Thunder & Lightnings

English Electric Lightning - Survivor 53-671

F.53 53-671 - Gatwick Aviation Museum (runner), Charlwood, Surrey

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Lightning F.53 53-671 at Gatwick Aviation Museum, 6th August 2023; Damien Burke

This airframe first took to the skies on 2nd November 1967 and was delivered to the RSAF as 53-671. After service with the Saudis she was purchased back by BAe as part of the Tornado deal and returned to Warton in 1986 as ZF573. In 1997 the aircraft was then sold to Marine Salvage and was stored at Stretton in Cheshire.

The airframe was then sold to the Gatwick Aviation Museum in 2000 and soon delivered there and reassembled - thankfully having been dismantled correctly rather than being cut up. Volunteers then cracked on with getting her back to running condition - quite the challenge!

After 16 years of restoration work and much effort by all the volunteers involved, the aircraft saw it's first post-restoration engine runs in September 2016. This was an incredible achievement, the museum now not only has the worlds only live S.1 Buccaneer XN923 but the only live Lightning F.53 too!

With the new hangar erected in 2015/16 to house the collection's smaller aircraft, the Lightning finally went undercover with the end of the building being made a few feet higher so that the tail would fit. After she went undercover, the metal work was polished up and her original Saudi markings were applied, wearing the serial 53-671 (though some of the religious elements are missing due to Saudi sensitivities around these).

The hangar has made working on the aircraft a lot easier, and as a result she's carried out a number of public engine run events since then. At the time of writing the museum's engineering staff are currently sorting out a hydraulic fault, and hopefully once that's done there will be another public engine run event.

Information on this page current as of 07/08/2023, last updated by Damien

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