instinctively that this was an un-demanded roll from the ailerons or from some other configuration change like a flap asymmetry. However, immediate right stick did not help, and as the roll to port continued past the inverted. Then the nose pitched down and yawed left, and I then came out of my stupor and realised that we were spinning! Taking the planned corrective action I centred the stick progressively (I thought), then pushed on out-spin (right) rudder. Halfway round the second full turn I started to ease the stick forward from neutral but nothing much happened! Still with full out-spin rudder and the stick now on the forward stop the

By late 1956, P.1A WG760 had been fitted with a new wing configuration with a cambered leading edge, the first stage towards improving cruise-drag for later and heavier Lightning developments.

22 English Electric Lightning

P.1 set off into turn three, but this time the nose pitched down to over-the-vertical from the inverted position. At least it was responding to my forward-stick and seemed about to enter an inverted spin! Two things then began to register. This spin was not really responding to anything I could think of and we were well below 15,000ft on the fast-unwinding altimeter, the minimum briefed height for spin recovery after which we were supposed to use the Martin-Baker option.

Pull the ‘Chute
Even then I was reluctant to abandon this situation, which I had a feeling (later justified) I was partly responsible for. But then the mind cleared and I remembered the only recently installed anti-spin ‘chute. Centering the controls, I pulled the spin ‘chute handle and almost immediately there was a jolt, the nose pitched further down and the rolling stopped with the P.1 in a left-banked near-vertical dive. A glance at the ASI showed 120kt and rising, and I resisted the strong temptation to pull out of the dive (and probably back into ‘departure’) while noting with interest the altimeter unwinding swiftly through 9,000ft. There would also be much lag in this reading, but there was still a margin to spare so I delayed easing back on the stick until 160kt, and then recovered to level at 6,500ft to find the engines still running and

After initial stall trials using WG760 it was decided to undertake the full spinning programme in P.1B Lightning XA897 as it was felt to be more representative of the operational fighter. no further problems. I jettisoned the spin ‘chute and returned to Warton.

Lessons Learned
Much was learned from this event, not least that a long period of success in an experimental programme must never be allowed to lead to complacency in the planning of corner-point tests. For example, we had apparently planned a potentially critical test point at 10,000ft lower than our own safety criteria had suggested. Then, although I had absorbed the briefing on recommended recovery action, I did not actually follow it. Instead of fully

centering the ailerons, the Meteor’s cine camera film confirmed that I had actually held in 5° of out-spin aileron throughout two-and-a-half turns of the spin. Later the P.1B intensive spinning programme revealed that with any out-spin aileron applied, the Lightning (and the P.1) would never recover from a spin! This was a revealing episode, and it was finally decided that the full spinning programme would be done in the P.1B Lightning, beginning the following year, as the P.1 WG760, though relevant, was not sufficiently representative of the operational fighter for spinning tests to read across completely. The subsequent Lightning spinning programme was massive, lasting more than six months and involving over 200 spins in all relevant configurations. This was completed by Warton’s experienced test pilots, and it established that in all circumstances and configurations the Lightning would, in fact, recover from a spin if the controls were released to neutral by the pilot but at least 10,000ft was needed for full recovery from an erect spin, and rather more from an inverted spin. Nothing can be taken for granted in flight testing. This article is reprinted from a feature written by the author for the January 1992 issue of Aeroplane Monthly.

WG760 survived the rigorous flight test regime and is today preserved at the RAF Museum, Cosford, Shropshire alongside a myriad of other British prototype and trials aircraft. Image: Steve Bridgewater

The sole Short SB.5 has also survived and is displayed alongside WG760 at Cosford. Although it is shown in ‘low tail’ configuration, the earlier T-tail unit is displayed alongside the airframe. Image: Steve Bridgewater

English Electric Lightning 23

A flash of silver
Legendary English Electric chief test pilot Roland Beamont looks back at his test flying of the prototype Lightnings.

The author taxied English Electric P.1 WG760 for the first time on July 22, 1954. It carried out a short ‘hop’ two days later and made its maiden flight on August 4. Image: Peter R March Collection


head only blue sky and broken cloud could be seen through the windscreen. The horizon was out of sight below the nose with the aircraft in a steep climbing attitude at 25° angle-of attack. The throttle was wide open and the altimeter was revolving steadily – downwards! This was the Short SB.5 demonstrating that at high angles of attack the 1,500lb thrust of its Viper engine was significantly less than the induced drag of its 60° swept wing. The date was May 11, 1953 and the SB.5 was being flown from Boscombe Down to assess some of the characteristics to be expected in the forthcoming English Electric P.1 programme. While English Electric was evolving the P.1 in the early 1950s to the F23/49 Air Ministry specification, the RAE at Farnborough had had misgivings about the aerodynamic design concept. They had persuaded the Ministry to procure a ‘cheap’ research aircraft on which to test their theories about the control and stability of a highly swept wing and, in particular, the effects of tailplane position relative to this wing.

Check Out
With the P.1 first flight approaching, it was considered advisable that we should obtain some prior experience on the SB.5, and so I went to Boscombe Down on August 11, 1953 for a briefing. The machine looked more like a piece of marine engineering than an aeroplane, with very basic lines round the nose, tail and cockpit and with thickets of mushroom-headed rivets all over it. With one 1,500lb-thrust Viper engine and few associated instruments, a fixed undercarriage, two-position flap selection and virtually nothing else to be concerned about, briefing was soon completed and I was warned not to over-rotate on take-off as this could lead to a thrust-equals-drag situation and no take-off! Similarly I was warned of the high rate of descent which would result from rapid

increase in induced drag if I reduced speed on the approach without corresponding increase in’ thrust. This was a valuable first insight into the highly swept wing, induceddrag effects· with which the military aviation world was to become familiar in the next decade. In common with the rest of the aeroplane the cockpit was very basic, with cable-operated controls that rasped with static friction, a coarse and heavyto-operate canopy locking mechanism and a cumbersome-looking heavy framed canopy with small windows permitting a rather restricted view of the outside world. The SB.5 proved to be an interesting aircraft to fly and I enjoyed 23 flights on it in 1953 and 1954. It was a fascinating ‘trainer’ for the low-speed handling of highly swept wings. Its high induced-drag

“The SB.5 never really felt like an aeroplane but more like an interesting boiler-plate exercise”

24 English Electric Lightning

The RAE at Farnborough had misgivings about English Electric’s aerodynamic design concept and persuaded the Ministry to procure a ‘cheap’ research aircraft on which to test their theories about the control and stability of a highly swept wing and, in particular, the effects of tailplane position relative to this wing. Short SB.5 WG768 is seen here with its original t-tail.

The author’s flights in the SB.5 in 1953 provided a valuable experience of the low speed stability characteristics of a 60° swept wing. Here WG768 is seen with the much superior low-set tailplane that would later appear on the P.1 and the Lightning. When converting onto the SB.5 the author was warned of the high rate of descent that would result from rapid increase in induced drag if the speed was reduced on the approach without a corresponding increase in thrust.

characteristics were so exaggerated by the low power/weight ratio that marked variations in speed could be produced at fixed power settings (generally full throttle) merely by slightly increasing or decreasing angle-of-attack with the stick. On hot summer days at Boscombe Down the takeoff proved interesting with acceleration to unstick often requiring 2,000 yards and the subsequent climbout was acutely dependent on reducing the take-off incidence, otherwise it would not climb at all, and a height gain of only 1,000ft in the first five miles was quite a common occurrence. On these occasions the climb to an initial test height at 6,000-7,000ft (the practical ceiling) would take about 20min at full power. By this time there would be barely sufficient fuel left for the tests! In fact the SB.5 never really felt like an aeroplane but more like an interesting boiler-plate exercise. So these flights in the SB.5 in 1953 provided a valuable experience of the low speed stability characteristics of a 60° swept wing, and of the possible control characteristics of the P.1 in these conditions; but it was

(Below) On its maiden flight the undercarriage on P.1 WG760 retracted with slight asymmetry which caused a small lateral displacement. It locked home before 200kts and as speed was gradually increased above this point buffet was noticeable from the flaps.

English Electric Lightning 25

anticipated (and hoped!) that the P.1’s irreversible power flying controls (a new feature in the UK) would provide a great improvement in response and feel compared with the very basic manual/cable controls of the SB.5.

Maiden Flight
Everything was encouraging, and on August 4 we were ready for the first flight. The post flight record card reads as follow:: Date: August 4, 1954 Aircraft: English Electric Co Ltd F23/49 Registration: WG760 Flight: 1 Weather conditions: Dry runway; light variable wind at 90º to the runway, backing; 6/8 high cloud; small amount scattered low cloud; visibility 4-5 miles in slight haze. Runway: 24 A full cockpit check was carried out which revealed no defective items except for the leg straps on the Mk 3 ejection seat. It was decided that flight could be accepted without the leg harnesses owing to the existing speed limitation and the circumstances of the flight. Radio checks with the Tower arid Flight Test van were satisfactory. Stopwatch failure soon after initial tripping prevented a time record being taken of the flight. Instrumentation was switched on after start-up. Takeoff was made with flaps down and without attempting to lift off at the lowest possible speed. After lifting the nosewheel at approximately 120kts the aircraft became airborne easily with slightly under full elevator at approximately 145kts. The attitude was checked immediately on becoming airborne with a small amount of forward stick, and as the aircraft gained speed it became progressively nose-up in out-of-trim. The undercarriage was selected up at approximately 160kts and power was reduced to maintain approximately 200kts in a shallow climb. The undercarriage retracted rapidly with slight asymmetry which caused a small lateral displacement. This was over-corrected with aileron control which under these conditions was very sensitive, but the resultant oscillation was damped immediately by centering and momentarily relaxing stick hold. The undercarriage

Although unmistakably part of the Lightning ‘family’ the P.1 had a completely different fuselage, nose, cockpit and engine installation.

locked home before 200kts and as speed was gradually increased above this point buffet was noticeable from the flaps. As Indicated Air Speed (IAS) exceeded 250kts the flap blow-back valve operated and the flaps returned to neutral with the selector down. This resulted in further nose-up out-oftrim and full nose-down trim on the indicator was not sufficient to return to in-trim flight. Speed was reduced to 200kts, the flap selector moved to ‘up’ and then at 190kt selected to ‘down’. Flap operation was normal and it was noted that there was little buffet from flaps below 200kts. Flaps were retracted at 210kts. With flaps retracted the power was advanced and altitude increased to 8,0009,000ft. lAS was increased progressively up to 400kts and at this point there was no buffeting or roughness. The ailerons, which were noticeably sensitive, became progressively more so with an increase in lAS with the

P.1 Progress
The first P.1 aircraft, WG760, was moved to Boscombe Down in the spring of 1954 to take advantage of Boscombe’s long runway for the first few flights of this advanced new concept. Powered by two off-the-shelf Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engines giving 7,200lb sea level static thrust each (without the reheat thrust augmentation which was to come later), the P.1 prototypes were designated as ‘research aircraft with fighter strength factors’ which could be developed straightforwardly into an operational fighter if successful. They were in fact technology demonstrators, and about to become successful ones at that. I taxied WG760 for the first time on July 22, 1954 and then, on the 24th, carried out a lift-off and straight hop of about 500 yards at 125-140kts before landing smoothly and comfortably on the long, gently undulating Boscombe main runway.

result that lateral damping seemed to be rather lower than desirable. Releasing the stick in all cases damped out the lateral oscillation immediately, however, and it was thought that much of this oversensitivity in lateral control resulted from the fact that the pilot had at all times to hold a small but noticeable nose-up out-of-trim force. Height was increased to 13,00014,000ft and speed increased to 400kts lAS (Mach 0.75). Under these conditions the lateral control remained very sensitive but adequate. During a course alteration

With confidence in the P.1 quickly growing the author puts a show on for visiting photographers.

26 English Electric Lightning

reduced to 160kts on short final with the throttles returned to idle. A normal hold-off was made crossing the boundary and a final check comfortably and easily executed at 150kts. The touchdown at approximately 140kts was smooth, at a reasonable attitude with excellent vision of the runway. The parachute was streamed at approximately 135kts and this operated with a delay of the order of two seconds. There was an immediate nose-up pitch and weathercock yaw to starboard requiring full port rudder to hold. This condition was easily controlled and once the nosewheel had returned to the runway light wheel braking was applied to bring the aircraft to a halt. At standstill the port wheel thermocouples indicated 160°C. During the flight a pitot position-error check was carried out with the pacing Canberra (WH775) and this gave 195/195kts at 8,000ft. For its maiden flight WG760 was rotated at approximately 120kts with the aircraft airborne easily with slightly under full elevator at approximately 145kts. The attitude was checked immediately on becoming airborne with a small amount of forward stick and as the aircraft gained speed it became progressively out-of-trim.


to avoid a cloud layer the nose was depressed slightly and speed inadvertently increased at idling power to approximately 440-450kts. This was reduced as soon as level flight could be resumed. Dive brakes were checked at 300-400kts at 13,000ft over approximately 20-40 degrees of movement. In each case after the initial slight nose-up trim change, very heavy buffet began. This was associated with an erratic directional characteristic which immediately resulted in an erratic rolling displacement due to yaw. These circumstances were not regarded as satisfactory and the tests were discontinued subject to further progressive investigation at low speeds. During the climb it had not been easy to control the air conditioning with the cold air unit, as with this there was a tendency either to be too hot or too cold. The cabin air ram valve was opened and found to produce a pleasantly distributed flow of cooling air. This was kept open at all times during the flight, except for a short period at 14,000ft where it was closed to test pressurisation, which was found to be satisfactory at this height. During descent with power reduced to idle some considerable difficulty was experienced in obtaining a reasonable rate of descent while keeping below 400kt IAS. This may tend to be a minor limiting factor in flight test operation if the present dive brakes prove unsatisfactory. With the fuel state at 1,000lb it was decided to return to base but at this critical point some difficulty was experienced in obtaining homing facilities from Boscombe.

Once the circuit had been regained, circuit manoeuvrability at 350-250kts proved excellent with forward and sideways vision rather better than on the Hunter. Turns at and up to 2.5G were comfortably executed with nose-up flap, with flap down, turns up to 2G at 250-300kts were once again positively stable.

“I was warned not to over-rotate as this could lead to a thrust-equals-drag situation and no take-off!”
The undercarriage was selected down at 230kts and locked rapidly with green indicator lights at 210kts. There was asymmetry in this operation which resulted in the expected lateral displacement and corresponding momentary overcorrection with aileron. This is similar to that experienced on the Hunter. Flaps were lowered at 200kts and a final turn was carried out at 200-190kts and speed

From this short flight the following main points were clear: 1 The main services functioned satisfactorily with the exception of the dive brake which gave heavy buffet, even at the small angles employed. 2 The trim actuators were satisfactory on rudder and aileron but that on the tailplane control provided inadequate nose-down trim. 3 Longitudinal and directional static stability was positive in all flight conditions experienced so far. The aircraft was neutrally stable laterally with adequate damping when flown stick free. 4 Tailplane feel and response was entirely satisfactory under all conditions and there was no sign of over-sensitivity leading to pilot induced oscillation. Aileron response and spring feel was very sensitive and powerful, and required a light touch to prevent fairly continuous over-correction. It was not easy to apply this light touch owing to the necessity of holding off nose-up out-of-trim force throughout the whole flight with engines above half power. This condition may be less noticeable when the longitudinal trim range has been adjusted suitably. 5 The power control circuits were remarkably free from noticeable friction or backlash. 6 The engines were used as required and no detailed attention was paid to engine conditions beyond observing the limitations. They responded normally and entirely satisfactorily to all requirements. In this short flight the aircraft proved to be pleasant and straightforward to fly, with the take-off and landing operations lacking in complication. The oversensitivity in lateral control will require careful observation during subsequent tests. R P BEAMONT Chief Test Pilot

The parachute was streamed at approximately 135kts and this operated with a delay of the order of two seconds. There was an immediate nose-up pitch and weathercock yaw to starboard requiring full port rudder to hold. This condition was easily controlled and once the nosewheel had returned to the runway light wheel braking was applied to bring the aircraft to a halt.

The author is helped from the cockpit of WG760 at the end of another test flight.

English Electric Lightning 27

Time to buzz the tower…

During flutter clearance tests the canopy on the P.1 self-jettisoned at 575kts IAS. The canopy cleared the fin and rudder without further damage to the aircraft but the author experienced difficulty seeing due to the blast.

With no major problems on the first flight a second was made on August 5 reaching 30,000ft and Mach 0·98 indicated, where control and stability were found to be excellent. Correction of instrumentation results after this flight showed the actual true speed reached in level flight had been approximately Mach 1, and that a few more seconds at full power would have seen us through the shockwave ‘jump up’ on the pitot system and we would have been supersonic. With only a few non-critical defects to carry forward a third flight was scheduled for August 11. Taking the P.1 in its exhilaratingly steep climb straight to 40,000ft (a new test point) in fine, clear weather, I turned east over Swanage and began a level, full throttle acceleration up the Solent towards Selsey Bill, which appeared and passed underneath remarkably quickly. With the Machmeter again apparently sticking at 0·98 I felt the control responses in pitch, roll and yaw to be in almost ideal harmony and needing only a minor gearing change to make them perfect for this condition. There was much to observe and record at this potentially historic point - the first British aircraft at Mach 1 in level flight. But now, would it go any further? The stopwatch showed 4min from leaving Mach 0.9 and suddenly, with no vibration or other warning, the Mach needle jumped from 0·98 to 1·01 – supersonic! Soon the now low fuel state demanded reduction of power to idle and a turn for

“The P.1 was the first British aircraft to reach Mach 1 in level flight. But would it go any further?”
base. With rapidly increasing confidence I swung the P.1 left over West Sussex, pulling 2G in a 30-degree bank onto the new heading as the Machmeter dropped back to subsonic. This time with a slight tremor and a small nose-up trim change as the shock-wave moved forward ahead of the aircraft again. We not only had a supersonic aeroplane, but its handling was already superb! With Boscombe in sight a short burst of throttle in the shallow dive as I passed through 36,000ft briefly brought the Machmeter up to Mach 1·01 again before continuing the descent at Mach 0·9. Boscombe Down was well aware of the P.1’s sonic boom before we landed!

variations in directional and lateral trim. In a sortie on August 26 devoted to this problem I found that these variations were related to increasing or decreasing power: for example, throttle forward produced nose-up and left-wing-low trim change, and throttle back the reverse! The P.1 was in fact suffering from an unexpected effect of the high-precision, low-friction power control circuit. With very low static friction levels, slight out ofstatic-balance was reacting to variations in longitudinal acceleration and causing small control inputs undemanded by the pilot! When the throttle was moved forward firmly with the stick free, the latter could be seen to move back slightly and to the left, and vice versa ! But these and some systems defects were acceptable in the short term, and on September 23 I flew the P.1 back to Warton to commence the main and exhaustive test programme. This was to include 703 flights in establishing the viability of its successor, the P.1B, as a practical supersonic fighter for the RAF.

On August 1, 1955 I reported back to English Electric on my findings having flown the second prototype (WG763) on its first three sorties. Handling qualities had been assessed up to Mach 1·08 and 550kts IAS and, apart from an apparent change in longitudinal trim characteristics which has resulted in a lower nosewheel lifting speed, it did not appear to differ in any marked degree from the first prototype. A small but distinct reduction in lateral oversensitivity and a loud resonant note in flight came from the open gun ports. In the next phase, from August to October 1954, rapid progress was maintained. In a further 33 flights fine adjustment improvements were made to the flying control system and flight resonance (flutter) clearance was extended to Mach 1·3 at 610kts.

Precision Control
The trials made rapid progress and over during flights over the next four weeks the initial handling envelope was cleared up to Mach 1.2 and included landings in moderate crosswinds and on wet runways. We were also cleared for close formation flying for photography which at once confirmed the high quality precision of the power control system. Some areas requiring alterations had been identified including some initially mysterious and apparently random

On August 11, 1954 WG760 breached Mach 1 for the first time, becoming the first British aircraft to do so in level flight.

28 English Electric Lightning

“The take-off weight was less than 30,000lb – this promised an exhilarating experience”
locking structure and remedial design action taken!

Adding Camber
Many lessons and data gained from the original aircraft were incorporated into the WG763, the most significant difference being the addition of a removable 2,000 Imp Gal ventral fuel tank. A pair of 30mm Aden cannon were also fitted in the upper nose and the open gun ports created a loud resonant note in flight. After completion of the main P.1 trials in November 1956, WG760 was laid up for the introduction of wing leading edge camber and modified wingtips and ailerons as part of a confident plan for the future development of the P.1B Lightning series for extended range. This was expected to improve performance at the higher lift coefficients at subsonic speeds, and would prepare the way for the introduction of tipmounted stores at a later stage. The modifications were complete in January 1957 and then, after yet another high sortie rate and successful programme involving 54 flights, these improvements were confirmed and described in my May 31, 1957 report to English Electric. Throughout this phase the four pilots who have flown the aircraft in this configuration have reported significant improvements in handling qualities. These may be summarised as follows: 1 Marked improvement in buffet threshold at subsonic speeds. 2 Improved aileron control feel. 3 Improved control response in pitch in the landing configuration. 4 Elimination of the slight tendency to lightening-off in the turn at medium and low subsonic speeds. A typical effect of Item 1 was at 36,000ft where with the standard wing the buffet threshold at Mach 0 .9 was 2.5G with the old wing but was now as high as 4G. Similarly the new wing enabled higher G values to be maintained at supersonic speed than was possible with the previous wing.

Open Cockpit
During the flutter clearance tests a susceptibility of the canopy locking and jettisoning system to maladjustment, which had not been discovered previously, resulted in the self-jettisoning of the canopy at 575kts IAS/ Mach 0·95. The canopy cleared the fin and rudder without further damage to the aircraft - which remained stable and controllable – but I experienced difficulty seeing owing to relatively nonturbulent but heavy blast pressure. Once speed was reduced below 450kts IAS I was able to lean forward under the protection of the windscreen and return to base without difficulty. The aircraft was flying over land at the time of this incident, and the canopy was recovered to provide the evidence for necessary modification. Subsequently tests were carried out and proof obtained that with the locking system – when correctly adjusted – was adequate. This was, however, an optimistic statement as two more canopies were subsequently lost before the cause was finally identified as aeroelastic deformation of the rails and

Handling at supersonic speeds had always been very favourably commented on in the standard configuration, and handling at subsonic and low speeds had been considered acceptable for the type. The modified leading edge appreciably increases ease of handling at low speed, thus benefiting the whole flight envelope. Item 2, which resulted from the small reduction in aileron area, was appreciated by the pilot as an elimination of the last small area in the flight envelope in which there was a tendency to over-correct in lateral control. This improvement has been obtained without any noticeable loss in rolling power and measurements in rolling performance recorded 200˚/sec in 360˚ rolls at Mach 1.1 and 170˚/sec at Mach 1·2. Item 3 was a function of a clear reduction in minimum drag speed, and resulted in flight path controllability of an order which enabled the touchdown with more precision and ease than was the case in the original configuration. This in itself was probably worth 100 yards or so off the average landing run distance. Item 4 resulted from a small improvement in longitudinal static stability and, in association with the improvement in buffet threshold, resulted in the ability to pull high G at medium and low speeds with increased precision and confidence. This improvement was also noticeable when making the finals turn, as this manoeuvre could now be executed without the onset of buffet vibration and with more precise longitudinal control. Throughout the subsonic flight envelope the aircraft felt more flexible, more precise, and generally more pleasant to fly; and there can be no doubt that the improvement in feel and response in the landing configuration would give a distinct advantage in the all-weather role.

XA847, the recently flown P.1B prototype, was a star attraction at the 1957 SBAC show at Farnborough.

English Electric Lightning 29

Enter the P.1B
Trials on the P.1A continued apace but soon all attention was drawn to the new P.1B. This aircraft retained the basic and now well proven aerodynamics and controls of the P.1, but with a virtually all-new fuselage, cockpit and engine installation incorporating two Rolls-Royce RA24R engines together giving approximately 30,000lb of reheat thrust. The first flight take-off weight was less than 30,000lb – this promised an exhilarating experience for April 4, 1957! A Summary Report on May 31 noted: Date: April 4, 1957 Aircraft: English Electric Co Ltd F23/49 Registration: XA847 Flight: 1 Alterations since Taxi Trials: 1 Two-stream brake parachute installed (Type, 7 High Speed Stream). All taschengurts removed; 15ft 9in cable with chimps fitted; eye end with modified ferrule and side plate assembly; shroud lines from skirt to keeper 16ft 0in. 2 Checks carried out during engine runs of alternator and turbine warning light failure. Found satisfactory. No action.

With the air brakes ‘popped’ XA847 lands at Farnborough during the SBAC Airshow.

Prior to flight checks

After connecting parachute and seat harnesses it was found that the loose adjustment portions of the lower port straps together with buckles overhung the canopy jettison handle and obscured vision of this. Direct access to this handle was also obstructed by these straps. The aircraft oxygen hose was not clipped to the starboard lower seat harness. The emergency oxygen bottle had no separate manual operation and it was apparently intended that the pilot should operate this by pulling on the cable. This did not appear to be a practical operation owing to the geometry of the cockpit and of the cable concerned, and this limited the altitude for the subsequent flight.


Engine starts and checks were satisfactory and all warning lights and indicators were ‘out’ with engines at 31 & 54% power respectively. JPT (jet pipe temperatures) were 540 & 480°C and hydraulic pressure was 3,000Ib/sq in. In taxiing with engines at 31/54% there were no further system warnings, with the exception that the No 1 engine oil pressure blinker showed an intermittent warning. This was eliminated by increasing to 35 %. Take-off was made with engines at 100/100 % (cold thrust) and was smooth and straightforward with acceleration of a similar order to WG760 with reheat. Undercarriage retraction was smooth and symmetrical and the climb away was made steeply in order to initially maintain speed below 300kts. Power was reduced to 70/70% at approximately 5,000ft and all systems checked before reaching 10,000ft. No abnormalities were found and the climb was continued at Mach 0·9 to 27,000ft. At this height, at Mach 0·8, power was reduced and at 70/70% a sharp increase in noise level occurred. This was reminiscent of that normally associated with cabin venting, canopy mal-fitting or other airflow noises. It was later found that this noise increase was associated with engine speed and would come in as power was reduced to 70% and stop on increase above 70% A maximum cold thrust acceleration was carried out reaching Mach 1·13 / 495kt IAS at 25,500ft. Power was then reduced slightly

to 80% and at this point the noise increase occurred again. Deceleration from Mach 1.00 and the subsequent descent at Mach 0·9 was accomplished by employing half dive brake with engines maintained at 80 %. A spiral descent was flown at 2-3G. The increased noise level condition did not occur below 15,000ft where both engines could be throttled back to idling. Dive brake checks were carried out up to 400kts IAS and these were found to be very effective. There was no buffet or noticeable trim change up to deflection in excess of 50%, but at approximately 75% buffeting began which, at 400kts, was quite severe. Associated with this buffet was a mild, erratic directional wander. At all points a reduction of dive brake deflection to less than 75% eliminated this directional characteristic and reduced the buffet to negligible proportions. Subsequent use of the dive brakes for closing into formation with the chase aircraft demonstrated their efficiency in this role. General control characteristics in this flight had been almost identical to those of the first and second prototypes with unmodified wings, and aileron control had the early P.1 characteristics of slight over-sensitivity at transonic speeds. Transition through Mach 1 occurred without buffet or vibration and with less trim change between Mach 0.9 and Mach 1 than on the previous aircraft. Circuit and approach characteristics were quite normal and undercarriage lowering occurred with more symmetry and therefore less disturbance than on the previous prototypes. The final turn was made at approximately 200kts and characteristics on the approach were normal until, when initiating the hold-off at approximately 170kts IAS, the rate of change in pitch from full tailplane deflection was found to be rather less than that of the previous aircraft. This resulted in a touchdown at almost constant attitude, but without a high rate of descent. The tail parachute was streamed satisfactorily after touchdown but required a heavy force to operate the small handle. This

operation was difficult. Mild braking was used during the landing run and did not result in judder. Steering and control on the runway were excellent.


The first impressions left by this flight were of a marked reduction in engine and airflow noise level in the conditions tested, and of greatly improved comfort, convenience and vision in the cockpit. Stability and control responses were clearly recognisable as those of the standardwing P.1A [pre-modification], and mild buffet roughness was apparent at subsonic speeds under g under similar circumstances to the P.1As with standard wing. Airbrake operation was smooth and trouble free with excellent retardation at up to two thirds deflection. Buffeting was present above this. Handling was therefore straightforward with the characteristics that had been expected, but made unexpectedly pleasant by the greatly reduced noise level and engine vibration level in comparison with the first prototypes.


None requiring action before next flight. R P BEAMONT Chief Test Pilot The P.1B’s trouble-free and inspirational first flight was the herald of an even more rapid and successful programme of tests to clear the initial handling out to the specified Mach 1.7 and beyond. This was completed in 37 flights over the next two months with such excellent results that we could by then predict with confidence that, while the systems engineering and weapons system trials were still in the future, the basic stability, control and performance qualities of this tremendous fighter were already in the bag.

By the time the P.1B took to the skies in 1957 the design had morphed into something closely resembling the Lightning that would eventually join the RAF.

30 English Electric Lightning

P.1B XA847 is prepared for another flight from its base at Warton.

Owing to fuselage structural changes and increased fin area, a repeat of full flutter clearance was called for; and the use of reheat had severe limitations imposed on it owing to expected cavitation of the main fuel pumps. Flutter clearance would be achieved by the ‘bonking’ technique and the reheat limits would be raised by fitting production standard fuel pumps.

Intensive Testing
Both prototypes were flown whenever serviceable throughout the daylight hours, supported by engineering and shop floor work throughout the night as required. But then the troubles started with many engineering defects which needed immediate rectification or else caused restriction in parts of the test envelope. These included hydraulic leaks, fuel leaks, hot gas leaks leading to fire warnings, and false fire warnings leading to confusion and loss of confidence in the integrity of the system. In parallel there was a long period of unreliable reheat ignition which delayed performance testing at altitude, and

also made the frequently-required VIP demonstrations of this potent new fighter a rather embarrassing problem for the pilots. In time these problems were worked through, though not before the cumulative technical delays had caused a serious backup of unserviceability among the increasing numbers of ‘development batch’ (DB) aircraft reaching flight status in 1958-59. At one point only one out of seven aircraft could be kept serviceable for some weeks; and this caused a long, hard look to be taken at the policy of such a large programme of test aircraft.

Duct Surge
However, by October 1958 the main stability and control trials and flight envelope expansion had been completed. This phase of testing included incidents of intake duct surge at close to 700kts at less than 1,000ft over the Irish Sea. These had caused sufficient drama to make me duck when the surges went off like heavy cannon fire in the cockpit, accompanied by what appeared to be synchronised flame-flashes from the nose-intake! This was in fact only condensation in shockwaves from the surging engines illuminated by sunshine, but it took an act of faith to believe this the first time it happened! While investigating this very high speed corner of the flight envelope it became clear that, as there was still plenty of thrust in reserve and more than adequate controllability, further extension to Mach 2 had become a practical possibility. Warton flight test and airworthiness specialists reviewed all marginal areas from the safety aspect, and then we drew up a plan for a Mach 2 sortie which would include engine/ intake handling for anticipated buzzboundary effects, ram temperature rise limits and special instrumentation; and finally, if we got there, the all-important three-axis control responses and damping and directional stability checks.

