Thunder & Lightnings

Hawker Hunter - Survivor WV381

GA.11 WV381 - Paul Gibbs, Inverness, Scotland

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Hunter GA.11 WV381 at Lee-on-the-Solent, ; David Webb

Built as an F.4 and first flown on 3rd August 1955, WV381 served with 222(F) Squadron and the FWS before being bought back by Hawkers, converted to GA.11 and re-delivered to the FAA - 764 NAS.

In October 1972 WV381 was fitted with a Harley light in the nose at RNAS Lee-on-Solent (HMS Daedalus). Lt Mike Sharp RN was the pilot tasked with taking her back to Yeovilton and on 1st November 1972 he lined up on the runway and started his take-off. Unbeknownst to him a small metal shard had partially blocked the air speed indicator plumbing and, seeing insufficient airspeed aborted his take-off, dropping his arrestor hook to engage the arrestor gear. The hook bounced off the runway surface and missed the cable. With the runway end fence rapidly approaching Mike ejected, on the edge of the seat's performance envelope, with his parachute opening just before he landed back on the runway.

Meanwhile, the aircraft went through the fence, over a road and beach and ended up in the sea. The airframe was recovered from the sea two days later, but her flying days were over, and she ended up with the UKAEA Lightning Studies Unit at Culham (as a fuselage only), being used to study the effects of lightning strikes on aircraft and suffered further as a result.

David Webb acquired the fuselage in June 2007 and removed the nose from the remainder of the fuselage. He then spent 30 months restoring it with the help of a small team at RAF Benson, including a repaint in the station paint shop. David placed WV381 on loan to the Hovercraft Museum (right next door to the former HMS Daedalus) in 2018, but then moved her to Bournemouth in 2023. A disagreement with the museum has resulted in them asking for him to move it on once more, and he put it up for sale in late January 2024.

Her current owner, Paul Gibbs, acquired her in February 2024 and transported her to his home in Inverness. Paul grew up and was schooled nearby HMS Daedalus and, after a good wash, intends to put WV381 on loan at Morayvia.

Information on this page current as of 14/02/2024, last updated by Damien

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