|THE FRADU HUNTERS|
|HAWKER HUNTER T.8M XL580 - '723'|
|XL580's service history
XL580 was the first production T.8 Hunter built for the Royal Navy, and took its first flight on 30th May 1958. Handed over to the Fleet Air Arm on 30th July at RNAS Lossiemouth, it was operated briefly by the Station Flight before being issued to 764NAS (Navy Air Squadron) as aeroplane '701' on 8th November. Remaining in Scotland for the next three years, XL580 was moved south to RNAS Yeovilton in March 1962 and was operated by the Station Flight as '946' with a 'VL' shore code applied on the tail fin. The aeroplane was later re-finished in a very attractive blue and white colour scheme, as it became an 'Admirals Barge' - the Flag Officer of Flying Training's personal aeroplane.
Its time on the ground ended on 24th July 1970, when XL580 was issued to Airwork Ltd's Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU) at RNAS Yeovilton, adopting the fleet number '743'.
Acquired by British Aerospace on 20th September 1978, XL580 was selected for conversion to T.8M specification, which included a Sea Harrier styled cockpit to be fitted and a Blue Fox radar unit added into the nose. Once the work was completed, the aeroplane was ferried to Boscombe Down on 5th August 1981, and employed on flight trials before returning to the Fleet Air Arm two days later when it was issued to 899NAS at RNAS Yeovilton, though still maintained by FRADU's engineers. Initially issued the Unit call-sign '717', which was later changed to '719', XL580 remained in service until an overhaul was carried out during 1988 at Hurn (now Bournemouth Airport) by Lovaux Ltd. On its return the aeroplane, sporting the new dark sea grey finish was re-issued the fleet number '723', which it kept for the remainder of its Fleet Air Arm career.
The aeroplane was put up for disposal and entered into the November 1994 Sothebys auction. Fortunately, the Fleet Air Arm Museum realised that XL580 would make a fine addition to their exhibits given its illustrious and interesting Fleet Air Arm history. It acted quickly to attempt to secure the airframe, and it was withdrawn from sale and moved into the Museum storage hangar at Yeovilton. Over the period of 1999/2000 the aircraft completed a restoration programme and became on the founder exhibits in the FAAM exhibition 'Leading Edge' which opened in July 2000.
- February 2015
[© Robin A. Walker]
[© Robin A. Walker]
[© Mick Freer]
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