Mach 2
With a noticeable lack of interest from the Ministry department concerned, whose inmates seemed satisfied that as the Service requirement of Mach 1·7 had already been demonstrated nothing more was needed, this flight was carried out with XA847 on November 25, 1958 Since the fitting of the large fin and rudder to the XA847 and some subsequent

Owing to fuselage structural changes and increased fin area on the P.1B a repeat of full flutter clearance test was called for. This was achieved by the ‘bonking’ technique.

development aircraft the margin of directional stability in the operational configuration of ventral tank and two Blue Jay missiles was sufficiently satisfactory to warrant investigating further the high performance capabilities of the aircraft. Wind tunnel testing and evidence from other sources had indicated that duct instability might begin under International Standard Atmosphere (ISA) conditions with engines throttled back to idling speed above Mach 1·8 and that this ‘buzz’ might develop to very serious amplitudes at around Mach 2. At speeds above Mach 1.9 it was felt excessive ram air temperature might result in stressing problems in certain areas and in equipment cooling difficulties. American flight experience suggested that the ‘buzz’ estimates might be slightly pessimistic, however. A progressive test programme was evolved calling for speed increments of 0.05 IMN (Indicated Mach Number) from Mach 1.7. Duct pressure and ram air temperature instrumentation was added to the first prototype XA847 to record intake stability characteristics and temperature conditions. At each progressive stage directional stability was checked and recorded by the control-free rudder-induced Dutch roll method, while intake buzz clearance was obtained by throttling back to idle at progressively higher Mach numbers. When limited handling clearance had been achieved to Mach 1.9 in the clean configuration and Mach 1·88 in the missile configuration some unusual vibration conditions were experienced at Mach 1·92 which were thought to be possible intake buzz onset. After landing a fastener on the intake bullet was found to be free and in the fully extended position, and as this could not be proved to be the result of faulty locking, it was thought for some time that it might possibly have been caused by unstable flow conditions. Thorough investigation failed to provide a positive answer to this question but indicated that the fastener may have not been properly tensioned, and it was decided to investigate this flight case again. No recurrence of the previously reported vibration occurred on passing Mach 1·92 and the acceleration continued with little apparent rate decrease. On passing Mach 1·98 power was again reduced from maximum reheat to one

English Electric Lightning 31

quarter reheat. This was sufficient to briefly to stabilise speed at Mach 2· 00 at 42,500ft in level flight. Responsiveness in roll was still remarkably good, and heading-holding and turn initiation presented no problems. It was interesting and significant to note that at no point during the flight was any undamped short period oscillation apparent, other than the usual two-tothree cycles before damping following displacements in pitch or yaw at the higher Mach numbers. It soon became necessary to reduce speed for no other reason than that the aircraft had by this time run out of the available sea space and was heading in overland towards a populated area, having covered 90nm in about 3min 50sec since leaving the North Wales coast on a northerly heading.

“Development progress was bedeviled by prevarication and repeated U-turns in requirements in Whitehall”
flight, and this exceptionally successful programme had resulted not only in a practical, noncritical supersonic aeroplane, but one with the imminent capability of becoming one of the world’s finest allweather fighters. But some of the greatest problems still lay ahead. By 1959 many systems engineering unreliabilities had began to surface as more aircraft came into the programme. Hot gas leaks, fire-wire detection faults, starter system defects and many others frustrated massive efforts to find lasting cures until long after the Lightnings entered service in 1960; and this, together with underestimation of the man-hours of maintenance per flying hour needed with this new class of supersonic aircraft, was a fundamental cause of loss of confidence by the Service engineers in their ability to operate the Lightning. This uncertainty soon fed back to the politicians, and by the mid-1960s the word from Whitehall was all about ‘no more funds for Lightning development we are going to replace it with a standard Phantom with a nonstandard engine.’ Of this policy (which resulted in severe development problems and cost overrun) the less said here the better… virtually complete, to reverse the policy and require guns to be put back by modification into the ‘F.3A’! The F.2 was then given additional fuel by modification (long ventral tank) and called the F.2A. Then there was the rejection of English Electric’s earlier proposal to introduce the cambered leading edge wing and increased ventral fuel into the build programme of the F.3 and subsequent variants, which was suddenly reversed towards the end of F. 3 production with orders to introduce the new wing and ventral tank by costly modification to some F.3s already built, and to all the remaining batch for introduction as the ‘new’ F.6! Coupled with this was rejection of the plan to begin further development of the weapons system by adding Sidewinder missiles to the new extended wingtips which were designed for that very purpose; and finally the formal policy statement in the mid-1960s of ‘no further spend’ on developing the Lightning force at all!

Cautious Interest
The Mach 2 flight created widespread interest and new enthusiasm for the programme, and before long cautious official interest became apparent in ultimate operational clearance to Mach 2. This was finally achieved in the 1960s with the introduction of the F.3, F.2A and F.6 single seaters and the T.4 and T.5 trainer variants. This in itself involved a massive test programme through five more years, which included over 200 spins and also identification of the most serious problem of all, namely structural failure of the fin due to inertia coupling in high-rate rolling at high Mach number. The T.4 and T.5 prototypes were lost in these incidents, providentially without loss of the crews who ejected with injuries, before the problem was finally understood and cured by strengthening the fin.

Hanging On
It was stated that the Lightning would be phased out from 1968, and completely by 1975, then by 1980 and 1985 and so on. Yet the Binbrook Lightning Wing was in the event required to soldier on – which it did with enthusiasm and effectiveness- until 1988, when the final stand down took place. In all this uncertainty over nearly 30 years a number of factors remained constant and outstanding throughout: the faith and dedication of the company design and engineering support from Warton, Preston and Samlesbury, and from the

Throughout the decade of Lightning development, steady progress was also bedeviled by prevarication and repeated U-turns in requirements in Whitehall. Examples included the inexplicable decision to remove the guns from the F.3 and then, when the build programme was

World’s Finest?
In the period August 1954 to December 1958, English Electric had taken British aviation from Mach 1 to Mach 2 in level

Both P.1As (WG760 and WG763) as well as P.1B XA847 (illustrated) have survived into preservation. See page 112 for details.

32 English Electric Lightning

On September 5, 1957, the second P.1B, XA853, joined the program with Desmond de Villiers at the controls. Both P.1Bs now set to work clearing any anomalies that may develop prior to the pre-production aircraft starting their own flight test programme. many specialist companies in the industry; the quality and professionalism of my team of supersonic test pilots, which included Jimmy Dell, Des de Villiers, Peter Hillwood, Johnny Squier, Don Knight, Tim Ferguson, John Cockburn and Keith Isherwood; the highly professional skills, confidence and widely acclaimed achievements of the Service operators; and the quality of the Lightning itself. and effortless manoeuvrability of a true ‘fighter pilot’s aeroplane.’ It’s near one-to-one thrust-to-weight ratio, which gave staggering performance in the 1960s, more than held its own in the skies of Europe until the day it was withdrawn from service in 1988. Although remaining underdeveloped, the Lightning has demonstrated effective defence of this country and NATO for more than a quarter of a century, and it was still winning gunnery competitions against all comers in its last year of service. In Britain we have yet to learn that it is not enough to have the courage, initiative and ability to originate advanced and ambitious new engineering programmes, only to falter and let go before achieving full success. All new engineering endeavours come under strain when the inevitable development problems arise, but that is when steadfastness and determination (qualities which have so often been lacking in Whitehall) are essential if the full potential of these enormously costly ventures is to be realised as a benefit to the nation, and not thrown away at the point of success in order to ‘buy foreign’; a solution which is always more costly in the long run and by no means certain to be the best. Because of overestimation of the engineering difficulties in the 1960s the Lightning’s development and future potential were cut off in its prime; and an almost identical situation was allowed to occur, though for political reasons, with the TSR.2 later in the same decade. Back in 1958 I had become so convinced of the exceptional qualities of the Lightning, which I felt to be up to 20 years ahead of its time, that I extolled its virtues along these lines to anyone who would care to listen; and frequently the reaction was, ‘Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?’ Thirty years later it had become widely accepted that the Lightning was one of the finest fighter aeroplanes of all time with enormous, but unrealised, development potential – and it was British! No Brownie-points to the authorities who failed, or refused, to understand this; but hats off to the stalwart fighter pilots of Binbrook and all the other Lightning bases who, throughout more than a quarter of a century, demonstrated it conclusively. • This article is an abridged version of a series
written by the author and published in Aeroplane Monthly magazine in 1988.

And the reasons for its popularity with fighter pilots? It had the precision control qualities, was relative viceless, an immense reserve of power

Roland ‘Bee’ Beamont in contemplative mood in the cockpit of WG760. Before his jet flying career he worked for Hawker aircraft and flew operational missions during World War Two. He shot down 32 V-1 ‘Doodlebugs’ and claimed nine ‘kills’ before being shot down in October 1944. Confined firstly to Stalag-III he remained a PoW until the end of the war in Europe in May 1945.

English Electric Lightning 33

Lightning production

Unlike first generation British jets such as the Meteor and Canberra, the later Lightning was never produced in massive numbers and did not see tremendous export success. Martyn Chorlton crunches the numbers to reveal what was built, when and for whom.


rom the first flight of English Electric P.1A WG760 in August 1954, production of the Lightning family continued until late 1969, with the last delivery to the Kuwaiti Air Force. During this period 339 aircraft were built, the vast majority at Samlesbury, four miles east of Preston, Lancashire. P.1As WG760, WG763 and WG765 were all built at Samlesbury, while the three pre-development batch P.1Bs were produced at the West Works factory, Strand Road, Preston. Proper jigged production began at Samlesbury, commencing with 20 Development Batch (DB) P.1Bs, the first of which flew in April 1958. Prior to this, a contract had been received to begin production of the Lightning F.1 and the first of these began leaving Samlesbury at a regular rate from 1960. All Lightnings from then on were built at Samlesbury, with the exception of 30 Lightning F.2A conversions, a batch of F.52 conversions and a pair of T.54 conversions which were all worked on at Warton, Lancashire. Another exception to the rule was XM967 which was removed from the production line at Samlesbury and transported by road to Filton to become the T.5 prototype, first flying from there in March 1962. The Bristol Aeroplane Company won the largest non-flying contract, producing the forward fuselages for all T.5s built, with final assembly for the remainder being carried out at Samlesbury.

Lightning T.4 XM966 takes shape at Filton in 1961. The aircraft formed part of Contract 6/Acft/15445, placed in July 1958. Image: BAe Systems

34 English Electric Lightning

Orders and production
Prototype English Electric P.1A (Ministry of Supply to Contract 6/Acft/5175 - April 1950) WG760, WG763 and WG765 The latter a structural test airframe only. Prototype English Electric P.1B (Ministry of Supply Contract 6/Acft/5175 - August 1953) XA847, XA853 and XA856 Three aircraft only. Pre-Production/ Development Batch English Electric P.1B (Contract 6/Acft/10351 for Ministry of Aviation Trials February 1954) XG307 to XG313 and XG325 to XG333 Twenty aircraft. Prototype English Electric Lightning P.II (T.4) (Ministry of Aviation to Contract 6/Acft/13620 - May 1956) XL628 and XL629 Two aircraft only. English Electric Lightning F.1/F.1A (Contracts 6/Acft/12715 for F.1s and Contract 6/ Acft/15445 for F.1As - Nov 1956) F.1: XM134 to XM147, XM163 to XM167 (XM168 CNX) F.1A: XM169 to XM192, XM213 to XM216; (XM228 and XM229 CNX) Thirty-eight aircraft delivered between March 1960 and August 1961. English Electric Lightning T.4 (Contract 6/Acft/15445 - July 1958) XM966, XM968 to XM974, XM987 to XM997, XN103 to XN112 CNX (XM967 taken from this contract for T.5 prototype) Nineteen aircraft delivered between June 1962 and January 1963. English Electric Lightning F.2 (Contract KC/2D/03 December 1959) XN723 to XN735, XN767 to XN797, XN798 to XN803 CNX Forty-four aircraft delivered between September 1962 and October 1963. BAC Lightning F.3 (Contract KC/2T/019 - June 1960) XP693 to XP708, XP735 to XP765. Forty-seven aircraft delivered between May 1963 and Nov 1964. BAC Lightning F.3/F.6 (Contract KD/2T/079 - June 1960) XR711 to XR728, XR747 to XR773. Forty-four aircraft delivered between Dec 1964 and Aug 1966. BAC Lightning T.5 (Contract KC/2D/064 August 1962) XS416 to XS423, XS449 to XS460 Twenty aircraft delivered between March and December 1965. BAC Lightning F.6 (Contract KD/2T/0139 January 1964) XS893 to XS904, XS918 to XS938 Thirty-three aircraft delivered between November 1966 and August 1967. BAC Lightning T.5 (Contract KD/2T/188 – 1966) XV328 and XV329 Two aircraft delivered in January and February 1967 as replacements for XS453 and XS460. BAC Lightning F.52 (Saudi Arabia Production batch) 52-655 to 52-659 (all ex-RAF F.2s) and XN734 for Saudi Support Unit at Warton Six aircraft. BAC Lightning T.54 (Saudi Arabia production batch) 54-650 (ex-XM989) and 54-651 (ex-XM992) Two aircraft. BAC Lightning F.53 (Saudi Arabia production batch – ordered May 1966) 53-666 to 53-699 Thirty-three aircraft. BAC Lightning F.53 (Saudi Arabia production batch) 53-700 One aircraft. BAC Lightning T.55 (Saudi Arabia production batch – ordered May 1966) 55-710 to 55-716 Six aircraft. BAC Lightning F.53K (Kuwait production batch – ordered December 1966) 53-412 to 53-423 Twelve aircraft. BAC Lightning T.55K (Kuwait production batch ordered December 1966) 55-410 and 55-411 Two aircraft. Technicians at Samlesbury hard at work riveting booms to wing skins. Image: BAe Systems

(Above) Lightning front fuselage assembly underway at the Preston Strand Road Factory. Components would then be moved to Samlesbury for completion. Image: BAe Systems

The Bristol Aeroplane Company won the contract to produce the front fuselages for all Lightning T.5s. Here, forward sections are completed at Filton prior to being transported to Samlesbury for assembly. Image: BAe Systems

English Electric Lightning 35

Lightning losses
Of the 339 Lightnings built, some 116 were lost in accidents and incidents. Martyn Chorlton looks at the fates that befell them.


t is very difficult to avoid the subject of fire when discussing the whys and wherefores of Lightning losses over the years. The effect of the very nature of its design, including the uniquely mounted engines and the tight spaces in which fuel and hydraulic lines literally rub uncomfortably alongside each other, was not fully understood in the original Lightning plans. Even as early as 1960, steps were taken to reduce fire risks, and during a fiveyear period, no less than 60 fire hazard-reducing modifications were introduced. A lifetime of fire integrity programmes was also implemented following

the loss of six particular Lightnings to fire in 1971. The problem was never completely solved though, and unless the entire aircraft was redesigned, there was never much chance of total success.

October 1, 1959 Lightning T.4 XL628 Operator: English Electric
English Electric test pilot Johnny Squier received the shock of his life when flying XL628, the prototype T.4. Halfway between the Isle of Man and the mainland, the entire tailplane section sheared away from the fuselage! He ejected clear of the stricken aircraft and landed in the Irish Sea, however, his distress beacon failed, and with little chance of rescue crews locating his position he used a piece of floating driftwood to paddle his dinghy ashore. Some 28-and-a-half hours later he made landfall at Wigtown Bay on the Galloway coast! Here XL628 is seen en route to the 1958 SBAC Airshow at Farnborough in company with P.1B XG331.

February 26, 1960 Lightning F.1 XG327

Undercarriage up selected too early on take-off from Boscombe Down. Flt Lt L G Cockerill uninjured but Cat 3 damage (scrapped and damaged fuselage) to aircraft.

Operator: ‘A’ Sqn A&AEE

September 13, 1962 Lightning F.1 XG332 Operator: de Havilland

June 6, 1963 Lightning F.1A XM179

Mid-air collision with XM181 over Great Bricett, Suffolk forced the pilot, Flt Lt M Cook, to eject. Cook sustained a broken neck.

Operator: 56 Sqn

March 5, 1960 Lightning F.1 XG334

Abandoned by Sqn Ldr R Harding off Wells-next-the-Sea after the undercarriage failed to lower.

Operator: AFDS

July 13, 1963 Lightning F.1 XG311

September 12, 1960 Lightning F.1A XM170 Operator: English Electric
Whilst undergoing ground checks after its first flight at Warton, mercury was found in an electrical bay and the aircraft was declared Cat 5 with just 14 minutes on the clock!

After recovering to Warton, EE Senior Production test pilot D M Knight could not lower the starboard undercarriage because of a bracket fracture. A preplanned ejection was then carried out at 5,000ft and 230kts over the Ribble Estuary from where the pilot was immediately picked up by the company ASR helicopter.

Operator: English Electric

July 18, 1963 Lightning F.1A XM186

December 16, 1960 Lightning F.1 XM138

Aircraft caught fire immediately after touching down at Coltishall following a fire bottle exploding, which caused a fuel leak. Flt Lt E Hopkins unhurt.

Operator: AFDS

Suffered a high ‘G’ stall while practising a display routine. Control was lost and the pilot, Flt Lt A Garside, initiated the ejection sequence too late and was killed. The aircraft came down one mile W of Wittering.

Operator: 111 Sqn

November 19, 1963 Lightning F.1A XM187

June 28, 1961 Lightning F.1A XM185

Abandoned 1 mile north of Lavenham after the undercarriage and airbrakes jammed. Flying Officer P Ginger safely ejected.

Operator: 111 Sqn

Bounced heavily on landing at Wattisham and the undercarriage collapsed.

Operator: 111 Sqn

March 25, 1964 Lightning F.2 XN723

December 12, 1962 Lightning T.4 XM993

Civilian test pilot Dennis Witham abandoned aircraft at 5,000ft and 550kts over Keyham after the aircraft caught fire.

Operator: Rolls-Royce

Aircraft overturned on landing at Middleton St George after an undercarriage collapsed. The instructor, Flt Lt A Turley, and his pupil, Wg Cdr C Gibbs, escaped with minor injuries.

Operator: LCS
Perhaps the most famous of all Lightning accidents occurred to de Havilland test pilot George Aird. An engine fire in F.1 XG332 caused a control rod failure in the tailplane and Aird managed to eject at just 150ft and survived, though with broken legs. A photographer captured this, now very famous, photograph of the moment he escaped the aircraft.

April 27, 1964 Lightning F.2 XN785

Crashed after flight-refuelling exercise, attempted to land at disused airfield, Hutton Cranswick. Flying Officer G C Davie was killed.

Operator: 92 Sqn

April 26, 1963 Lightning F.1 XM142

Flt Lt T J Burns ejected safely after the aircraft suffered a hydraulics failure. The aircraft crashed into the sea off Cromer.

Operator: 74 Sqn

June 9, 1964 Lightning F.1A XM191

Whilst landing, an engine caught fire and the aircraft was deemed beyond economical repaired. Flt Lt N Smith was uninjured.

Operator: 111 Sqn

36 English Electric Lightning

March 3, 1967 Lightning F.3 XP699

Operator: 56 Sqn

Flying Officer S Pearse ejected safely from 56 Sqn Lightning F.3 XP699 after a fire warning came on. The wreckage is seen here still smouldering in a field near Wethersfield. Image: MoD via Martyn Chorlton

August 28, 1964 Lightning F.3 XP704

Spun into the ground at Leuchars during aerobatic display practice. Flt Lt G Owens initiated the ejection sequence too late and was killed.

Operator: 74 Sqn

seat failed to fire, leaving no choice but to stay with the aircraft for a forced landing. This was successfully carried out near Helmington, but as the aircraft rolled to a halt it struck a wall, which was sufficient to initiate the ejection seat. Sadly, Law was killed as the seat was working outside of its parameters.

September 7, 1967 Lightning F.6 XR766 Operator: 23 Sqn

Sqn Ldr R Blackburn failed to recover from a spin and safely abandoned the aircraft 51 miles ENE of Leuchars.

September 11, 1964 Lightning F.1 XM134

Abandoned off Happisburgh Light House by Flt Lt T Bond after the undercarriage would not lower.

Operator: 226 OCU

March 15, 1966 Lightning F.1A XM190

USAF Exchange Officer Capt A Peterson was forced to eject following a large fuel leak which caused an engine fire. Aircraft crashed into the sea off Cromer.

Operator: 226 OCU

September 13, 1967 Lightning F.1 XM136

Flt Lt J Sneddon was forced to eject after a major fuel fire which quickly caused loss of tailplane control. The aircraft came down near Scottow, close to Runway 22 approach at Coltishall.

Operator: TFF

January 24, 1968 Lightning F.6 XS900

Power was lost after take-off from Lossiemouth, which was later believed to have been caused by a control restriction. Flt Lt Miller attempted to land at nearby Milltown, but failed and safely abandoned the jet.

Operator: 5 Sqn

April 29, 1968 Lightning F.6 XS924

The aircraft crashed during an RAF 50th Anniversary flypast at Binbrook. The aircraft was seen to stall, and then performed a ‘falling leaf’ in stream turbulence, before crashing on the edge of the airfield. Flt Lt A J Davey was killed.

Operator: 5 Sqn

Not long after take-off, the aircraft suffered a highpressure hydraulic fluid leak, which caused an explosion in No.2 engine. As control progressively deteriorated,

September 4, 1968 Lightning F.53 53-690Operator: BAC

September 28, 1964 Lightning F.1 XG327

The cockpit canopy (7/16in thick) failed in flight. D M Knight safely recovered the aircraft back to Warton, where it was modified with 3/8in thick Perspex.

Operator: BAC

May 6, 1966 Lightning F.1A XM213

December 1, 1964 Lightning F.3 XP697

The undercarriage retracted prematurely during the takeoff run causing the jet to slide along the runway, across the perimeter track and into a field beyond the airfield boundary. Sqn Ldr P Hobley was uninjured but XM213 was struck off charge five days later.

Operator: 226 OCU

Production test pilot J J Cockburn successfully ejected, leaving the Lightning to crash in Pilling, 4 miles E of Fleetwood.

An engine fire developed after a fuel leak, however, D M Knight successfully landed the overweight aircraft without further damage at Warton.

Operator: BAC

July 1, 1966 Lightning T.5 XS453

January 11, 1965 Lightning F.1 XG335

Jammed undercarriage forced Flying Officer G Fish to abandon the aircraft off Happisburgh.

Operator: 226 OCU

Suffered a ‘Reheat 2’ fire warning while downwind to land at Tengah. The pilot, Flying Officer P F Thompson, then made a standard ‘three greens’ call, but straight afterwards the aircraft pitched up, dropped a wing and entered a flat spin. The flight leader called for Thompson to eject, which he did, but by this time the seat was at low altitude; the parachute failed to deploy and the pilot was killed on impact.

September 12, 1968 Lightning F.6 XS896

Operator: 74 Sqn

Sqn Ldr J Whitaker, a trials pilot, was forced to eject at 5,000ft near Woodborough, Wiltshire after the undercarriage failed to lower.

Operator: A&AEE

July 27, 1966 Lightning F.3 XR714

June 26, 1965 Lightning F.3 XR712

Flt Lt A Doyle suffered a fire in the jet pipe during a flying display, and once control was lost, ejected safely. The aircraft came down in Watergate Bay, nr St Mawgan.

Operator: 111 Sqn

Undercarriage was retracted prematurely on take-off and the fighter was caught in the slipstream of another Lightning. Pilot uninjured, aircraft was possibly struck off charge.

Operator: 111 Sqn

November 11, 1968 Lightning F.52 52-611 (ex 52-658) Operator: RSAF
Stalled during a practice single-engine approach into Khamis Mushayt. Maj S Ghimlas was killed.

August 24, 1966 Lightning F.3 XP760

March 7, 1967 Lightning T.55 55-710

Operator: BAC

July 22, 1965 Lightning T.5 XM966

An engine failure forced Flt Lt Turley to abandon the aircraft 35 miles off Seahouses.

Operator: 23 Sqn

Whilst carry out supersonic rolling tests, the fin and rudder broke off in similar circumstances to the loss of XL628. Both test pilot J Dell and Flight Test Observer successfully ejected 12 miles off St Bees Head.

Operator: BAC

September 20, 1966 Lightning F.52 52-657

Crash on take-off after excessive rotation. Pilot escaped injury but aircraft a write-off.

Operator: RSAF

September 29, 1965 Lightning F.3 XP739

Aircraft was safely abandoned by Flt Lt H Molland following engine problems. Aircraft crashed at Battisford Hill, near Wattisham.

Operator: 111 Sqn

January 2, 1967 Lightning T.4 XM971

January 5, 1966 Lightning F.3 XR721

The conical bullet radar fairing broke loose whilst overhead Coltishall and a large amount of debris was ingested by the engines. The crew, Sqn Ldr T Carleton and Flt Lt L Grose, ejected safely. The aircraft crashed near Tunstead.

Operator: 226 OCU
Legendary test pilot Jimmy Dell was seriously injured when RSAF Lightning T.55 55-710 veered from the runway at Warton in a 35kt crosswind and struck the arrester gear. This tore off the undercarriage and caused the forward fuselage to break. The second pilot, P Williams (Airwork), was also seriously injured when he was thrown out of the aircraft still strapped to his ejector seat. Image: Jimmy Dell via Martyn Chorlton

After his radar failed, Flying Officer D R Law decided to carry out some instrument approaches at Wattisham followed by a practice diversion to Bentwaters. At this point the No.1 engine flamed out, and, unable to maintain height, Law decided to eject. Unfortunately, the

Operator: 56 Sqn

April 17, 1967 Lightning F.1A XM184

Aircraft caught fire on landing at Coltishall but the pilot, Flt Lt G Crumbie, escaped uninjured. The aircraft was struck off charge on May 4, 1967.

Operator: 226 OCU

English Electric Lightning 37

November 29, 1968 Lightning F.1A XM174 Operator: TTF
Abandoned safely by Flt Lt E C Rawcliffe, following a hydraulic leak and reheat fire. The aircraft crashed at Balmullo Quarry near Leuchars.

June 2, 1968 Lightning F.1A XM188 Operator: 226 OCU

September 22, 1969 Lightning F.6 XS926 Operator: 5 Sqn
Maj C B Neel USAF, an exchange officer, lost control and abandoned the aircraft before it spun into the sea, 51 miles off Flamborough Head.

March 5, 1970 Lightning F.6 XS918 Operator: 11 Sqn
Flt Lt A D Doidge abandoned the aircraft after an inflight fire. Sadly, Doidge died of exposure before rescue arrived, partly caused by the fact that he had cut the boots off the end of his immersion suit, which soaked his underclothes.

May 2, 1970 Lightning F.52 52-612 (ex 52-659) Operator: RSAF
Crashed near Khamis Mushayt.

May 3, 1970 Lightning F.53 53-697 Operator: RSAF
Crashed near the Yemeni border during a reconnaissance sortie after being hit by ground fire. Pilot is believed to have safely ejected.

May 7, 1970 Lightning F.3 XP742 Operator: 111 Sqn
Abandoned by Flying Officer S Tulloch, following an engine fire East of Great Yarmouth.

Sqn Ldr Arthur Tyldesley was taxying back to the line at Coltishall in F.1A XM188 when the aircraft’s brakes failed. With throttles jammed, XM188 proceeded to consume the entire contents of the office before a brave Rolls-Royce technician crawled under the aircraft to disable the Avon engines. Tyldesley made his escape via the roof of the same aircrew office! Image: Arthur Tyldesley via Martyn Chorlton

May 26, 1970 Lightning F.6 XR767 Operator: 74 Sqn
Crashed into the sea at night 50 miles NW of Singapore. Flt Lt J C Webster was killed.

January 28, 1971 Lightning F.2 XN772 Operator: 92 Sqn
Control lost after entering a spin, forcing Flying Officer P Hitchcock to eject; the aircraft crashed near Diepholz, West Germany.

August 7, 1972 Lightning F.3 XP700 Operator: 29 Sqn
Undercarriage raised before full flying speed was achieved by Flt Lt E Fenton. Tail bumper and ventral tank damaged as aircraft clambered into the air. After gaining some height, ATC advised him to head for open country, at which point Fenton safely ejected. The aircraft came down at Newton near Sudbury.

July 27, 1970 Lightning F.6 XS930 Operator: 74 Sqn

This aircraft was No.2 in a stream take-off, which was a staged event for a photographer to capture a ‘snap rotation’. It appears that the photographer was positioned too far along the runway. However, the pilot Flt Lt F Whitehouse, decided to pull up regardless. Unfortunately, the aircraft stalled before crashing into a Malay village near Tengah. Whitehouse ejected, but left his seat only just before fatally hitting the ground. Two villagers were also killed and at least 100 buildings were destroyed.

April 10, 1971 Lightning F.53 53-414 Operator: KAF
Crashed on approach to Kuwait International Airport. The pilot, Lt A Abdulrazaq, ejected moments before his aircraft crashed into a shanty town, killing three civilians. The pilot died of his injuries en route to hospital.

September 6, 1972 Lightning T.5 XS455 Operator: 5 Sqn

April 28, 1971 Lightning F.6 XS938 Operator: 23 Sqn

Suffered a hydraulic failure during an aerobatic sortie over the North Sea. Aircraft abandoned by Sqn Ldr T Gauvin and 1st Lt R Verbist (Belgian Air Force), injuring both. Aircraft came down off Spurn Head.

August 12, 1970 Lightning F.6 XS893 Operator: 74 Sqn
Abandoned safely by Flying Officer M Rigg following a jammed undercarriage and crashed into the sea 18 miles E of RAF Changi.

Aircraft suffered a fuel fire immediately after take-off from Leuchars. Flying Officer S McLean ejected safely while the aircraft crashed into the mouth of the River Tay.

September 28, 1972 Lightning F.53 53-674 Operator: 2 Sqn (RSAF)
Crashed following a weather diversion off the coast of Bahrain. The pilot, Abdul Jussef, was killed.

May 10, 1971 Lightning F.3 XP744 Operator: 29 Sqn
After a fire warning, Flt Lt R D Cole safely abandoned the aircraft 15 miles W of Akrotiri.

September 8, 1970 Lightning F.6 XS894 Operator: 5 Sqn
Maj W Schaffner, a USAF exchange officer, managed to ditch his aircraft off Flamborough Head. His body was never found.

December 14, 1972 Lightning T.4 XM974 Operator: 226 OCU

May 26, 1971 Lightning F.6 XS902 Operator: 5 Sqn
Double engine fire caused Flt Lt A McKay to eject safely 15 miles NE of Grimsby.

Aircraft safely abandoned by Sqn Ldr J Spencer and Flying Officer Evans after one engine caught fire and both reheats. Aircraft crashed into the sea off Happisburgh.

September 19, 1970 Lightning T.4 XM990 Operator: 226 OCU
While performing for the annual Battle of Britain air display at Coltishall, the Lightning entered an uncontrollable roll, forcing the two crew to eject. Flt Lt B Fuller and Flt Lt J Sims ejected safely, while the aircraft crashed near Little Plumstead.

July 8, 1971 Lightning F.3 XP705 Operator: 29 Sqn
Double engine fire warnings whilst 35 miles S of Akrotiri forced Flt Lt G Clarke (or Cooke?) to eject safely.

April 3, 1973 Lightning F.6 XS934 Operator: 56 Sqn
Flt Lt A Greer abandoned the aircraft after an engine fire, 20 miles ENE of Akrotiri.

August 2, 1971 Lightning F.53 53-419 Operator: KAF

June 5, 1973 Lightning T.4 XM988 Operator: 226 OCU

January 25, 1971 Lightning F.3 XP756 Operator: 29 Sqn
Aircraft abandoned by Capt B Povilus USAF after an engine fire warning, and crashed into the sea off Great Yarmouth.

Aircraft rotated too early and stalled at Rezayat. Lt Nasser managed to successfully eject without injury.

