Thunder & Lightnings

Handley Page Victor - Survivor XA917

B.1 XA917 - Privately owned, Kemback, Fife

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Victor B.1 XA917 at Kemback, 16th August 2014; Gav Troon

First flown on 1st February 1956, XA917 was the first production standard B.Mk.1 but spent her entire flying career on trials work with Handley Page. On 1st June 1957, HP test pilot John Allam quietly planned a little surprise for HP's competitors at Avro and Vickers, and on return to Radlett after a trial flight, eased XA917 into a very slight dive and allowed speed to build up. The aircraft soon 'inadvertently' exceeded Mach 1, and the tower at Radlett fielded phone calls from local residents complaining about the sonic boom. At the time this was the largest aircraft to go supersonic - and the rear crew became the first people to exceed the speed of sound whilst travelling backwards! John Allam's partial pressure helmet as worn during Victor test flights is now on display at the St. Albans Museum in Hertfordshire.

Sadly the aircraft's career was cut short when she undershot a landing on 2nd March 1961, the nose gear being damaged as it impacted the soft ground before the runway. With no nose gear steering possible, she veered off the runway and the main undercarriage then collapsed. The damage was so extensive that she was used as a ground instructional airframe until being scrapped in 1963.

The cockpit section became a procedures trainer, moving to RAF Wittering in December 1963 and then onwards to RAF Marham in late 1981. Disposed of after the Victor force retired, in February 1994 she was acquired by a collector in Norfolk, and changed hands a couple of times before the current owner got hold of her. She's hidden away in his garden with a few other Victor souvenirs.

Information on this page current as of 12/03/2021, last updated by Damien

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