Thunder & Lightnings

Fairey Gannet

Survivor XA459

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XA459 - Privately owned (stored), White Waltham Airfield, Berkshire

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Gannet ECM.6 XA459 at White Waltham, 23rd March 2009; Stephen Metcalf

XA459 was built as an AS.4 but had a short career, joining 814 NAS in March 1957 and being grounded in June the same year after a sonobuoy failed to release properly and damaged the rear fuselage. Repaired by October 1958, she was flown to the Aircraft Holding Unit at Abbotsinch and not re-issued to a squadron. She was then flown to NARIU at Lee-on-Solent and converted to an ECM.6 before being issued to 831 NAS at Culdrose in May 1961. She finished her active career with the same unit in 1966, by now based at RAF Watton. Initially used as a ground instructional airframe at Lee and later Culdrose, she was then used by the School of Aircraft Handlers also at Culdrose before being earmarked for preservation and dismantled in late 1978 ready for a move to a museum. This happened in April 1979, XA459 travelling by road to Cardiff and being put on display at the now-extinct Cardiff Air Museum. Whilst there she gained her current rather odd paintjob (her last scheme with 831 would have been the standard sky/extra dark sea grey scheme with red upper finlets with yellow lightning flash, and red spinner with a single yellow stripe); this aircraft never served onboard HMS Eagle so the E on the tail is incorrect and the whole nose area is all a bit odd. With the collapse of this museum in the late 80s, she was bought by a private owner who had her transported to his home in Cirencester in late 1990. In 1999 she moved on once again to Lambourn Woodlands in Berkshire, and the then-owner was keen to begin a restoration, possibly to airworthy standards. Unfortunately tragedy has struck twice, with the father and son team that were going to restore the aircraft both killed in seperate accidents. The aircraft was put up for sale by the family and was bought by the owner of White Waltham Airfield (where Fairey built and test-flew the Gannet), being roaded there in November 2006. Since then she has been stored between a couple of hangars with no apparent restoration work underway. She would make an impressive gate guardian at this wonderful airfield so I hope the owner gets the time and money to at least give her a cosmetic restoration!

Information on this page current as of 29/03/2009

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