Lost control after entering a spin from a Mach 1.1 spiralling descent. Wg Cdr C Bruce ejected safely, leaving the aircraft to crash off Great Yarmouth.

September 22, 1971 Lightning F.3 XP736 Operator: 29 Sqn
Flying Officer P G Mottershead, on his first trip, inexplicably crashed into the sea 40 miles NE of Great Yarmouth.

June 5, 1973 Lightning F.3 XR719 Operator: 56 Sqn
Damaged beyond repair after heavy landing at Coltishall.

May 20, 1971 Lightning F.3 XP752

Operator: 111 Sqn

September 30, 1971 Lightning F.6 XR764 Operator: 56 Sqn
Abandoned by Flt Lt R Bealer after fire warnings, 35 miles E of Akrotiri.

May 29, 1974 Lightning F.2A XN788

Operator: 19/92 Sqn

October 29, 1971 Lightning F.3 XR711 Operator: 111 Sqn
Rotated too early on take-off at Wattisham, aircraft stalled and sank back onto the runway. Flt Lt E Steenson uninjured but aircraft struck off charge and dispatched to the fire dump.

Crashed while on loan to 6 Sqn.

February 6, 1972 Lightning F.53 53-666 Operator: 6 Sqn (RSAF)

One of the more unusual Lightning losses occurred to F.3 XP752 on May 20, 1971. The aeroplane was in service with 111 Sqn when it collided with a French Air Force Mirage III over Colmar, France, and sustained Cat 5 damage. It landed safely but was later struck off charge. Image: Tony Alcock via Martyn Chorlton

February 16, 1972 Lightning F.3 XP698 Operator: 29 Sqn

Mid-air collision during night exercise with XP747. Aircraft crashed into the sea 40 miles E of Ipswich, killing Flt Lt P A ‘Chillie’ Cooper.

February 16, 1972 Lightning F.3 XP747 Operator: 29 Sqn
Mid-air collision with XP698 but Flt Lt P Reynolds safely recovered the aircraft back to Wattisham.

Lightning F.2A XN788 was lost at RAF Gütersloh in 1974 when its brake ’chute failed on landing. The aircraft left the runway, causing port undercarriage to collapse and become damaged beyond repair. No injuries to pilot. Image: MoD via Martyn Chorlton

38 English Electric Lightning

Undercarriage collapsed on landing at Wattisham and the aircraft was struck off charge.

December 10, 1973 Lightning F.3 XP738 Operator: 111 Sqn

July 19, 1984 Lightning T.5 XS416

Operator: 5 Sqn

September 9, 1983 Lightning T.5 XS457 Operator: 5 Sqn
Struck off charge after damage inflicted after an undercarriage collapse at Binbrook.

February 13, 1974 Lightning F.3 XR715 Operator: 29 Sqn
Double engine fire forced Flt Lt T Butcher to safely eject. Aircraft crashed at Blyford Green, near Southwold.

July 13, 1984 Lightning F.6 XS920 Operator: 5 Sqn
Whilst carrying out a low level practice interception against a USAF A-10A, the aircraft struck some power lines and crashed. Flt Lt D W Frost was killed in the crash, which took place 15 miles N of Henslingen, West Germany.

May 3, 1974 Lightning T.4 XM991 Operator: 19 Sqn
Unknown damage caused at Gütersloh, which resulted in the aircraft being declared Damaged Beyond Repair. Not struck off charge until October 30, 1975.

July 27, 1984 Lightning F.53 53-689 Operator: 2 Sqn (RSAF)
Lightning T.5 XS416 overran the runway at RAF Binbrook, the undercarriage collapsed and it ended up in a field beyond the boundary. There were no injuries and the 5 Sqn machine was repaired. Image: via Martyn Chorlton Crashed at Tabuk.

May 21, 1974 Lightning T.55 55-712 Operator: 6 Sqn (RSAF)

Aircraft crashed into Half Moon Bay following an inverted low-level pass over dunes. Col Ainousa and Lt Otaini were killed.

November 8, 1984 Lightning F.6 XR761 Operator: 5 Sqn
The aircraft suffered a pitch trimmer failure soon after take-off, and while the pilot was dumping fuel, a double engine fire broke out. The aircraft was successfully abandoned 10 miles off Spurn Head.

June 24, 1974 Lightning F.3 XR748 Operator: 29 Sqn
A double hydraulics failure forced Flying Officer K Mason to safely eject 5 miles off Great Yarmouth.

April 21, 1979 Lightning F.53 53-678 Operator: RSAF
Ran out of fuel and crashed during a sandstorm.

March 6, 1985 Lightning F.6 XR772 Operator: 5 Sqn
After entering a spin at approximately 11,000ft, the pilot, Flying Officer M A Ramsey, ejected 20 miles NE of Skegness. Unfortunately, despite being rescued from the water after just 35 minutes, the pilot was found to be dead.

October 29, 1974 Lightning F.6 XR768 Operator: 5 Sqn
Double reheat fire forced Flt Lt T W Jones to safely eject 13 miles E of Saltfleet.

May 25, 1979 Lightning F.6 XS931 Operator: 5 Sqn

April 7, 1975 Lightning F.6 XR762 Operator: 11 Sqn
Crashed into the sea off Akrotiri, Cyprus during a tail chase, killing Flt Lt D L Hampton.

Experienced a control restriction after take-off. Flying Officer P Coker headed out over the North Sea, where the aircraft was safely abandoned off Flamborough Head.

August 17, 1979 Lightning F.3 XP737 Operator: 5 Sqn
Safely abandoned into the sea by Flt Lt R Knowles after the undercarriage failed, near RAF Valley.

September 3, 1985 Lightning F.53 53-667 Operator: 2 Sqn (RSAF)
Crashed 29 miles N of Tabuk after a reheat fire.

June 30, 1975 Lightning F.53 53-420 Operator: KAF
Accident details unknown, but it is believed that Lt A Alqahtani ejected, but did not survive.

September 18, 1979 Lightning F.6 XR723 Operator: 5 Sqn

September 19, 1985 Lightning F.6 XS921 Operator: 11 Sqn
Flt Lt C Penrice successfully abandoned the aircraft following loss of control due to the malfunction of the aileron-powered flying control unit. The aircraft crashed into the sea 50 miles NE of Withernsea.

September 29, 1975 Lightning F.2A XN780 Operator: 92 Sqn
Damaged Beyond Repair after a ground fire at Gütersloh.

Gp Capt P Carter ejected safely after an engine failure, 15 miles S of Akrotiri.

1975 Lightning F.53 53-413 Operator: KAF
Pilot ejected and aircraft Damaged Beyond Repair.

June 30, 1980 Lightning F.53 53-684 Operator: 13 Sqn (RSAF)
Crashed taking off from Dhahran.

July 15, 1986 Lightning F.6 XR760 Operator: 11 Sqn
Only moments after refuelling from a Victor tanker, a fire started in the jet pipe, followed by the controls freezing solid. Flt Lt R Bees safely ejected 15 miles off Whitby.

July 30, 1976 Lightning F.6 XS937 Operator: 11 Sqn
Abandoned off Spurn Head after undercarriage failed to lower; Flying Officer S Manning ejected safely.

September 22, 1980 Lightning F.53 53-673 Operator: 2 Sqn (RSAF)
Mid-air collision with 53-680, and crashed near Khamis Mushayt.

March 19, 1987 Lightning F.3 XP707 Operator: LTF

September 4, 1976 Lightning F.2A XN786 Operator: 19 Sqn
Damaged Beyond Repair after a ground fire at Gütersloh.

September 22, 1980 Lightning F.53 53-680 Operator: 6 Sqn (RSAF)
Mid-air collision with 53-673, presumed also to have crashed near Khamis Mushayt.

Entered an inverted spin during aerobatic display practice at Binbrook, forcing Flt Lt B Lennon to safely eject. The aircraft crashed in a field, 500m from the airfield boundary.

September 11, 1976 Lightning F.53 53-694 Operator: RSAF
Control lost after entering a spin; crashed near Khamis Mushayt.

July 23, 1981 Lightning F.6 XR765 Operator: 5 Sqn
Successfully abandoned by Flt Lt J Wild following an engine fire, and crashed 30 miles east of Spurn Head.

July 1, 1987 Lightning F.6 XR763 Operator: 5 Sqn
Aircraft ingested a piece of the towed banner it was firing at during an APC exercise from Akrotiri, Cyprus. Despite the damage caused to both engines, the pilot attempted to recover at Akrotiri. However, after losing all remaining power the pilot was forced to eject from the aircraft, which crashed into a vineyard near Akrotiri village.

February 24, 1977 Lightning T.4 XM968 Operator: 92 Sqn
Suffered a hydraulics failure near Gütersloh and was abandoned safely by Sqn M Lawrence and Sqn Ldr C Granville-White.

September 28, 1981 Lightning F.53 53-695 Operator: 2 Sqn (RSAF)
Crashed during training sortie at Tabuk.

August 26, 1983 Lightning F.3 XP753 Operator: LTF
After taking off from Teesside airport, Flt Lt M L Thompson performed an unauthorised display off Scarborough. Control was lost following several passes, and the aircraft crashed into the sea, killing the pilot.

April 11, 1988 Lightning F.6 XR769 Operator: 11 Sqn
Suffered an engine fire, giving the RAAF exchange officer no choice but to safely eject. The aircraft came down five miles E of Easington.

April 21, 1979 Lightning F.53 53-669 Operator: RSAF
Ran out of fuel and crashed near Tabuk.

November 14, 2009

March 27, 1981 Lightning T.5 XS459

Operator: LTF

Lightning T.5 XS451 (ZU-BEX) Operator: Private The Thunder City-owned jet developed mechanical problems during the biennial SAAF, Overberg Airshow. Aircraft crashed off-base, killing the pilot, Dave Stock.

Causes of RAF, RSAF and KAF losses
Fire, air and ground 30 Crash (cause unknown) 15 Loss of control 11 Undercarriage failed to lower 9 Undercarriage collapse 9 Premature u/c selection of rotation 8 Hydraulics failure 6 Mid-air collision 6 Control lost during display/practice 6 Structural failure 4 Ground incident 5 Fire on the ground (after landing) 3 Control restriction 2 Ran out of fuel 2 Enemy fire 1 Ingested banner 1

T.5 XS459 is seen at Binbrook just after its embarrassing undercarriage collapse on March 27, 1981. Image: via Martyn Chorlton

English Electric Lightning 39


With the first flight take-off weight set at less than 30,000lb the maiden flight by P.1B XA847 proved an exhilarating experience!

40 English Electric Lightning

English Electric Lightning 41

T.5 alive!
One of the last few ‘live’ Lightnings is something of a dream come true for its owner. Steve Bridgewater speaks to Russell Carpenter about XS458.


sn’t it everybody’s boyhood dream to own a fighter jet?” asks Russell Carpenter when I quiz him about his reasons for owning an English Electric Lightning. To be fair he has a point, but how many of us would go as far as buying, and running, a serviceable Cold War jet? For Russell, the custodianship of Lightning T.5 XS458 is a challenge, an honour and something that never ceased to excite him. We are sitting in the cafe at Cranfield Airport near Milton Keynes, Beds, looking out at the aeroplane being prepared for a run. Russell looks out of the window like a proud father as a team of equally dedicated volunteers repack the braking parachute and scurry around checking everything is in order. “Right back when I was at school I was fascinated by Lightnings,” he continues,

Welcome aboard. The right-hand seat of Lightning T.5 XS458 is available for those wanting to experience a high speed dash down the runway at Cranfield.

42 English Electric Lightning

“I’d doodle them inside my school books! A number of years later, in 1994, I was in the lucky position to own the cockpit section of a Lightning F.2 [XN769] and it was a great project.” Russell overhauled much of XN769’s cockpit section and gained vast experience in the idiosyncrasies of this most charismatic of British jets.

Lucky Lightning
T.5 XS458 is one of the lucky few Lightnings to escape the scrap man’s torch. Built in 1965, she entered service at RAF Coltishall with 145 Sqn and 226 OCU, and, along with many of her brethren, ultimately gravitated to RAF Binbrook. Beginning its service in 1974, the T.5 helped to prepare new pilots for the resident 5 and 11 Sqns, as part of the Lightning Training Flight. Upon retirement, XS458 was one of six Lightnings purchased by Australian collector, Arnold Glass, and ferried to Cranfield. Arnold intended to keep several of these aeroplanes in flyable condition and they were maintained by ex-RAF crew with a view to airworthiness certificates being issued. Sadly – but perhaps understandably – the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) refused the aircraft permission to fly and the project died before ever getting off the ground. At this point, Lightning aficionado Tony Hulls entered the story, with a desire to keep at least one Lightning alive in order to demonstrate its majestic power to future generations. However, XS458 was not his first choice... Upon inspection of the airframes, Tony decided that sistership XS452 was in far better condition and in 1994 he set himself the goal of returning her to taxiable condition. Six years after landing at Cranfield, XS452 lay abandoned and forlorn, but within six months of ownership

Trading Up
Russell’s love of Lightnings ultimately led him to Tony Hulls, who then owned XS458 at Cranfield. “It was one thing sitting in the cockpit section of my own Lightning,” he recalls, “but I really wanted to experience a ‘live’ machine, so I came and had a high-speed run at Cranfield. That day will stick with me forever. It was November 6, 1999 and it was the day I decided I needed to own a Lightning! There was never any doubt that I was going to buy her – even as we were taxiing out onto the runway.” Russell took complete ownership of XS458 in 2001 and has enjoyed every minute of his association with it since. XN769 was eventually moved from his garden and donated to the Malta Aviation Museum, enabling the newer Lightning to receive his undivided attention. After her initial restoration XS458 wore her original LTF grey colour scheme. She is seen here at the 1996 PFA Rally at Cranfield. Image: Steve Bridgewater

Following a period in sombre grey colours, XS458 was repainted to represent an aircraft from 226 OCU, complete with colourful red and white markings. She wore this scheme during the 2000 PFA Rally at Cranfield, as shown here. Image: Steve Bridgewater

“It was the day I decided I needed to own a Lightning! “

All images Darren Harbar / FocalPlaneImages unless stated

English Electric Lightning 43

Today XS458’s port side carries the markings of 92 Sqn, along with the squadron flashes of each unit that operated the Lightning.

the engines were running. Over the next two years the aircraft was returned to fully serviceable condition and she was deemed to be in such a good state that South African collector Mike Beachy Head decided to acquire her and return her to the skies! The proceeds from XS452’s sale allowed Tony to acquire the by-now derelict XS458, which had been sitting at Cranfield since its arrival in 1988. The experience gained from his first Lightning restoration meant that the engines of his new acquisition were quickly running again, and not long after, the first ‘Thunder Runs’ began down the runway. Tony also took the opportunity to repaint XS458 − first in a light grey scheme, then in an authentic Dark Sea Grey she

“The CAA refused the aircraft permission to fly and the project never got off the ground”
had worn in the 1980s as an experimental scheme. After that came a repaint in the style of 226 OCU’s colourful red and white scheme, followed by a stunning black and yellow rendition of 111 Sqns markings on her starboard side. Regular maintenance and repaints, courtesy of her new custodian, have kept XS458 impressively fit and fresh ever since. She currently wears a 111 Sqn scheme on the starboard side and a 92 Sqn scheme on the port side, decorated with the squadron flashes of each unit that operated the Lightning.

Sadly, XS458 doesn’t feel the benefit of a hangar over her head at Cranfield, but she does boast an impressive set of covers to keep the damp and cold at bay. Does this impact on her maintenance?

“At idle, the Avons burn about 7 Gal per minute. Just don’t ask how much fuel it uses once we light the burners!”

44 English Electric Lightning

The starboard side of XS458’s fuselage and tail now carry flamboyant 111 Sqn markings. Regular maintenance and repaints have kept her fit and fresh ever since her restoration.

“Not at all,” Russell explains, “she’s a good old girl. Of course, with any aeroplane of this age, you can’t expect it to be perfect all the time, but that’s why I’ve surrounded myself with a good team. “Tony Hulls is still involved too and he gives me an amazing amount of help. If a job needs doing – like the major engine work that we undertook in 2010 – Tony sources any parts we need and takes on the role for project leader.

“Our small but dedicated team of volunteers doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘cant’; we just get on with it. Most things are fixed in-house, but if we don’t have the experience we need we can bring in from elsewhere.” The team also has a big store of parts. “There’s nothing that we are really short of,” muses Russell. “But if there is anything that we don’t have we can generally source it quickly as Tony has so many contacts.

He has a great saying... ‘I haven’t got one – I’ve got two!’ – that’s what makes him such a great asset to the team. I have full confidence that anything that needs doing can be done.” The one limiting factor the team has experienced is the supply (and cost) of the AVPIN starter fluid. More correctly known as Isopropyl Nitrate, this is a liquid monopropellant that is a low-sensitivity explosive and was used to start a variety of jet-engined aircraft during their RAF service. AVPIN is highly flammable, but also extremely expensive and hard to source. That is why Russell and his team are embarking on a project to convert XS458 to an electric start system in readiness for 2012. It is hoped it will make the start better, more reliable and much cheaper.

As with everything mechanical, a Lightning is far more reliable if it is exercised frequently, and, as such, the team do regular static engine runs throughout the year. However, the best form of exercise is to take XS458 for a high speed run down the runway – complete with reheat and braking ’chute! − Other than flying, only this will give the entire aircraft a workout. Russell plans to do about a dozen runs a year, but with the aircraft using between 100 and 130 Imp Gal of Jet A1 per run this is not a cheap activity. “Just at idle, the Avons burn about 7 Gal per minute,” he explains, “and just don’t ask how much fuel it uses once we light the burners!”

From any angle the Lightning is a beautiful, yet menacing, aircraft, but from the front it has an extra-special appeal. With heat haze obliterating the background, XS458 taxies back into position at Cranfield, her newly-fitted missiles bearing down on the camera.

No Secret

“It will be part of the passenger’s job to fire up the Avon engines”

However, the advantage of the T.5’s second seat means that enthusiasts can come along and experience the exhilaration of a Thunder Run in person... “I was an anorak myself,” smiles Russell, “in fact I still am! I’m just lucky enough to

English Electric Lightning 45

“Just at idle the Avons burn about 7 Gal per minute”

With the now obligatory high-viz jackets to aid their safety, enthusiasts are offered upclose and personal access to XS458 during the open days at Cranfield. own this piece of history. As such, I like to share my aeroplane with people, let them enjoy it and share it with me. The fast-taxi runs we do at Cranfield are perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in British aviation heritage – but that’s something I want to change. I love to meet fellow enthusiasts and we run the days in a very friendly, inviting and low key way. Whether you want to ride in the right-hand seat or stand alongside the taxiway and photograph XS458, all are welcome.” of the Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of the island, so having looked forward to a three year tour with my family, I got about four months’, unaccompanied, and then went back to 56 Sqn at Wattisham. “From there I was promoted to Squadron Leader and became Officer Commanding LTF Binbrook. It was a most enjoyable tour – with my own unit, six aircraft and the staff to maintain them. I finished the tour with about 1,970hrs on Lightnings – just 30hrs shy of the magic 2,000 mark. I was then re-posted as OC East Mids UAS flying the Bulldog and enjoyed a varied career that included

Along for the Ride
Those lucky enough to be in the cockpit during the run are in for a real treat. After being kitted out with your flying suit and ‘bone dome’ you’ll walk out to the aeroplane with your pilot – none other than former Lightning Training Flight boss Dennis Brooks. Dennis joined the RAF direct from university in 1964 and after training on the Hunting Jet Provost (JP) and Folland Gnat he was ‘creamed off’ to be a JP instructor at RAF Syerston near Nottingham. He then got asked to join 111 Sqn and began a long association with the Lightning. “I stayed on the Lightning force for eight years,” he recalls. “My instructional background meant I was posted to 65 Sqn – the OCU – at Coltishall and afterwards I got a posting of my choice. I wanted to go overseas, so I had the choice of Cyprus or Germany. I chose Cyprus for the sunshine! It was the wrong choice. I arrived in 1974 – the year Illustrations: Andy Hay / www.flyingart.co.uk

19 years and more than 4,000hrs on the Tornado GR.1.” Back at Cranfield, Lightning XS458 will have been prepped by the volunteers and the unrushed atmosphere means there’s plenty of time to take photographs and examine the aircraft up close. “As captain, I’ll take the traditional left-hand seat position,” explains Dennis. “Our passengers will sit in the right-hand seat and we begin by making sure they’re strapped in and fully briefed. This will include a brief on the start procedures, because the starter buttons are on the righthand side of the cockpit and it will be part of the passenger’s job to fire up the Avon engines.”

With just 5,900ft of runway at its disposal at Cranfield, XS458 uses her brake ’chute to stop. In service the aircraft required a minimum of 7,500ft to operate safely, but as the aircraft does not approach flying speed on these runs, Cranfield is well within safety parameters.

Once started, Dennis will taxi into position and do a static reheat run for the photographers and then make

46 English Electric Lightning

The sunset on XS458’s career could have come in 1988 when the RAF pensioned her off, or a few years later, when the CAA refused permission for her to fly. Fortunately she’s a lucky Lightning and today she is the only ‘live’ T.5 anywhere in the world.

his way towards Cranfield’s 1,799m (5,900ft) runway. “In service, we needed a minimum of 7,500ft to operate the Lightning,” says Dennis, “so Cranfield is not an ideal location as it means I can’t leave the reheat in for long.” Overuse of the afterburners could mean there would be insufficient runway left to stop – especially if the brake ’chute failed for any reason – but, as Dennis points out, “even a few seconds is enough to give you a punch in the back and accelerate pretty quickly!” To begin his run, Dennis will backtrack XS458 the length of the runway and turn into wind. “I run the engines up to ‘max dry’ power against the brakes,” he continues, “but the brakes normally start to slip just before I reach that point. I then engage the reheat for 4-5 seconds depending on the headwind. That’s enough to get us to

110kts and gives a pretty good indication of the amazing acceleration. She really does feel ready to go, but the standard rotate speed is 160kts, so we have a good margin for error.” Having seen passengers climb from the cockpit at the end of the run there is one common denominator... the size of the grin. If you want to sample XS458 for yourself you can contact Russell through his website at www.lightningt5.com or through his popular Facebook page.

So what does the future hold for XS458? “She’s in really good condition,” concludes Russell, “and the electric start conversion will mean we can run her more often and with less expense. I’m in a really privileged position to own something as iconic as a Lightning – it doesn’t get much better than that, does it? I realise that I must preserve this wonderful aircraft for the next owner, because one day she will fly again!”

Former LTF ‘boss’, Dennis Brooks, (foreground) shares XS458’s cockpit with its owner, Russell Carpenter. Combined with a dedicated team of volunteers, the crew keep the aircraft in tip-top condition ready for whatever the future holds.

English Electric Lightning 47

Lightning T.5 XS458’s cockpit has been faithfully maintained and restored to offer the perfect combination of ‘live’ aircraft and authenticity. The fact that she does not fly means modern radios and transponders do not detract from the ‘period’ feel of the panel. Image: Darren Harbar / FocalPlaneImages

48 English Electric Lightning

English Electric Lightning 49

1,000mph in the P.1!
In this extract from an article he wrote for Aeroplane Monthly in February 1992, English Electric Chief Test Pilot Roland Beamont recalls reaching the magic 1,000mph figure in the precursor of the Lightning


ollowing the first flight of English Electric P.1A WG760 in 1954, two years of successful testing had shown conclusively that the stability and control of this advanced and radical new technology demonstrator was right on course for the evolution of its all-weather fighter development, the P.1B Lightning; but one critical area remained unexplored.

With its two 8,100lb-thrust, un-reheated, Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Sa.5 engines, Mach 1.12 had been achieved in level flight at the Tropopause, and stability and control had been investigated out to Mach 1.4 by diving along the constant energy line. But that was at the thrust-equals-drag limit, and the P.1 was going to hit the deck before it went any faster in this configuration! The Lightning specification required initial operational clearance to Mach 1.7, and the design showed potential to Mach 2 and beyond for even the first prototype P.1B, XA847. However, there was a period of doubt as to the achievement of directional and lateral stability at increasing supersonic speed, and there had recently been roll/ inertia coupling incidents in similar research programmes in America and France, in which aircraft had been lost – the most recent being a prototype F-100 in which North American’s senior experimental test pilot George Welsh had lost his life. The fin and rudder area of the new P.1B was to be similar to the P.1A. Up to Mach 1.4 in the latter aircraft Dutch roll, directional stability and pitch damping had proved satisfactory; but there was uncertainty about higher speeds, and the surest way to establish these important facts was to fly it there.

as the nozzles were fixed open at the maximum reheat condition, when reheat was cancelled the residual dry thrust available from each engine was less than 5,500lb. With the 8,100lb thrust produced by the each of the original dry engines WG760 had achieved ‘adequate’ single-engine safety performance, but with the new fixed nozzles the single engine performance after take-off was critical, in the event of reheat failure on the ‘good’ engine. In the landing, configuration was non-existent. Therefore each sortie had to be planned to a pattern which would permit an ‘energy management’ recovery in the event of failure of one engine and reheat on the other.

Bingo Fuel
Also, as each performance sortie had, of necessity, to be in reheat from brakes off and throughout the climb and level

acceleration until reaching and completing the test point, fuel consumption was at an excessively high rate. In fact the maximum test points were reached at the ‘Bingo’ fuel state, at which point the aircraft had to be within safe range of a gliding (engines idling) return to Warton. The first two flights in reheat were in early February 1956 and these were remarkable in the increase in take-off and climb performance experienced. An altitude of 40,000ft could now be reached in 3½ minutes from take-off! These flights, and one on February 14, were used to establish confidence in the reheat handling and stability.

“An altitude of 40,000ft could now be reached in 3½ minutes from take-off!”
They were also to evaluate and practice the marginal single engine recovery (simulated) and they averaged less than 20min ground-to-ground owing to fuel shortage! It sounded critical, but worked out quite well in practice. WG760 is prepared for another flight. With sortie times as low as 20 minutes it was not unheard of for the aeroplane to be towed into position at the end of the runway to conserve fuel.

Accordingly, in November 1955, WG760 was fitted with two Sapphire 5R engines with rudimentary fixed nozzle reheat systems, each giving 10,310lb thrust; but

Pushing the Envelope
The performance flight envelope expansion programme began on February 17 and was full of interest. The authorities had decreed that since this was a ‘high risk’ programme,

50 English Electric Lightning

‘Bee’ Beamont blasts off for another test flight in the English Electric P.1A. The airframe was modified a number of times during its life as a trials aircraft.

Rudder pulse Dutch rolls at Mach 1.2 and Mach 1.3 were symmetrical and well-damped, and stick pulses in roll and pitch were also well damped. Handling was excellent and everything else was normal – except the fuel gauges, which looked as if they were suffering electrical failure! Cutting reheat to idling and banking into a left diving turn onto a VDF heading for Warton took only seconds and then, after a short Mach 0.9 descent through the cloud layer, Warton appeared about 10 miles ahead with ATC saying “You are cleared all the way”. Take-off had been with 2,150/2,130lb fuel and on final approach the gauges read 450/430lb after 19min of flight. Margins for error or arisings were going to be slender on this programme!

Sonic Boom
But that was not the only problem, for in debriefing I learnt that a ‘colossal’ boom

Despite being underpowered in its initial form WG760 played a vital part in the development of the Mach 2 capable Lightning.

instead of being carried out over our approved Irish Sea supersonic range (‘Test-Run Alfa’) it was to take place over land to ensure reasonable facilities for recovery of the pieces in the event of an accident. The new route was northbound over the Pennines from north-east of Preston, and this produced the first problems… Taking off on Warton’s 08 runway, I pulled WG760 up into its dramatic reheat climb and quickly passed through a cloud layer and on through Mach 1 at about

29,000ft before levelling out at 34,000ft and turning on to 355 degrees for the level run.

had shaken Preston after take-off, and they must have caught the edge of the energy shockwave in transition as I turned port on the climb through 29,000ft. This item would have to be added to the planning for the next sortie! But later that day word came in that another ‘colossal’ boom was being complained about very strongly by the citizens of Appleby near Penrith. They had clearly caught the high energy concentration of the Mach 1.3 boom as the P.1A turned left sharply at the end of the run. We were becoming strapped not only by technical, but also by geographical and administrative issues! These constraints were addressed for the next flight by steepening the Mach 0.9 climb even further to remain subsonic until beyond Preston at about 15 miles north-east of Warton, and by attempting to terminate the highspeed run sufficiently short of Appleby to avoid them receiving a boom. The first measure worked, but the second did not and by the end of the trial, which luckily did not last long,

Trials with the P.1A led to P.1B, the first of which (XA847) made its maiden flight on April 4, 1957. By now the airframe was much closer in appearance to the Lightning and it boasted a circular nose intake and the familiar radar ‘bullet’ in the nose. XA847 was the first of the family to reach Mach 2.0.

English Electric Lightning 51

questions were being asked in the House of Commons by the MP for Appleby! The next two flights repeated these tests at Mach 1.35 and Mach 1.4, still without noticeable control deterioration but during the last sortie a moderate high frequency ‘rumbling’ vibration occurred. This was thought to be intake ‘buzz’ but it would have to be watched. At Mach 1.4 there was clearly plenty of thrust in hand for further level acceleration, and on February 23 WG760 was taken to Mach 1.45. Flight was still smooth and in buffet-free conditions. The ‘buzz’ type vibration still there but no more pronounced. Pitch and roll damping checks were good but when the rudder pulse was made, the resultant Dutch-roll motion was less cyclic than lurching, and the period to deadbeat damping was much longer than before. It had stopped feeling secure directionally, and after landing from this sortie the fuel gauges read 390/360lb. We were getting close to the point of running out of margins.

Mach 1.5
Nevertheless, the instrumentation readout indicated a positive though small margin of Nv (directional stability), and I felt that with a colder-than-standard Tropopause to reduce fuel burn we could take another

By the August 30, 1957 issue of The Aeroplane, English Electric had begun using the P-1B as the centerpiece for its advertising campaign. damped. Then came the left rudder pulse, but this was different. The P.1 yawed correctly in response, but as the rudder pedals were released the yaw seemed to stay on momentarily, before lurching back through neutral to yaw in the other direction, and this pattern continued through three or four cycles with an associated erratic lurching rolling moment due to the yaws. It did not feel healthy so I firmly centred the controls, cancelled the reheat (noting Mach 1.53 at that point) and hauled the P.1A round into its idle-power recovery glide back to Warton. I landed with only 360/320lb fuel left after a flight time of 21 minutes. This was our first at 1,000mph and a satisfying milestone, we felt. At the subsequent meeting the engineers said that a further flight to this point was needed to provide all the data required. I agreed on a ‘this flight and no more’ basis. This time the Dutch-roll characteristics at Mach 1.53 (at a measured Nv value of 0.015) convinced me that we should not go there again without modification. This flight confirmed the data needed for the P.1B programme and design work on the first of the fin area increases for the Lightning was put in hand immediately. WG760 never flew again to these speeds, but it had made a major contribution to the future Mach 2+ of the Lightnings.

“Everything was normal – except the fuel gauges which looked as if they were suffering electrical failure!”
look to measure any further deterioration in Nv at Mach 1.5. This was agreed and on February 24 the next sortie was set up with a favourable Tropopause at -65°C/37,000ft. The day was clear with endless visibility across the Irish Sea to Ireland in the west and over the borders to the Forth in the north. It was exhilarating to be flying the P.1 as I turned on to the Appleby run, with the aircraft clearly accelerating more quickly on this cold day – but there was work to do.

