|THE FRADU HUNTERS|
|HAWKER HUNTER T.8C WT702 - '874'|
|WT702's service history
WT702 was the second production Hunter F.4 aeroplane built for the Royal Air Force, by Hawker Aircraft Ltd at Kingston-upon-Thames. Taking its first flight on 9th December 1954, it was retained for flight-testing by the Ministry of Supply and the manufacturers on various radio trials. The aeroplane was later placed in store without ever entering RAF service.
The Royal Navy bought the airframe from Hawker Aircraft Ltd, who in turn contracted Armstrong-Whitworth to convert it to T.8 specification. It was handed over to the Fleet Air Arm at RNAS Lossiemouth on 15th June 1959 but it did not enter service, instead it was placed into store. Short stints with 803NAS (Navy Air Squadron) and 700Z NAS was followed with a transfer to 764NAS at Lossiemouth in June 1961, where WT702 became aeroplane '694' with a 'LM' shore code applied on the tail. In August 1965, the aeroplane was moved to RNAS Brawdy and issued to 759NAS, the Fleet Air Arm's advanced flying training unit. As '802' and then later '806', WT702 remained in use until a move to RAF Kemble occurred in December 1969, for maintenance, a process that was completed the following September.
On 8th October 1970, WT702 arrived at RNAS Yeovilton where it joined the ADTU (Air Direction Training Unit), a civilian Unit run by Airwork Ltd. Adopting the fleet number '737', the aeroplane remained in use with the Unit until a spell away on maintenance at Lee-on-Solent between July and August 1972. On its return four months later, WT702 became aeroplane '747', an identity it kept following the creation of FRADTU (Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Training Unit), as a result of the merging of the ADTU and FRU on 1st December 1972 (the word 'Training' was later dropped from the title, thus becoming FRADU). Between October and November 1973, WT702 received a refinish at Kemble, and on its return to Yeovilton was recoded '877'. For the next five years, WT702 was in use at Yeovilton, aside from two prolonged spells away from the fleet receiving maintenance (February-September 1975, and September 1976-April 1977). The aeroplane was sent on loan to Boscombe Down in July 1978, returning to FRADU on a permanent basis a year later, being re-introduced into the inventory as aeroplane '874'.
Tragically on 16th December 1982, following a Exercise with HMS Exeter off the Isle of Wight, WT702's right wing dropped at a height of 400ft.
- March 2011
[© Lindsay Peacock]
[© Robin A. Walker]
[© Mick Freer]
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