HAWKER HUNTER GA.11 WT711 -'837'

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WT711's service history

Hawker Hunter WT711 was built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. at its Kingston-upon-Thames factory, as one of eighty five airframes for the Royal Air Force.
It took its first flight on 10th February 1955, piloted by Hugh Merewether and was delivered to the RAF on 19th March 1955 to 33MU (Maintenance Unit) at RAF Lyneham. Following preparation for military service, WT711 joined RAF 54(F) Sqn based at RAF Odiham, and later saw service with RAF 14(F) Sqn as aeroplane 'A' based at RAF Oldenburg in West Germany. In 1960, the aeroplane was bought back to the UK and placed in long-term store.

The Royal Navy subsequently acquired the aeroplane, and it contracted Hawkers to overhaul and convert it to GA.11 status. It was first flown after conversion on 27th October 1962 and was moved to Shorts Brothers' Belfast establishment the following month.
It then entered a period of long-term store, eventually joining its first Fleet Air Arm Squadron 738NAS (Naval Air Squadron) at RNAS Brawdy as '783' on 2nd December 1965, where it remained in use until April 1969. The aeroplane was then flown to Kemble for modernisation work by 5MU, which was completed in October 1970. WT711 then was issued to 764NAS, joining its Hunter fleet based at Lossiemouth after taking on the fleet identity '678' and having a 'LM' shore code applied on its tail fin, and it remained in use as such until July 1971.

On 2nd August 1971, WT711 arrived at Hurn (now Bournemouth Airport) to join Airwork's Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) fleet as aeroplane '837', and it was operated on taskings from Dorset until the FRU's move to RNAS Yeovilton in October 1972.
With the merger of the FRU and Airwork's Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU) in December 1972, WT711 became a part of the newly former FRADTU fleet, though the 'T' was later dropped from the title. It remained in service until 19th January 1976, when it was flown to RAF Kemble for long-term storage. Five years later during 1981, it was re-introduced into the FRADU fleet again as '837' and flew with the Unit until the latter end of 1983, when it was again placed in store, this time at RAF Shawbury.

Following the partial retirement of some of the FRADU Hunter fleet, WT711's flying days were ultimately ended with the assignment of the Royal Navy maintenance code A2731. It was issued to the School of Aircraft Handling (SAH) at RNAS Culdrose on 18th September 1985, arriving there from Shawbury five days later. Shortly after its arrival, WT711 lost its '837' fleet number in favour of '833', a number that ran consecutively with the SAH's other two 'training' Hunters, GA.11 WT804 and GA.11 XE668. It was maintained in serviceable condition, and regularly taxied around the airfield until it was withdrawn from use in January 1994, and sold into private hands.

[ Adrian M Balch]

[ Robin A Walker]

[ Glen Moreman]

[ unknown]

WT711's civilian life

Portsmouth-based Harry Pounds reportedly acquired WT711, but the aeroplane was never collected and instead the aeroplane was put up for sale once more via tender. On this occasion it did find a buyer, Air Atlantique based at Coventry Airport, and it was on the move to its new home on 23rd August 1993. For the next thirteen years, WT711 was maintained as a static aircraft with the collection, and later became a part of the Air Atlantique Classic Flight stable before being offered for sale during 2006. Retro Aviation subsequently acquired it, but it remained in store at Coventry.

During early 2008, a sale to Lakes Lightnings, now renamed the LL Collection, based at Spark Bridge in Cumbria was reported, and WT711 moved to its new home during the spring of 2009.
Visits are only available with prior arrangement.

- December 2020

[ Neil Airey]
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