The author was the first person to fly the P.1 and the subsequent Lightning, and, as he regales in this feature, the first to take the aircraft through the 1,000mph mark. Mach 1.4 appeared quickly in the P.1’s usual smooth security, then Mach 1.45, 1.48 and finally Mach 1.5 (1,000mph). So far there were no problems. Fuel was already down to 1,100/1,100Ib and the engines were still good. So, now for the answers. The pitch pulse was excellent and firmly damped and, as before, the aileron pulses were adequately though less firmly

The author uses a drogue ‘chute to bring WG760 to a halt.

52 English Electric Lightning

English Electric Lightning 53


The P.1B retained the basic and now well proven aerodynamics and controls of the P.1 combined with a virtually all-new fuselage and a pair of Rolls-Royce RA24R engines giving approximately 30,000lb of reheated thrust.

54 English Electric Lightning

English Electric Lightning 55

“Below about 250kts you flew in wall-to-wall buffet, which smoothed out with greater speeds but was always present, until at Mach 1 it magically disappeared.” Image: Martyn Chorlton

56 English Electric Lightning

Learn to test, test to learn
Wg Cdr J A ‘Robby’ Robinson AFC passed through the Empire Test Pilot School as a student and tutor, and also became the school’s commandant. He fondly recalls the unit’s Lightning Years.


s a former Empire Test Pilot School (ETPS) student (course no.21 Feb-Dec 1962), tutor (1968-70) and Commandant (1976-77) I remember both the school and the Lightning fondly. I had to wait until the end of April 1968 to get to grips with the Lightning. It had taken a lot to convince the Ministry that ETPS needed to be able to teach supersonic testing techniques but eventually they let us have a Lightning T.4, which had arrived in May 1966. Naturally they gave us one that nobody else wanted, XL629, the second prototype T.4. It was non-standard and spares were very difficult to come by, hence it had been a headache at Farnborough. Things

improved at Boscombe Down, however, as ‘A’ Squadron had been dealing with Lightnings for a long time and they would be looking after it from now on. I had my first Convex with Ian Normand on April 29 and my second on May 1. On May 9, Dave Ashover, the QFI, and I flew our first solo. It was to be a mutual solo with me as nominal captain. I remember both of us walking out to this monster fighter practically holding each other’s hand.

I grew to love the Lightning. Its acceleration on take-off was exhilarating and one had to select the undercarriage

English Electric Lightning 57

ETPS Lightning T.5 XS422 is seen here at its Boscombe Down home in July 1988. By this time it had been retired and was awaiting disposal. The aircraft is currently on extended restoration to fly in the USA. Image: Adrian M Balch up as soon as the wheels left the ground because the nose wheel – which retracted forwards – was held down by the airflow if it was not retracted before 220kts. It was a common sight to see Lightnings climbing steeply with the nose wheel leg still down as the pilot tried to reduce his speed to let it retract. The rate of climb was phenomenal, two minutes from brakes off to 40,000ft. Going supersonic was a nonevent. Below about 250kts you flew in wall-to-wall buffet, which smoothed out with greater speeds but was always present, until at Mach 1 it magically disappeared and all the pressure instruments, such as the airspeed

“The rate of climb was phenomenal, two minutes from brakes off to 40,000ft”
Then a decelerating turn back towards Boscombe, and a rapid descent and landing before the fuel ran out – during the max reheat acceleration to high speed you could actually see the fuel gauges unwinding! The whole exercise only lasted half an hour, but it was a pretty exciting half an hour I can tell you, particularly if you’re flying it with a French test pilot student who doesn’t completely understand quite what he’s trying to do or how little fuel/time he has to do it in – happy days!”

ETPS Lightnings – XS422
First flown on March 24, 1965, by Tim Ferguson from Samlesbury, Lightning T.5 XS422 enjoyed a busy and varied career before it arrived on the ETPS. After initially serving with 226 OCU at Middleton St George, the jet was passed to 111, 29 and 56 Squadrons as well as 60 and 103 MUs before being loaned to ETPS at Boscombe Down with a healthy 1483.45hrs of flying time under its belt. By August, 1976, the T.5 had received a striking red spine and wing tips, before being permanently placed to MoD charge on March 28, 1977. After a lengthy period of uneventful flights, XS422 flew to Binbrook on February 2, 1985, for undercarriage modification work. After returning to Boscombe Down, the T.5 made its last flight on August 8, 1987, with Sqn Ldr Colin Wilcock and Mr (later Sir) Don Spiers. Having achieved 2,200 flying hours, XS422 was briefly used for pilot rescue training before being put up for disposal by the MoD on September 27, 1988. The aircraft was then purchased by Wensley Haydon-Baille and transported by road to Southampton, where it was placed in storage. By mid-1997, XS422 was acquitted by Marine Salvage Ltd, Portsmouth only to be sold again in October to Andrew Brodie, one of the founding members of the Anglo American Lightning Organisation (AALO). The aircraft was crated and shipped to Stennis Airport, Hancock County, Massachusetts, arriving on November 20, 1997. Flt Lt J Thorpe flew XS422 whilst with ETPS in February 1981. He recalls, “While the aircraft was at ETPS it was used for a variety of test pilot training tasks, mostly concerning supersonic handling and performance. My favourite exercise involved a reheat take-off and climb to 40,000ft (very quick!) heading south-west from Boscombe, cruising at 0.9 Mach until out to sea over the English Channel, just west of the Isle of Wight, and then a supersonic dash east down the channel up to about 1.4 Mach, carrying out some test pilot training stuff en route.

Illustration: Andy Hay www.flyingart.co.uk

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Empire Test Pilot School
Two minutes from brakes off and you were at 40,000ft. Going supersonic was so normal as to be a non-event.

indicator, jumped as the position error disappeared. The aircraft then trundled on to Mach 1.6, but not much faster in level flight. By this time fuel was short and one had to decelerate and head for home. In the circuit the buffet was very noticeable and it was better to fly using the angle of attack indicator rather than the ASI (Airspeed Indicator). On final you flew down the glide slope at about 160kts, and, with a barely perceptible flare, you landed in naval fashion on the very high-pressure tyres. The tail ’chute pulled you up quickly and you turned off the runway before jettisoning it to keep it clear for following aircraft. All this took 40 minutes, from brakes off to touch down.

The 1977 ETPS fleet at rest at Boscombe Down before another day’s intense flying. Along with the Lightning can be seen a Hawker Hunter T.7, BAC Jet Provost T.5, Armstrong Whitworth Argosy, English Electric Canberra, SEPECAT Jaguar, Hawker Siddeley Andover, Beagle Basset and a pair of Westland Wessex. Image: via TimeLinePhotography The Empire Test Pilot School has its roots in the Test Pilot’s Training Flight, which was created by Air Marshal Sir Ralph Sorley within the A&AEE at Boscombe Down in early 1943. The flight was officially redesignated as the Test Pilot’s School (TPS) on June 21, 1943 and became the first dedicated training establishment of its type in the world. Part of the unit’s mandate was ‘to provide suitably trained pilots for testing duties in aeronautical research and development establishments with the service and the industry’ and No 1 Course began in the summer of 1943. The school was redesignated again (to ETPS) on July 28, 1944 and in October 1945 it moved to Cranfield, before it settled at Farnborough for 20 years from 1947. It moved one final time, to its current home at Boscombe Down, on January 1, 1968. Now attached to the A&AEE again, ETPS was administered by the DGTE (Director General of Test & Evaluation) from April 1, 1992 and the DTEO (Defence Test & Evaluation Organisation) from April, 1995. In 2001 ETPS was one of many research departments sold off by the Government, and today it is under the charge of QinetiQ and the MoD.

The aircraft only injured me once. I was climbing up the ladder on the right hand side, holding my helmet in my right hand, when the ladder’s top hooks disengaged themselves from the aircraft. The ladder fell back, pivoting around the bottom hooks. I, like a fool, clung to the ladder and the first thing to hit the ground was the back of my head. To add insult to injury (and further injury), the ladder fell on my face. I was quite concussed and had to postpone the flight. My friends say that I have never recovered. The Lightning was a thirsty beast, especially in reheat. One incident illustrates this well. I was flying in the left hand seat

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as observer (or ‘talking ballast’, as we called it), in XL629, for an Italian student as he carried out supersonic rate of roll tests. On this flight we were rolling under various amounts of G in a turn. As we were supersonic we had to keep clear of the land and were flying our orbits well south of Portland Bill.

“To add insult to injury (and further injury), the ladder fell on my face”
Fuel Critical
Rates of Roll under G are rocky affairs and I had difficulty clutching the stopwatch and writing the data on the student’s test cards. After 20 minutes of this (25 minutes after take-off), I told the student that we were at minimum fuel and he should head for home. I started to try to improve my writing on the cards, and after a few minutes, I looked up and was startled to see that we still had full reheat selected and were heading for France. I shouted that I had control, throttled back and turned towards England. As I did so, I zoomed to gain height and we reached something like 60,000ft. I then started a glide at our best lift/drag speed.

XL629, as the second prototype T.4, was non-standard and spares were very difficult to come by. Image: Martyn Chorlton

ETPS Lightnings – XL629
By the time Lightning T.4 XL629 reached the ETPS it was already a veteran, having borne the brunt of the trainer development following the loss of XL628 on October 1, 1959. With 187.04hrs of development flying under its belt, the aircraft was transferred to the ETPS at Farnborough on May 5, 1966. Flown by Jimmy Dell and Sqn Ldr Bruce, the flight from Warton to Farnborough was its 315th. On December 20, 1967, the ETPS was moved to Boscombe Down, by which time XL629 had acquired fin code ‘23’ and its flying time had quickly risen to 322.05hrs, thanks to its popularity with the school. On October 31, 1969, the aircraft was back at Warton for modifications and major servicing, with 611.55hrs on the clock. Before returning to Boscombe Down XL629 was used by BAC as a chase plane for the Jaguar project in February, 1970. Back with the ETPS on May 6, 1970, XL629 went on to achieve 1383.55hrs before being struck off charge on November 3, 1975. Thanks to the efforts of AVM Al Merriman CB CBE AFC* FRAeS XL629 was allocated as gate guardian at Boscombe Down, where it remains today; it is the only surviving example of its mark. AVM Merriman recalls, “I was sufficiently impressed with the performance of the T.4 to suggest to the Air Ministry that, in the light of the problems being experienced with the autopilot and data-link, Fighter Command would be more operationally effective if squadrons were equipped with Lightnings having two crew rather than one. They did not disagree in principle, but cautioned that considerable political sensitivity surrounded the programme. The Lightning had only just scraped into the infamous Sandys Defence White Paper of 1957 after considerable pressure from the Air Ministry, and it would be folly at this advanced stage of the development programme to give any hint that their earlier submissions might have been flawed. Many years later, XL629 was allocated to ETPS at Boscombe Down for test pilot training. During my time as Commandant at the Aircraft & Armaments Experimental Establishment (A&AEE), it reached the end of its life and was replaced by T.5. I invited ‘Bee’ Beaumont down so that we could do the last flight together, after which I had it mounted as the gate guard where the aircraft remains today.” Sqn Ldr I A G Svensson also flew XL629 with ‘A’ Sqn, A&AEE. “Starting in June 1960 I carried out the Preview Handling trials in XL629, the prototype T.4, with John Hewitt,” he recalls. “Even with its two seats and dual controls this aircraft had more space in the cockpit than the single seat version and it is ironic that the ‘short arse’ pilots flew both single and two seat versions of the Lightning, while our resident naval pilot, Rip Kirby, who was 6ft 4ins tall, tested the relatively minute Gnat fighter!”

Illustration: Andy Hay www.flyingart.co.uk

60 English Electric Lightning

The fuel gauge needles were by this time almost on the empty. I put out an emergency Pan call in case we had to eject and aimed hopefully for Boscombe Down. I soon discarded that as being too far away and set my sights on Bournemouth Airport. Again, it became clear that we would not reach there so I scanned my map for any active airfield on the coast with a suitable runway; there were none! The only possible refuge was Thorney Island, between Portsmouth and Chichester, but I knew that this airfield was officially closed and under care and maintenance. This meant that there was no air traffic control and maybe the runways were blocked. The one thing in our favour was that the weather was wonderful and you could see forever. I soon made out Selsey Bill and beyond it Chichester Harbour. By now the fuel gauges were showing empty and if the engines quit we would lose hydraulics and therefore the power controls, which would mean that we would have to eject. Both engines were still running but I did not want to increase their power from idling as this might use up our remaining fuel. This is where my gliding experience came in useful. I spied the airfield and turned in between Hayling Island and West Wittering. At about two miles from the runway threshold, I lowered my flaps and undercarriage and set up a steep approach. I risked a trickle of power to hold 160kts and aimed for the very edge of the short

ETPS Lightnings – XS457
The shortest serving of three ETPS ‘T-birds’, Lightning T.5 XS457 was first flown by Roland Beamont on November 8, 1965. This T.5 had certainly been through the mill prior to briefly joining the ETPS – having suffered damage from an AVPIN fire in 1967, and a fire after take-off in 1968, it had spent considerably more time in ASSF at Binbrook than on the line. Despite these troubles, XS457 still managed to achieve 1,734.20hrs of flying time before it was loaned to the ETPS to replace XS422, which was undergoing Check 4. On February 27, 1981, the T.5 was back at Binbrook having only flown 74 hours with the school. It served with both 5 and 11 Sqns and the LTF but, by September 1987, was declared Cat.5 for spares recovery. Only the nose section survives today at the Lightning Lodge, Grainthorpe, Lincolnshire. my disconsolate student. I filled the waiting time by repacking the tail chute as per instructions. This entailed lying on my back and, with my feet, shoving the packed chute into the compartment below the rear fuselage and then pushing shut the two spring-loaded doors. We eventually took off and returned to Boscombe Down, where, I am proud to say, the tail chute worked perfectly.

As related in this story, the author was flying in the left-hand seat as observer for an Italian student who was carrying out supersonic rate of roll tests. Inadvertent use of reheat meant the aircraft nearly didn’t make it back to the ground in one piece. Image: Martyn Chorlton runway, which, I saw with relief, was rough but clear of obstructions. Our wheels thumped the tarmac and I popped the tail chute with a quiet, “Thank God!” – The first words I had said to my student since “I have control!” I taxied off the runway to a nearby parking pan, where one engine stopped before I shut the high-pressure cocks. It had been a near thing. A small fire vehicle and crew drove out to us and I hitched a lift to the nearest telephone. I spoke to base and asked for a fuel bowser to be dispatched, as Thorney had no facilities. I also asked how to repack a tail chute. I returned to the aircraft and

“One engine stopped before I shut the highpressure cocks. It had been a near thing”

The ETPS Lightning fleet was used for a variety of test pilot training tasks, mostly concerned with supersonic handling and performance. Image: Martyn Chorlton

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Seen here flying ‘right wing’ in a formation of 74 Sqn aircraft, Lightning F.1 XM164 ‘K’ (c/n 95045) was built in June 13, 1960. The aircraft also flew as ‘L ’ with 74 Sqn, before transferring to 164/226 OCU, 5 Sqn and the Leuchars Target Facilities Flight. The machine was scrapped by December 1974.

62 English Electric Lightning

English Electric Lightning 63

Thunder City Lightnings
For a decade Thunder City offered the final chance to see a Lightning aloft. Although the project ended in tragedy the organisation will long be remembered for its many achievements, and most notably for prolonging the life of this iconic aircraft. Keith Gaskell looks back at the Lightning’s swansong.


he conclusion of BAe’s Tornado F.3 radar trials in 1992 effectively spelled the end of operational Lightnings. With BAE’s chase ’plane (XP693) retired, it fell to private owners and preservation groups to keep the Lightning dream alive. In the UK a number of Lightnings continued to be maintained by groups with the aim of returning them to the skies, but their efforts were thwarted by the CAA’s steadfast refusal to allow it.

New Lease of Life
Luckily, however, this was not quite the end of the road for the Lightning. Some 6,000 miles away in Cape Town, South Africa a fledgling dubbed ‘Thunder City’ was about to give the Lightning a new and very different lease of life as a civilian aircraft. Thunder City was established in the mid-1990s to restore, certificate and commercially operate a fleet of British ex-military combat jets. The man behind this seemingly impossible task was South African businessman Mike Beachy Head who, as a boy, had dreamed of flying an English Electric Lightning. In 1995 Mike bought two-seat Hawker Hunter T.8C ZU-ATH for his personal use

and began to create an organisation that would eventually fly a whole fleet of Cold War-era jets. Ultimately Mike began to explore the idea of buying some of the retired Lightnings in the UK, with a view to flying them out to South Africa where they would be operated by Thunder City. Acquisition terms were agreed with the owners of four aircraft (XS452 at Cranfield, XP693 and XR773 at Exeter, and XS451 at Plymouth) – who were now resigned to the fact that this was now the only way that their Lightnings would ever be seen in the air again.

dismantle the Lightnings so that they could be transported by sea – complete with large quantities of spares. The crates arrived in Cape Town during the autumn of 1998 and the challenging task of rebuilding and certificating them for commercial use began in Thunder City’s facility at the city’s International Airport.

Maiden Flight
The first of Thunder City’s Lightnings to emerge from a complete rebuild was two-seat T.5 ZU-BBD (ex XS452). It had been painted in a striking gloss-black livery, similar to that worn by the Thunder

Ferry Flight?
The initial plan was to fly Lightning T.5 XS452 to South Africa accompanied by a Blackburn Buccaneer, which would provide air-to-air refuelling en route. To achieve this, Mike had acquired two of the last operational Buccaneers in 1996, but it soon became clear that the Lightning would not even be permitted to conduct test flights in the UK. As such, the ambitious plan to fly them to South Africa had to be abandoned and the Buccaneers flew south unaccompanied. Work then began to carefully

“Mike began his conversion training, which enabled him to fulfil his childhood dream”

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ZU-BEY is one of the most beautiful of all preserved aeroplanes. This Lightning F.6 was built as XP693 but never served with the RAF, having been operated as a trials aircraft by BAC and BAe from 1962 to 1992. It took to the air in August 2006 and retained the polished metal finish for which it was renowned. Image: Peter R March Collection

City Buccaneers, and displaying an 11 Sqn badge and tail code (‘BT’) as a reminder of its operational days at Binbrook. ZU-BBD made its first flight in South Africa on March 9, 1999, flown by Keith Hartley, a former RAF Lightning and BAE test pilot, with Mike Beachy Head in the right hand seat. After flight testing had been completed Mike began his conversion training, which enabled him to fulfil his childhood dream! The second T.5 ZU-BEX (ex XS451) made its maiden South African flight in May 2000 in a polished natural metal finish with Lightning Training Flight style markings.

in the workings of these idiosyncratic and often temperamental machines. At all times they were under intense scrutiny from the South African Civil Aviation Authority, who not only ensured that full civilian airworthiness standards were met during the certification process, but laid down strict operational and maintenance procedures and regularly monitored the company’s compliance.

Single Seater
In November 2001, Mike took his third Lightning (ZU-BEW / XR773) aloft for its first post-restoration flight. This was the first of the two single-seater F.6s and it was painted in Air Defence grey with 11 Sqn markings and ‘BR’ tail code. This quickly became Mike’s favourite Lightning, in which he gave many outstanding performances at air displays during the following eight years. With three Lightnings, three Buccaneers and several Hunters in service, Thunder City was thriving and gaining worldwide recognition. The concept of selling flights in high performance jets was a great success and

Remarkable Achievement
Thunder City’s achievement in bringing its unique collection of high-performance jets to operational status and obtaining the necessary licences to fly them commercially with paying passengers was truly remarkable. It was done by bringing experienced Lightning engineers from the UK to work on the aircraft and train Thunder City’s small group of mainly ex-South African Air Force (SAAF) technicians

was evolving into a range of products designed for different markets. For anyone just wanting a taste of fast-jet flying, various options were available, including low-level experience flights, simulated air-to-air combat, formation flying, aerobatics and high-altitude supersonic flight. For experienced pilots a variety of tailor-made packages offered increasing degrees of involvement in planning and executing complex and challenging missions. With its iconic status the Lightning was particularly popular, with many people keen to experience flying at Mach 2 at 60,000ft, something that has been difficult for civilians to achieve since the demise of Concorde in 2003. In addition to ‘joy riders’, Thunder City’s clients included military test pilot schools that found the early generation high-performance jets ideal subjects for their pupils to fly and evaluate. For corporate clients, an Executive Flight Path programme provided tailormade packages designed to challenge and develop business leaders by involving them in the planning and flying of missions. Other clients included media

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The four potentially flyable Lightnings were acquired from British groups who realised the only way they would see ‘their’ aircraft take to the skies was to move them overseas. Here T.5 XS452, later to become ZU-BBD, is seen at the 1996 PFA Rally at Cranfield, Bedfordshire. It moved to Cape Town in 1998 and flew the following year. Image: Steve Bridgewater companies which used Thunder City’s aircraft and facilities in the production of television programmes, movies and music videos. A rare glimpse inside the hangar during the early days of Thunder City. This photograph, taken on May 31, 2000, shows the two flyable Lightning T.5s looking out across the two F.6 projects. Image: Keith Gaskell

Airshow Appeal
Thunder City’s aircraft were also in demand for airshow appearances throughout South Africa, with the Lightning the most sought after, as it would consistently outperform almost every other aircraft. Thunder City’s airshow routine emphasised the Lightning’s power and speed through a series of fast passes and zoom climbs. At some venues – such as the SAAF’s Test Flight and Development Centre at Overberg, which is in an uninhabited missile test range – pilots were permitted to unleash the Lightning’s full performance with the resulting sonic booms delighting spectators. As Thunder City’s confidence and experience grew some memorable airshow performances were staged.

“One minute and forty eight seconds from brake release ZU-BEX passed through 30,000ft”
time-to-altitude flight by T.5 ZU-BEX. Thunder City’s test pilot Dave Stock was at the controls and British mobile phone tycoon John Caudwell was in the right hand seat, having paid £11,000 for the privilege at an auction in aid of the Caudwell Charitable Trust. With its external tank removed to reduce weight and carrying fuel for just ten minutes of flying, the Lightning thundered

Blackburn Buccaneer XW988 arrived in Cape Town in 1996 and was joined a year later by XW987. XW988 eventually became ZU-AVI and was painted in Thunder City’s gloss black ‘house-colours’. Image: John Miller down Ysterplaat’s runway and lifted off at 160kts. It then accelerated to almost 600kts before rotating into a maximum rate 50,000ft/min climb. One minute and forty eight seconds from brake release, it passed through 30,000ft, a little slower than hoped for because of a reheat flameout at 8,000ft, but still a scorching performance and a new African record.

Record Breaker
At the Ysterplaat Airshow in 2005, the Lightning’s legendary power was demonstrated in a record-breaking

ZU-BBD (XS452) makes an early airshow appearance at Waterkloof AFB on September 8, 2000. Image: Keith Gaskell

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For its time-to-height record attempt in 2005, ZU-BEX had its external tank removed to reduce weight. It carried enough fuel for just ten minutes of flying. Image: Peter R March

Cape Town during the show week. Mike and Dave Stock would fly two aircraft and they were joined by Keith Hartley and former RAF Lightning pilot Ian Black. The team flew together at Thursday’s Trade Show and again during two public displays at the weekend. With all four Lightnings now available, the single-seat F.6s were primarily allocated to air display flying whilst the T.5s concentrated on passenger flying and pilot training activities.

Operational Issues
ZU-BEX – and her sister ship ZU-BBD – gave countless people the chance to fly in a Lightning as a supersonic passenger. This aircraft was lost in a tragic accident in 2009, and was, to date, the last Lightning to take to the skies. Image: Peter R March The excitement, however, was not yet over. After a rapid descent and a run-andbreak to land on Ysterplaat’s short runway, the Lightning’s brake ’chute failed to deploy on touchdown, forcing Dave Stock to make a hasty diversion to Cape Town International’s longer runway. Fortunately there were no delays and the fuel-critical jet was soon safely down. Mike Beachy Head and his small team worked long hours to make this possible, their first priority being to complete the rebuild of the fourth Lightning, F.6 ZU-BEY (ex XP693). Unlike the other three Lightnings, this one had never served with the RAF, but was operated as a trials aircraft by manufacturer BAC/BAe from 1962 to 1992. It took to the air in August 2006, just six weeks before the show, resplendent in the polished metal finish for which it was renowned. Now with four serviceable Lightnings, Thunder City’s next challenge was to bring together four Lightning-qualified pilots at Operationally, the Lightning’s speed and notoriously limited fuel endurance provided a challenge for Air Traffic Control at the busy Cape Town International Airport. Departures were not a problem as the airspace around the Cape is usually quiet, but an arriving Lightning was a different matter, requiring all the skill of the Controllers to create a sufficiently large gap in the flow of airliners for a fast run-andbreak before landing. After shutting-down at Thunder City the Lightning would be towed into a hangar crammed full of veteran jets, in a scene reminiscent of many RAF bases during the 1970s and ‘80s. There it would undergo many hours of care and maintenance to ensure the high levels of

This was a difficult act to follow, but a year later, also at Ysterplaat, Thunder City achieved perhaps its greatest feat by flying all four Lightnings together. Illustration: Andy Hay / www.flyingart.co.uk

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British mobile phone tycoon John Caudwell looks on as ZU-BEW and ZU-AVI are prepared for flight on November 13, 2009. Caudwell was a big supporter of Thunder City and the organisation worked closely with his Caudwell Charitable Trust. Image: John Miller

“Many people were keen to experience flying at Mach 2 at 60,000ft”

Lightning F.6 ZU-BEW began life as XR773 and made its first post-restoration flight in November 2001. Painted in Air Defence grey with 11 Sqn markings and ‘BR’ tail code, the aircraft quickly became Mike Beachy Head’s favourite Lightning. Image: John Miller

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serviceability demanded by the operation continued to be achieved. Maintenance of the fleet was performed by a team of around 17 engineers, most of whom had many years of experience working on fast jets with the SAAF. Much of the work on systems such as ejector seats and engine overhauls was outsourced to specialist companies. The costs of maintaining such a ‘squadron’ were enormous. Fuel and other consumables were also expensive and Thunder City relied on

the generosity of sponsors such as Shell Aviation and Vodacom to help with this. Throughout the decades since the early Lightnings and Buccaneers first entered service, many improvements were incorporated into the airframes, systems and engines, and a wealth of operational and technical knowledge was accumulated. By tapping into this resource Thunder City’s team was able to provide a safe and reliable operation and to complete 2,000 sorties, giving hundreds of people a rare glimpse into the world of the airmen who once flew these mighty warplanes.

Tragic End
Sadly all of this came to an end following an accident at Overberg on November 14, 2009, when Lightning T.5 ZU-BEX crashed and claimed the life of pilot Dave Stock. The Lightning had commenced its display routine, when Dave began to encounter control difficulties and headed away to a deserted area to assess the problem. Fire was

then observed at the rear of the aircraft and control became impossible. Dave’s attempts to eject failed and tragically he died in the ensuing crash. Following this devastating loss Thunder City suspended operations. In a statement released in September 2010, Mike Beachy Head said that it was not an easy decision to make, but that a number of factors such as the current slow economy, high cost of maintenance, difficulties with inconsistencies from the authorities and short to medium term prospects had influenced the closure. The fast jet fleet, including the three remaining Lightnings, will be sold through a Private Treaty Sale in November 2011. Details can be found at www.go-dove.com/event-15794?lcid=en Although the flash of a silver Lightning streaking through the skies above Table Mountain is unlikely to be seen again, Thunder City will long be remembered for its many achievements, and most notably for prolonging the life of this iconic aircraft.

Had it not been for the dedication (and money) injected into the Thunder City programme, the Lightning would have faded from view in 1992. The decade of flying from 1999 to 2009 serves as a suitable swansong to the legendary aircraft’s career. Image: Peter R March

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“When I was on Lightn
The English Electric Lightning instilled many happy memories in those associated with the type. So-called ‘When I Was On Lightnings’ – or WIWOL – stories are the stuff of legends and a number of such yarns are recalled here by members of the Lightning Association.


