Thunder & Lightnings

de Havilland Sea Vixen - Survivor XJ580

FAW.2 XJ580 - Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, Tangmere, West Sussex

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Sea Vixen FAW.2 XJ580 at Tangmere, 2nd March 2022; Damien Burke

First flown on 21st July 1960 as an FAW.1, XJ580 was delivered to RNAS Abbotsinch in November of that year and issued to 892 NAS the next month, at RNAS Yeovilton and also on deployments aboard HMS Victorious and HMS Hermes. In June 1962 she transferred to 893 NAS on HMS Centaur, then in February 1963 joined 899 NAS at RNAS Yeovilton and HMS Eagle. She was then delivered to Hawarden in December 1963 for conversion to FAW.2 standard. She first flew as such on 1st January 1965 and was returned to the FAA the next month, joining 766 NAS at Yeovilton in July.

After some periods in storage, she had her final voyage with 899 NAS onboard HMS Eagle from March 1970 to February 1972, taking part in the farewell flypast over Singapore in October 1971. XJ580 was the last Sea Vixen to depart from HMS Eagle on the type's frontline retirement, gaining the skull and cross bones on her nose and the Snoopy figure on her intake at this time. She was retired on 15th February 1972 and moved to Farnborough for storage, then to Hurn in 1980 for trials of the refuelling pod that was to be used by VC-10 tankers.

She was sold in 1984 to Troika Developments Ltd. and put on display on a plinth in Christchurch as a memorial to the aviation industry in the area, having been restored to superb condition. After that, she was handed over to the Sea Vixen Society in 1985, and unfortunately she then became neglected. Being outside and at the mercy of both the weather and vandalism had left her with a smashed observer's canopy and broken pitot probes at the time of my first visit in April 1997. A second visit in April 1999 found the canopies covered up, and some graffiti removed, but otherwise XJ580 was still looking pretty forlorn.

Happily though, XJ580 moved to the Tangmere Museum of Military Aviation on 27th June 2000, where she was repainted in 2002 and had her damage repaired. A return visit in 2019 found her being prepped for another repaint, which had been completed when I returned in early 2022.

Information on this page current as of 27/07/2022, last updated by Damien

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