|THE FRADU HUNTERS|
|HAWKER HUNTER T.8C XF358 - '870'|
|XF358's service history
Hawker Hunter XF358 was built by Hawker Aircraft (Blackpool) Ltd, as a Mk.4 for the Royal Air Force.
Rebuilt as a Hunter T.8, XF358 was handed over to the Fleet Air Arm on 21st July 1959, and prepared for service at RNAS Lossiemouth. Initially painted in a day-glo colour scheme with yellow training bands, XF358 saw service with 700Z NAS (Navy Air Squadron) between 1961 and 1962. It was used to assist with the training of Fleet Air Arm crews for the new aircraft about to join the Admiralty, the Blackburn Buccaneer. Between 1963 and 1965 XF358 was based at RAF Tengah, Singapore, with the Royal Naval Air Holding Unit and was used for pilot currency, helping to give land-based FAA pilots valuable flying time. It was allocated back to the UK in March 1965, and following a spell at RNAY Belfast (May 1965-January 1966) the aeroplane joined 759NAS (Naval Air Squadron) at RNAS Brawdy as aeroplane '804' with the shore code 'BY' on the tail. Over the next three years it also adopted the identities '802' and '806'.
XF358 returned to active service on 28th September 1976, joining the FRADU (Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit) as aeroplane '875'. It was a part of the FRADU fleet for the next two years, until making a return to Kemble for maintenance in April 1978, but was re-introduced into FRADU service at Yeovilton the following month. Paint refinishing took place between January and February 1981, and XF358 remained in service with FRADU until 17th June 1982, when it was ferried back to Kemble for long-term store with 5MU. In March 1983, XF358 became the last Hawker Hunter to leave Kemble following the closure of 5MU, when it was ferried to RAF Abingdon by Sqn Ldr Mike Lawrence for preparation for a return to service.
Unfortunately due to complications relating to the aircraft's ownership, having been built originally using money donated by the USA, XF358 was withdrawn from the August 1995 Phillips auction and instead remained at Shawbury. During March 1998, the aeroplane was dismantled by a team from Kemble-based Delta Jets and moved by road to Boscombe Down airfield in Wiltshire. Plans to restore XF358 to flying condition, for use as a mock-target aircraft for the military were ultimately cancelled, and instead it was loaned to the on-base apprentices school for ground instructional duties.
[© Robin A. Walker]
[© Rob Schleiffert]
[© Martin Morley]
XF358's civilian life
During 2004 XF358 was sold to Gary Montgomery, and it was moved by road to Hunter Flying Ltd's (HFL) base at Exeter in August the same year.
Shortly after XF358's arrival at HFL, its cockpit section was removed and acquired by Lortie Aviation Inc (formerly Northern Lights Combat Air Support), a military contractor and operator based in Canada that has one of the largest fleets of ex-Swiss Hunter F-58s worldwide. Shipped by sea to Quebec, work was begun immediately to fit it to ex-Swiss Hunter J-4095 (F-AZHS). During April 2006, the aeroplane flew in its new configuration as
N325AX, and has been extremely busy ever since.
- June 2014
[© Hunter Flying Ltd]
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