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WJ574's service history

English Electric Canberra WJ574 was built as a B.2 bomber by Handley Page Ltd at Radlett for the Royal Air Force. The aeroplane was declared ready for collection on 4th June 1953, and its first posting was to RAF 540 Sqn at RAF Wyton airfield in Cambridgeshire. This Unit's role was Photo Reconnaissance (PR), but due to production delays with the Canberra PR.3s, a small number of B.2 airframes were loaned to provide crew training and limited PR sorties with a specially fitted forward facing F.95 camera.
During the following year, WJ574 was transferred onto the strength of RAF 57 Sqn, but unfortunately dates/times are unavailable at the time of writing.

The aeroplane's next documented movement is on 5th December 1969, when the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) purchased WJ574 from the Royal Air Force for possible re-sale. The aeroplane took on the B-class registration G27-182 and was ferried to Salmesbury and placed in open store, patiently waiting for a new owner.

WJ574 was subsequently converted to a TT.18 aircraft and sold to the Royal Navy. It was delivered to the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) at RNAS Yeovilton in October 1974, and began its Fleet Air Arm service as aeroplane '844'. Aside from one period receiving modifications at RAF St Athan (August 1976-March 1977), WJ574 was a busy member of the FRADU fleet at Yeovilton for the next four years.
On 31st October 1978 WJ574, along with TT.18 WJ717 were deployed the United States Navy Air Station in Key West, Florida for trials work, returning to the UK three months later. During October 1980, WJ574 was sent to BAC Salmesbury for a thorough refurbishment, and did not return to flying service with FRADU until 17th March 1982. Further modifications were carried out at St Athan between April and June 1983, but the aeroplane remained in use for two further years until it was sent back to RAF St Athan yet more long-term store in the winter of 1985/6.

WJ574 left RAF St Athan's storage facility in February 1991 for overhaul and return to service, and the aeroplane was back in use at Yeovilton a few months later. It then served out the rest of its Fleet Air Arm career as the Canberra's life with FRADU drew to a complete close in November 1992. WJ574 was ferried to T&EE (Test and Evaluation Establishment) Llanbedr airfield for storage on 3rd December 1992, and was placed up for disposal via tender in September 1993.

[ Mike Freer]

[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Lindsay Peacock]

[ Bob Turner]

[ Paul Downes]

WJ574's civilian life

WJ574 was purchased by US-based Tom Foscue, and was registered as N77844 for the ferry trip to its new home. It departed the UK on 5th May 1994 and made California its new home. The aeroplane remained airworthy for the rest of the decade, and received an avionics upgrade at Van Nuys airfield in 2000. A few years later, the aeroplane was reportedly sold to Aero Group Inc. at Tulsa and operating on trials work on behalf of the United States military.

Today, WJ574 is currently in open store at Melbourne International Airport in Florida, USA. The aeroplane has not flown for some time, and suffered damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when Jet Provost Mk.5A N316HC was pushed into its right wing. Unfortunately, it is reported that the aeroplane has accrued a high number of unpaid parking fees, and attempts to contact the owners have proved impossible.
On 29th July 2009, the aeroplane was scheduled to be auctioned as cash only sale, with the sales terms stating that the aeroplane be moved in 48 hours! No news of any change of ownership was forthcoming  generating a large cloud over WJ574's future.

It however remained intact and in 2011, and was acquired by Valiant Air Command, based at Space Coast Regional Airport in Florida. The airframe was partily dismantled and moved by road to its new home.
Restoration was begun, with the airframe receiving a refinish in 2016 renewing its FRADU livery. and it remains on display at the Museum today, a fine example of the English Electric Canberra in preservation.

- December 2020


  • Valiant Air Command:    
  • Canberra WJ574 Restoration:

[ via Ian Haskell]

[ Valiant Air Command]
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