A Nasty Rash

y own experience of Lightnings was at RAF Tengah, after 74 Sqn came out in (without checking) 1968. As a Supplier who’d done the LOX [liquid oxygen] course, I used to fill the 70 (or was it 75?) litre LOX trolleys. “I was ‘chosen’ to be part of the crash guard when Flying Officer Thompson was killed in aircraft ‘J’. The aircraft came down a couple of miles from Tengah, on the only bit of semi-dry land next to Kampong. The canopy was some way away, as was the seat, and young Thompson was found dead in a swamp. It was thought he was concussed; separated from the seat, but drowned when he hit the ground. “He’d been in the circuit with Sqn Ldr Carter and reported both reheat bay fire captions on. Carter fell back, saw

fire and shouted for Thompson to get out. However, being a young man of 21 or so, Thompson thought he could complete the circuit and save his aircraft… “The crash guard was set up to take shifts on the crash site and we used to sit in a vehicle cab at night. If you shut the window, you sweated; if you opened it, the mosquitoes came for dinner! Recovery eventually began and a towed pump trailer was brought in from the fire section to drain the water-filled crater where the nose was. Behind it, you could see the top engine, but the other was underground. No sooner had the crater been emptied than the monsoon rain came and filled it up again! “We ‘erks’ were told to fish around in the ‘gloop’ for bits and pieces so that the investigators would miss nothing. It was a lovely job feeling for bits of

Lightnings XR770 and XS893 from 74 Sqn taxi in at RAF Tengah in 1968. Image: Awyr Aviation Archive jagged Lightning. Health and safety hadn’t been invented, so when back on guard the second night, I found my right foot had begun to itch intolerably; I tore off my canvas and rubber jungle boot and rubbed the foot. Instantly, I felt an excruciating stinging, burning pain. Ouch! “On relief a couple of hours later, I went back to Tengah on the ration wagon and got in a shower pronto, where I discovered

A very shiny Lightning F.6 XS903 is prepared for flight at Boscombe Down on September 5, 1967, whilst in service with 5 Sqn. The aircraft first flew on August 17, 1966, and upon retirement was presented to the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington. Image: Mike Hooks

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the whole of the top of my foot was a huge, liquid-filled, puffy blister. I managed to get my flip-flops on, and cycled down to Sick Quarters. “I ended up spending four days in the air-conditioned ward under treatment. The docs didn’t really give me a diagnosis, but I reckon that mixed in with the mud and wreckage was something pretty nasty − maybe battery acid, maybe Avpin, perhaps hydraulic fluid? Who knows − but it gave me a memorable chemical burn! “The Inquiry found that a faultily-connected fuel line had allowed AVTUR to leak under pressure and pool in the reheat bay, where it ignited. The uncontrolled fire swiftly burned through magnesium alloy control-rods, and as the tail surfaces were spring-loaded, the elevators defaulted to throw the nose up. The aircraft stalled and fell sideways, at which point ejection was initiated. All very sad.” Sgt Tony Kerrison


Shall we try again, Sir?
aving served four years at RAF St Athan, I arrived at Binbrook (where else, having come from pulling Buccaneers and Canberras apart?) to start my four year stint on ASF and ASSF. I arrived one cold winter’s night in 1978, having diverted to miss the snowdrifts blocking the road from Market Rasen and wondering where the hell I was going. “Sometime later, propping the bar up in the Corporals’ Club, an acquaintance of mine called ‘Fruit’ Newberry (I never did know his first name but what else was he to be called with a surname of Newberry?) told me this tale: “Evidently he had been seeing an 11 Sqn Lightning off the line when he indicated to the pilot to start the No.1 engine, and, with a ‘whirr’ and a ‘phutt’, it failed. “Our intrepid airman indicated that he’d have a second ‘wet’ start, but once again, after a ‘whirr, phutt’, there was no start! Now, everyone who has been involved with Lightnings knows that a third attempt without waiting for the Avpin to drain sufficiently could result in the
‘Fruit’ applied the cockpit ladder again, climbed up, opened the canopy, gently eased himself in front of the pilot, switched on the HP cocks and said, ‘Shall we try again, Sir?’

pilot getting a swift kick up the behind by the engine starter pod ejecting from the airframe via the bifurcated duct and taking the radome with it! “So ‘Fruit’ duly indicated to start No.2 instead, and guess what? Again a ‘whirr, phutt’ followed, but the engine refused to start. Now ‘Fruit’ was fully exasperated and knew there was nothing wrong with the kite; it had to be pilot error. “So he applied the cockpit ladder again, climbed up, opened the canopy, gently eased himself in front of the pilot, switched on the HP cocks and said, ‘Shall we try again, Sir?’ “Sure enough the aircraft started on the next attempt and duly departed. “On its return, ‘Fruit’ waves the aircraft home, attaches and climbs the ladder, saying to the pilot, ‘How about a crate of beer for the line crew? Because if I tell someone else it may well cost you a lot more in the officers’ mess tonight.’ Cheeky so and so!” Ian Lucas, Rigger, ASF and ASSF, 1978 - 1982

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hen I was on Lightnings, back in 1978, being a member of Team 4 in the Aircraft Servicing Flight (ASF) at RAF Binbrook, we had just received our next Check 3 servicing and had parked it in our slot on day one. “At this time we were going through a short period of elation at having got rid of our last aircraft to a squadron after three months of hard slog, which had climaxed in two weeks of unpaid overtime to get it out on time. “We were all looking forward to the next two weeks in which we would rip the new one apart and go over it with a fine toothcomb − a relatively leisurely pace compared to the end of the servicing. “Anyway, I digress; this new jet had just been parked and chocked, and having come out of the storage flight [ASSF] it had been ‘robbed’ of parts as spares were in short supply across the fleet at that time. It had no engines fitted so people were looking all over it to see what else had been robbed. I had just scrambled under from the back end and was chatting with some colleagues when I heard and felt this almighty crash! “Not two yards from me, just where I had come out from under the aircraft, lay the 300 gallon ventral fuel tank! As if rooted to the spot, I just stood there while – in what appeared to be slow motion – three things happened: “1 - Someone stood up in the cockpit and shouted: ‘I didn’t touch a thing!’ “2 - Someone else stuck their head out of the lower engine bay from the inter pipe area and asked, ‘What was that?’ “3 - 300 gallons of fuel started to flood the hanger floor at a rapid rate of knots! “Frantic attempts to build a dam of ‘chicken shit’ [oil absorbent cat litter] around this quickly expanding lake of fuel were taking place and it was quite fun slashing open sacks of this stuff trying to contain the spillage – but not as much fun having to sweep it all up again! “As anyone in the RAF will tell you, whenever an aircraft crashes or an incident like this happens, what was a relatively deserted hanger is suddenly full to bursting point with every man and his dog within 60 seconds! Everyone from OC Eng Wing to Racasan Dan [the toilet cleaner] crawls out of the woodwork to chortle over someone else’s misfortune or demand an explanation. “It turned out it was a sootie [propulsion tradesman] pushing the interpipe that carries the jet efflux down to the reheat pipe backwards with his feet. His size tens had operated the cable mechanism that releases the ventral tank… Hey presto… one cracked 300 gallon tank on the hanger floor!” Phil Wallis, Chief Tech


Binbrook’s Christmas Tree
o those people who maintained the Lightning fleet during the ‘80s, few aircraft can have caused so much heartache as XS459, one of Binbrook’s ‘T-Birds’. “I was a member of the ASF crash team and we had been tasked with carrying out a practice aircraft lift at the rear of the ASF hangar. The whole team was engrossed, when a shout came to look towards the main runway, where there was a Lightning sliding gracefully down the runway on its belly. “You can imagine how quickly the crash gear came off the practice aircraft and, eventually, a badly damaged aircraft was recovered. Despite major damage, the decision was taken to repair XS459 and a repair team from British Aerospace carried out the major structural and re-skinning repairs. Then, for some unknown reason, the aircraft was left to languish in the Lightning Training Flight (LTF) hangar for some two years. “At this time I was a member of Team 3 in ASF (a legend of a team!), a group that consisted of such auspicious characters as Steve ‘Swiv’ Wivell, Pete Cain, Colin ‘Tucker’ Barlow, and Andy ‘Murph’ Murphy, all led by Chief Tech John Townsend. The Flight Sergeant at this time was Pete ‘I’m the hardest man in this hangar’ Belk. I was proud to be a member of what must have been the finest aircraft servicing team in human history, and for our efforts we were rewarded with returning XS459 to flying condition. “You can imagine the state of the aircraft having spent two years ‘in storage’. At this time spares were difficult to come by and XS459 had been used as the proverbial ‘Christmas Tree’. Half of the aircraft was missing and enterprising engineers had stripped XS459 of most everything useable − and all without the relevant paperwork. “After eleven months of work we discovered a major fuel leak from the wing centre section and despite our best efforts we were unable to cure it. It was a sad day for all of us when XS459 was towed from ASF minus its No.1 engine so that the Binbrook fuel leak team could attempt to cure the leak. “Eventually the leak was reduced to manageable proportions − though never cured − and the aircraft finally took to the skies again. Its first air test was quite an eventful affair, because the ram-air valve flew open during the high speed run and the pilot had to make an emergency descent, after the cockpit vent valve had failed at 50,000ft! Despite these hiccoughs XS459 continued to fly during the rest of my time at Binbrook and it was with some pride that I used to see it towed onto the line at the start of a day’s flying… and still leaking fuel!” Sgt Colin “Harry” Parry, ASF & 5 Sqn


State One!
hen I was on Lightnings I was attending a course in the Station Education Centre at RAF Binbrook. Whilst busy doing percentages I was interrupted by the station crash alarm (a continuous test-card like tone) over the station tannoy, swiftly followed by, “State One, State One!” spoken in a distressed manner. “A ‘State One’ emergency means an aircraft has actually crashed on, or in the vicinity of, the airfield. Emergency services react immediately, as one would expect, as aircrew or passengers could be trapped and in danger. “Of course I was very curious as to what had crashed and word soon came through that it was a Lightning from 11 Sqn (my squadron) that had crashed just outside the airfield perimeter fence opposite the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) sheds. The pilot had ejected safely and landed on the airfield itself. As it was an aircraft from my own squadron, I was naturally concerned − as all aircraft engineers are when an aircraft crashes − as to what had caused the crash, and more importantly was it something we (the engineers) had done. An aircraft crash means a mandatory Board of Inquiry to determine the cause of the crash and to apportion blame if human error was a factor. “The summary of this WIWOL is a thankfully a humorous one; the cause of the crash was determined to be that the ventral tank had failed to empty, which caused the centre of gravity to shift out of normal and the aircraft had stalled when the aircraft was placed in an out of envelope attitude.

RAF ground crew prepare a lineup of Lightnings for another sortie. The success of the aircraft in service was largely down to the expertise of the crews that kept it serviceable 24/7.

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“At this time we were going through a short period of elation at having got rid of our last aircraft to a squadron after three months of hard slog, which climaxed in two weeks of unpaid overtime to get it out on time.” Image: BAE Systems

Bump Start

The view across the ‘pan’ at RAF Leuchars in April 1975, with 23 Sqn’s Lightning F.6 XS935 in the foreground. Image: Adrian M Balch Collection


“The humorous aspect comes about from the fact that at the same time I had heard that tannoy message my colleagues back at work had seen the whole thing unfolding. They heard the bang of the pilot ejecting and looked up to see the abandoned hapless aircraft coming down to earth in a flat spin − or ‘falling like a leaf’ as it was described to me. They then saw the inevitable crash and fireball over the other side of the airfield. “Half-a-second after impact a Sergeant inside the flight line hut panicked, grabbed a set of tractor keys from their hook, threw them at a colleague of mine and shouted, ‘Get a tractor and towing arm over there – now!’ To which my friend calmly replied, ‘What exactly do you expect me to tow back? The nosewheel?’ “There was a spontaneous and resounding collective burst of laughter as people pointed to the crash scene, the pall of rising black smoke, a 30ft deep chasm of molten disintegrated metal that had been a Lightning 20 seconds ago and a pilot floating down in his parachute! Well, we all saw the funny side even if he didn’t! “It was the result of instinctive reaction, for whenever lesser emergencies occurred − such as burst tyres, ‘chute-less landings, etc − normal procedure was to dispatch a recovery team to tow the aircraft back to the hangar. “Parts of that Lightning are undoubtedly still 30ft down. Who knows, perhaps in 50 years time some aviation archaeologists will excavate the site and find the nosewheel!” Phil Wallis, Chief Tech Wearing the markings of 56 Sqn, Lightning F.1 XM177 returns to RAF at the end of another mission. Delivered in January 1961, the aeroplane was scrapped at 60 MU at RAF Leconfield in August 1974 but had the distinction of being allocated to the ‘Firebirds’ Lightning aerobatic team for the 1963 airshow season.

hen I was on Lightnings at Leuchars, I recall an incident that occurred on a beautiful, crisp and clear morning of the kind only experienced on the East Coast of Scotland. The usual mad panic to get the required aircraft pre-flighted and towed to the line was over and I was taking a well-earned break in the hangar front office. Looking forward to tackling the first ‘Jock Pie’ of the day, I idly watched the Lineys going about their starter crew duties. “The number one engine of the nearest aircraft was already running and the office was beginning to fill up with that wonderful smell of half-burnt Avtur. The number two engine had obviously failed to start as one of the crew had climbed onto the port wing. ‘Good lad’ I thought, ‘the training has got through’. Perceived wisdom at the time was that on cold mornings the valve in the High Pressure Switch and Solenoid Assembly had a tendency to stick. This could be remedied by administering a thump (sorry… a calibrated tap!) to the top of the assembly housing at the end of the Air Purge part of the starting cycle. “Imagine my consternation therefore when I saw that our man, instead of hinging back the starting system spine panel, had removed the access panel to the Radar Vis Recorder. He then proceeded to knock ‘seven shades of Chablis’ out of said delicate equipment with the blunt end of a GS screwdriver! I headed for the Line and accosted the offending Liney. I proceeded to tell him of the error of his ways using all the colourful words and phrases that a SNCO was allowed to use to an ‘erk’ in those days! He nodded a couple of times during this tirade so I assumed that he was listening. “This calmed me a bit, so I refreshed his training on the starting system, and emphasised that he should never savagely beat Black Boxes, especially ones with ‘FRAGILE. HANDLE LIKE EGGS’ stencilled all over them. “Feeling that I had done my bit to improve things I turned to walk away. He called me back. Gesturing towards the empty slot on the line, he said, ‘But Sarg... it worked didn’t it?’ “Well, I suppose there’s no answer to that, is there!” Sandy Mullen


A Good Blag!
his brief WIWOL story is about the typical high morale and esprit de corps that existed at Binbrook. All new Lightning pilots were converted to the Lightning on the Lightning Training Flight, with training culminating in the student’s first solo flight in the type. After the sortie the aircraft taxied back to the flight line and shut down. “Whilst the pilot spent a couple of minutes checking everything was switched off − and no doubt taking in the fact that he had survived his first solo trip − the flight line engineers (the ‘lineys’) were busy at the back of the aircraft fitting a new brake parachute in double quick time! “Why? Well, as the pilot climbed out and came down the access ladder one of the lads would shout ‘Sir, you forgot to use your brake ‘chute!’ Inevitably the reply came, ‘What?’ as he was taken round the back of the aircraft and shown an unused brake ‘chute! Some twigged straight away, others walked off scratching their helmets! Phil Wallis, Chief Tec

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A Head Full of Avpin


n 1968 (or was it ‘69?) crews from 23 Sqn, then based at RAF Leuchars, were tasked with deploying five Lightning F.6s to Masirah in the Indian Ocean. As I recall, the object was to test the viability of staging through ‘friendly’ bases rather than simply tanking. As a relative newcomer to the Squadron, I was to travel (in whatever transport was available) as backup to the main servicing party to render assistance and/or pick up any stragglers. “Late one evening in Akrotiri I was called to the Comms Centre and handed a signal by 56 Sqn’s Engineering Officer. It simply said: ‘Lightnings in Ankara will not start. Urgent assistance required!’ I asked for details of how many aircraft were affected and the answer came straight back: ‘ALL OF THEM!’ I gulped and started packing for a trip to Turkey! In a couple of hours, ‘Maxi’ Maxwell − an old colleague from my 92 Sqn days who was now on 56 Sqn − and I were screaming slowly up to Ankara in a ‘Whistling Tit’ [Armstrong Whitworth Argosy] with all the spares we could beg, borrow, or steal. “The aeroplanes were reported as making a ‘wheee… phutt!’ noise and engineering diagnosis from the men in the field was that the systems were at fault and parts would need to be changed and/or adjusted − though Maxi and I were of the opinion that Ankara’s altitude was more likely the problem. We based this theory on the basis that most of the Lightning starting system is located along the spine of the aircraft. The Avpin fuel tank and the fuel/air motor are, of necessity, fitted at the same level, so the pump therefore has to drag the Avpin from the tank, very suddenly, at the end of the air purge cycle − the ‘wheeee’ bit! This can lead to cavitation of the pump; the downstream system senses

lack of pressure and the failsafe cuts in − the ‘phutt’ bit! The pressure drop at attitude seems to make the problem worse. From our previous experience we knew that the ‘head’ of Avpin in the Hunter installation meant that this cavitation rarely, if ever happened, even at altitude. The solution seemed simple… create a two-foot ‘head’ of Avpin by applying slight pressure to the top of the tank. However, the Engineering Officer had a different opinion and promptly pulled rank! As such, we changed and adjusted an ever-increasing number of components… “During the two days (and nights) that this went on, the local population was fed a diet of cigarettes and mis-information as to why the Royal Air Force’s finest were not burning and roaring, and that all those funny noises and curses were part of British Global Strategy! Finally, knackered from our exertions and getting nowhere, we decided to try our own remedy. Maxi agreed to apply pressure to the top of the Avpin tank by the only means available, the ‘Mk.1 Mouth and Lungs’, while I pressed the ‘tit’ to start the engine. Surprise, surprise, the mighty Avon roared into life! “As this sound had never before been heard within the borders of the Turkish Empire, you can imagine the reaction. Two very aggressive-looking Soviet Bloc soldiers in grey coats down to their ankles and carrying wicked looking sub-machine guns had been guarding a transport aircraft nearby. They disappeared up their front hatch and were never seen again! Many hundreds of people arrived on the scene, the first being the Boss! I had by then dunked Maxi’s head in a bucket of water (the Avpin in the tank had ‘blown back’ on start-up) and he was recovering,

however this method of pressurising all the Lightnings was obviously out. “But, with the Boss in his flying kit, drumming his fingers on his aircraft ladder, we were motivated to be inventive! Using a tyre inflation rig, a spare Avpin dispenser spout, and copious amounts of black tape, we managed to apply 2 to 5 psi to the top of the tanks, and got all the aircraft started. The next staging post was at even higher altitude, so the solution to the problem had to be passed on. Some non-essential equipment was removed from the port ‘elephant ear’ of the last aircraft out, and the modified ‘starter kit’, along with hastily scribbled instructions, was safely stowed. “I’m happy to say that we all enjoyed ourselves in sunny Masirah and that all aircraft returned to Leuchars safely, using the same route – and methods – on the way back. But that was not the end of the matter… “Some three years later I was sitting in the control bunker of a base, somewhere in Germany, sheltering from ‘nuclear fallout’ during TACEVAL exercise, when a gas mask looked round the door. Gazing in my direction the masked individual said ‘Mnffn… Mnffn.’ This, I instantly translated out of ‘respirator language’, meant: ‘There’s a telephone call for you’! “I dutifully snapped to attention when a Group Captain on the other end in MoD London said ‘We consider your actions in applying pressure to an Avpin tank to be most irresponsible. Don’t do it again!’ “As I knew that nobody at the MoD had ever seen a gas mask, let alone could translate the language of somebody wearing one, I simply said ‘Mnff… Mnff’, and hung up!” Sandy Mullen

Lightning Association

For more WIWOL stories and details of the Lightning Association visit www.lightning.org.uk

tre and handed a signal “I was called to the Comms Cen ly said: ‘Lightnings in simp by the Engineering Officer. It e required!’ tanc assis nt Urge . start Ankara will not

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Lightning F.6 XR760 was one of the many casualties arising from fire in the rear fuselage. Having first flown on September 20, 1965 the aircraft entered service with 5 Sqn but was serving with 11 Sqn at the time of the accident on July 15, 1986. The aircraft had recently taken on fuel from a Handley Page Victor tanker, but a fire started in the jet pipe causing the controls to lock. Flt Lt R Bees safely ejected 15 miles off Whitby and was rescued by a Westland Wessex helicopter from 22 Sqn at RAF Leconfield.

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The Magic Carpet to Al Ya
The Lightning was never the export success it deserved to be, but a number did serve in the Middle East. Martyn Chorlton tells the story of the Kuwaiti and Royal Saudi Air Force Air Force Lightnings.

A pair of RSAF Lightnings are seen over a typically sandy backdrop in central Saudi Arabia. Nearest the camera is 1305 which was shown at the 1968 SBAC display as G-AWON and served the RSAF as 53-686. Today it is on show at Horsham St. Faith. Is the background is 1308 (53-696) which is now on display at the North East Aircraft Museum near Sunderland. Image: Mike Hooks Collection


he credit for establishing the UK’s longest defence contract can be traced to ex-RAF Group Captain Geoffrey Edwards. Thanks to sound advice from his bank manager at the time, Edwards set himself up as an agent in what was the developing Saudi Arabia. Living in Jeddah, he was perfectly placed to lay the building blocks for British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) to sell the Lightning to the nation, which was not only in need of a new fighter but also a complete air defence package. From the moment when Jimmy Dell enthusiastically displayed Lighting F.2 XN730 (borrowed from 19 Sqn) in front of the King on July 4, 1964, the Saudis were hooked. To confirm the Lightning flew as well as it looked, the Saudis sent a Lt Hamdan to Warton to experience the machine for himself. After a few conversion sorties in a T.4, Hamdan was

Roland Beamont (centre) is flanked by the Magic Carpet delivery pilots, (from the left) Jimmy Dell, Peter Ginger, Tim Ferguson and Paul Millet. Image: Jimmy Dell via Martyn Chorlton

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In the shade of the Lightning’s wing, Jimmy Dell discusses the aircraft with Prince Sultan, (centre) and Saudi officials. Image: Jimmy Dell via Martyn Chorlton

let loose in F.2 XN723, with an F.3, on loan from the RAF, flying as chase. It appears that Hamdan got a little carried away, and, after pulling away from the F.3, he allegedly exceeded Mach 2.05 (in the region of 1,400mph!) – the Saudi pilot was convinced that he had reached Mach 2.5! This only served to fuel the fact that the Saudis had chosen the right aircraft and they were now impatient to close the deal. On December 21, 1965, the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) officially announced that it had chosen the Lightning and was ordering 40 of the aircraft. The first stage of supplying the RSAF was given the name Operation Magic Palm and this entailed delivery of six Lightnings, six Hunters and a single battery of Thunderbird (the Army’s version of the Bloodhound) surface-to-air missiles. The Lightning part of the initial order

was drawn from four ex-RAF F.2s and a pair of T.4s. These were fully refurbished at Warton and were redesignated as the F.52 and T.54 respectively. Modifications to this first batch of aircraft were very subtle, mainly involving an improvement in the cooling system.

Operation Magic Carpet
Under the guise of Operation Magic Carpet, the first aircraft delivered were the T.54s. Both left Warton on June 6, 1966, with Jimmy Dell flying 54-650 (ex XM989) and Don Knight at the controls of 54-651 (ex XN992). After making a short flight, via Wattisham, to test the aircraft’s refuelling system, both aircraft left for Nicosia (owing to work being carried out at Akrotiri), arriving safely on June 11. Having landed at Nicosia and attended to their aircraft, the crew

retired to the hotel for the night, giving instructions that they be woken at 3am the next morning. They duly arrived at the airport at around 5am but whilst doing their pre-flight checks Jimmy was asked to report to the control tower. Thinking they had a problem, he made his way to the tower. On arrival, he was confronted by a young, pimply-faced youth who told him in an indignant voice that he had not paid the parking fees! Now, although there was a section set aside for the RAF, the Lightnings had been parked in a civilian area with an armed guard. The youth pointed out that they had to pay parking fees for the area they were in based on the size of the aircraft. He then asked for the dimensions of the Lightnings and proceeded to laboriously calculate what the fees would amount to. Jimmy and Don did not have a great deal of money and were becoming

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At the 1969 Paris Airshow BAC showed off one of the soon to be delivered Kuwaiti F.53s – complete with a full load of eight MATRA rocket pods. During the show it wore the civilian registration G-AXEE but in KAF service it flew as 418/L. Image: Mike Hooks concerned at the likely consequences of what all this was leading to. Eventually, after a great deal of reckoning, the youth turned to Jimmy and said, “That’ll be fifteen shillings each aircraft” (75p in today’s money). RSAF Lightning F.53s 1301 (53-667) and 1302 (53-679) off the Saudi Arabian coast in the early 1980s. Both aircraft saw extensive use with the RSAF but unfortunately 1301, whilst serving with 2 Sqn (RSAF) was abandoned following a reheat fire on September 3, 1985. Image: Martyn Chorlton Lightning. In the hands of Airwork pilot, Peter Hay, F.52 52-657 thundered down the runway; the aircraft appeared to rotate too early, and, moments later, stalled and crashed. Hay managed to eject safely but suffered spinal injuries as a result of the accident, which is believed to have been caused by a control restriction. During May 1967, this aircraft was replaced by another F.52: 52-659, delivered by Tim Ferguson to 6 Sqn, who were still based at Riyadh at the time. crosswind problem, would create a whole new set of problems for the Lightning. The two T.54s and a single F.52 arrived on August 7, 1967, but owing to those crosswinds, the remainder could not get into Khamis until a week later. The altitude played havoc with the AVPIN starters and, after only a few weeks, the squadron ran out of LOX (Liquid Oxygen). Both problems were quickly resolved, and on November 13, 1966, 6 Sqn was declared fully operational. Tensions along the border grew during early 1967 but the Yemeni’s increased awareness of the potential of 6 Squadron eventually eased the situation.

Causing a Stir
Two days later, both aircraft set course for Riyadh and rendezvoused with a Valiant tanker as planned in Jordanian airspace. As the aircraft nuzzled under each wing of the Valiant, Knight’s aircraft successfully replenished its tanks, while Dell’s aircraft refused to take any fuel. As 54-651 continued on its way to Riyadh, Dell had no choice but to divert to Amman in Jordan. Escorted in by the Valiant, the RAF arrivals caused quite a stir as they taxied to a halt accompanied by a Lightning in RSAF markings. The problem turned out to be a blown fuse, but once repaired the Jordanians insisted that the duo return to Cyprus rather than go direct to Riyadh. By June 16, 54-650 finally made it to Saudi Arabia, and by July 28, the remaining four F.52s had also been delivered without further incident.

Showing Off
One of the main reasons for the Saudis purchasing the Lightning was to help deal with the ongoing problem of insurgents along the Yemen border and to carry out interceptions of Egyptian aircraft, which would regularly overfly the country. The arrival of its new airpower, despite being just six aircraft, needed showing off to friends and foes alike, and this became the priority over training new pilots. It was during one of these demonstrations at Riyadh, on September 20, 1966, that the RSAF lost its first

“He was confronted by a young, pimplyfaced youth who told him in an indignant voice that he had not paid the parking fees!”
This was set to change in August 1967, when the Saudis decided to move their prized Lightning force closer to the Yemen border. The squadron’s new base was to be Khamis Mushayt, which, at nearly 7,000ft above sea level and with a constant

The First F.53
In the meantime, back at Warton, the contract continued to supply the RSAF with its full complement of aircraft. This reached another milestone when the first Lightning F.53 (ex-RAF XR722, now registered as 53666), took to the air on October 19, 1966. The F.53 was a formidable version of the Lightning, with a capability that outstripped the RAF’s single-mission policy for its own aircraft. The F.53 was effectively a ground attack version of the standard F.6, and rather than being equipped with a pair of missiles, the new mark could carry a multitude of weaponry. The incredibly strong wing of the Lightning lent itself perfectly to the addition of pylons, both above and below. Those below could carry a pair of Matra Type

Illustration: Andy Hay / www.flyingart.co.uk

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Although the Lightning was designed as a high-altitude interceptor the RSAF aircraft were often used at low level over the desert. Image: Mike Hooks Collection

155 SNEB 68mm rocket pods, and a novel use for the over wing pylon incorporated a JL100 pod in the front of the over wing tank, which could still carry an additional 50 gallons of fuel. The pylons could also carry a pair of 1,000lb bombs and a parachuteretarded version could be fitted to the over wing pylon. This was delivered by an explosive ejector mechanism to avoid damaging the wing. The standard Red Top missile fit could also be replaced with a Microcell unguided rocket pack or a day and night reconnaissance tray. Day fit used five 70mm cameras, while the night fit used an infrared line scanner that was illuminated by ‘Photoflashes’ carried on the pylons. A pair of 30mm Aden cannons were also fitted to the front of the ventral tank, a design feature that was later modified into the RAF’s own F.6s. All this made the F.53 an exceptional all-round aircraft and the first of 34 aircraft was delivered to the RSAF from July 1968. The Saudis also ordered six Lightning T.55s, which, in many people’s eyes, were even more capable than the F.53. With the ability to carry the exact same weapon loads the T.55 had the obvious added advantage of being able to carry a second crew member to act as a weapons operator. The first T.55, 55-710, took to the air from Warton on October 21, 1966, only to be written off in a landing accident on March 7, 1967, with Jimmy Dell and Airwork pilot Peter Williams at the controls. The pair began the sortie with a strong – but just within limits – wind blowing across the runway. Despite the Met man saying that the wind would decrease and change to blow down the runway, they returned to Warton to find the wind across the airfield and gusting between 40 and 45kts. With no chance of diverting, Jimmy landed firmly, but the Lightning slewed down the runway and the tyres burst. Now on the grass, the nose leg dug in and struck a concrete plinth. This caused the intake to bury itself into the ground and the forward fuselage to partly break off at the pressure bulkhead joint. When the rescue crews arrived Jimmy was still in the cockpit

but Williams was nowhere to seen. He was eventually found under the port wing, alive and still in his seat!

Saudis in Norfolk
Operating under the banner of 226 OCU at RAF Coltishall, the first batch of RSAF Lightning T.55s headed for Norfolk, and it was here that the vast majority of future Saudi Lightning pilots were trained. The first machine arrived in September 1967 and the aircraft remained at the base until they left for Saudi Arabia in 1969, destined to serve with the LCU (Lightning Conversion Unit) at Dhahran for the rest of their careers. By mid 1969, all of the F.53s had been delivered, and the RSAF could now boast 2, 6 and 13 Sqns operational on the Lightning.

Lightning from service, and with plenty of oil revenue to play with, went hunting for a replacement. Eventually, another deal was struck with BAe to provide various aircraft and remove the surviving Lightnings back to Warton. In an operation reminiscent of Magic Carpet, 22 aircraft with Victor tanker support en route returned to Lancashire during January and February 1986. It was hoped that the jets could be refurbished and offered either to Denmark or Austria. Both deals fell through, and all of the aircraft were offered either to museums or to any other interested parties.

Kuwaiti Air Force
In contrast to the Saudis, the marriage between the Lightning and the Kuwaiti Air Force (KAF) was not a happy one. The KAF ordered 14 aircraft in 1966 – a pair of T.55Ks and a dozen F.53Ks – with the first arriving in December 1968. The aircraft were operated from the country’s international airport, but constant civilian operations often disrupted the military flying and the Kuwaitis decided that two brand new air bases should be built at Ahmed al Jaber and Jakra. After the huge expense of building these new airfields, neither was found to be suitable for the Lightning, both being poorly equipped and lacking the infrastructure that this complicated aircraft needed. After struggling to keep their small force in the air, the Kuwaitis offered their aircraft for sale in 1973. Only the Egyptians showed an interest and this soon faded when they were told how much it would cost to get the Lightnings back up to a decent standard of serviceability. The KAF continued to fly the Lightning until 1977, when they were all grounded and replaced by the Mirage F.1K. Now down to just eleven surviving aircraft, these languished at the airport until they were further reduced when Iraq invaded in 1990. In both Saudi and Kuwait, several aircraft have been preserved, and thanks to that influx into Warton in the late 1980s, several more survive in the UK. The Lightning may not have dominated the export market, but to achieve such a lucrative and long-lasting Middle Eastern deal can be considered a success enough.

Combat Loss
The Yemen problem rumbled on into 1970, and, just a few days before peace was declared, the Saudis lost their only Lightning of the conflict. F.53, 53-697 was flying a recce operation, when, close to the Yemeni border, the jet was hit by ground fire, forcing the pilot to eject. Its replacement was 53-700, which arrived in Saudi Arabia on September 4, 1972, becoming the last ever production Lightning built. In January 1986, the RSAF withdrew the

RSAF Lightning F.53s 1301 (53-667) and 1302 (53-679) fly in perfect formation over one of the greener parts of the Kingdom. With 1,972 hours 42 minutes on the clock 1302 returned to Warton as ZF581 on January 14, 1986 as part of Operation Dhonanyi and is currently preserved at Rochester. Image: Mike Hooks Collection

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Royal Saudi Air Force English Electric Lightning T.55 55-711 (c/n 95024) approaches Samlesbury at the end of its maiden flight on August 29, 1967. Roland ‘Bee’ Beamont is at the controls, as he was for so many Lightning first flights, and the aircraft wears ‘B’ class markings as G2770. In the United Kingdom aircraft test serials are used to externally identify aircraft flown within the United Kingdom without a full Certificate of Airworthiness, and are often used for testing experimental aircraft or making pre-delivery flights for foreign customers. ‘G27’ was the code allocated to English Electric for such use. Image: BAe Systems

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On parade - displaying th
If ever there was an aircraft that captured the airshow-goers’ imagination it was the Lightning. Adrian M Balch looks back at the display career of the English Electric fighter.


rom the early days of its career to its final swansong on August 22, 1987, the Lightning never failed to turn heads when it appeared in public. The power, the shape, and the noise made the aircraft a huge hit with everybody who saw it fly. Although the P-1 and other prototypes appeared in public at the annual SBAC shows at Farnborough, it was left to 74 Sqn to make the type’s debut in RAF hands. In June 1960 74 Sqn became the first operational unit to be equipped with the English Electric Lightning F.1. However, conversion from the Hunter was painfully slow, mainly due to slow deliveries, poor serviceability and a shortage of spares, so by the end of August only seven aircraft had been delivered. Sqn Ldr (later AVM) John Howe had been appointed as Commanding Officer in February of that year but, by August,

he was facing a problem presented by HQ Fighter Command. HQ was very keen to display the aircraft to the public at the Farnborough Air Show in September, which would help to sell the aircraft to overseas air arms. Sqn Ldr Howe was therefore ordered to form a display team for the show, but with often only one aircraft serviceable at a time this created difficulties. A big effort was made to get four aircraft ready for the show and a display was choreographed to consist of four-ship flypasts and steep turns ending with a fast flypast in ‘Finger-Four’ formation. The pilots selected were Sqn Ldr John Howe and Flt Lts Jerry Cohu, Alan ‘Lefty’ Wright and Ted Nance. A strong English Electric sales drive at the show no doubt helped result in the later sales to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as well as an interest from Brazil. After Farnborough,

It was 74 Sqn that made the Lightning’s display debut. It fielded a four-ship in 1960, but by 1961 the squadron had received the last of its complement of twelve aircraft and the RAF was very keen for the team to present a ‘Diamond Nine’ formation at the Paris Airshow.

