THE FRADU HUNTERS

HAWKER HUNTER GA.11 XE689 -†'864'

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XE689's service history

Hawker Hunter XE689 was built at Blackpool by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. as a Mk.4 aeroplane for the Royal Air Force. It was delivered to the RAF on 24th July 1955 at Lyneham, where it was prepared for Squadron service by 33MU (Maintenance Unit). It received its posting shortly afterwards, being issued to RAF 93(F) Sqn at Jever in West Germany, where it was coded 'W'. The aeroplane ended its RAF career with RAF 234(F) Sqn. based at Geilenkirchen, also a part of the RAF West Germany force as aeroplane 'K'.
During 1961, it was placed in store.

The Royal Navy acquired the aeroplane from the RAF, and it contracted Hawker Aircraft Ltd. to overhaul and convert the aeroplane to GA.11 specification. It was formally accepted into Fleet Air Arm service at RNAS Lossiemouth on 4th July 1963, and was issued to 764NAS (Navy Air Squadron) as aeroplane '693' on the 30th. It remained based at Lossiemouth for the next eighteen months, until a eight-month spell at RNAY Belfast began in December 1964.
XE689 then was sent to 5MU Kemble for a period of storage, before it was returned to 764NAS as '696' on 17th December 1966, where it remained in service for the next three years, suffering two bird-strikes in the process. Further modernisation work was completed at Kemble between March 1969 and February 1970, and XE689 was then returned for its third spell with 764NAS, again under a new identity '695'.

XE689 joined Airwork's Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU) fleet of Hunter GA.11s at RNAS Yeovilton on 25th July 1972, receiving the fleet number '734'.
Following the amalgamation of the ADTU with the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) on 1st December 1972, XE689 became a part of the FRADTU fleet, receiving its Harley light at RNAS Lee-on-Solent during 1973. On its return to Yeovilton on 14th November 1973, XE689 became aeroplane '864', an identity it would keep for the rest of its FRADU (the word Training had since been dropped) career.
For the next five years its flying career was solid, with spells away for refinishes (February-April 1975) and maintenance (August 1975-July 1976, and April-June 1978) sandwiched in between.

On 17th October 1978, XE689 suffered an in-flight fire, which caused serious damage to the rear fuselage. The aeroplane was flown back to HyŤres airfield in France with the wheels locked down. As a result of this incident, the rear fuselage of GA.11 XE707, at that time a long-term reserve aeroplane, was fitted the following month, thus allowing XE689 to return to service promptly. A spell of modernisation at Kemble was begun in May 1982, but XE689 was back at FRADU service seven months later. It remained a part of the FRADU fleet, aside from a 1-month spell at RAF St Athan for refinishing in July 1984, until it was ferried to Lovaux Ltd based at Hurn (now Bournemouth Airport) in 1988, for paint re-finishing and overhaul.
Back in service from March 1989, XE689 was in use for a further five years without incident until it was taken out of service in June 1994 and returned to Lovaux in preparation for a comprehensive overhaul, that would ensure its long-term future as an airworthy member of the FRADU fleet. It was back in service in December, but due to the early retirement of the Hunter fleet, it was withdrawn and flown into store at RAF Shawbury on 16th May 1995.
As a result, XE689 became the last FRADU Hunter to be overhauled by Lovaux.



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XE689's civilian life

The aeroplane was put up for disposal in July 1995, via Phillips auctioneers in London, and it was hammered down for just over £3,000 to Barry Pover of the Classic Jet Aircraft Company. Ferried to Exeter Airport on 15th September 1995, the aeroplane was displayed on the airshow circuit between 1996 and 1998, until it was flown to RAF St Mawgan for storage in early 1999 and offered for sale.
A move to North Weald occurred on 7th July 1999 where the Jet Centre maintained the aeroplane, but in May 2000 it was back at Exeter again under new ownership. It went on to appear at RNAS Yeovilton and Culdrose Air Days in 2000, before being placed into store in 2001.

During August 2006, the aeroplane was moved by road to Kemble where was placed in open store and later re-assembled, yet it's flying days were almost certainly over.
Following a long period of open store at Kemble, the airframe was scrapped in January 2012, with the cockpit appearing on eBay the following month. Little has been heard of it since.

- June 2014


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