Thunder & Lightnings

de Havilland Sea Vixen - Survivor XJ565

FAW.2 XJ565 - de Havilland Aircraft Museum, London Colney, Hertfordshire

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Sea Vixen FAW.2 XJ565 at London Colney, 16th June 2024; Damien Burke

XJ565 was built at Christchurch as an FAW.1 and first flown on 4th February 1960. She entered service with 766B NAS (coded 718/VL) at RNAS Yeovilton in June 1960. After some time in modernisation and storage in 1962/63, she joined 892 NAS (coded 208/C) in December 1963. She suffered a number of incidents with them, including the observer's hatch flying open on take-off and some heavy landings with nose gear collapses. By December 1964 she was with 893 NAS (coded 459/V) onboard HMS Victorious. In August 1965 she was delivered to DH Chester for conversion to FAW.2.

She first flew as an FAW.2 on 21st October 1966 and re-entered service, this time with 899 NAS (coded 127/E) onboard HMS Eagle on 13th February 1967. In December 1968 she was flown into storage at Brawdy before being selected for catapult and arrestor trials use at RAE Bedford from December 1969 to August 1973. She was withdrawn from use in 1974 and spares-recovered to feed the D.3 drone programme, before being struck off charge in July 1976. She was then acquired by the then-Mosquito Museum and transported by road to their site at London Colney on 31st October 1976.

Back in the 1990s, XJ565 used to have a working wing fold function and the wings were regularly folded as a visitor attraction, but this hasn't now been carried out for some time. They would like to get the canopy opening electrically, but are stumped for a gearbox as the aircraft one has pretty much rotted away, and this also appears to have stymied efforts to replace the canopy with an unclouded one.

The museum has undergone some impressive expansion efforts (and name changes) over the years, with new buildings and various new acquisitions, but XJ565 has been rather left out in the cold. She was for some time tucked away on a patch of grass at the edge of the site before a short move to her current location on a gravel area. I feel it's a bit of shame that de Havilland's last jet fighter doesn't warrant an indoor spot yet, but fingers crossed things will improve.

A cosmetic spruce-up began in 2023, but it appears that this did not get too far before a more in-depth restoration plan was hatched. Accordingly, in May 2024, her nose and tail were surrounded by scaffolding so that work can be safely carried out on the complete airframe.

Information on this page current as of 18/06/2024, last updated by Damien

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