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Survivor XW544

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S.2B XW544 - The Buccaneer Aviation Group (taxiable), Cotswold Airport, Gloucestershire

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Buccaneer S.2B XW544 at Cotswold Airport, 5th June 2021; Damien Burke

Delivered to the RAF in June 1972, XW544 entered service with 15 Squadron at RAF Laarbruch, moving to 16 Squadron in 1979 and back to 15 in 1982. XW544 spent an awful lot of time in the hangar as she was always having fuel leaks, and sadly this was the reason the airframe was retired just a decade later in 1983. XW544 made its last flight on Monday 4th July 1983 from RAF Laarbruch flown by Flt Lt Dave Heath and Flt Lt Ed Whitaker, to RAF Shawbury where it was put in to storage. The only parts removed from XW544 to help keep to fleet flying were its two engines that later got replaced with two scrap ones.

In early 1984 she was issued to No.2 School of Technical Training (as 8857M) at RAF Cosford. Nearing the end of her life at RAF Cosford, the airframe received a repaint into 16 Sqn colours - along with oddly acquiring a refuelling probe. XW544 was often seen on display at the airshows in the static park with Buccaneer XW547

By 1993, with the retirement of the Buccaneer fleet, XW544 had ceased to be of any use to the RAF and was put up for sale. Rob Goldstone soon brought the airframe and transported it back to Shawbury to a scrapyard for storage where it sat on its belly until it was brought by Dave Webber, Andy Webber and George Palmer in 2004. With Dave, Andy and George working on Buccaneer XX900 at Bruntingthope for the last few years, it was decided that XW544 should be road moved there where the airframe became the third Buccaneer on site joining XX900 and XX894.

A lot of hard work has gone on since then to return XW544 to full taxiing condition which was a huge ambition at the time! The highlights of the restoration being repairs to her hydraulics enabling the wings to be spread in July 2007 plus the airbrakes, bomb bay, arrestor hook etc in the following weeks and months.

XW544 had her first engine run in 25 years in May 2008, this was a huge milestone for the group who kept on restoring the aircraft until May 2011 when XW544 performed her very first public fast taxi run since retirement, not only was this XW544's first ever public taxi run, but the first time three Buccaneers had run and taxied together in the UK since the type retired in 1994. Making the number of taxiable Buccaneers at Bruntingthorpe three with XX900 and XX894, this was the only place in the world except Thunder City in South Africa the public could witness 6 running 101 Spey engines all together.

Over the winter of 2011 going into 2012, XW544 underwent a much needed repaint with a roll-out event in March 2012 to show off its shiny new paint, along with a fast taxi run with XX894 and XX900 in the evening. All the people who played a huge part in the aircraft's restoration were placed on the nose door until 2020.
XW544 performed at most, if not all Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jet open days from that point on.

Sadly in March 2020 Bruntingthorpe's days of seeing vintage jets fast taxi down the 2 mile long runway came to an end when the airfield got leased to Cox Automotive who intend to use the entire airfield for car storage. During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Buccaneer Aviation Group moved their two Buccaneers (XW544 and XX894) to Cotswold Airport (former RAF Kemble), this allows the aircraft to continue doing what they do best... blasting down the runway! The Buccaneers are apart of a constantly growing collection of privately owned aircraft which include a Hunter T.7, Gnat, two Canberra PR.9s and soon to join are BPAG's three Phantoms with newest resident Boeing 747 G-CIVB 'Negus' being the centre piece.

After months of hard work in between COVID-19 lockdowns, XW544 carried out her first ever trundle down Cotswold Airport's runway on the 5th June - a huge milestone for TBAG, coming one year to the day when it was decided to move from Brunty to Kemble. She's due another repaint soon and hopefully the pandemic will be over soon to enable a ramping up of work on the jet.

Information on this page current as of 29/05/2021

Find other photos of XW544 on the following sites:

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