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XF991's service history

XF991 was built by Hawker Aviation (Blackpool) Ltd, as a Hunter F.4 for the Royal Air Force. It was delivered to the RAF on 31st August 1956 at 5MU (Maintenance Unit) Kemble, and work was immediately begun to prepare the aeroplane for military service. It received its first posting during October 1956, when it was issued to RAF 234(F) Sqn based at RAF Geilenkirchen in West Germany, and was operated as aeroplane 'A'. During May 1957, XF991 returned to the UK, arriving at Kemble for maintenance prior to its next posting. The aeroplane was then issued to 229OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) and adopted the markings of shadow squadron No.145(R) Sqn during its time with the Unit. During 1963, XF991 was transferred to the Royal Navy.

XF991 was subsequently converted to T.8 specification by Hawker Aircraft Ltd at Dunsfold. It was sent to Shorts Brothers' Belfast airfield on 3rd June 1964, moving onto the Fleet Air Arm at RNAS Brawdy five months later. On 23rd November, the aeroplane was transferred onto the strength of 759NAS (Naval Air Squadron) at Brawdy, adopting the fleet number '660' originally but this was subsequently changed to '800'. Both identities also included a 'BY' shore code applied on the tail. The aeroplane suffered a multiple bird-strike at low level during September 1965, but the damage was not found to be serious. On 9th October 1968, XF991 was transferred to 738NAS' fleet of Hunters at Brawdy, but its stay only lasted just over a month, as it was re-issued to 764NAS at RNAS Lossiemouth on 15th November, retaining its '800' identity. A move to RAF Kemble followed in January 1969, where it spent six months undergoing modernisation work with 5MU. It was returned to Fleet Air Arm service at Lossiemouth on 23rd July 1969, rejoining 764NAS as '688' with a 'LM' shore code on the tail fin. It remained in use until 17th July 1972, when it was ferried to Kemble for long term store.

A move to RNAS Yeovilton in February 1977 ended nearly five years of inactivity for XF991, as it joined the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) fleet of Hunters as aeroplane '874'. A short spell was spent back at Kemble receiving some airframe maintenance later that year, but on its return became an important member of the FRADU fleet.

On 24th May 1978, XF991's engine exploded shortly after take-off from RNAS Yeovilton. Despite the best efforts of the pilot Richard Statham to recover the aeroplane back to its home base, it proved an impossible task and he was left with his only available option of ejecting. XF991 crashed harmlessly into the River Yeo near Martock. The wreckage was recovered to RNAS Lee-on-Solent via Yeovilton for investigation five days later, and were sold as scrap later that year.

- December 2020

[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Peter R. March]
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