HAWKER HUNTER GA.11 WV256 -'862'

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WV256's service history

Hunter WV256 was built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. at its Kingston-upon-Thames factory. It took its first flight on 5th May 1955 with Duncan Simpson at the controls. Following the necessary flight tests, the aeroplane was delivered to the RAF just over two weeks later on 20th May. Its first squadron posting was with RAF 26(F) Sqn based at RAF Oldenburg in West Germany as 'D', and it was later returned to the UK following an assignment to 229OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) at RAF Chivenor. It ended its RAF career being used for training duties in Devon, until it was placed in store in 1961.

Transferred to the Royal Navy, Hawker Aircraft Ltd overhauled and converted WV256 to GA.11 specification under contract. It was handed over to the Fleet Air Arm at RNAS Lossiemouth on 2nd April 1963, where it was prepared for entry into service. Its first posting was confirmed on 10th April 1963, when it was moved onto the strength of 738NAS (Navy Air Squadron) as aeroplane '650' with an 'LM' shore code applied on the tail fin. The Squadron moved to RNAS Brawdy in December 1963, and WV256 went with it remaining in use as aeroplane '650 and then later '790' until February 1966, when it was transferred to 764NAS at RNAS Lossiemouth. Now re-issued with the Squadron fleet number '691' and 'LM' shore code on the tail fin, WV256 remained in service for eight months, when it was sent to 5MU (Maintenance Unit) for maintenance work during October. On 3rd May 1967 WV256 was returned to 738NAS at Brawdy, this time as '794' and remained in service with the Unit until November 1971. Following further maintenance at 5MU, WV256 was re-issued back to 764NAS as '695' on 24th May 1972, but this was soon changed to '698'. Just two months later, the aeroplane was put into store at Kemble.

On 15th November 1972, WV256 joined Airwork's Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU) at RNAS Yeovilton, initially as '698' but this was soon changed to '732'.
It joined the newly formed Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Training Unit (FRADTU) in December 1972 and kept its '732' identity until July 1974, when it received a Harley light in the nose and its fleet number changed to '862'. Its career with the Unit, now called FRADU after the 'T' was dropped from its title, was not without incident, as it received two bird strikes, one of which required serious repairs to be undertaken at RAF Abingdon. Aside from periods of modernisation at Sydenham (September 1977-January 1978) and storage (January 1978-March 1979, and October 1980-June 1981) WV256 remained in service until February 1985, when it was ferried to RAF Abingdon for further modernisation and a subsequent re-finish into the new standard dark sea grey paint scheme.
During September 1985 it was returned to Yeovilton, and operated on FRADU taskings until February 1988, when it was ferried to Hurn (now Bournemouth Airport) for an comprehensive overhaul by Lovaux Ltd, though it was back in service by the end of the year. Lovaux Ltd overhauled the aeroplane once more between September and February 1992, which extended its potential military life for a further ten years, and it returned to Yeovilton on 24th March 1992. It was finally retired from FRADU in the spring of 1995, and flown to RAF Shawbury for storage on 26th April.

[ Richard Vandervord]

[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Martin Morley]

[ Chris Lofting]

[ Tom Gibbons]

WV256's civilian life

WV256 was originally entered into the July 1995 Philips auction, but it was withdrawn from sale due to complications with its ownership, having received funding from the United States when it was manufactured. This issue was resolved in 2000 and WV256 was entered into the MoD aircraft auction held at Phillips in London during November.
Sold to Barry Pearson, along with GA.11 XF300, WV256 became G-BZPB and was ferried to the Classic Jet Aircraft Company's hangar at Exeter Airport on 13th February 2001. During May 2001, the aircraft was re-finished with duck egg green paint, which allowed it to represent the prototype P.1067 WB188 as authentically as possible for the Hunter's 50th birthday celebrations. On 20th July 2001, WV256 re-enacted the very first flight of the Hunter from Boscombe, and the aeroplane became a well known figure on the display circuit during 2001 and 2002.

Subsequently placed in store at Exeter, the aeroplane was moved by road to Kemble during 2006, and it was assessed for restoration back to flying condition by Delta Jets. However, the plan did not proceed and following a period of store at Kemble WV256 was dismantled by Historic Aero Services and moved by road to Coventry Airport to join Air Atlantique's Airbase museum project as a static exhibit in May 2010.

In mid-2012, plans were announced to move the Airbase exhibits to a new home at the former RAF St Mawgan airfield in Cornwall.
WV256 was one of the first to make the move south, arriving in July. Plans were drawn up for the airframe to be refinished into a new colour scheme and pole-mounted, acting as the gate guardian for the "Classic Air Force" collection of airworthy and static exhibits, which also includes T.8C WT722.

Between July and August 2014 WV256 was repainted in its former RAF 26 Sqn markings, when in service at RAF Oldenburg, and is on display at the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre today.

- December 2020


  • Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre:    

[ Mike Hall]

[ Mark Stevens]
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