THE FRADU HUNTERS

HAWKER HUNTER GA.11 XE707 -†'865'

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XE707's service history

Hawker Hunter XE707 was built at Blackpool by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. as a Mk.4 aeroplane for the Royal Air Force. It was delivered to its new owners on 1st September 1955, where it was placed into the care of 5MU (Maintenance Unit) to prepare the aeroplane for military service. It entered service with RAF 93(F) Sqn based at RAF Jever in West Germany, and also later saw service with RAF 118(F) Sqn, also based at Jever. It was returned to the UK in 1960, where it was placed in store pending its next Unit allocation.

XE707 was then transferred to the Royal Navy, and was moved to Arbroath in January 1961 for ground instructional use. Its stay in Scotland lasted just over a year as it was moved to Hawker Aviation's Dunsfold factory for overhaul and conversion to GA.11 standard.
It took its first post-conversion flight on 4th July 1963, and was handed back to the Fleet Air Arm two weeks later. On 7th August 1963, it joined 738NAS (Navy Air Squadron) at Lossiemouth as '640', but the Unit and XE707 moved to RNAS Brawdy by the end of the year. Following a period of maintenance at RNAY Belfast, the aeroplane joined 764NAS at Lossiemouth as aeroplane '697' in December 1964, where it remained in service for the next three years.
In February 1968, XE707 was moved back to Dunsfold and used by Hawker-Siddeley to trial new cockpit equipment for the GA.11 and PR.11s of the Fleet Air Arm. It was based at Boscombe Down from October 1968 during the final days of the project, returning to Fleet Air Arm service as '689' two months later.

On 23rd October 1969, the aeroplane was flown to RNAS Lee-on-Solent where a Harley light was fitted to the nose ready for its next assignment. Two months later, XE707 arrived at Hurn to join Airwork's Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU), initially using the call-sign '860' but was later re-assigned the identity of '833' which was applied to the airframe. It was moved to RNAS Yeovilton in October 1972, where it was operated alongside Airwork's Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU) fleet of Hunters. The two Units formally merged in December 1972, and XE707 became a part of the new FRADTU fleet, albeit for only for a short time as it was placed in long term store in June 1973.
Following an incident to XE689 in October 1978, XE707's rear fuselage was used in the subsequent repair to that airframe. During 1981, a replacement section was fitted, donated from ex-Danish Air Force Hawker Hunter F-51 E-410, which was then in store at Dunsfold. XE707's airframe was subsequently modernised and re-issued to FRADU (the word Training had long since been dropped from the Unit's title) as platform '865' on 19th March 1982.

On 9th November 1983, XE707 was ferried to RAF St Athan for a complete paint re-finish. On its return to RNAS Yeovilton the following month, XE707 became the first FRADU Hunter to sport the replacement all-over dark sea grey colours, replacing the high epoxy extra dark sea grey and white finish. The aeroplane continued in service, aside from overhauls at Hurn with Lovaux (May 1987-January 1988, and November 1989-mid 1990) until its final FRADU flight on 21st April 1994. It was placed in store at Yeovilton and placed up for disposal later that year.



[© Adrian M Balch]

[© Rob Schleiffert]

[© Nigel Watson]

[© Pedro Arag„o]

[© Peter Mitrovitch]
 
 
 

XE707's civilian life

Entered into the November 1994 Sothebys auction, XE707 was sold to George Lazik for £6500.00. The aeroplane was ferried to Exeter Airport on 10th February 1995 under the UK civilian registration G-BVYH, and prepared for export to the USA. Piloted by John Baker the aeroplane, now registered N707XE was successfully ferried across to its new home in the summer of 1995. During 1998 the aircraft was sold to Global Aviation Inc. and Dave Ridsdale in California overhauled her.

The aeroplane was imported back into the UK during 2005, and was placed in store at an private undisclosed location for the next five years.

During July 2010, XE707 changed hands and was moved by road to Suffolk where it became a part of the Bentwaters Cold War Museum. Still sporting its modified camouflaged FRADU colour scheme (and thus putting to bed the rumours that it had been refinished bright pink), it is now being restored back to display standard, with the hope of returning it back to authentic 764NAS colours - but in which markings? ;)

- June 2014


[© Classic Jet Aircraft Co]

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