Thunder & Lightnings

Folland Gnat - Survivor XR537 (G-NATY)

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T.1 XR537 - Aero (UK) Holdings Ltd (restoration to fly), North Weald

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Gnat T.1 XR537 at North Weald, 29th September 2018; Damien Burke

XR537 was built by Folland at Hamble in the spring of 1963, being delivered from Dunsfold to the RAF. Initially issued to No.4 FTS at Valley in July, she later served with the CFS. During her days with the CFS, XR537 was operated by the Red Arrows team, initially as a spare but in 1976 became the No. 1 aircraft. On withdrawal from flying duties in September 1979, she was delivered to No 2 School of Technical Training at Cosford to serve as an instructional airframe, receiving serial 8642M. She was maintained in a ground running condition, still in her Red Arrows colours, until surplus to requirements at the end of 1989.

Sold at a Sotheby's Auction in March 1990, XR537/8642M was moved by road to Bournemouth on 5th April, being placed on the civil register as G-NATY in June. Purchased by a private owner in December 1990, overhaul commenced with engine runs undertaken the following spring. However problems arose over obtaining vital replacement parts, and so XR537 remained on display in the Museum until the untimely death of her owner in 2000 put a stop to the restoration.

Thankfully in 2005 Drilling Systems of Bournemouth bought her and de Havilland Aviation continued the restoration. XR537 was re-registered as G-NATY and received official approval from the RAF to fly in her former Reds colours. Following a two-year restoration programme, XR537 was granted her Permit to Test on 14th June 2007. Unfortunately she was not seen in the air often, and with de Havilland Aviation's collapse in late 2009, she has not flown since though was taxied from time to time.

Since then, she has been roaded to North Weald for the Gnat Display Team to undertake a full restoration to flight. Progress was impressive during 2019 but has obviously slowed somewhat in 2020.

Information on this page current as of 23/12/2020, last updated by Damien

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