Thunder & Lightnings

Hawker Hunter - Survivor XL613 (ex ZU-LEE, ex G-BVMB)

T.7 XL613 - Privately owned, Stellenbosch, South Africa

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Hunter T.7 XL613 at Stellenbosch, December 2023; Bob Gardner

XL613 first flew on 19 December 1958 and was delivered to 5MU at RAF Kemble in January 1959. First, active use was with the Khormaksar Station Flight at Aden followed by spells with 43 Squadron at Leuchars, 8 Squadron at Khormaksar and 208 Squadron at Bahrain and other locations, followed by more service with 8 Squadron and 1417 Flight, and then back to 208, followed by a return to 8 Squadron! Joining 45 Squadron in 1972 and on leaving frontline service joined No.4 FTS at Valley before being transferred to 237 OCU at Honington, later Laarbruch and Lossiemouth, finally being retired to ground instructional use at Shawbury. Quite a busy career!

She was sold at the end of 1993 and then sold once more to CJAC and where she was restored to a possible fly condition. The airframe was later sold to Mike Beachy-Head in the early 2000s for his growing fast jet collection in South Africa, known as Thunder City. XL613 was registered as ZU-LEE and returned to the skies for several years. However, after the fatal crash of their Lightning T.5 XS421 in 2009, sadly costing Dave Stock his life, the collection was temporarily grounded while the SA CAA held an investigation into Thunder City. Once the investigation was completed, a small handful of jets in the collection did return to flight once again, but sadly ZU-LEE never did.

The collection sadly closed in 2016 after the passing of Mike Beachy-Head, which saw ZU-LEE disappear for several years with a new owner. In later years, the fuselage suddenly reappeared in someone's garden, with the wings being installed a couple of months later. ZU-LEE can be seen clearly from road R44 near Stellenbosch, still looking in fairly decent condition. As you can see, she has a cockpit cover and intake covers on, and makes a fine sun-shade!

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

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