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solo displays were carried out at the Battle of Britain shows at Coltishall, Wattisham, Biggin Hill, Gaydon and Bassingbourn, whilst the formation team closed the show at Coltishall.

The Tigers
By February 1961 the squadron finally received the last of its complement of twelve aircraft and the RAF was very keen for the team to be increased in number to present a ‘Diamond Nine’ formation at the 24th International Salon at Paris in June. The 1961 team would be led by Sqn Ldr John Howe once again, this time joined by Flt Lts Maurice Williams, Alan Wright, Tim Nelson, George Black, Jim Burns, Maurice Bee, Ted Nance, Ken Goodwin and Flying Officers Mike Cooke and Vaughan Radford. The team operated from nearby Creil for the display and flew to the

show at Le Bourget on June 3 and 4. The display was a mixture of formation wingovers by the nine aircraft, followed by a rolling display by four of the team. Ken Goodwin then detached himself from the formation to provide an exciting solo display of low-level flying with reheat. After the successful Paris show the team, now known as the ‘Tigers’ after 74 Sqn’s Tiger emblem, returned to the UK and participated in the USAFE Armed Forces Days at Sculthorpe and Mildenhall.

Farnborough ‘61
There was a real push for serviceability in August, as the team was participating in the SBAC show at Farnborough the following month and wanted to show a full nine-ship display. It was also decided to take along three spares ‘just in case’.

The team therefore borrowed four aircraft from the Air Fighting Development Squadron, which were repainted in the squadron’s markings just for the show – much to the annoyance of AFDS! The team deployed to Farnborough on August 31 and carried out three rehearsals prior to participating in the daily show from September 5-10. This time the show opened with a dramatic stream reheat take-off by the twelve aircraft getting airborne and holding low until the end of the runway. Each then pulled 4G as they rotated vertically in line astern and climbed into the heavens. The Lightnings then appeared in formation over

From the late 1960s the Lightning appeared as a singleton ‘act’ at airshows, normally provided by 226 OCU at RAF Coltishall using the Lightning F.1A, F.3, T.4 or T.5. Here Flt Lt Pete Chapman roars down Greenham Common’s runway in F.3 XR716 of 2T Squadron, 226 OCU during the Embassy Air Tattoo on July 7, 1973 Image: Adrian M Balch / Photair Press

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Fully-fuelled and readied with flight crew strapped in, twelve Lightnings from 74 Sqn await the scramble. Farnborough’s famous black sheds to commence their display. After Farnborough, the Diamond Nine was successfully executed at the Battle of Britain shows at Coltishall and Biggin Hill before the team closed the season with a spectacular display for HM The Queen Mother at Leconfield in October. as CO of 74 Squadron by Sqn Ldr Peter Botherill who was posted in from Coltishall. On April 24 1962 the squadron became the official Fighter Command aerobatic team and was to provide seven Lightnings for the forthcoming season. This no doubt disrupted the training programme and the ground crew worked long hours to keep the aircraft serviceable. The team’s first public display for the year was at Stockholm, Sweden, on May 26, 1962. Formation aerobatics

Official Duties
John Howe was commended for his work and awarded the AFC before being posted to HQ Fighter Command. He was replaced

Tigers break! Lightning F.1s from 74 Sqn’s ‘Tigers’ team perform at the SBAC show at Farnborough in September 1962. Image: Adrian M Balch Collection

During their display at the 1962 SBAC show at Farnborough the Lightnings from the 74 Sqn Tigers performed a unique and impeccably-coordinated display with the Hawker Hunters from 92 Sqns Blue Diamonds. The combined display was hailed as a great success and even received a special commendation from the SBAC Flying Committee. Image: Mike Hooks

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For the 1962 SBAC show at Farnborough the Tigers’ Lightnings were painted with glossy black fins and spines – with the leader’s aircraft, XM143 ‘A’, the first to be completed. Image: Adrian M Balch Collection in conjunction with 92 Sqn’s Hunter team the ‘Blue Diamonds’. For Farnborough the Lightnings were painted with glossy black fins and spines, with the leader’s aircraft, XM143 ‘A’, the first to be completed. The combined display by the Tigers and the Blue

RAF Wattisham, Suffolk. In deference to its Phoenix insignia, 56 Sqn opted to call the team the ‘Firebirds’ and the entire squadron’s aircraft were painted in a flamboyant scheme with red trim. The Firebirds were led by Sqn Ldr Dave Seward, and initially ten pilots – out of the fifteen on strength – were selected to form the team: Flt Lts Jerry Cohu, Mike Cooke, Henryk Ploszek, Tim Mermagen, Mo Moore, John Curry, Ernie Jones, Dick Cloke, Jimmy Jewell and Terry Thompson (RCAF). Flt Lt Bob Manning was the reserve pilot for the team and Flt Lt Alan Garside was the solo display pilot.

The Firebirds were the first Lightnings to be fitted with a smoke-generating system. Modifications were made to the port flap tank to hold 33gal of diesel and the interior pipe work was altered to incorporate a small outlet nozzle protruding above the bottom reheat pipe between the two engines. A small electric pump was wired into the gun circuit and diesel was ejected into the jet efflux when the gun switch was selected. This, in turn, produced enough smoke for the display. The Firebirds took inspiration from the Tigers when it came to their signature formation, opting for the familiar Diamond Nine. This was achieved by combining two separate sections, the front five aircraft (‘Red Section’ led by Sqn Ldr Dave Seward), and a box of four (‘Green Section’ led by ‘A’ Flight Commander Flt Lt John Curry). Practices involved the pilots gradually working up in pairs, then threes and finally fives, until they were confident enough to create the Diamond Nine as one formation. Serviceability was quite a problem for the team and before each display the ground crew would make a big effort to get ten or eleven aircraft serviceable just to be safe.

In January 1963 HQ Fighter Command ordered that a full-time Lightning aerobatic team be formed by 56 Sqn at RAF Wattisham, Suffolk. Dubbed the Firebirds, the entire squadron’s aircraft were painted in a flamboyant scheme with red trim and the team was led by Sqn Ldr Dave Seward. The Firebirds were the first Lightnings to be fitted with a smokegenerating system. Image: Adrian M Balch Collection over the city was a concern for the Swedish authorities, who ordered the display to be flown over an area of open water a mile or so to the east of the city. Furthermore, the team was restricted to only four aircraft, so the public and local media alike were not impressed. The team went on to give a display at Oslo in Norway to commemoration 50 years of military aviation in Norway, before returning to Britain to mark 50 years of British military aviation at a special display at Upavon on June 16. Upavon being a grass airfield, the team operated from nearby Boscombe Down for the show. A further four displays were flown in July and August, before Farnborough loomed once again in September. This year the team rehearsed a co-ordinated display

“111 Sqn had aspirations to form an ‘unofficial shadow display team’ in case the Firebirds failed to deliver!”
Diamonds was hailed as a great success and even received a special commendation from the SBAC Flying Committee. After Farnborough the Tigers performed at the Battle of Britain shows at Wattisham, Biggin Hill and Coltishall on September 15, 1962, after which the team was disbanded and resumed its former air defence role.

The team began working up in February 1963 with occasional close formation aerobatic sorties. All went well until June 6, when a collision occurred during one practice flight. Flt Lt Mike Cooke’s wing clipped the missile on another aircraft as he rolled out from a break. His aircraft continued rolling due to damage to the ailerons and, as he couldn’t control the roll rate, he opted to eject. Unfortunately there was a fault with the seat, and instead of separating cleanly he was pulled out to one side and his neck whipped around. The parachute deployed and he landed in a ploughed field and broke his back. He was airlifted to Stoke Mandeville hospital and survived, albeit paralysed in a wheelchair. The other pilot involved managed to land safely.

The Firebirds (1963)
In January 1963 HQ Fighter Command ordered that a full-time Lightning aerobatic team be formed by 56 Sqn at

With Lightning T.4 XM989 at the head of the line, the 56 Sqn Firebirds pose for the camera at RAF Wattisham in March 1963. Image: Adrian M Balch Collection

Paris Salon
Alas, 1963 was the first year that there was no Farnborough show, as SBAC had decided to run it bi-annually from then on. However, the Firebirds took the Paris Air Show by storm in June and wowed the French audiences at Le Bourget. As with the Tigers, the display started with a reheat stream take-off. Then the Firebirds joined up into a nine-ship

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formation for various manoeuvres before splitting up into a five and a four-ship so that there was always something happening in front of the audience. As one formation finished a loop, the other would come in for a roll. The team then rejoined for a final break and land after quite a short display. After Paris the Firebirds returned to the UK for the USAFE Armed Forces Day at Lakenheath on June 19, where it gave a five-ship display. The squadron reverted to its normal duties for the rest of the season with no more displays until September, when it performed at the Battle of Britain Air Displays at Biggin Hill, Wyton and Gaydon on September 14, followed by its final display the following day at the Royal Observer Corps Open Day at RAF Wattisham. In those days each RAF Command had its own display team and the Firebirds were selected to represent Fighter Command due to the Lightning being big, noisy and impressive, especially when the reheat was on... but it was also an expensive aircraft to use. As such, the squadron still had to maintain its operational status; therefore, the team only participated in five official displays throughout the year. The Firebirds disbanded in October after it was deemed too expensive to operate a full-time Lightning display team. It was decreed that the mantle of the ‘official’ RAF Aerobatic Team should be passed from Fighter Command to Flying Training Command with less thirsty trainer aircraft such as the Jet Provost and Gnat. The rest, as they say, is history!

Despite the MoD ruling that there would be no more Lightning teams on cost grounds, 111 Sqn came to the fore again in 1965 when it was requested to form a display team for the Paris Air Show. Led by Sqn Ldr George Black the team consisted of Capt R Chisholm (RCAF) and Flt Lts C I Carr-White, J Mitchell, M B Bullocke, D M A Samuels, H Molland, E R Perreaux and P J W Creigh. Flt Lt B C Allchin was also seconded from 56 Sqn for the Paris air show and Flt Lt A J R Doyle flew as the team’s solo aerobatic pilot. Image: Adrian M Balch Collection

‘unofficial shadow display team’ in case the Firebirds failed to deliver! They practised both three and four-ship formations, but this came to nothing when Fighter Command approved the Firebirds’ display. However, despite the MoD ruling that there would be no more Lightning teams on cost grounds, 111 Sqn came to the fore again in 1965 when it was requested to form a display team for the Paris Air Show. The squadron worked up a short display programme with nine Lightning F.3s and a T.4 led by Sqn Ldr George Black. He was joined in formation by Capt R Chisholm (RCAF) and Flt Lts C I Carr-White, J Mitchell, M B Bullocke, D M A Samuels, H Molland, E R Perreaux and P J W Creigh. Flt Lt B C Allchin was also seconded from 56 Sqn for the Paris air show and Flt Lt A J R Doyle flew as the team’s solo aerobatic pilot. The team started working up in April and its first public appearance was at the RAFA Air Show at North Weald on June 7, followed by the USAFE Armed Forces Day at Bentwaters on the 15th and the Paris Air Show a few days later.

92 Squadron (1964)
After two years in the limelight as the Hawker Hunter-equipped Blue Diamonds aerobatic team, 92 Sqn was re-equipped with the Lightning F.Mk.2 at Leconfield by 1964. With its history of close-formation work, the squadron was selected to provide a display team to represent RAF Fighter Command at the Farnborough show in September that year. Six Lightnings performed an impressive display at the show and the unnamed team was led by Sqn Ldr Paddy Hine, accompanied by Flt Lts Ernie Jones, Pete Carter, John Vickery, Tony Aldridge and Tim Elworthy. The Farnborough display was repeated at Biggin Hill’s Battle of Britain display later that month and received much praise from press and public alike. Flt Lt Ernie Jones was then selected as Fighter Command’s Lightning solo display pilot. A former member of the Firebirds, Ernie showed exceptional skill displaying the powerful fighter at airshows and in May 1965 he was awarded a trophy at the NATO jet fighter solo aerobatic competition at Clermont-Ferrand in France.

“The aircraft made a series of low, noisy, passes. It was later agreed this was not a good idea!”

Red and Black
The 1965 season also saw debut appearances by the Red Arrows, which had just formed on Folland Gnats as the RAF’s ‘official’ display team. Seizing the opportunity to offer something unique at Paris, the two teams got together for an opening pass with the seven Gnats leading with the nine Lightnings ‘in the box’. The Lightning team was unofficially known as ‘The Black Diamonds’; the name being an amalgamation of earlier team names of the ‘Black Arrows’ and the ‘Blue Diamonds’. It also made a nice play on words for team leader Sqn Ldr George Black!

Black Diamonds (1965)
In March 1961, after an exhilarating period operating Hunters with the famed ‘Black Arrows’ display team, 111 Sqn re-equipped with the Lightning F.1A at RAF Wattisham. There was much rivalry between Wattisham co-residents 56 and 111 Sqns and, in 1963, with so much aerobatic experience to live up to, 111 Sqn had aspirations to form an

The team unofficially dubbed the ‘Black Diamonds’ made its first public appearance at the RAFA Air Show at North Weald on June 7, 1965 followed by the USAFE Armed Forces Day at Bentwaters on the 15th and the Paris Air Show a few days later. As there was no SBAC show at Farnborough in 1965 the 111 Sqn team was not widely viewed by people at home in Britain. Lightnings from the team are seen here aloft from RAF Wattisham on a training flight. Image: Adrian M Balch Collection

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In the hands of Flt Lt Chapman, Lightning F.3 XP696 from 226OCU at RAF Coltishall won the Embassy Jet Trophy at the 1974 International Air Tattoo at RAF Greenham Common. Image: Peter R March Again, there was no Farnborough show in 1965 so the 111 Sqn team was not seen by many people at home in Britain.

Faux Pas
Flamboyant colours were very much the order of the day in the mid-1960s – as can be seen from these two views of formations of aircraft from 19, 56, 74 and 111 Sqns. Image: Bob Archer Collection The display at Paris went exceedingly well and with the famous name of ‘Black Arrows’ associated with the squadron, one would not expect any bad press. However, the squadron made enemies during its return to Wattisham after the show... It is not known whether it was the team’s idea or a request from the Tower but somebody felt the barbecue at Ipswich Airport, nestling among its bevy of Austers, might appreciate a fly-by from the team. ‘Treble One’ would probably have got away with it if, as on all these occasions, things had not got out of hand – with several of the aircraft making a series of low, somewhat noisy, passes over the serene setting! It was later agreed this was not a good idea! The Black Diamond’s final display was at Biggin Hill on September 18, 1965, an event which marked the final display by an RAF Lightning display team.

… then there was one
From then on the Lightning only appeared as a singleton ‘act’ at airshows, normally provided by 226 OCU at RAF Coltishall using the Lightning F.1A, F.3, T.4 or T.5. At nearby Wattisham, a Target Facilities Flight (TFF) was formed in March 1966 using some old Lightning F.1 and F.1As as controlled air targets for the resident fighter squadrons. For a couple of seasons during the early 1970s the Wattisham TFF flew Lightning displays at shows around the UK. Several of these ‘hacks’ were named after cats such as ‘Jinx’, ‘Korky’ and ‘Felix’ but the reasoning appears to have been lost in the midst of time. Towards the end of its career the Lightning lost a lot of its glamour as the colourful markings of the 1960s gave way to a more sombre, toned-down camouflage and markings in the 1970s. In this form, the Binbrook Wing, comprising 5 Sqn and 11 Sqn, provided the display aircraft at airshows – normally using an F.3 or F.6. This continued right up to the type’s eventual retirement with the final ‘hoorah’ being the famed ‘Last, Last Lightning Show’ (see following pages) at Binbrook on August 22, 1987. It was truly the end of an era.

Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s the Lightning was a familiar sight at the SBAC show at Farnborough – both in the flying display and the static park. Here, highly polished Lightning T.4 XM974 gleams at the 1961 event. It had first flown on June 18 of the same year and survived until December 14, 1972 when a reheat fire brought it down in the North Sea. The crew ejected safely. Image: Awyr Aviation

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In May 1961 The Aeroplane visited Coltishall to see the new fighter in action. 74 Sqn put up this group of four Lightning F.1s for the benefit of the magazine’s photographer – who was able to capture XM164, XM165, XM139 and XM147 cavorting at high altitude.

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Thunder and Lightnings
In an extract from his book RAF Coltishall, Fighter Station Mick Jennings MBE looks back at the base’s Lightning years.


lthough it traces its history as a fighter station back to the dark years of World War Two, RAF Coltishall near Norwich needed extensive alterations in 1958 to prepare itself for the arrival of the Air Fighter Development Squadron (AFDS) of the Central Fighter Establishment (CFE) and the very first English Electric Lightnings to enter RAF service. The first of the pre-production P.1B Lightnings to be delivered was XG334/A, which arrived on December 23, 1959 followed by XG335/B and XG336/C a few days later. But prior to their arrival there were concerns about the new fighter and the ability of the station to support such a potent machine of war. One of the greatest concerns was about the stopping ability of the Mach 2 fighter, even though the runway had been extended to over 2,000m.

the aircraft would stop in wet conditions. He would, together with other water tanker drivers, follow ‘Crash One’ along the runway dumping thousands of gallons of water to simulate the worst-case scenario under these conditions. After they had cleared the area a Supermarine Swift from the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) landed on the flooded runway to test the braking performance. No problems were ever encountered and as the Lightning was equipped with a brake parachute under normal circumstances, Coltishall was given the go-ahead for Lightning operations.

It was towards the end of 1959 that Coltishall’s resident Hunter unit, 74 (Tigers) Squadron, was informed that it was to be the RAF’s first front-line operational squadron to be re-equipped with the Lightning. Ironically, ever since the Lightning had appeared with the AFDS/ CFE for evaluation and acceptance trials,

Runway ‘Wet’
Pete Davis, a civilian MT driver, became heavily involved in trials to estimate how

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Members of 74 Sqn pose for the camera after a sortie from RAF Coltishall in May 1961.

The high performance of the Lightning meant a complete change in operating procedures, as well as flying attire. Here a 74 Sqn pilot demonstrates the new high altitude pressure suit and helmet. many of those Hunter pilots had wished they could get their hands on the aircraft. Soon they would have their chance. By this time the Lightning was a regular sight at Coltishall and many of the preproduction examples of the new fighter had been based at the CFE. A graphic example of the dangers in the testing and development of new aircraft happened on March 5, 1960. Sqn Ldr Harding was airborne in XG334, the 18th pre-production P.1B Lightning, when, on selecting the undercarriage down for landing, the port leg would not lower beyond 30 degrees. After a series of slow fly-bys to allow engineering staff to assess the situation as best they could, the aircraft was flown out to sea and abandoned. Sqn Ldr Harding ejected safely with slight bruising and mild shock and, into the bargain, gained the dubious distinction of being the first RAF pilot to be involved

in the loss of a Lightning! Two more pre-production Lightnings, XG311 and XG335, were abandoned under similar circumstances during the latter stages of development, in both cases without major injury to the test pilots. May 25, 1960 saw the arrival of the first full production Lightning to the AFDS, when F.1 XM135/D was delivered to Coltishall. It, along with four others of the same model, remained in use with the AFDS until early 1963, when the surviving airframes were all transferred to 74 Sqn. The next mark of Lightning to join the AFDS fleet was the T.4, with the first pair (XM973/K and XM974/J) delivered in August 1962. The T.4s were used for service trials, dual checks and continuation training with XM973 staying for just under a year whereas XM974 continued with the AFDS until early 1966.

Enter the ‘Tigers’
With such a quantum leap in performance over the Hunter, the 74 (Tiger) Sqn pilots chosen to fly the Lightning had to undertake a five-day aviation medicine course at Upwood. On their return to Coltishall a further seven days of lectures on aircraft systems and emergency drills followed, then a simulator course during which time ten hours were ‘flown.’ All pilots were reminded that, as yet, there were no two-seat conversion trainers, thus their time on the simulator was of the utmost importance.

The first Lightning to arrive at AFDS at Coltishall was XM135. This aircraft would go on to be the last F.1 in RAF service when it retired on November 20, 1974, but is probably more famous for its unplanned flight at 33 MU, Lyneham, at the hands of ‘Taffy’ Holden, an engineer at the Maintenance Unit. The aeroplane was doing a taxi trial when the reheat inadvertently locked in. With a fuel bowser ahead of him ‘Taffy’ had no choice but to pull back on the stick and take the aircraft into the sky. Although he had flown Harvards he was not a ‘jet’ pilot yet he landed XM135 on his third attempt. Today, the aircraft can be seen at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Image: Rebecca Gibbs

The first squadron aircraft to enter RAF service, XM165, was delivered to Leconfield, which, at the time, was being used by Coltishall squadrons whilst their home base was being upgraded. The aircraft, flown by Wg Cdr R P Beamont, arrived late in the afternoon of June 29 1960. Coltishall’s Station Commander, Gp Capt H Bird-Wilson, Wg Cdr David Evans (Wing Commander Flying) and 74 Sqn’s first squadron commander, Sqn Ldr John Howe, were on hand to accept the airframe. Sqn Ldr Howe flew the first Lightning sortie on July 14, 1960 and by July 22, all of the squadron pilots had completed conversion training. The second Lightning for the squadron, XM164, arrived on July 15, but squadron training was severely hampered by lack of spares and unserviceability. By the end of August, 74 Sqn had increased its Lightning complement to seven aircraft, but at times only one was available for flying. With such a poor serviceability record, the squadron was more than a little concerned when they were asked to provide four aircraft for the September show at Farnborough. Hard work on behalf of the ground crews enabled the squadron to accept the commitment, and to their credit, they provided a four-ship display on every day of the show except one, when the weather was too bad. By the end of April 1961, all of 74 Sqn pilots were operational on the Lightning

“As yet, there were no two-seat conversion trainers, thus time on the simulator was of the utmost importance”

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and cleared to fly both by night and day. During the summer of 1961, operational training had to take a back seat to displays and publicity events, as the RAF was very keen to introduce its new aircraft to the British public.

Apart from the resident squadrons, Coltishall often hosted other Lightning units who operated from the airfield whilst their home bases were being upgraded or modified. In 1961, 56(F) Sqn from Wattisham spent a two-month detachment at Coltishall; amongst their number was SAC Nigel Lodge. He remembers: “It was during the 1961 detachment that some of my colleagues, realising the paucity of ‘Firestreak’-equipped aircraft, set about updating the Gate Guard Spitfire, so as to be ‘ready for front-line service’ in the then Cold War. “The then Station Commander (Gp Capt H ‘Birdy’ Bird-Wilson), we were told, almost had apoplexy upon seeing a photograph of ‘his’ aircraft so modified! Of course, we had to make amends on the afternoon following our antics and 56(F) Squadron servicing personnel marched in funeral procession, at the slow-march, with the missile held shoulder high.”

In addition to modifications to the runways at Coltishall, the hangars were overhauled in readiness for the arrival of the Lightning. Here XM144 receives maintenance during May 1961. The aeroplane first flew in March 1960 and after service with 74 Sqn it moved ‘across the road’ to 226 OCU in 1973. After a wheels-up landing it was repaired and returned to service with the RAF Leconfield Target Facilities Flight. XM144 ended her career with 23 Sqn in 1981, but her nose lives on in Cumbria. (Right) With the Norfolk coast as a backdrop XM147 completes a loop. By the end of April 1961 all of 74 Sqn pilots were operational on the Lightning and cleared to fly both by night and day. During the summer of 1961 operational training had to take a back seat to displays and publicity events as the RAF were very keen to introduce their new aircraft to the British public.

‘Finless Jim’
Flying in close formation with the Lightning was not always without incident. Flt Lt Jim Burns was part of a close formation of four aircraft practising a high speed low level pass along Coltishall’s runway on May 16, 1961 when his aircraft, XM141/D started to yaw badly. Observers on the ground initially thought that he had suffered a bird strike, but as pieces of the aircraft started floating down to the ground in front of them they soon realised that the airframe was starting to break up. It was another of the formation pilots, Flt Lt Alan Wright, who first realised that most of the fin and rudder on his colleague’s Lightning was missing. Unfortunately, in addition to the fin and rudder, part of the spine suffered damage, which included the radio aerial, this effectively prevented communication between XM141 and the other aircraft or ATC. Flt Lt Burns pulled away from the formation, not realising the extent of the damage. He eventually landed his aircraft safely after a long straight-in approach using aileron control alone. The ensuing investigation into the incident identified that the effects of the aerodynamic pressures, which had built up during the high-speed low-level manoeuvre by four aircraft in close formation, had exposed a structural weakness in the fin and caused it to shear off. Subsequent to this, all Lightnings were modified and Jim Burns gained the nickname ‘Finless Jim’.

Trials and Tribulations
As was to be expected with a new aircraft of such performance, this was not the last incident. On another occasion, Flt Lt Tim Nelson’s drag ‘chute failed to deploy on landing. Mindful of the restrictions

Ground crew work feverishly to prepare a Coltishall-based 74 Sqn Lightning for flight.

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With their clean lines and simple bare metal scheme, the early Lightnings were perhaps the most attractive of all. Here 74 Sqn machines are seen on the pan at Coltishall. on braking, he put the aircraft into full afterburner to go around again. Just as he rotated, the chute deployed and was immediately engulfed by the reheat! As every Lightning pilot knew, landing without a brake chute was a hazardous undertaking that often resulted in brakes being burnt out. Thankfully, this time, with the aid of the complete length of Coltishall’s runway and the close support of the Fire Section, he landed safely without further incident. The squadron lost its first Lightning (XM142/B) on April 26, 1963, but Flt Lt Jim Burns ejected safely. The aircraft was on an air test following a 400-hour servicing and after rolling out of a ten-second inverted run the hydraulic warning captions indicated a failure of both systems. The aircraft was still over land but pointing out to sea when the pilot made his escape. He was picked up from dry land by a helicopter from 228 Sqn and was back on duty within 24 hours of the incident.

“XM188 promptly began to devour the hangar, office contents, window frames, glass and furniture!”
The OCU was equipped with an assortment of Lightning marks, and an equally assorted bunch of pilots eager to fly the fighter. Whilst at Coltishall, the OCU had the task of taking pilots from advanced pilot training and converting them onto the particular mark of Lightning that they would fly on their operational squadron. The new pilot, after extensive preparation in the Ground School, was first taught to ‘fly’ the Lightning. The second phase of his training was aimed at making him thoroughly familiar with the complex weapons system and all aspects of the Firestreak and Red Top air-to-air guided weapons. The third and final stage

of his training was designed to give the pilot a sound knowledge of interception techniques, dealing with both supersonic and subsonic targets. In addition to this long conversion course, the OCU trained experienced Lightning pilots to become Instrument Rating Examiners and Interceptor Weapons Instructors, to achieve standardisation in flying training on the Lightning force.

Ram Raider
The unit was to lose an aircraft on June 21, 1968 when XM188 was written off after landing. Sqn Ldr Arthur Tyldesley taxied back to the dispersal on the No 2 engine (his No 1 engine having been shut down as per normal practice) but unfortunately he did not realise that his No 2 services hydraulic pump had ‘gone tech.’ This meant that the wheel brake accumulator was now the only thing keeping the differential braking working, and it duly failed just as the aircraft was about to negotiate the last bend in the taxiway prior to the dispersal. Having failed to negotiate the bend, the aircraft went straight across the grass and buried itself into the aircrew office at the end of the hangar. Sqn Ldr Tyldesley vacated his aircraft by climbing onto the roof of the offices and quickly left the area, but the throttle jammed open in the

Operational Conversion Unit
After nearly four years of Lightning operations from Coltishall, 74 Sqn left for RAF Leuchars in Scotland on February 28, 1964. The base was not quiet for long though, as 226 OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) arrived from RAF Middleton St George on April 13.

Coltishall, unlike the other Lightning bases in the UK, did not possess a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) complex, and as a training unit was initially not expected to be involved in operational sorties. However, in 1971, the OCU was declared an operational squadron in its own right, and as such, could be called upon to carry out intercepts of unidentified aircraft. Prior to this the OCU wore the shadow markings of 145 Sqn but once they were ‘war ready’ they began to sport the insignia of 65 Squadron.

94 English Electric Lightning

226 OCU had a number of ‘T-Birds’ on its books, including T.4 XM969, seen here at RAF Gaydon’s Battle of Britain Display in September 1964. The aeroplane was built in 1961, and after use with 226 OCU went to Binbrook, where it met its end on the fire dump in 1982. Image: Mike Hooks

collision and the No 2 engine continued to run at 60% power. XM188 promptly began to devour the hangar, office contents, window frames, glass and furniture, throwing chewed bricks and mortar back towards ATC and causing a column of dust some 200ft high! Finally, a brave technician calmly disconnected a vital component that manually shut down the Avon 210.

Flt Lt Brian Carroll was an Instructor on the OCU from 1970-73. His recollections of his time at Coltishall graphically illustrate the impact that operating a Lightning, in realistic operational conditions, had on one particular trainee pilot who was about to start his conversion flying with the OCU. Brian recalls that the OCU had recently received a new intake of pilots just out of Hunter flying at RAF Chivenor, Devon. “They had completed their initial ground school programme of lectures and were reasonably conversant with the Lightning’s systems and operating procedures; they had also started Flight Simulator

sorties. All had also been airborne in the Lightning on Exercise 1, this was by way of an ‘Instructors Benefit’ sortie during which the full potential of the aircraft was demonstrated and all manoeuvres were within the approved flight envelope. “We were just into the third week of October, the time, 0300hrs when a TACEVAL was called. The weather was cold and wet with steady rain that had been falling all of the previous day and was to continue for the next 48hrs. The cloud was extensive, the lowest, as I recall, being around 800 to 1,000ft and going all the way to 30,000ft without a break! “Within a very short time, the squadron was a hive of activity, the ground crews were working at a feverish pitch, preflight inspections were being completed as rapidly as possible, aircraft were then positioned in their pre-determined slots, ready for the pilots to mount up. Weather and exercise briefings for the aircrews were well underway, emergency and other procedures were all covered and we then awaited the first call from the operating authority to start the ball rolling.

“Meanwhile, the new courses of students were being kept busy with routine jobs in operations and in the coffee bar. As we operated a number of two-seaters it was decided that we would fly as many of the new course students as possible in the right hand seats to let them see what operating a Lightning as a weapons systems was all about. They had, of course, no knowledge at this time of the radar, so it was left to each instructor to attempt to brief on that aspect during the sortie. “Word finally came through to bring a number of crews to cockpit readiness, I had been allocated a T.4 and so had a student with me. I had already carried out my own pre-flight inspection so we were able to climb straight into the cockpit. Strapping in only took a few moments, helmets were plugged into the telebrief, ground power was on line, radio frequency selected and flight instruments erected, weapons checked, all ready to start engines as soon as the scramble instructions were received. We had only been strapped in a few minutes when instructions came to scramble. ‘Eagle 04 (my call sign) vector

A fine image of a Coltishall Lightning. F.3 XP755 was built in June 1964 and served with 74 Sqn before moving to 5 Sqn at 29 Sqn. It was scrapped in August 1975. Image: Mike Hooks

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120, make flight level 220, contact when airborne on Stud 7, SCRAMBLE.’ “Three minutes later we entered the active runway, applying full power and accelerating as only the Lightning could. The rain was still falling; runway lights were blurred as we raced into the darkness. Now airborne, gear retracted, radar scanning, a hard turn onto our designated heading of 120° and into a standard climb out as we changed frequency to Stud 7. Now snug and warm in what I called my ‘airborne office’, (it was nice to be out of the rain!), I explained briefly what the radar picture was showing, though I doubted that my passenger was able to make much of the orange scene displayed. Less than two minutes had passed since we entered the runway when we levelled off at 22,000ft. Our target

was said to be at 25,000ft some 40 miles away crossing our track from right to left. To this day I do not think that my student actually saw the contact on the radar, even though I talked the attack through to the kill. We were of course in thick cloud so never made visual contact with the hostile intruder. As I broke away from this interception, new instructions were passed from the Ground Controllers to take another target. This one was at high level and closing fast, re-heats were engaged and a rapid climb made to 36,000ft, speed was increased to Mach 1.3. The weapons were rearmed and as we closed from astern I pulled the aircraft into a steep climb in an attempt to scan the target on radar. A good contact was made and the target was ‘splashed’ (destroyed) at 47,000ft.

