|THE FRADU HUNTERS|
|HAWKER HUNTER GA.11 XF368 - '863'|
|XF368's service history
Hawker Hunter XF368 began life as a F.4 for the Royal Air Force, having been manufactured by Hawker Aircraft (Blackpool) Ltd.
The aeroplane was one of forty Hunter F.4s transferred to the Royal Navy, and Hawkers were contracted to refurbish and convert all to GA.11 specification.
XF368 became a part of the newly formed Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Training Unit (FRADTU) on 1st December 1972, and became '863' during September 1973. Aside from a paint refinish (September-October 1975) and airframe modernisations at Sydenham (March-September 1977) and Kemble (March-April 1978), XF368 remained a part of the FRADU fleet (the 'T' was dropped from the Unit's name) throughout the rest of the decade. On 1st February 1980, the aeroplane was flown back to Kemble for maintenance and another refinish, a process that took eleven months to complete. It was back at Yeovilton between January 1981 and November 1983, when it was moved to RAF Abingdon for modernisation and store. It returned to the ranks of airworthy Hunters on 18th February 1985.
On a flight from Gibraltar on 7th June 1985, XF368 suffered engine problems and had to divert to Tangiers. The rear fuselage was changed on site and the aeroplane returned to Yeovilton on 9th July 1985, where it remained in service until it was ferried to Lovaux at Hurn during 1990, for firstly paint refinishing, and then later in the year, airframe maintenance. Returning to the fleet on 11th March 1991, XF368 served out its FRADU career without further incident, its ferry flight to RAF Shawbury for storage on 25th April 1995 bringing the curtain down on its life with the Fleet Air Arm.
[© Robin A Walker]
[© Eric Tammer]
[© Rob Schleiffert]
XF368's civilian life
XF368 remained mothballed at Shawbury until February 2001, whilst legal wrangles concerning its ownership (as it had been funded by the USA when manufactured) were sorted out. It was auctioned off in November 2000 at Phillips in London, and South Africa-based Ian Pringle emerged as its new owner. It was ferried to Exeter, using the British registration G-BZRH, where the Hunter Flying Club prepared it for its long ferry flight to Cape Town, South Africa. It departed Exeter in mid-June 2001, arriving safely at its new home at Cape Town just over a week later.
Today, the aeroplane remains based with the former Thunder City collection, but has yet to gain a South African civilian flight permit.
- March 2011
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