|THE FRADU HUNTERS|
|HAWKER HUNTER T.8C XF985 - '873'|
|XF985's service history
XF985 was constructed at Blackpool by Hawker Aircraft (Blackpool) Ltd, as a Hunter F.4 for the Royal Air Force. It was delivered to the RAF on 6th June 1956 to 33MU (Maintenance Unit) at RAF Lyneham where it was prepared for military service. It was posted to RAF 26(F) Sqn at RAF Oldenburg, West Germany in May 1957, but its stay was brief as it was noted in store at RAF Kemble the following September. The aeroplane also saw service at RAF Bruggen before being withdrawn and placed in store.
Hawker Aircraft Ltd at Dunsfold carried out the conversion work to T.8C specification, and on completion XF985 was moved to Shorts Brothers' Belfast airfield on 4th March 1964, entering Fleet Air Arm service with 759NAS (Naval Air Squadron) at RNAS Brawdy the following month. The aeroplane served with the Squadron, aside from periods of maintenance with the based Servicing Unit until September 1969, using several different fleet numbers, beginning with '656' and then later '806', '811' and finally '803'. A move south to RNAS Yeovilton for a two month stint between September and November 1969 was followed by a month with 764NAS at RNAS Lossiemouth, XF985 was then flown into 5MU Kemble for a prolonged spell of maintenance on 10th December that same year.
On 31st July 1970, XF985 joined the Airwork-run Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU) fleet at RNAS Yeovilton, as aeroplane '746' with 'VL' shore code on the tail fin. It was briefly moved back to Kemble for refinishing in November but remained in service until being moved to RNAS Lee-on-Solent in May 1972, for fitment of a Harley light in the nose.
The aeroplane was lost on 10th April 1990, when its pilot Rick Lea experienced a severe control restriction caused by a jammed aileron whilst returning from a FRADU sortie. Despite efforts to regain control, Rick was left with option but to eject from the aircraft, thankfully without injury. XF985 crashed harmlessly into open countryside close to Charminster in Dorset.
- January 2015
[© Robin A. Walker]
[© Eric Tammer]
[© John Hale]
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