THE FRADU HUNTERS

HAWKER HUNTER T.8C WT799 -'879'

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WT799's service history

Hunter WT799 was built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd at Kingston-upon-Thames as a Mk.4 for the Royal Air Force. It was test flown for the first time on 26th April 1955 by Duncan Simpson, and was handed over to the RAF on 1st June. Issued to RAF 111(F) Sqn at RAF North Weald, the aeroplane later saw service with RAF 4(F) Sqn based at Jever in West Germany. During this period of service, WT799 suffered damage sustained in a wheels-up landing in March 1956, which resulted in the airframe being returned to the UK for repairs by the manufacturers. The aeroplane was later officially transferred to the Royal Navy and placed in short term store.

WT799 was selected for conversion to T.8 specification by Hawker Aircraft Ltd, and it took its first flight in this guise from Dunsfold on 20th January 1959.
It was accepted into the Fleet Air Arm the following month but did not immediately enter service, instead being loaned to the RAE (Royal Aircraft Establishment) at Bedford on 16th March. Its first Fleet Air Arm posting duly came in October 1959, when it was issued to Heron Flight at RNAS Yeovilton as aeroplane '948' with a 'VL' shore code. It subsequently remained in use there until February 1963 when it was flown to RNAY Belfast for maintenance.
During December 1963, WT799 joined 759NAS (Navy Air Squadron) at RNAS Brawdy where it was issued the identity '663', though this was later changed to '661'. It was placed in store at Kemble a year later, but was returned to service in May 1966 with 759NAS, this time as aeroplane '802'. A change of scenery occurred in January 1967, when WT799 was moved to RNAS Lossiemouth to join 764NAS as aeroplane '689', and this was followed in February 1970 with a move to RNAS Lee-on-Solent for maintenance.

On 24th July 1970, WT799 arrived at Hurn to join the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU). As '839', and being the sole two seat aeroplane in the fleet, WT799 was used extensively and moved with the FRU to RNAS Yeovilton in October 1972. On 1st December that year, the aeroplane became a member of the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Training Unit (FRADTU) fleet, following the merger of the FRU with the Yeovilton-based Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU). Over the next ten years WT799 was in and out of service at Yeovilton, receiving re-finishes at Kemble (November-December 1973, September-December 1977 and April-May 1979) and maintenance at Sydenham (March-September 1976). The aeroplane lost its '839' identity in 1974, and was re-assigned the fleet number '879'.

On 2nd September 1982, WT799 was withdrawn from the FRADU fleet and ferried to RAF Shawbury for long-term storage. It remained at the RAF base for the next twelve years, retaining the classic 1970's light aircraft grey and red livery, before being put up for disposal.



[ Adrian M. Balch]

[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Richard Parkhurst]

[ John Hale]
 
 
 

WT799's civilian life

WT799 was auctioned during November 1994 at Phillips in London, and hammered down for 1200.00 to Richard Everett. It was moved by road to his Ipswich home in April 1995, where it was placed in store. It remained in Suffolk until October 1997, when it was moved to North Weald in preparation for a restoration programme to begin. The airframe was taken apart by McCarthy Aviation, with plans to mate its cockpit section with the centre and rear sections of Hunter F.6A XG172, to form a composite big-engined two-seat Hunter. The project was not completed, and WT799 was reassembled and placed in store. Offered for sale during 2000, Barry Pearson purchased the aeroplane as a long-term restoration project, and it was subsequently moved by road to Exeter. Due to shortage of undercover accommodation, the aeroplane spent much of its time in open store on the airfield, but was hangared when possible. Its condition gradually worsened, and as such, the aeroplane was offered for sale via auction site eBay in April 2006.

The Blue Lagoon Diving and Leisure Centre, based at Womersley, North Yorkshire, bought WT799, and it was moved by road to its new home on 31st May 2006.
Although initial plans were to sink the aeroplane, it was re-assembled on site and still remains on dry ground today at the Centre.

- January 2015


[ Steve Bateman]

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