Thunder & Lightnings

English Electric Lightning - Survivor ZU-BBD (ex XS452)

T.5 ZU-BBD - Hangar 51 Aviation, Cape Town, South Africa

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Lightning T.5 ZU-BBD at Thunder City, 31st October 2012; Francis Wallace

XS452 first flew on 30th June 1965 and begin her service career with the OCU at Coltishall in September of that year. She ended her career with the LTF at Binbrook, and on disposal in 1988 was bought by Arnold Glass as part of his plan to operate several Lightnings. Flown to Cranfield, she moldered away there while Arnold's plan came to nothing and ended up being sold to Tony Hulls of T5 Projects for restoration to taxiable condition.

Mike Beachyhead then made Tony an offer he couldn't refuse, transported her to Cape Town and with Barry Pover's Classic Jets completed the restoration to full airworthy condition and in 2001 she flew again. XS452 gained the serial ZU-BBD.

Sadly in November 2009 a fatal accident claimed the life of pilot Dave Stock whilst flying one of Thunder City's other Lightnings, XS451. The SA CAA's initial investigation found that the ejector seat and canopy separation mechanisms had both failed, and Thunder City had not serviced the seat when it was due in September 2009 instead of extending the service interval by 30 days and then another 45. This began a sequence of events whereby the SA CAA looked harder at the question of operation ex-military types on the civilian register and reportedly revoked Thunder City's Air Operating Certificate. In September 2010, Thunder City put out a press release saying that they were shutting down operations due to not meeting CAA approval. After much work and effort, they managed to get CAA approval and managed to get a Buccaneer and a Hunter back in the air. However, they could now only carry out private flights rather than offering back seat flights to anyone. A couple of years later, they got ZU-BBD back in the air again, but this didn't last too long as in 2016 Thunder City closed and the aircraft were put up for sale. During this time, all the airframes were stored outside awaiting a new owner.

Thankfully, the news many have been waiting to hear, is that ZU-BBD, along with the other Thunder City airframes were purchased by Hangar 51 based in South Africa in late 2021, with the vision to return a few of them to the air once again for all to enjoy - hopefully, this will include one of the Lightnings!

Information on this page current as of 12/01/2022, last updated by Jake

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