HAWKER HUNTER PR.11 XF977 -'865'

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XF977's service history

This aeroplane was built by Hawker Aircraft (Blackpool) Ltd as a Hunter F.4 for the Royal Air Force. It was received by 33MU (Maintenance Unit) at RAF Lyneham on 17th May 1956, and preparation work was begun prior to entry into Squadron service. The aeroplane was sent to RAF Jever in West Germany, where it became part of RAF 118(F) Sqn's fleet as aeroplane 'A'. It later saw service with the RAF Sylt Station Flight before it was returned to the UK in 1962 for storage.

Acquired by the Royal Navy, and converted to GA.11 specification by Hawker Aircraft Ltd at Kingston-upon-Thames, XF977 was accepted into the Fleet Air Arm at RNAS Lossiemouth on 2nd October 1962. It joined its first Fleet Air Arm Squadron, 764NAS (Navy Air Squadron) at Lossiemouth on 10th October 1962 as aeroplane '695'. The aeroplane suffered some problems throughout its two year spell with the Unit, including an engine flame-out, a shy undercarriage leg, and a hole in the fuselage following a sortie at a firing range. On 9th December 1964, XF977 was ferried to Belfast where it was fitted with three F.95 reconnaissance cameras in the nose. Following completion of this work and further maintenance at Lossiemouth, the aeroplane rejoined 764NAS on 19th February 1965 and was officially re-designated a Hunter PR.11. The aeroplane suffered a bird strike during its second spell at Lossiemouth, and was moved to 5MU Kemble for modernisation work in February 1966. XF977 was back for a third spell with 764NAS in September 1966, and sustained further damage following a sortie on the Tain ranges in December 1966. Sent to Hawker-Siddeley at Dunsfold for repairs, the aeroplane returned for its fourth and final spell with 764NAS on 16th December 1968, initially as '691' but it was later re-assigned the fleet number '698'.

On 19th July 1972, XF977 joined the Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU) at RNAS Yeovilton, taking on the identity '735' and 'VL' shore code, and less than six months later, it became part of the FRADTU fleet when the ADTU merged with the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU). It remained in service until it was ferried to 23MU Aldergrove for modernisation and refinishing on 2nd October 1973. It returned to Yeovilton in May 1974, but was almost immediately sent to RNAS Lee-on-Solent for further work.
On its second return to Yeovilton on 25th July 1974, XF977 became aeroplane '865' of the FRADU, and remained in use for the rest of the decade aside from a spell at 5MU Kemble for maintenance between July and October 1978.
On 17th January 1980, the aeroplane was moved to RAF Kemble for modernisation, returning to FRADU in October the same year

On 17th March 1981, XF977 suffered an engine failure whilst airborne over the Devon coast, but thankfully its pilot John Stewart-Smith was able to eject successfully.
The aeroplane was destroyed upon impact with the sea.

- December 2020

[ via Jonathon Whaley]

[ Robin A Walker]

[ Robin A Walker]

[ Ian Robertson]

[ author's collection]

[ Eric Tammer]
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