Thunder & Lightnings

English Electric Lightning

Survivor ZU-BBD (ex XS452)

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T.5 ZU-BBD - Thunder City Aircraft Company (for sale), 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 mouldered 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.

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 seperation mechanisms had both failed, and Thunder City had not serviced the seat when it was due in September 2009, instead 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 TC's Air Operating Certificate. Worryingly it is reported that they continued flying regardless - e.g. see here.

In September 2010, Thunder City put out a press release saying that they were shutting down operations, blaming the financial climate and inconsistencies in how the SA CAA applied their regulations. This was the end of the Lightning in civilian ownership in South Africa and all of the TC airframes were put up for sale. More than 10 years on, none of them have been sold, and the Lightnings have not flown since at least 2012. The size of the effort to put any of these airframes back in the air with a known history of poor maintenance standards and a decade of disuse means it is surely unlikely any of them will fly again.

Information on this page current as of 19/03/2021

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