THE FRADU HUNTERS

HAWKER HUNTER T.8C XF289 - '875'

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XF289's service history

Hawker Aircraft (Blackpool) Ltd built XF289 for the Royal Air Force, and was delivered to the RAF at 5MU (Maintenance Unit) Kemble on 2nd November 1955. Following preparation work to get the aeroplane ready for service, XF289 was issued to RAF 67(F) Sqn at RAF Bruggen as aeroplane 'Q', located in West Germany where the RAF had a large overall presence, in January 1956. This period proved to be XF289's only posting, as following a flying accident it was returned to Hawker Aircraft Ltd/ on 14th December 1956.
It was later acquired by the Royal Navy in 1958.

Selected for conversion to T.8 configuration. Hawker Aircraft Ltd employed Armstrong Whitworth at Coventry to carry out the work on its behalf, and XF289 was handed over to the Fleet Air Arm at RNAS Lossiemouth on 27th April 1959. It was prepared for military service, and was issued to 764NAS (Navy Air Squadron) at Lossiemouth in September 1959 as aeroplane '709', where it remained in service for the next four years aside from the occasional 'rest' whilst under maintenance. On 3rd December 1963, XF289 was moved to 759NAS at RNAS Brawdy, where it was operated on advanced flying training duties as '662' with a BY shore code on the tail fin. A move to 738NAS also based at Brawdy followed in April 1965, becoming '777' with this Unit. Following conversion to a T.8C the following year, XF289 was returned to Fleet Air Arm service with 738NAS and remained in use until 6th March 1968, when it was moved to 5MU Kemble for maintenance and subsequent storage.
During January 1969, the aeroplane returned to 759NAS and was operated as '807' for the next eleven months, until it was transferred to RNAS Yeovilton for use with Heron Flight. The fleet number '739' was initially issued to XF289 but this was later changed to '738', and it remained in service until beginning another spell of store at Kemble on 3rd August 1972.

XF289 arrived at Sydenham on 16th November 1974, journeying by road and then by sea for modernisation and re-introduction to service. The work took nearly a year to complete, and XF289 was issued to the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) at RNAS Yeovilton on 7th October 1975 as aeroplane '872'. It was operated as such from Yeovilton for the next eight years, aside from a period of maintenance (July-September 1977) and a paint re-finish (August 1979) at RAF Kemble.
XF289 was returned to 5MU for further maintenance work on 8th April 1981, returning to service in July as aeroplane '875'. A steady period of service followed, which was broken when the aeroplane was withdrawn from service to receive an overhaul and re-finish with Lovaux at Hurn between January and November 1989. On its return, XF289 picked up from where it left off, and a steady five year period of FRADU service came to an end on 22nd April 1994, when it was withdrawn and placed in store at Yeovilton.



[© Eric Tammer]

[© Robin A. Walker]

[© Dick Louhuis]

[© Peter Mitrovitch]
 
 
 
 

XF289's civilian life

Offered for disposal in November 1994, XF289 was sold to George Lazik, based in the USA. It was registered as G-BYHI and ferried to Exeter where Barry Pover's Classic Jet Aircraft Company began to prepare the aeroplane for its long ferry flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Placed on the Us register as N289XF, it and GA.11 XE707 made the first ever crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by Hunters during July 1995, Brian Grant and George shared the piloting responsibilities of XF289 throughout the trip.
After arriving in the USA both aircraft went on to star on the air show circuit and to participate in the USAF Test Pilot School’s training curriculum. Well-known and respected warbird pilot Bob Guilford acquired a share in XF289 shortly after arrival in the USA, and he flew it regularly prior to its sale in 1998 to Global Aviation Inc. It was later operated under the Aero Group banner on military contract work.

During 2005, the aeroplane was sold to Lortie Aviation Inc (formerly Northern Lights Combat Air Support) based at Quebec, Canada. The airframe was broken up for spares, helping to keep its owners extensive fleet of Hunter F-58s flying on military contract work. The cockpit section still survives and is in storage.

- June 2014


[© Peter Hellier]

[© Robert Guilford (1933-2006)]

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