“Back to cruise power and a gentle descent to 35,000ft, briefly enjoying a clear sky above, well splattered with stars but no moon, the night was really very dark. I was beginning to think that we would be allowed to recover to base when another target was allocated, (they did actually ask if we had sufficient fuel for one more interception and we did). “This next interception was at low level, apparently bent on attacking our base, so a rapid descent was required. Back on the power to fast idle, air brakes extended and with gravity on our side, we were soon plunging into the cloud layer at 30,000ft – levelling off shortly after at 2,000ft. “To start the search for our third target we were vectored towards the intruder, finally catching up with him at 500ft some

“Three minutes later we entered the active runway, applying full power and accelerating as only the Lightning could”

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15 miles from the coast. This had to be a ‘guns’ kill as I had used all the available missiles on the first two interceptions. Closing with a degree of care, I finally made contact at around 200 yards, success number three. “We were now cleared to recover to base. Briefly back to 3,000ft to intercept the Instrument Landing System (ILS), we were cleared into the approach pattern. By now we were very low on fuel and as such had to make the first approach count. The rain was still falling as we broke out of the overcast at 800ft, the runway lights, as always a welcome sight came into view and then, 50 minutes after take-off, we were back on the ground again. “Taxiing back to the dispersal, I asked the student what he had thought of the

sortie. He was remarkably quiet for some time. Eventually, as we were walking back to the operations building he looked at me, shook his head and said that there was no way that he could ever do a sortie like that. From take-off to recovery he reckoned not to have caught up with what was going on, even though I had told him as much as I could, bearing in mind the fact that my workload was high and left little time for chat. I did emphasise at that point that he would not undertake a mission of that nature for quite some time to come but it did give him some food for thought as he progressed through the course. Some months later, he successfully completed the conversion and weapons course and finally proceeded to his first operational Lightning Squadron.”

Fond Farewell
The RAF’s Lightning display pilot for the 1973/74 season was Flt Lt Peter Chapman, who was an instructor with the OCU. Peter was renowned for his scintillating performances in the Lightning, whenever possible, flying his favourite mount, an F.3, XP696. For his final display season XP696 sported a white fin and dorsal spine. The conclusion of the 1974 display season also saw the disbandment of 226 OCU. The Lightning training commitment was transferred from Coltishall to 11 Sqn’s ‘C’ Flight at Binbrook, which later took on the name of Lightning Training Flight (LTF). From April 13, 1964 to September 30, 1974, 226 OCU flew a total of 64,457 hours on the Lightning and trained 810 pilots to fly Britain’s last single-seat fighter.

Over the top! English Electric Lightning F.1A XM147 from 74 Sqn at RAF Coltishall rounds the top of a loop in May 1961.

English Electric Lightning 97

Key to illustration
FUSELAGE 1  Nose cone: houses radar and is mounted on wheel-well box 2 set on floor 8 of engine intake 3. 2  Engine air intake (top section shown at 4 down to cockpit floor, up at 5 to roof of the overwing intake 6 to upper engine 7). Floor of intake 3 runs straight through to lower 8  engine 9. 10  Leading edge of wing centre-section divides airflow to engines (7 and 9). 11  Cut-away of top surface 5 to reveal bifurcation 10. 12  Jet pipe of upper engine. 13  Extended jet pipe of lower engine. 14 Reheat units Faired nose cone spacer providing throughway 15  for radar electrics 16 into nose cone. 17 Oxygen cylinder. 18  End-frame of front fuselage (picks up to wing front fitting 19 of rear fuselage). Rear fuselage with longeron 20, strongly 20  ribbed between-deck 21 and lower hoops 22, engine-bay stressed top cover 23, back-end continuous frame 24, stressed arch 25 over wing centre section with longeron plate and angle 26, underwing side-panel 27 with similar plate longeron and angle to wing, and underskin attachments 28. 29  Rear wing spar fitting 30 picks up off strengthening frame 29 (see detail). 31  Engine main (trunnion) supports (see near 29 and longeron 20 near airbrakes). 32  Airbrake and double-acting hydraulic jack (electro-hydraulic selection from cockpit). Reheat and jet pipe intermediate supports 33  (self-aligning trunnion block off frame into channel on pipe). (Repeat on lower pipe). 34  Reheat and jet pipes end support (trunnions on pipe held in clamp on frame). 35  Rollers 35 swing down on to fixed rail 36 to run jet pipe out. 37  Root of fin. Top jet pipe guide rail and ground handling link roller (because rail 36 has to be cut away in places). 38  H-piece between jet pipes, hinged each side at 39 and made in two pieces joined at 40. (seals the back end but can be swung open for pipe removal). (See detail). 41  Five-spar fin attachment to fuselage (one single, four double tongues) with stringers and ribs, all between front and rear shear walls 42. 43  Honeycomb rudder has brackets splined to operating mechanism. 44 Flutter damper. Honeycomb fin tip. 45  46  Pivoting tailplane (torsion box with pivot spar 46), front and rear shear webs, formers, stringers and stressed skin, and honeycomb tip 47. 48  Bearing housing, built into fuselage frame, carries spindle of 46. 49  Triangular arm off spindle (rocked by jacks 50 to move tailplane through 51). 52  Parachute pack in fuselage container, with power-operated doors 53, which slide up to uncover container. 54  Parachute lines run out through skid 54 and loop around both sides of fuselage at 55 up to (quick-release) anchorage 56. MAINPLANE 57  Port and starboard torsion boxes between curved front and rear spars 57, picking up to fuselage on fittings 19 and 30, and with three intermediate spars and bracing 58, ribs, stringers and stressed skin. Wings join on centreline H-beam 59 (see detail). 60  Undercarriage suppoert beam with main hinge point at 61. 63  Undercarriage retraction jack picking up on main leg at 62. 64  Operating jack inside top radius rod projects a stub to engage the tang 65, which is solid part of lower rod and thus locks rods against folding (see detail). 66  Wheel well and door 67. Aileron with honeycomb tip 69. 68  70  Hinged flaps with double-acting hydraulic jacks 71 (electro-hydraulic selection from cockpit). 70A  Ventral fuel tank. FLYING CONTROLS All are power-operated from the hydraulic system. Aileron (see detail) 72  From stick via artificial-feel torsion unit 72A and trim actuator 72B controlled by switch on stick, console (72), with pressure gland similar to 73 through cockpit rear pressure bulkhead, along to non-linear gear at 74, out by curved rods (75) and linkage (76) to operate follow-up jacks (77). 78  Aileron autostabilizer actuator overriding into linkage. Tailplane 79  From stick thence via console and glands (similar to 72 and 73), bellcrank (79) underwing (80) to feel unit (81) and trim actuator (82), rod (83) to operate hydraulic motor unit (84). 84  Hydraulic motors drive screw jacks 50 to move tailplane. 85  Autostabilizer actuator overrides into rod (83) Rudder 86  From rudder bar with weighted LH pedal 86 (to counteract speed-changing inertia), thence via console and gland (73), bellcrank 79A alongside 79, underwing alongside 80, rod (87) (see starboard side end of upper engine to linear spring-feel lever 87A - not shown) to give artificial feel, thence to rudder-feel 88 unit and trim actuator (88A) plus autostabilizer 89. 88  Rudder-feel unit (hydraulic, from feel simulator) with out-of-trim actuator from switches on the stick, then on via rods (90) to follow-up jack (91) to rudder stub (43). 89  Autostabilizer actuator overrides into rod (90). Note: 88, 89, 90 and 91 are actually on the starboard side (extension of rod 87 and spring-feel unit), but are illustrated here on the port side in order to show them. POWER INSTALLATIONS 92  Rolls-Royce Avon lower engine (intake at 9, main trunnion mounting at 31). 93  Upper engine (intake at 7, mounted at 31). 94  Port and starboard 15th-stage compressor tappings for air systems and auxiliaries’ drive (as well as engine intake anti-icing 95) plus two 15th-stage tappings for reheat, fuel and hydraulic systems (repeat on lower engine). 96  Two hydraulic pumps on external wheelcase for hydraulic systems. 96A  Reservoirs pressurized via pipe 96B. 96C  To aileron control units, undercarriages, port tailplane motor, rudder control unit, braking parachute door selector. 97  Engine air (15th-stage) tapping to drive reheat fuel pump (repeat on lower engine). Compressor relief valve (out through fuselage) 98  (repeat on lower engine). 99  Engine starting equipment comprising: fuel tank (99), pump units (100), HP switch and solenoid valve (101), fuel and purging air lines (102) down to engines’ intake casings. AIR SYSTEMS (see detail) (a) To rear fuselage 103  Hot air off lower engine 15th-stage (94) joins with trunk (104) from upper engine to feed (aft) auxiliaries’ gearbox drive-turbine (105) (exhausting at 106), with branch 104A to reheat nozzle control rams. Ram air 106B from fin cools auxiliaries then overboard via hear exchanger (106A) in hydraulics supply from engine-driven pumps. 107  Tapping to reheat units muffs (to induce on ground cold air cooling flow through muffs). (b)  Demisting, gun-purging and anti-icing systems 108  Hot-air trunk from engines goes forward with a branch (109). Trunk 108 with a branch to canopy seal 114 and ground supply connection, then runs to gun-purging valve (110) (operates to blow inflammable gases out of breech after firing via branch up to guns 135). Trunk 108 on to air intake anti-icing (111) with branch-offs for windscreen rain-dispersal (112), side panel and canopy hot-air sprays (113), canopy seal (114). 115  canopy side-panel closed-circuit dried air from electric blower (115) through silica-gel dryers (116) and pipe (117) to panels, collected at 118 and back to pump. Pressure build-up from lower engine vented to atmosphere. 116A Eighth-stage air from lower engine to guided weapon pack heating. (c) Cockpit air system Hot-air branch-off 108 to heat exchanger 117 109  with a branch-off, via reducing valve, direct to 121. Heat exchanger alongside with header tank 117  to boiler (118) set in the junction of engine airstreams (and with cooling-air entry to it from them at 10). 118  Cooled air on to water boiler (118) gives up heat and on to two-spool pump (its spool working against other driven by air bleed 120 from trunk, which bleed then passes back into trunk at 126A). Air thus further cooled and on to water separator (121, with branch-off up to radio cooling (122) with ram-air connection 123. 121  From water separator on via 124 (with ground connection to heat exchanger 125). Thence into cockpit for three-outlet pressurizing at 127. Pipe 126 divides upstream of heat exchanger (125). One branch goes through (125) to anti-g and air-ventilated-suit connections 128A; the second branch goes direct to nose cone (pressurized radar) via air dryer 128. The cockpit air is directed through heat exchanger 125 as the cooling medium and then to cockpit. Combined valve unit in conjunction with 129  pressure controller in cockpit (cockpit relief). Built-in shroud passes some cockpit air out down to nose cone heat exchanger through 129A plus branch for ground cooling attachment 129B. 129C Pressurized cockpit (floor, canopy, bulkheads) with relief valve. HYDRAULIC SYSTEMS Pressure oil from engine pumps (96) and reservoirs 96A plus ground hand pump to: (a) undercarriage flaps, autostabilizer actuators, feel units, canopy jack, missile pack and (b) aileron, tailplane, rudder. 96B air to reservoir from a 15th-stage engine tapping runs via exchanger (106A). REHEAT FUEL PUMPS (one to each unit) 130  Fuel pumps to each reheat unit 914) via piping 131 and 132. Air-driven via 97 (15th-stage engine and overboard). FIRE PROTECTION Fire zone I (each engine): A to B (intake to firewall). Fire zone II (each engine): B to C (firewall to exhaust section). Fire zone III (common to the two engine jet pipes): C, C to D. 132X Port extinguisher serves both Zones II (starboard extension serves both Zones I). 133  Typical Firewire sensing element (one element each engine (Zones I, plus II), plus one to each jet pipe in Zone II, equals four elements). 134  Inertia switch each side to set off both extinguishers at four-and-a-half g. Fire Zone ventilation: Zones I and II each engine fore and aft intakes and outlets with engine hot-air induced flow out Zone II ventilates by tapping off air from auxiliaries (remainder going on through 106A). ARMAMENT 135  Line of (two) Aden cannon and two magazines. 136  Attachable underbelly pack, mounting cannon or rockets or twin missiles. 137  Artist’s HB pencil thought not to be effective against Soviet Tupolevs, so generally replaced with Firestreak or Red Top missiles. HB ‘missile’ relegated to lightning sketches of squiffy CO at Christmas parties.

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English Electric Lightning F.1
Undercarriage motion (geometry) and locks

From The Aeroplane and Astronautics, July 1961 Drawing by J H Clark, A.R.Ae.S.

Flying control system

Engine air ducting
Nose section of aircraft is fabricated in vertical halves. Starboard half is shown here as manufactured in the jig.

All flying controls are power-operated, actuated by the pilot through follow-up hydraulic jacks which are powered by pumps driven from the two engines.

English Electric Lightning 99

The Last, Last Lightning Show

XP693, BAE’s all-silver trials’ Lightning F.6, from Warton, Lancs was a definite star in the static park. Image: Keith Gaskell

The Lightning was a phenomenal display aircraft but few airshow appearances were as dramatic or emotional as the farewell flypast. Keith Gaskell recalls the ‘Last, Last Lightning Show’.


s the dangers of the stand-off between NATO and the Soviet Bloc faded during the late 1980s, one of the Cold War era’s greatest warriors, the English Electric/BAC Lightning, retired from RAF service after taking a final public bow at ‘The Last, Last Lightning Show’. By 1977 the Lightning force had been cut to just two Squadrons (5 and 11) and the Lightning Training Flight (LTF) – all of which continued to operate from RAF Binbrook, Lincs until their eventual retirement. Approximately 70 Lightnings were kept at Binbrook, of which around 35 were in service at any time, with the rest undergoing maintenance or held in storage.

Although the weather was atrocious, and not conducive to photographs, enthusiasts were given one final opportunity to see a Diamond Nine of Lightnings – and here it is at the Last, Last Lightning Show. 11 Sqn eventually disbanded on May 8, 1988. Image: Mick Britton

Run Down
The final run-down began in 1987, with the LTF standing down during April after completing the last Lightning pilot conversion course. It was decided that 5 Sqn would be the next to go in November, but before then RAF Binbrook decided to celebrate the career of the last all-British fighter with a final public Open Day at on August 22, 1987. Although the weather forecast for that summer Saturday was awful, Binbrook was swamped with people eager to be there for the Lightning’s swansong. Their reward was an extraordinary demonstration of the fighter’s potent reputation in the most challenging of conditions.

NATO Static
On arrival at an overcast Binbrook, a glance across the airfield revealed an

The flamboyant colours of the 1960s were long gone by the time of the Last Last Lightning Show. Nonetheless, enthusiasts who braved the weather were treated to an excellent day and the sight of no fewer than 54 Lightnings on the ground at Binbrook! Image: Keith Gaskell

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impressive gathering of RAF and NATO aircraft in the static displays. Looking back now at the RAF types that were present, it is noticeable that only one, the Hawk T1A, remains in service today, all of the others having been consigned to history – the Buccaneer, Canberra, Harrier, Hunter, Jaguar, Jet Provost, Jetstream, Phantom, Tornado F.3, Victor and Vickers VC-10 K2. The overseas contingent included a USAF F-111E, F-5E, F-15C and A-10A, Danish Air Force F-16s, a German Air Force Tornado, a recently retired German A/F F-104G Starfighter and a TF-100F Super Sabre operated by Flight Systems. Of course Lightnings were everywhere, including three in the static park – an F.3 and a T.5 wearing the markings of the recently disbanded LTF, plus BAE’s all-silver trials’ F.6 (XP693) from Warton. Seventeen more were on the flightline including a trio of specially-marked Lightning F.6s. XR728 (coded ‘JS’) was flown later in the day by Binbrook’s Station Commander Group Captain John Spencer, whereas the red-tailed XR770/AA and black-tailed XR725/BA were the mounts of the bosses of 5 and 11 Squadrons. Another 34 Lightnings were to be found in the hangars undergoing maintenance or in storage. Out on the airfield, many more retired and derelict airframes served as decoys or were dumped ready for scrapping.

and nerves became frayed, but finally a break appeared in the lower cloud layers and the quiet of this hilltop airbase was soon dispelled as 22 Rolls-Royce Avon turbojets burst into life. With standing water everywhere the first of eleven Lightnings took off trailing reheat flames and clouds of spray, then banked sharply right into a tight low-level turn.

display of piloting skill and the Lightning’s all-weather capabilities.

Diamond Nine
After joining-up off the coast, nine of the Lightnings returned to make two passes in a tight diamond formation, then split into groups of four and five. Finally, all eleven Lightnings flew individual low and very fast runs down the runway with clouds of vapour enveloping them in the damp air. They broke left to land, their brake chutes streaming during the roll-out. After the Open Day the base returned to normal for a short time, although a number of Lightnings were retired and many redundant airframes were scrapped. By the end of the year 5 Sqn had stopped flying the Lightning and moved to Coningsby to convert onto the Tornado F3. The final RAF Lightning operations were flown by 11 Sqn in April 1988, after which the unit delivered the last airworthy Lightnings to museums or other airfields for ground-based activities. It then moved to Leeming, also to fly the Tornado F3. RAF Binbrook itself also closed as an active station and was eventually sold off for nonaviation uses. The RAF traditionally bids farewell to its aircraft with flypasts, a duty which, sadly, it has had to perform rather too often in recent years. Few types, however, have received such a public send-off as the Lightning, which bowed-out in a style befitting its iconic reputation at The Last, Last Lightning Show.

Take Off
Inevitably some display items were cancelled because of the weather, but others were able to take to the skies, including an RAF Nimrod MR.2, Tornado GR.1, F-4J(UK) Phantom and Puma. The USAF kindly provided an F-111E, F-15C and A-10A whilst the French Air Force fielded a pair of Mirage F1Cs. However, the highlight of the day’s flying programme was to be a flypast by a Diamond Nine formation of Lightnings scheduled for 1400 hours. Whilst this was eagerly anticipated, much less so was a slow-moving belt of heavy rain which duly arrived mid-morning, soaking the airfield and sending everyone off in search of shelter. The take-off time came and went

“The sequence continued until all eleven were airborne and had disappeared noisily into the murk”
The others followed in quick succession, each one pulling through the turn to come back across the runway directly over the stream of departing Lightnings, then pulling up into a near vertical climb as it passed over the crowd. This sequence continued until all eleven were airborne and had disappeared noisily into the murk, leaving spectators in awe of this remarkable

As a finale, the Lightnings flew individual low and very fast runs down the runway with clouds of vapour enveloping them in the damp air. Image: Peter R March

English Electric Lightning 101

Warton at work
eorganisation is the vogue in the aircraft industry today, and many of the leading companies have made changes to meet the new conditions which face the industry. One of the most recent to do so has been English Electric, which has formed a new company – English Electric Aviation Ltd – to take over the research, design and development activities of the English Electric aircraft and guided weapons divisions at Warton, Stevenage and Luton. Although the company produced aircraft of its own design in the inter-war years, its renaissance in aircraft design dates from the Canberra. But on the production side it has been active since 1938. Thus, when English Electric began the development of its own aircraft immediately after the War, the company already had extensive production facilities. Since then they have produced more than 500 Canberras and are now concerned mainly with the Lightning.

xxxx xx xxx xx xxx xx xxxxxxx xxx. Image: Aeroplane

In the April 3, 1959 issue of The Aeroplane the British public introduced to the new English Electric Aviation Ltd. xxxxxxxxwas xxx xxx xx xxxxxx x xx xxxx
It should be made clear that only the aircraft and guided-weapons divisions have been merged to form English Electric Aviation. Other members of the English Electric Group which have aviation interests are unaffected and maintain their original status as direct subsidiaries of English Electric Co Ltd. Included in this category are Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Co Ltd and D Napier & Son Ltd, while the aircrafttechnology division remains a department of the parent company.

With the formation of English Electric Aviation, the research, design and development activities of the English Electric aircraft and guided weapons divisions have been brought under a single board. This has been done for a variety of reasons. Both divisions have their major customer, the Ministry of Supply, in common. Both work on weapons-system concepts, and the techniques involved in guided weapons and manned aircraft are now converging. With the development of the Lightning and the Thunderbird [surfaceto-air missile] the divisions have been developing parallel and inter-related weapons systems for air defence.

The main activities for the new company are, on the aircraft side, the development of the Lightning supersonic fighter for the RAF and its variants such as the English Electric P.11 two-seat trainer, which is expected to fly about the middle of this year [1959]. New projects include the

“The establishment is fully equipped for all design, development and flight-test work”

102 English Electric Lightning

This ‘state of the art’ simulator was constructed at Warton to be used in both Canberra and Lightning development. ‘Canberra Replacement’ TSR-2, to be developed jointly with Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd. Other work includes the study of all aspects of both supersonic and subsonic civil transports. The company may possibly enter the civil field, either by building an established design under licence and developing it, or by making a technical break-through in the supersonic transport field. So far as missiles are concerned, the major effort is on the Thunderbird surface-to-air missile system, which is now undergoing its acceptance trials

for the Army. An advanced version of the Thunderbird is being developed and the company doubtless has other active missile projects. High precision instruments and inertial navigation systems for missiles, aircraft and ships are being developed by its instrument wing, and Minneapolis-Honeywell high precision gyroscopes are being manufactured under licence for these systems. The company’s aircraft research and development facilities are at Warton aerodrome in Lancashire. The establishment there is fully equipped for all design, development and flight-test work. Its equipment includes a range of wind tunnels which can operate up to Mach 1.7; new tunnels will soon be opened for model-testing of aircraft and missiles up to Mach 6. Equipment at Warton includes digital and analogue computers for data processing and extensive electronic, instrumentation, and mechanical-test laboratories. The aerodrome runway is 3,000 yards long and has approach lighting and ILS facilities. Surveillance radar is being installed so that aircraft can remain under full radar coverage during test flying. Major aircraft assemblies are produced in the English Electric factories at Preston and Accrington, and final assembly is at Salmesbury. Aircraft are flown from

From the sublime to the ridiculous. The 1921-era English Electric Wren ‘potters’ serenely overhead as the English Electric P.1 is readied for another test flight. The Wren was designed by the company to achieve the simplest possible aeroplane capable of lifting a man. Powered by a 7.5hp ABC the Wren would go on to share victory in the 1923 Light Aeroplane Competition at Lympne.

English Electric Lightning 103

Salmesbury to Warton for development and test flying. The missile development facilities are at Stevenage and Luton, and units are maintained at Aberporth and Woomera for launching trials. Clearly English Electric has a major stake in aviation; the company has no British rivals today in the development of supersonic interceptors. Although the English Electric Group has a range of interests in transport and power generation, transmission and ultilisation, its aviation activities must account for a substantial part of the Group’s turnover. The recent regrouping shows the Group intends to maintain and possibly expand its activities in the aircraft and missile fields in the years ahead.

In 1919 English Electric decided to concentrate on flying boat development, in the belief they would provide the best means of commercial air transport. The unusual Ayr used its lower wings to provide planing stability during take-off. sponsored a biplane in 1911 to the designs of W O Manning. The 1911 COW Biplane, with a 100hp Gnome engine, was tested at Brooklands by T O M Sopwith and was not unsuccessful. It, and another similar biplane with the highly unreliable 110hp Chenu engine, were entered for the 1912 Military Trials on Salisbury Plain – but neither completed the necessary tests. Nevertheless, it is not without interest that the earliest aeroplane that can be considered to be of English Electric ancestry was a military type – setting the pattern for the Group’s almost exclusive interest in warplanes ever since. COW did not produce any more aeroplanes of the original design, but went on to manufacture more than 700 aircraft to Royal Aircraft Factory designs.

Historical Postscript
Although English Electric still tends to be thought of as a new name in the British aircraft industry, the company can lay claim to having built its first aeroplane in 1911. In the intervening 48 years, not far short of 6,000 aeroplanes have been produced by the company’s factories. The company itself did not come into existence until 1918, by the amalgamations of five engineering concerns – the Coventry Ordnance Works, the Phoenix Manufacturing Co at Bradford, Dick Kerr and Co of Preston, Willans and Robinson of Rugby and Siemens Dynamo Works of Stafford. Of these, the first three had, by 1918, a considerable fund of aviation experience, and were in production with aeroplanes; after the amalgamation the Phoenix design team was kept in existence as the aviation department of English Electric. Of the constituent companies, Coventry Ordnance Works (COW) had the longest history of aircraft construction, having

A line up of Handley Page Halifax aircraft in production at Warton in mid-1942. By the end of 1945 a total of 2,145 of these four-engined bombers and transports had been built by English Electric.

“New projects include the ‘Canberra Replacement’ TSR-2, to be developed jointly with Vickers-Armstrongs”

A general view of the Warton drawing office, which was primarily engaged in Lightning development work at the time this photograph was taken.

104 English Electric Lightning

The English Electric canteen in 1959. With a team of thousands working on the Canberra and Lightning projects, major facilities were needed just to cater for the masses of employees. W O Manning, having joined the RNAS as a technical officer, reappeared in English Electric history early in the First World War, when he was released to take charge of aircraft design and development at Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Co. Mr P J Pybus, the managing director, had undertaken the production of aircraft to Admiralty contracts, starting with such types as Short seaplanes and bombers, Maurice Farman Longhorns and Fritz Koohoven’s quadruplane, the Armstrong Whitworth FK.10. In 1917, Phoenix graduated to production of the F.3 and F.5 flying-boats and Manning designed the superstructure of a new flying boat, the Phoenix P.5 Cork. Flying boats of the F.3 type were similarly the basis of Dick Kerr’s stake in the aviation industry – 110 having been built

“Clearly English Electric has a major stake in aviation; the company has no British rivals today in the development of supersonic interceptors”

In this classroom new recruits are taught the discipline of draughting techniques.

by the time the company became part of English Electric. When the merger took place, both Phoenix and Dick Kerr were building prototypes of a big new flying boat to Admiralty requirements. One of these eventually materialised as the Fairey Atalanta; construction of the other was abandoned at the end of the war. With the cold wind of peace blowing through the deserted production shops, English Electric decided in 1919 to concentrate on flying boat development, in the belief that boats, by their ability to use natural alighting places, would provide the best means of commercial air transport. For the next seven years the company worked on a progression of military flying boats – the Kingston, of conventional layout, and the interesting Ayr, with its lower wings providing planing stability at take-off. One other product of interest at this period was the Wren – an ultralight monoplane in which Manning, supported by Maurice E A Wright (who was testing the Kingston for the Air Ministry), sought to achieve the simplest possible aeroplane capable of lifting a man. It was tested by Wright at Lytham Sands in 1921 and two more were built for the Light Aeroplane Competition at Lympne in 1923, when one shared first place with W S Shackleton’s ANEC. Although English Electric had foreseen the part to be played by flying-boats in the development of air transportation, they did not succeed in gaining a share of the work. In March 1926, therefore, the company announced the termination of aeronautical activities. What may have seemed at the time to be a final decision turned out to be no more than a 12 year pause, however, for in 1938, the company was once again asked to participate in the rearmament programme. On December 21, 1938, an initial contract was placed for 75 Handley Page Hampden twin-engined bombers, and a production line was put down at the old Dick Kerr works in Preston. Little more than a year later, on February 22, 1940, the first Hampden was delivered; 75 were delivered in five months and by March 15, 1942, 770 had been built. The [Handley Page] Halifax followed the Hampden into production, and between August 15, 1941, and the end of 1945, 2,145 of these four-engined bombers and transports were built by English Electric. Then came the Vampire, for which the company was asked to take sole production responsibility in February 1945, after de Havilland had built three prototypes. Production continued until 1950 and the company built 1,369 aircraft of various marks for the RAF, Royal Navy and for export. A design office was established at Preston in 1939, to look after local modifications on the Hampden and Halifax. Eventually WEW Petter took charge of the team, which produced, with official backing, the Canberra. Compounded upon the Canberra’s success is that of the Lightning – heralded as the RAF’s last manned interceptor, and sure of a long and successful operational life.

English Electric Lightning 105

The Lancashire coastline close to the English Electric factory at Warton made for wonderful photographic opportunities – but no spot more so than the famous Blackpool Tower. Here Lightning F.6 XR754 (c/n 95219) flies past the tower at medium level on August 17, 1965, with Roland ‘Bee’ Beamont at the controls. The aeroplane made its maiden flight on July 8, 1965 and was allocated to 5 Sqn later that year, where it flew as ‘G’. XR754’s career also took it to 23 Sqn and 11 Sqn, with whom it served until its eventual retirement. Image: BAe Systems

106 English Electric Lightning

English Electric Lightning 107

Lightning units – home an
Martyn Chorlton looks at which units flew what, from where, and when!
Front Front Line Line Units Units
5 Squadron
Motto Frangas non electas (Thou mayest break but shall not bend me) Base Binbrook from October 7, 1965; disbanded December 31, 1987; reformed with Tornado F.3, May 5, 1988 Variants Operated F.6 (December 1965 to December 1987); F.1A (June 1970 to September 1972); F.3 (October 1972 to September 1987); T.5 Aircraft F.1: XM137. F.1A: XM164, XM183. F.3: XP694, XP695, XP701, XP703, XP706, XP707, XP737, XP741, XP749, XP750, XP751, XP753, XP764, XR713. XR716, XR718, XR749, XR751, XR756, XR757, XR758, XR759, XR760, XR761, XR762, XR763, XR764, XR765. F.3A: XR754, XR755. F.6: XR723, XR724, XR725, XR726, XR727, XR728, XR747, XR752, XR753, XR754, XR755, XR756, XR768, XR769, XR770, XR771, XR772, XR773, XS894, XS895, XS897, XS898, XS899, XS900, XS901, XS902, XS903, XS904, XS919, XS920, XS921, XS922, XS923, XS924, XS925, XS926, XS927, XS928, XS929, XS931, XS932, XS933, XS935, XS936, XS938. T.5: XS416, XS417, XS418, XS419, XS420, XS450, XS451, XS452, XS455, XS457, XS458, XV328. Motto Ociores acrioresque aquilis (Swifter and keener than eagles) Base Reformed Leuchars April 3, 1967; to Binbrook March 28, 1972; disbanded April 30, 1988; reformed with Tornado F.3, November 1, 1988 Variants Operated F.6 (April 1967 to December 1987) F.3 (October 1972 to May 1986) T.5 Aircraft F.1A: XM173. F.3: XP694, XP695, XP701, XP702, XP706, XP707, XP737, XP741, XP749, XP751, XP753, XP761, XP764, XR713. F.6: XS895, XS897, XS898, XS899, XS901, XS903, XS904, XS918, XS919, XS920, XS921, XS922, XS923, XS925, XS927, XS928, XS929, XS930, XS931, XS932, XS933, XS934, XS935, XS936, XS937. T.5: XS416, XS417, XS419, XS451, XS452, XS454, XS456, XS457, XS458, XV328. Motto Possunt quia posse videntur (They can because they think they can) Base Leconfield from June 29, 1959; to Gutersloh September 23, 1965; disbanded December 31, 1976; reformed with Phantom FGR.2, January 1, 1977. Variants Operated F.2 (December 1962 to October 1969); F.2A (January 1968 to December 1976) Aircraft F.2: XN726, XN727, XN730, XN731, XN732, XN733, XN735, XN769, XN771, XN774, XN775, XN776, XN777, XN778, XN779, XN780, XN781, XN782, XN783, XN784,
All images via Martyn Chorlton except where stated

First formed in December 1965, 5 Squadron went on to be the longest serving of all the Lightning units. The F.3, as depicted here, joined the squadron in October 1972, and the variant was still in service two months before the unit’s disbandment in December 1987.

