Thunder & Lightnings

Folland Gnat - Survivor XP542

T.1 XP542 - 424 Sqn ATC, Millbrook, Southampton, Hampshire

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Gnat T.1 XP542 at Millbrook, 15th January 2022; Damien Burke

First flown on 24th May 1963, XP542 spent most of her service life with 4 FTS and was retired to RAF St. Athan as a ground instructional airframe as 8575M in January 1978.

After her useful years as training aid were over, she was put on display at the Military College of Science, Shrivenham during 1991, and stayed there until 2004 when she was acquired by 424 Squadron, Air Training Corp, based in Southampton. She was refurbished at GE Aviation at Hamble, gaining an odd split personality paint scheme of red on one side and air defence grey on the other, and then parked in the staff car park behind the then-Southampton Hall of Aviation (now Solent Sky), which was also the Squadron's base at the time.

She was intended to serve not just as a Gate Guardian to the Squadron, but also to serve as a flight trainer, enabling cadets to learn cockpit instruments, pre-flight cockpit checks and pre-flight aircraft inspections. Further to this it was intended to be used for practical airframe instruction, allowing the cadets to remove inspection panels to see the workings of the aircraft and keep the aircraft maintained in a good state.

With the Squadron's move to new premises in Millbrook, the airframe was also relocated, and is now on display on the lawn outside their compound, having been repainted once more to a scheme that bears some passing resemblance to the later trainer scheme, but is sadly lacking any national markings or stencils. She retains one grey slipper tank as a nod to the previous split personality scheme! Sadly the aircraft is not easily viewable - you can only realy see her from the Costco car park, and the double fence and trees make photography near impossible.

Information on this page current as of 15/01/2022, last updated by Damien

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