Thunder & Lightnings

Hawker Hunter - Survivor ZU-AUJ (ex G-BVWV, XE653)

F.6A ZU-AUJ - Privately owned, near Stellenbosch, South Africa

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Hunter F.6A ZU-AUJ at Stellenbosch, December 2023; Bob Gardner

XE653 made her first flight in July 1956, being delivered to the RAF a couple of weeks later. The airframe went on to serve with the Black Arrows 111 Squadron Hawker Hunter display team during the 1950s, painted in an overall gloss black scheme. XE653 retired into RAF Scampton in 1984 where she was used for several years as an instructional airframe, and also regained her overall black scheme.

After spending some time at Scampton, she later, like several other Hunters, moved to Exeter where she gained the civil registration G-BVWV, with the possible hope to get her airworthy again. This never came to fruition, and she was instead sold to Mike Beachy Head who transported it to his collection of live classic jet aircraft known as Thunder City, based at Cape Town International Airport in South Africa. XE653 gained her new civil serial, ZU-AUJ, and after some restoration work, returned to the skies where she could be seen displaying at several airshows. ZU-AUJ retained her overall black scheme for a little while, before being resprayed a couple of times into overall yellow schemes.

Sadly, in 2009, Thunder City's operation was closed down by the CAA after their Lightning ZU-BEX crashed while displaying at an airshow, costing pilot Dave Stock his life. Once the investigation was complete, the CAA approved Thunder City to reopen and operate private flights only. ZU-AUJ, however, remained grounded. Thunder City closed its doors for good in 2016, with the whole collection going up for sale.

The airframes were kept inside the hangar for a few more years before they were moved outside in 2020 where they continued to wait for new owners. At some point after late 2021 ZU-AUJ moved on to a new private owner, and her flying days seem to be at an end. She can be seen from the nearby R44 road.

Information on this page current as of 09/01/2024, last updated by Damien

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