11 Squadron

XN786, XN787, XN789, XN790, XN793, XN794. F.2A: XN724. T.4: XM970, XM973, XM988, XM991, XM992, XM994, XM995.

23 Squadron

Motto Semper agressus’ (Always on the attack) Base Leuchars from Mar 9, 1963; disbanded October31, 1975; reformed with Phantom FGR.2, November 1, 1975 Variants Operated F.3 (August 1964 to November 1967); F.6 (May 1967 to October 1975); F.3 (May 1972 to October 1975); assorted F.1, F.1A and T.5s Aircraft F.1: XM144.

F.1A: XM169, XM173, XM178, XM182. F.3: XP705, XP706, XP707, XP708, XP735, XP736, XP737, XP750, XP751, XP752, XP756, XP757, XP758, XP759, XP760, XP761, XP763, XP764, XR757, XR758, XR760, XR761, XR762, XR763, XR765. F.6: XR723, XR725, XR727, XR728, XR747, XR752, XR753, XR754, XR756, XR766, XR767, XR770, XS895, XS899, XS927, XS935, XS936, XS937, XS938. T.4: XM973. T.5: XS417, XS419, XS421, XS423. Motto Impiger et acer (Energetic and Keen)

29 Squadron

Base Wattisham from May 10, 1967; disbanded December 31, 1974; reformed with Phantom FGR.2 Jan 1, 1975 Variants Operated F.3 (May 1967 to December 1974); assorted F.6s and T.5s Aircraft F.3: XP694, XP695, XP696, XP701, XP702, XP705, XP707, XP708, XP735, XP736, XP737, XP743, XP745, XP747, XP754, XP755, XP756, XP757, XP758, XP759, XP762, XP763, XP764, XP765, XR715, XR716, XR717, XR718, XR720, XR750, XR751. F.6: XP698, XP700. T.5: XS422, XS452, XS459, XV328. Motto Quid si coelum ruat (What if heaven falls) Base Wattisham from July 10, 1959; to Akrotiri April 11, 1967; to Wattisham Jan 21, 1975; disbanded June 28, 1976; reformed with Phantom FGR.2, June 29, 1976. Variants Operated F.1A (December 1960 to April 1965; F.3 (March 1965 to December 1971); F.6 (September 1971 to June 1976); T.5 Aircraft F.1A: XM171, XM172, XM173, XM174, XM175, XM176, XM177, XM178, XM179, XM180, XM181, XM182, XM183, XM190, XM213. F.3: XP694, XP695, XP701, XP702, XP705, XP743, XP744, XP745, XP746, XP747, XP748, XP753, XP754, XP755, XP759, XP764, XP765, XR716, XR717, XR718, XR719, XR720, XR721, XR748, XR749, XR750, XR759, XR761, XR764. F.6: XP698, XP699, XP700, XR725, XR728, XR770, XR771, XR773, XS897, XS901, XS919, XS921, XS922,

56 (Punjab) Squadron

19 Squadron

Many Lightnings served with several different operational and second-line units during their careers. Those that were still flying during the late 1970s would have ultimately ended up with either 5 or 11 Sqn, or both. XR772, seen here in 11 Sqn markings, was no exception, having served with 74, 5 and 11 Sqns and the LTF during its career, before returning to Binbrook and being shared between 5 and 11 Sqns. The F.6 is captured refuelling from a Victor tanker only months before it was lost, 20 miles off Skegness, on March 6, 1985.

108 English Electric Lightning

d away
F.2: XN731, XN732, XN734, XN773, XN779, XN787, XN788, XN792. F.3: XP694, XP702, XP738, XP753, XR726, XR748, XR750, XR751, XR753, XR758, XR759, XR764. F.6: XS903, XS904, XS920, XS921, XS935, XS936. T.5: XV328.

226 OCU

The cambered wing, squared-off fin and big ventral tank give this away as an F.2A belonging to 19 Sqn, pictured at Binbrook during the late 1970s. Colour air to air photographs of 111 Sqn Lightning F.1s are rare; one is captured here in company with examples from 19, 56 and 92 Sqns.
Variants Operated F.2/F.2A (April 1963 to March 1977) Aircraft F.2: XN726, XN727, XN728, XN730, XN731, XN732, XN733, XN735, XN768, XN769, XN772, XN773, XN774, XN775, XN778, XN780, XN782, XN783, XN785, XN786, XN787, XN788, XN789, XN790, XN791, XN792, XN793, XN794. T.4: XM968, XM969, XM971, XM988, XM995, XM997. Motto Adstantes (Standing to) Base Wattisham from June 18, 1958; disbanded September 30, 1974; reformed with Phantom FGR.2, October 1, 1974. Variants Operated F.1A (April 1961 to February 1965); F.3 (December 1964 to September 1974); F.6 (May 1974 to September 1974); T.5 Aircraft F.1: XM140, XM141, XM146. F.1A: XM169, XM181, XM184, XM185, XM186, XM187, XM188, XM189, XM190, XM191, XM192, XM213, XM214, XM215, XM216. F.3: XP694, XP696, XP701, XP706, XP738, XP739, XP740, XP741, XP742, XP746, XP748, XP749, XP750, XP751, XP752, XP753, XP754, XP758, XP759, XP761, XP762, XR711, XR712, XR713, XR714, XR715, XR716, XR748, XR750. F.6: XP698, XP700, XR747, XR752. T.4: XM973, XM992. T.5: XS421, XS422, XS450, XS452.

Lightnings from 23 Sqn on the line at Binbrook during the mid 1970s, not long before the Lightning made way for the Phantom FGR.2 in late 1975.
XS928, XS929, XS932, XS933, XS934. T.4: XM989. T.5: XS417, XS422, XS452, XS456, XS459. F.1A: XM163, XM164, XM165, XM166, XM167. F.3: XP702, XP703, XP704, XP705, XP706, XP751, XP752, XP753, XP754, XP755, XP764, XR758, XR759, XR761, XR764. F.6: XP698, XP700, XR725, XR767, XR768, XR769, XR770, XR771, XR772, XR773, XS893, XS895, XS896, XS897, XS920, XS921, XS927, XS928, XS930. T.4: XM974, XM988. T.5: XS416, XS454, XV329.

111 Squadron

74 (Trinidad*) Squadron

* More usually known as Tiger Sqn Motto ‘I fear no man’ Base Coltishall from June 8, 1959; to Leuchars March 2, 1964; to Tengah June 12, 1967; disbanded September 1, 1971; reformed with F-4J Phantom, October 19, 1984. Variants Operated F.1/F.1A (June 1960 to April 1964); F.3 (April 1964 to September 1967); F.6 (September 1966 to Aug 1971); T.5 Aircraft F.1: XM134, XM135, XM136, XM137, XM139, XM140, XM141, XM142, XM143, XM144, XM145, XM146, XM147.

(Operational Conversion Unit) (including 65, 145 and 2T Sqn) On June 6, 1963, 226 OCU reformed from the Lightning Conversion Squadron (LCU) at Middleton St George (known as 145 Shadow Sqn for defence exercises). It took over from 229 OCU and the FCIRS, and on April 20, 1964 moved to Coltishall. May 1966 saw a temporary detachment to Leconfield and on May 4, 1971, the unit was reorganised as 1 Sqn (65[R] Sqn on T.4 and F.1A); 2 Sqn (Weapons Sqn with no aircraft) and Advanced Sqn (2T Sqn on the Lightning T.5 and F.3). In June 1972, 1 Sqn detached to Marham; it disbanded into 11 Group on September 30, 1974. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.1: XM134, XM135, XM136, XM137, XM139, XM140, XM143, XM144, XM145, XM146, XM147. F.1A: XM163, XM164, XM165, XM166, XM167, XM169, XM171, XM172, XM173, XM174, XM177, XM178, XM180, XM182, XM183, XM184, XM188, XM189, XM190, XM213, XM214, XM215, XM216. F.3: XP696, XP707, XP737, XR716, XR718, XR719, XR750, XR751. T.4: XM968, XM969, XM970, XM971, XM972, XM973, XM974, XM987, XM988, XM990, XM991, XM994, XM996, XM997. T.5: XS416, XS417, XS418, XS419, XS420, XS421, XS422, XS423, XS449, XS450, XS451, XS452, XS453, XS454, XS455, XS457, XS458, XS459.

92 (East India) Squadron


Motto Aut pugna aut morere (Either fight or die) Base Leconfield from May 22, 1961; to Geilenkirchen December 29, 1965; to Gutersloh January 24, 1968; disbanded Mar 31, 1977; reformed with Phantom FGR.2 April 1, 1977.

Second Second Line Line Units Units
60 MU (Maintenance Unit)
60 MU were at Dishforth from March 1, 1963. Detached to Leconfield February 2, 1964, as the Lightning Modification Flight (later becoming the Lightning Servicing Squadron). A permanent move to Leconfield followed on February 2, 1966, followed by a move to Abingdon on April 1, 1976. The unit operated the Lightning F.1 and F.1A on a regular basis. Aircraft operated consisted of: P.1B: XG310, XG325, XG326. F.1: XM135, XM137, XM144, XM145, XM147, XM163, XM164.

Intensive service trials carried out by ‘A’ Squadron, (Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment) at Boscombe Down and Lightnings would have been seen here throughout its service career. Aircraft operated regularly consisted of: P.1B: XG307, XG308, XG309, XG310, XG311, XG325, XG326, XG327, XG328, XG329, XG331, XG333, XG335, XG336, XG337. T.4: XL629. F.1: XM134. F.2: XN795. F.3: XN734, XP693, XP694, XP696, XP701, XR717. F.3A: XN725, XN734, XP693, XR754. F.6: XP693, XP697, XP699.


Flanked by six of his pilots at Coltishall in late 1960, Sqn Ldr John Howe had recently been selected as the first commanding officer of a Lightning squadron – namely 74 ‘Tiger’ Squadron.

(Air Fighting Development Squadron) Originally formed in 1944 within the CFE at Wittering, by 1958 the squadron, along with the DFCS and part of the FCIRF (Fighter Command Instrument Rating Flight), had become 122 (Reserve) Sqn. It became 63 (Reserve) Sqn from July 1959 until September 1, 1959, and

English Electric Lightning 109

Launched from RAF Leuchars in September 1974, a 23 Sqn Lightning F.6 on QRA duty found this Soviet Tupolev Tu-95RT ‘Bear’ patrolling high above the North Sea on a maritime probing. Code-named Bear Delta by NATO, this long-range reconnaissance version carried no offensive weapons and had already served ten years since the type was cleared for long oceanic flights. Image: Peter Stevenson via Barry Wheeler
in August 1959 absorbed the AllWeather Development Squadron. On September 1, 1959, it moved to Coltishall as part of 12 Group and on October 5, 1962, it moved to Binbrook and was absorbed by CFE as the redesignated Fighter Command Trials Unit (FCTU). Aircraft operated consisted of: P.1B: XG334, XG335, XG336. F.1: XM134, XM138. F.1A: XM163. F.2: XN729, XN777. T.4: XM973.


Under its earlier guises of Hawker Siddeley, British Aerospace and the current BAe Systems, several Lightnings were on strength for various trials including MRCA (avionics) and Tornado F.3 Foxhunter Radar testing, to name but a few. XP693 was a particularly long serving aircraft.

Binbrook TFF

RAF Akrotiri Station Flight
Operated the T.5 during 1974.

(Target Facilities Flight) Formed at Binbrook in 1966 with F.1 and F.1A, the unit operated until 1973. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.1: XM137. F.1A: XM164, XM166, XM181, XM182, XM183, XM192.

92 Sqn shows off its new Lightning F.2s during a sortie from Leconfield in late 1964.
Aircraft operated consisted of: P.1B: XG307, XG308, XG309, XG310, XG311, XG326, XG328, XG329, XG330, XG331, XG332, XG333, XG336, XG337. T.4: XL628, XL629. F.1: XM134, XM139. F.1A: XM168*, XM170. F.2: XN724, XN767, XN795, XN796, XN797. F.3: XN725, XN734, XP694, XP697, XR751. F.3A: XN725, XP697. F.6: XP697. * static test airframe Binbrook. It operated until June 30, 1967. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.1: XM137. F.1A: XM164. F.3: XP695. F.6: XR752, XR753, XR766, XR767.


(Central Fighter Establishment) CFE was a huge and complicated unit that was first formed at Tangmere in September 1944. During the Lightning years the CFE absorbed the Fighter Weapons School and formed Day Fighter Combat School (ex All Weather Fighter Leaders School) and All Weather Fighter Combat School (ex All Weather Fighter Leaders School) in 1962 at Binbrook. It disbanded on February 1, 1966. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.2: XN726, XN771, XN777. F.3: XP695, XP696, XP749, XP750. T.4: XM973.

Handling Squadron

A sub-unit of the A&AEE, Boscombe Down Aircraft operated consisted of: F.1: XM134. F.6: XP698. T.5: XS418.


de Havilland

A beautiful Firebird. Lightning F.1A XM182 of 56 Sqn presents its lovely colours for the camera during one of many official photo shoots for the Firebirds display team.

Several Lightnings passed through Hatfield in connection with the Blue Jay (Firestreak) development and trials. These included P.1Bs XG325, XG329, XG332.

(Empire Test Pilots School) The ETPS had been chasing an example of the Lightning for many years but had to wait until 1966, when XL629 arrived. Only three ever served with the school, XS422 being the last, which made its final flight in 1987. Aircraft operated consisted of: T.4: XL629. T.5: XS422, XS457.


(Instant Readiness Reserve Unit) Formed circa June 1979 at Binbrook as a refresher unit for pilots (ex Lightning but on desk duty). Often referred to as 46 (Reserve) Sqn. Redesignated LAF late 1981. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.6: XR757.


English Electric/BAC

Many aircraft were retained by the manufacturers for development and trials work.


(Fighter Command Trials Unit) The unit formed on February 1, 1966, from the AFDS, CFE at

(Lightning Augmentation Flight) Formed in late 1981 from the Instant Readiness Reserve Unit at Binbrook, it served the same role. It is thought to have disbanded by late 1982.

110 English Electric Lightning

Lightning F.3 XP743 from 29 Sqn offers a good view of the long refuelling probe, the smaller ventral tank and a pair of Red Top missiles.
Aircraft operated consisted of: F.3: XR726. F.6: XR757. 1974, it moved to Binbrook and continued until at least December 1978.

A very rare shot of Lightning F.2 XN726 from the CFE taxiing for take off at Binbrook in late 1963. The fighter went on to serve with 19 and 92 Sqns before ending its days at the Proof & Experimental Establishment at Shoeburyness. MoD(PE)
(Ministry of Defence [Procurement Executive]) Aircraft operated consisted of: F.3: XP693. F.6: XP697, XP703. T.5: XS457.

6 Squadron



(Lightning Conversion Squadron/ Unit) Formed January 4, 1960, within CFE at Coltishall (using borrowed aircraft at first), the unit moved to Middleton St George in August 1961 and was redesignated 226 OCU on June 1, 1962. Aircraft operated consisted of: T.4: XM969, XM970, XM971, XM972, XM987, XM990, XM991, XM993, XM994, XM996, XM997.

Leconfield TFF

Aircraft operated consisted of: F.1: XM144.

Leuchars TFF

(Lightning Training Flight) Formed October 1, 1975, from 11 Sqn’s ‘C’ Flight – which was part of 11 Group at Binbrook. It finally disbanded on April 30, 1987. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.1: XM144. F.3: XP694, XP701, XP702, XP706, XP707, XP741, XP749, XP750, XP751, XP753, XP764, XR713, XR716, XR718, XR720, XR758, XR760. F.6: XR724, XR725, XR726, XR728, XR749, XR751, XR756, XR772, XR773, XS895, XS923, XS929, XS936. T.5: XS416, XS417, XS419, XS420, XS451, XS452, XS456, XS457, XS458, XS459, XV329.


(Royal Aircraft Establishment) Aircraft operated consisted of: P.1B: XG308, XG309, XG327, XG328. F.3A: XN725. T.4: XM967.

Based at Khamis Mushayt, Riyadh and Dhahran. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.52: 52-655 (to 52-609), 52-656 (to 52-610), 52-659 (to 51-612). F.53: 53-666 (loan), 53-668, 53-679, 53-680, 53-681, 53-682, 53-688, 53692, 53-695, 53-699, 53-700. T.55: 55-711, 55-712, 55-713, 55714, 55-715.

13 Squadron


A number of aircraft were used for Avon development work at Hucknall near Nottingham. Aircraft operated consisted of: P.1B: XA856. F.2: XN723, XN773. F.3: XN734.

Based at Dhahran F.53: 53-667, 53-679, 53-685, 53-686, 53-687, 53-692, 53-696, 53-698, 53-699. T.55: 55-711, 55-713, 55-714.

226 OCU ‘3 Sqn’

Formed 1966 with F.1 and F.1A and disbanded in 1973. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.1: XM135, XM139, XM144, XM145. F.1A: XM164, XM173, XM174, XM177, XM178, XM182.


T(D)FF Leuchars (Target [Dual] Facilities Flight)
Aircraft operated consisted of: F.3: XR758.

Based at RAF Coltishall from February 1966, and disbanded by 1969. Aircraft operated consisted of: T.55: 55-711, 55-712, 55-713, 55-714.

(Ministry of Technology) Aircraft operated consisted of: T.5: XS454.



T(D)FF Wattisham


(Lightning Special Engineering Project Team) Formed April 1, 1972, as part of 11 Group at Coltishall. On April 29,

(Ministry of Aircraft) Aircraft operated consisted of: P.1B: XG312, XG313. F.2: XN772, XN773. T.4: XM966. T.5: XS416.

Aircraft operated consisted of: F.3: XP694, XP741, XP749, XP750, XP753, XR713, XR716, XR720, XR749. F.6: XP698. T.5: XS456.

(Lightning Conversion Unit) Based at Dhahran F.53: 53-672, 53-683, 53-684, 53-685, 53-686, 53-687, 53-688, 53693, 53-694, 53-696, 53-698. T.55: 55-711, 55-712, 55-713, 55714, 55-715, 55-716.


Trials Flight

Aircraft operated consisted of: F.6: XR724, XR773, XS904.

Wattisham TFF

(Saudi Support Unit) The SCU was formed at Warton in 1973, and continued to exist until at least 1986. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.52: XN734 (G-27-239)

A pristine line of 226 OCU Lightning T.4s at Middleton St George, not long after the unit was reformed from the original Lightning Conversion Squadron. A unique formation of a pair of 226 OCU 2T Squadron Lightning T.5s escorting a pair Spitfire XIXs in 1973. The Spitfires were founding members of the RAF Historic Aircraft Flight that would later become the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Aircraft operated consisted of: F.1: XM135, XM136, XM137, XM139, XM144, XM147. F.1A: XM163, XM177, XM182. F.3: XP705, XP708, XP735, XP738, XP740, XP742, XP743, XP744, XP745, XP746, XP748, XP752, XP754, XP755, XP759, XP762, XP763, XP765, XR711, XR715, XR719, XR748. F.6: XP698, XP699.


The following aircraft also operated with the RSAF during their career: F.1: XG313 (G-27-115). F.52: 52-657, 52-658 (to 52-611). F.53: 53-669, 53-678, 53-697. T.54: 54-650, 54-651.

Operation Dhonanyi

Royal Royal Saudi Saudi Air Air Force Force
1 Squadron
Aircraft operated consisted of: F.53: 53-666.

2 Squadron

Based at Khamis Mushayt from 1967 to 1986. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.53: 53-666, 53-667, 53-668, 53670, 53-671, 53-672, 53-673, 53-674, 53-675, 53-676, 53-677, 53-679, 53-681, 53-682, 53-683, 53-684, 53-685, 53-686, 53-687, 53-688, 53-689, 53-691, 53-692, 53-693, 53-695, 53-696, 53-698, 53-699, 53-700. T.55: 55-711, 55-713, 55-714, 55715, 55-716.

This operation involved the returning of Lightning F.53s and T.55s back to Warton in January 1986 as part of a deal struck between BAe and the Saudi Royal Family. All aircraft registrations were substituted with UK military serials. Aircraft operated consisted of: F.53: ZF577, ZF578, ZF579, ZF580, ZF581, ZF582, ZF583, ZF584, ZF585, ZF586, ZF587, ZF588, ZF590, ZF591, ZF592, ZF593, ZF594. T.55: ZF595, ZF596, ZF597, ZF598.

Kuwait Kuwait Air Air Force Force
The Kuwaiti Air Force operated the type intermittently from 1968 to 1977. They were based at Kuwait International Airport; Ahmed al Jaber; Jakra. Aircraft operated consisted of: T.55: 55-410 and 55-411 F.53: 53-412 to 52-423

English Electric Lightning 111

Of the 337 Lightnings built by English Electric a small, yet healthy, number survive today. Gareth Stringer looks at those that survived the scrap man’s torch.

Lightning F.2A
XN728 XN730 XN767 XN770 XN776 Derelict Balderton, Nottinghamshire Museum Berlin - Gatow, Germany Preserved Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Museum  Riyadh, Saudi Arabia wears ‘610’ Museum  Scottish Museum of Flight, East Fortune, East Lothian XN782 Museum  Luftfahrtausstellung Museum, Hermeskeil, Germany XN784 Private Baarlo, Netherlands

Lightning F.3
XP706 XP745 XR713 XR718 XR749 Museum  Aeroventure, Doncaster, South Yorkshire Private Greenford, Ealing Preserved 111 Sqn, RAF Leuchars, Fife Private Over Dinsdale, North Yorks Private Peterhead, Aberdeenshire

Lightning T.4
XL629 Preserved  MoD, Boscombe Down, Wiltshire

Lightning F.6

WG760 first flew on August 4, 1954 and was used for handling and performance trials before utilisation in Firestreak missile testing with the A&AEE. Transferred to RAF St Athan and latterly to RAF Henlow as an instructional airframe, WG760 was ultimately delivered to the RAF Museum at RAF Cosford where it still resides today. Image: Steve Bridgewater WG760 Museum  RAF Museum Cosford, Shropshire WG763 Museum  Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester XA847 Private Stored, Stowmarket, Suffolk XR724 started life as an F.3 before conversion to F.6 standard in 1967, following which she was delivered to 11 Sqn. The aircraft was overhauled in 1976 when its starter exploded, resulting in Cat.3 damage, but returned to serve operationally with 5 Sqn until the unit was disbanded in 1987. XR724 was then fitted with over-wing tanks and used for BAe’s Tornado F3 radar trials until retirement in 1990. The Lightning Association bid for XR724, registered her as G-BTSY and flew her back to her spiritual home of Binbrook on July 23, 1992. Image: via Gareth Stringer XP693 Private  Thunder City, Cape Town, South Africa (airworthy as ZU-BEY but stored) XR724 Private  Lightning Association, Binbrook Airfield, Lincolnshire XR725 Private  Binbrook Village, Lincolnshire XR728 Private  Lightning Preservation Group, Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire (taxiable) XR753 Preserved  11 Sqn, RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire XR755 Private Callington, Cornwall XR770 Preserved  5 Sqn, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire XR771 Museum  Midland Air Museum, Coventry, West Midlands XR773 Private  Thunder City, Cape Town, South Africa (airworthy as ZU-BEW but stored) XS897 Preserved Coningsby, Lincolnshire XS903 Museum  Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington, Yorkshire XS904 Private  Lightning Preservation Group, Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire (taxiable) XS919 Private Dinton, Wiltshire XS925 Museum  RAF Museum Hendon, London XS928 Preserved  BAe Systems, Warton, Lancashire XS929 Preserved RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus XS936 Private Liskeard, Cornwall

Lightning F.1
XG313 XG329 XG337 XM135 XM172 XM173 XM178 Preserved Dhahran, Saudi Arabia Museum  Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, Suffolk Museum  RAF Museum Cosford, Shropshire Museum  Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire Private Spark Bridge, Cumbria Private  Newton with Scales, Lancashire Museum  Association des Amis du Musee du Chateau, Savigny-les-Beaune, France XM192 Museum  Thorpe Camp Visitor Centre, Tattershall Thorpe, Lincolnshire

XG337 was the last of the development batch of F.1s and served mostly on Red Top missile trials at Warton and Boscombe Down. She is now suspended from the ceiling of the National Cold War Exhibition at RAF Cosford in a vertical climb attitude. Image: Steve Bridgewater

Lightning F.6 XS929 spent her entire career with 11 Sqn and is now on display as a gate guard at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. She wears 56 Sqn colours − despite having never served with the squadron – as Lightnings from the unit regularly deployed to Cyprus for armament practice camps. Image: Peter R March

112 English Electric Lightning

Lightning T.5

Lightning T.55

Lightning T.55 55-713 first flew on November 16, 1967, and began her flying career at RAF Coltishall, training Saudi pilots. She was delivered to Saudi Arabia in August 1969, but, in common with several other ex-Saudi airframes, was flown back to Warton in January 1986. She was registered as ZF598 pending possible onward sale, but ultimately joined the Midland Air Museum at Coventry. Image: Steve Bridgewater Red Deer, Alberta Canada ZF597/55-711 Private  ZF598/55-713 Museum  Midland Air Museum, Coventry, West Midlands There are also reported to be a number of other airframes still existing in both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, but there is no up-to-date information on their status.

Lightning T.54
Lightning T.5 XS422 first flew on March 24, 1965 and while serving with 226 OCU conducted the first air-to-air refuelling by a T.5. It eventually transferred to the Empire Test Pilot’s School at Boscombe Down and acquired a red fin and spine in August 1976. She was declared ‘out of hours’ towards the end of 1987 and now resides in the USA where she is being restored to flight by the Anglo-American Lightning Association. Image: Paul Filmer XS416 Private New York, Lincolnshire XS417 Museum  Newark Air Museum, Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire Farnborough Air Sciences Trust, Farnborough, XS420 Museum  Hampshire XS422 Private  Anglo-American Lightning Association, Stennis International Airport (under restoration as N422XS) XS452 Private  Thunder City, Cape Town, South Africa (airworthy as ZU-BBD but stored) XS456 Private Skegness, Lincolnshire XS458 Private  Russell Carpenter, Cranfield, Bedfordshire (taxiable) XS459 Museum  Fenland Aviation Museum, West Walton Highway, Norfolk Lightning T.54 XM989 began life with 56 Sqn in 1961 and was later converted to T.54 standard for the Royal Saudi Air Force, becoming 54-650 (later 54-607). Today it is displayed at the main entrance to King Abdul-Aziz Air Base, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Image: Peter R March XM989/54-607 Preserved Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

The growing trend in ‘cockpit-eering’ has saved a number of Lightning front fuselages. Some are on display in museums and collections, whereas others are privately owned and not on show to the public. Lightning F.1 XG325 Private  Recently sold (new location TBC) XG331 Private  Jet Age Museum, Gloucestershire (Stored) XM144 Private Spark Bridge, Cumbria XM169 Museum  Highlands Aviation Museum, Inverness, Highland XM191 Private  Recently sold new location unknown Lightning F.2A XN726 Museum  Boscombe Down, Wiltshire Museum  Malta Aviation Museum, Ta’qali, Malta XN769 XN795 Private Rayleigh, Essex Lightning F.3 XP701 Museum  Robertsbridge Aviation Society, East Sussex XP703 Private Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire XP743 Museum Wattisham, Suffolk XP757 Private Stamford, Lincolnshire XR751 Private Queensbury, Bradford Lightning T.5 XS421 Private Rayleigh, Essex XS457 Private  Binbrook Airfield, Lincolnshire XV328 Private Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire Lightning F.6 XR726 Private  Harrogate, North Yorkshire XR747 Private Treworgans, Cornwall XR754 Museum  Aeroventure, Doncaster, South Yorkshire XR757 Private Scampton, Lincolnshire XR759 Private Haxey, Lincolnshire XS898 Private Lavendon, Buckinghamshire XS899 Private  Binbrook Village, Lincolnshire XS922 Private Spark Bridge, Cumbria XS923 Private Welshpool, Powys XS932 Private Walcott, Lincolnshire XS933 Private Farnham, Surrey Lightning F.53 ZF582 Museum  Bournemouth Aviation Museum, Bournemouth, Dorset (53-676) ZF587 Museum  Lashenden Air Warfare Museum, Headcorn airfield (53-691) Lightning T.55 ZF595 Private  Anglo-American Lightning Association, Stennis, Mississippi, USA (55-715) ZF596 Private  Spark Bridge, Cumbria (55-715)

Lightning T.5 XS420 was retired in 1987 and sold to Murray Flint. She was restored in 2003 to appear on static display at the 2003 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford – where this photograph was taken. She has since been sold and moved to the FAST site at Farnborough, Hants. Image: Peter R March

Lightning F.53
ZF578/53-670 Museum  Tangmere, Military Aviation Museum, Tangmere West Sussex ZF579/53-675 Museum  Gatwick Aviation Museum, Charlwood, Surrey ZF580/53-672 Preserved  BAe Systems, Samlesbury, Lancashire ZF581/53-675 Museum  Cold War Museum, Bentwaters, Suffolk ZF583/53-681 Museum  Solway Aviation Museum, Carlisle, Cumbria ZF584/53-682 Museum  Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum, Dumfries ZF588/53-693 Museum  East Midlands Aeropark, Leicestershire ZF592/53-686 Museum  City of Norwich Aviation Museum, Norwich, Norfolk ZF593/53-692 Museum  Museum of Aviation, Warner Robins AFB, Georgia, USA ZF594/53-696 Museum  North East Aircraft Museum, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear There are also reported to be a number of other airframes still existing in both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, but there is no up-to-date information on their status.

English Electric Lightning 113


Lightning F.1 XM143 leads eight of her 74 Sqn mates in an impeccable Diamond Nine formation over Coltishall in 1961.

114 English Electric Lightning

JETS MONTHLY is a fresh and feature-packed publication that focuses on our civil aviation heritage from the 1950s onwards, reflecting the birth of jet-engined aircraft and the subsequent dominance of our skies. Aside from iconic civil planes such as the Comet, the Boeing 707, Concorde and the Vickers Viscount, the magazine also looks at memorable military jets such as the Lightning, Harrier and Phantom. The in-depth articles will look at the people behind the planes, the airlines, the military campaigns, the technology and the history. Edited by aviation authority Steve Bridgewater, JETS MONTHLY seeks to deliver a vibrant mix of features every month for the enthusiasts interested in the past, present and future of jets aviation.



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Bolt out of the blue!

The F.6 was the ultimate Lightning to see service. The lack of cannon was rectified in the form of a modified ventral tank with two ADEN cannon. The F.2A retained the A.I.23 and Firestreak missile, the nose cannon, and the earlier Avon 211R engines.

The Blackburn Buccaneer was a British low-level strike aircraft with nuclear weapon capability serving with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force between 1962 and 1994. After the cancellation of both the BAC TSR-2 and F-111K tactical bombers, the RAF eventually adopted the Buccaneer in 1968 to replace the English Electric Canberra.

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XH558 was the last Vulcan to leave RAF service, flying on from 1986 to 1993 as the single RAF Display Vulcan. Her final flight was on 23rd March 1993 to Bruntingthorpe.

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