HAWKER HUNTER GA.11 WT809 -'867'

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WT809's service history

Hawker Hunter WT809 was built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for the Royal Air Force at its Kingston-upon-Thames factory, and was first flown by Hugh Merewether on 13th April 1955. It was delivered to the RAF on 28th June 1955, and entered service with RAF 66(F) Sqn at RAF Linton-on-Ouse as aeroplane 'G'. The aeroplane was later used by the RAF bases' Station Flight before it was placed in store.

The aeroplane was transferred to the Royal Navy and was converted to GA.11 specification under contract by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. It was handed over to the Fleet Air Arm at RNAS Lossiemouth in March 1963, and WT809 joined 738NAS (Naval Air Squadron) the following month, becoming aircraft '639'. It was moved to RNAS Brawdy along with the Squadron the following December, and remained in use there until a move back to Lossiemouth occurred a year later. Issued the identity '696' by its new unit 764NAS, WT809 subsequently suffered a few incidents, including engine vibrations, a bird-strike, a burst tyre and even a lost wheel. It was flown to 5MU (Maintenance Unit) for maintenance in December 1966, but was back in service with 764NAS in June 1967, this time as '697' and remained so for the next five years.

Moved to RNAS Lee-on-Solent for modernisation in July 1972, WT809 joined the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) on 21st May 1973. It was given the fleet number '737' and was flown on military taskings until April 1974, when it returned to Lee-on-Solent to have a Harley light fitted. On its return to Yeovilton, WT809 swiftly became aeroplane '867', and aside from a year in store between April 1977 to 1978, remained in service with FRADU until September 1980, when it was flown to 5MU Kemble for modernisation work and then long-term store.
WT809 was moved by road in January 1983, to RAF Abingdon for re-introduction to service, and rejoined FRADU in June. It was placed back into store during March 1984, this time at RAF Shawbury and was later moved to RAF St Athan in January 1985. where it was re-finished into the new overall dark sea grey paint colours. Returned to FRADU on 3rd May 1985, WT809 became a permanent fixture in its Hunter fleet for the next three years.

On 14th June 1988, whilst the aeroplane was on final approach to land at RNAS Yeovilton, it suffered an engine flameout. Its Fleet Air Arm pilot David Braithwaite reacted instantly by using his remaining height and speed to change his flight path and avoid any populated areas, such as Ilchester Primary School, and the A303.
He ejected at the last possible moment through the canopy, and WT809 crashed safely into woodland next to the B3151 road.
Rumours were at the time that the pilot had a soft landing of sorts, descending into a huge pile of cow dung that a local farmer had spent hours building!

The airframe was written off and it was later scrapped by Park Aviation Supply in West Sussex.

- December 2020

[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Lionel Smith]

[ Kev Slade]

[ James T]

[ Rob Schleiffert]

[ via Trevor Champion]
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