HAWKER HUNTER T.7 XL601 -'874'

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XL601's service history

XL601 was one of forty five Hunter T.7s built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd at its Kingston-upon-Thames factory, taking its first flight on 15th October 1958 at the hands of David Lockspeiser.
It was delivered to the Royal Air Force on 3rd November 1958, and joined its first Squadron, RAF 1(F) Sqn the following year painted in overall silver with yellow training bands. The aeroplane was used for instrument and other routine training work, and later moved to RAF 19(F) Sqn continuing that same role. Its next posting was to RAF's 233OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) at RAF Wittering, where it was again used as a training aid and operated as aeroplane '2' alongside the fleet of Harriers.
Like many Hunter RAF T.7s, XL601 spent time with 4FTS (Flying Training School), the RAF's fast-jet training Unit based at RAF Valley in Wales, where it was coded '88'.
The aeroplane was transferred to 237OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) in 1980, and was operated in its former 4FTS colours for a short time before being re-finished in RAF camouflage. During September 1984, the aeroplane was moved to RAF Abingdon for storage.

On 8th October 1984, XL601 was officially transferred to Royal Navy charge, and prepared for entry into Fleet Air Arm service, a process that included a refinish into dark sea grey livery. It arrived at RNAS Yeovilton on 24th January 1985, where it joined the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) fleet originally as aeroplane '879', but this was changed to '874' a couple of years later. It remained in use at FRADU, aside from a spell at Hurn receiving an overhaul with Lovaux in July/August 1990, until its final military flight on 25th March 1993, when it was ferried to RNAS Culdrose. Relegated to ground instructional duties and issued the maintenance identity 'A2617' XL601 was maintained in serviceable condition and used by the School of Flight Deck Operations (SFDO) until being withdrawn in 1996.

[ Adrian Balch]

[ John Hale]

[ unknown]

[ Rob Schleiffert]

[ Peter R. Foster]

XL601's civilian life

The aeroplane was sold in February 1997, and was moved by road to Exeter on 23rd May by the Classic Jet Aircraft Company. Placed in store, the aeroplane was dismantled and moved by road to Belgium in January 1999. Placed on the UK civilian register as G-BZSR in February 2001 to Stick and Rudder Aviation, a restoration programme was begun at Weelde Airbase. Unfortunately progress on the airframe slowed and the project eventually stopped, XL601 was then placed in store.

Today, XL601 is under the care of the Brussels Air Museum, and it is currently in store pending restoration. Its civilian registration has been cancelled and it appears that its flying days are over.

- December 2020


  • Brussels Air Museum:

[ Wings over Belgium web-site]
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