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WJ717's service history

English Electric Aircraft Ltd built WJ717 as a Canberra B.2 bomber for the Royal Air Force. Released for collection in August 1953, the aeroplane was first posted to RAF 15 Sqn at RAF Coningsby, as the Unit was gradually saying goodbye to its Boeing Washington bombers. The Unit was moved to RAF Cottesmore the following year due to heavy reconstruction work beginning at Coningsby, and WJ717 continued to be used by the Squadron, now operating from Leicestershire. Unfortunately WJ717's further history is unconfirmed at the time of writing, but it later saw service with RAF 61 Sqn at RAF Upwood before it was placed in storage at RAF Wroughton with 15MU (Maintenance Unit). It was flown to British Aircraft Corporation (BAC)'s Warton airfield for refurbishment and conversion to TT.18 standard on 7th September 1967.
The work was completed the following year, and WJ717 was ferried to RAF Shawbury on 18th December 1968, where it was placed in store with 27MU pending a transfer to an RAF Squadron.

WJ717 was instead transferred to the Royal Navy, and entered service with the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) at Hurn in September 1969. Issued the fleet number '841' and maintained and flown by civilians from Airwork Services Ltd, the aeroplane carried out numerous sorties on behalf of the Fleet Air Arm until it was moved to RAF Aldergrove in August 1972 for a major inspection. Earlier that month it had encountered engine vibrations mid-flight, which required a precautionary landing being made at Boscombe Down.
The aeroplane was returned to service on 8th January 1973, but was incorporated into the newly formed Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Training Unit (FRADTU) fleet at RNAS Yeovilton. Keeping its old FRU '841' identity, it remained continuously in service with FRADTU/FRADU (the word Training was dropped in 1974) until October 1978, aside from a spell on the ground at BAC Salmesbury where it was partially reconditioned from August 1975 to September 1976.

On 31st October 1978, WJ717 was one of two FRADU Canberra aeroplanes (the other was TT.18 WJ574) detached to the United States Navy Air Station in Key West, Florida where it was employed with trials work for three months. WJ717 remained in service until September 1980, when it was sent to Salmesbury for a thorough refurbishment. It was returned to FRADU on 10th March 1982, and remained in use until December 1985, when following the arrival of several Dassault Falcon 20 business jets at Yeovilton; it was moved to RAF St Athan for long-term store.
During 1990, WJ717 was issued with the RAF maintenance serial 9052M. Two years later it was moved out of store and assigned to 4SoTT (School of Technical Training), yet the aeroplane's wings, engines and rear fuselage had all been separated from the airframe and were sold for scrap previously. In January 2000, the front fuselage was moved back to the main DARA site at St Athan and placed in store.

[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Richard Parkhurst]

[ Mike Freer]

[ Lindsay Peacock]

[ 'James2403' - keypublishing forums]

[ Simon Shackell]

WJ717's civilian life

In October 2006, the remnants of WJ717 were disposed of to a scrap dealer based in Cheshire. It is not confirmed whether any part of the airframe still survives today, but it's possible that the cockpit section was saved and is under private ownership. CAN ANYONE HELP!!!

- December 2020

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