THE FRADU HUNTERS

HAWKER HUNTER T.8C WT772 -'875'

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WT772's service history

Hunter WT772 was built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd at its Kingston-upon-Thames factory. Intended for the Royal Air Force, the aeroplane was not delivered and was first flown on 30th March 1955, with Fairey Aviation Ltd's Test Pilot M. Anderson at the controls. The aeroplane was then used for several flight trial programmes, including the testing of an extended span tailplane and a RAM air turbine that was fitted onto the rear fuselage. On completion of these tasks the aeroplane was placed in store and subsequently bought back by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for potential resale.

Acquired by the Royal Navy, and converted to T.8 specification by Armstrong Whitworth Ltd at Coventry, WT772 was handed over to the Fleet Air Arm at RNAS Lossiemouth on 10th April 1959.
For the next two years it spent most of its time in storage, or on loan for short periods at various Air Stations, but in May 1961 it was officially posted to 700Z NAS (Navy Air Squadron) at RNAS Lossiemouth as aeroplane '686'. Its stay, like its previous postings was brief and just two months later it was placed on the books of 764NAS as aeroplane '703'. This particular posting lasted two years, until the aeroplane was moved on to join 759NAS, the Fleet Air Arm's advanced flying training unit based at RNAS Brawdy in September 1963 as '658'. WT772 then spent a spell on the ground, undergoing maintenance and modernisation at RNAY Belfast and also at Shorts Brothers respectively between April 1964 and December 1965. It was returned to service with 759NAS on 7th January 1966 as '808', and remained in use until April 1969 when it was ferried to Kemble for conversion to T.8C status.

WT772 was assigned to the Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU) based at RNAS Yeovilton on 19th November 1970 as aeroplane '736', and remained in flying service with the Unit until its merger with the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) on 1st December 1972. Now a member of the newly-formed FRADTU (which became known as FRADU) fleet, WT772 exchanged its '736' identity for '745', but this was changed again following a refinish in April 1974 when it was reissued the fleet number '875'. In September 1975 the aeroplane was loaned to Hawker-Siddeley and employed on trials work, and returned to FRADU on 9th February 1976.

On 21st September 1976, WT772 suffered an engine failure on take-off from Yeovilton, and its pilot Peter Millard ejected safely from the aeroplane.
By pure chance, the now empty WT772 landed in fields located between the villages of Queen Camel and Charlton Adam on its belly, and remained complete despite going through a number of hedges! The aircraft was recovered and moved to RNAS Lee-on-Solent for accident investigation but was declared a write-off.
WT772 moved back to Yeovilton in April 1977, and was issued to the Fire Section where it was burnt out shortly after.

- January 2015



[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Peter R. March]

[ Mick Freer]

[ Ian Powell]
 

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