|THE FRADU HUNTERS|
|HAWKER HUNTER T.8C XF994 - '873'|
|XF994's service history
Hawker Aircraft (Blackpool) Ltd built XF994 as a Mk.4 Hunter aeroplane for the Royal Air Force. Delivered on 2nd July 1956 to 33MU (Maintenance Unit) at RAF Lyneham, it was prepared for military service. It was subsequently posted to RAF 66(F) Sqn at RAF Linton-on-Ouse in August 1956, but by the end of that year had been moved onto the strength of the AFDS (Air Fighting Development Squadron) at RAF West Raynham. XF994 was then re-issued to 229OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) at RAF Chivenor, and operated on training duties. During sometime in 1962, the aeroplane was placed in store.
Transferred to the Royal Navy, XF994 was converted to T.8 two-seat specification, and handed over to the Fleet Air Arm on 8th October 1964 at RNAS Brawdy, where it was subsequently prepared for service. It was issued to 759NAS (Navy Air Squadron) as aeroplane '655' and was used for Advanced Flying training. The aeroplane, like many of 759NAS' fleet suffered the occasional bird-strike, but it was not forced out of action for long. XF994 remained in service at Brawdy until 25th April 1969, ending its days as aeroplane '805', when it was flown to Kemble for maintenance, which was carried out by 5MU (Maintenance Unit).
Following eight years on the ground, XF994 was issued to the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) at RNAS Yeovilton in October 1980, retaining its '718' identity briefly before adopting the fleet number '876'. It was operated on military taskings until August 1981, when it was placed back in store at 5MU Kemble. Returned to service in February 1983, XF994 took on its third FRADU identity/call-sign of '874' and became a regular was a part of the FRADU fleet until October 1986, when it was sent to Lovaux at Hurn for a complete overhaul. It was back at Yeovilton the following May, painted in the dark sea grey finish that was beginning to appear across the FRADU fleet and took on its fourth and final FRADU identity of '873'. On 16th December 1993, the aeroplane was given a thorough overhaul by FLS Aerospace/Lovaux at Hurn, a process that would have assured its long-term flying future with FRADU. However, due to the Hunter's early retirement from FRADU service, XF994's last period of service lasted only from June 1994 to May 1995. It was then flown to RAF Shawbury for storage and subsequent disposal.
Due to complications with the aircraft's ownership, caused by the fact it was built using money donated by the USA in 1956, XF994 was withdrawn from the August 1995 Phillips auction and 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 the aeroplane back to flying condition did not proceed, and following a brief period on loan to the on-base apprentices school as a ground instructional airframe, XF994 was placed on extended loan to the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection elsewhere on the airfield.
[© Martin Morley]
[© Rob Schleiffert]
[© Nige Watson]
XF994's civilian life
On 28th January 2010, following final sale into private civilian ownership, XF994 was moved by road to RAF Scampton where it was assessed for potential restoration back to flying condition by Hawker Hunter Aviation. It has since been registered on the CAA register as G-CGHU and is very much a strong candidate for a return to the skies in due course.
- February 2015
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