Thunder & Lightnings

English Electric Lightning

Survivor XR773 (ZU-BEW, ex G-OPIB)

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XR773 - Mike Beachy Head (for sale), Cape Town, South Africa

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Lightning F.6 XR773 at Cape Town, 1st November 2001; Hugh Trevor

As you can see, Mike Beachy Head's Thunder City operation succeeded in returning XR773 to the air in 2001 and she's seen here on her first post-restoration flight, sweeping low over the Thunder City hangar complex shortly prior to landing. XR773 first flew in February 1966 (with Roly Beamont at the controls) and served with 74, 56, 5 and 11 Squadrons as well as the Lightning Training Flight. Retired from RAF service in 1988, she then became one of British Aerospace's small Lightning fleet, used for various chase and test duties before being sold to Classic Jets in Exeter in 1992. She was ferried to Exeter where she was maintained in good order until it became clear flying her in the UK wasn't going to be allowed. Sold to Mike Beachy Head in 1997, she was shipped to South Africa and work began on getting her airborne again late in 2000. A year later, she has flown once more, and unusually for Mike's aircraft, has retained her in-service colours. Sadly in November 2009 a fatal accident claimed the life of pilot Dave Stock whilst flying one of Thunder City's other Lightnings, XS451. The SA CAA's initial investigation found that the ejector seat and canopy seperation mechanisms had both failed, and Thunder City had not serviced the seat when it was due in September 2009, instead extending the service interval by 30 days and then another 45. This began a sequence of events whereby the SA CAA looked harder at the question of operation ex-military types on the civilian register and reportedly revoked TC's Air Operating Certificate. Worryingly it is reported that they continued flying regardless - e.g. see here. In September 2010, Thunder City put out a press release saying that they were shutting down operations, blaming the financial climate and inconsistencies in how the SA CAA applied their regulations. It seems this is the end of the Lightning in civilian ownership in South Africa and all of the TC airframes are apparently now up for sale.

Information on this page current as of 09/11/2010

Find other photos of XR773 on the following sites:

Air-Britain - Airliners.net - Airplane-Pictures.net - flickr.com - WorldAirPics.com - JetPhotos.net - PlanePictures.net - Vertical Reality