|THE FRADU HUNTERS|
|HAWKER HUNTER GA.11 XE716 - '834'|
|XE716's service history
Hunter XE716 was built by Hawker Aircraft (Blackpool) Ltd. as a Hunter F.4 for the Royal Air Force. Delivered to its new owners in October 1955, it was prepared by 5MU (Maintenance Unit) for entry into front-line RAF service. It was assigned to RAF 67(F) Sqn, based at RAF Bruggen in West Germany, and was one of several Hunters introduced to replace the Squadron's existing fleet of aeroplanes. XE716 was assigned the code letter 'A', and remained based in Europe for its entire RAF career, until it was ferried back to the UK and placed in store.
Later transferred to Royal Navy charge, XE716 was moved by road to Hawker Aircraft Ltd's Kingston-upon-Thames factory for conversion to GA.11 specification. Later flight tested from Hawker Aircraft's Dunsfold airfield, it arrived at RNAS Lossiemouth on 6th July 1962, and joined 764NAS (Navy Air Squadron) later that month as '699' with an 'LM' shore code applied on the tail. Its time with the Unit was not without incident, encountering three separate bird-strikes and a minor taxiing accident. After spending time at RNAY Belfast (from December 1964) and 5MU Kemble (from August 1965), XE716 rejoined 764NAS in August 1966 for a fifteen month stint. It was sent back at RAF Kemble in October 1967 for modernisation work, and was ferried to RNAS Brawdy in June 1968 in preparation for a new Squadron posting. Three months later on 9th September 1968, XE716 became a part of the 738NAS fleet as aeroplane '791' with 'BY' shore code.
During November 1969, the aeroplane was ferried to RNAS Lee-on-Solent where it was fitted with a Harley light, and in January 1970 it joined the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) at Hurn (now Bournemouth Airport). Initially assigned the call-sign '831', XE716 was later christened '834' and this was applied to the airframe. A move with the FRU to RNAS Yeovilton occurred in October 1972, and XE716 was operated alongside the Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU) fleet of Hunters, before the two Units merged to become the FRADTU (the 'T' was later dropped). Aside from a period of store at RAF Aldergrove (June 1973 to August 1975) and periods of modernisation and re-finishes at Kemble (August 1975, June 1978 and September 1981), the aeroplane was in regular use with FRADU as '834' with a 'VL' shore code on the tail for the next eleven years.
On 16th May 1983, XE716 suffered an engine failure at low level over the Portland sea areas, and pilot Dan Carter had no option but to eject from the aeroplane, which was destroyed upon impact with the sea.
- June 2014
[© Robin A. Walker]
[© Dick Lohuis]
[© Eric Tammer]
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