Thunder & Lightnings

English Electric Lightning - Survivor XR773 (ZU-BEW, ex G-OPIB)

F.6 XR773 - Privately owned, (stored), Cape Town International Airport, South Africa

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Lightning F.6 XR773 at Thunder City, 31st October 2012; Francis Wallace

XR773 first flew in February 1966 (with Roland Beamont at the controls) and served with 74, 56, 5, and 11 Squadrons as well as the Lightning Training Flight. Retired from RAF service in 1988, she then became one of British Aerospace's small Lightning fleet, used for various chase and test duties before being sold to Classic Jets in Exeter in 1992. She was ferried to Exeter where she was maintained in good order until it became clear flying her in the UK wasn't going to be allowed. In 1997, XR773 was sold to Mike Beachy and was shipped to Cape Town South Africa to join the Thunder City fleet. By late 2000, work had begun on getting her airborne once again. A year later, she took to the skies once again, keeping original in-service colours and given the serial ZU-BEW.

Sadly, in November 2009, a fatal accident claimed the life of pilot Dave Stock whilst flying one of Thunder City's other two-seat Lightning, ZU-BEX (ex XS451), at an airshow. 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. A couple of years later, Thunder City got the approval to carry out private flights, however, ZU-BEW never went back flying, but remained in good condition and was kept undercover. Unfortunately, Thunder City closed its doors in 2016 with the collection going up for sale, and in early 2020, were stored outside due to the hangar being repurposed.

During late 2021, Hangar 51 Aviation purchased a small handful of the airframes intending to return them back to flying conditions, however, the Lightnings remained for sale. Currently, ZU-BEW is being dismantled before embarking on a move to an unspecified location.

Information on this page current as of 25/11/2022, last updated by Jake

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