Thunder & Lightnings

English Electric Canberra - Survivor WJ576

T.17 WJ576 - Tettenhall Transport Heritage Centre, Wolverhampton

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Canberra T.17 WJ576 at Wolverhampton, 26th July 2020; Grahame Bann

A bit of an enigma is this Canberra. She started, as did so many, as a B.2. She was operated by 231 OCU at first but was transferred to the Ministry of Aircraft's "Swifter Flight". This special flight was set up in 1960 at El Adem to investigate the effects of high-speed low-altitude flying on aircraft structures - and on the aircrew! The Flight provided data for use in the TSR.2 programme, it also gave general details about such flight profiles.

WJ576 was one of six B.2s used by Swifter Flight, the others being WD950, WF890, WH648, WJ573, and WH644. Each aircraft was specially strengthened for the rigorous programme as well as being fitted with a full suite of recording instruments. Sorties were flown both day and night and all at heights of 100-600 feet. The crews, mostly from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, underwent continuous monitoring by the Institute of Aviation Medicine. Swifter Flight aircraft all had awhite painted centre and forward fuselages and carried a "Swift" emblem on the fin.

But back to WJ576... In 1963, she was transferred to Boulton Paul's Seighford factory for ECM trials. These lasted until 1965 when she was taken off the Ministry of Aircraft charge, sent to BAC for conversion to a T.17, and finally delivered to 360 Sqd at RAF Watton in 1967. She flew with 360 Sqd until the mid-70s when she was sent into store at RAF St Athan.

WJ576 was broken up at St Athan in 1983. The nose section was saved originally by the South Wales Aircraft Preservation Society, based at Cardiff Airport. The nose next went on to Phoenix Aviation at Bruntingthorpe, but she didn't stay long before being sold and moved to the Black Country Aircraft Collection which was on display at the Boulton Paul Aircraft Heritage Project, Smiths Aerospace in Wolverhampton.

The cockpit then moved into storage at Baxterley, and in early 2015, the cockpit moved to the Tettenhall Transport Heritage Centre where she can be seen on display today.

Information on this page current as of 09/12/2021, last updated by Jake

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