YEOVILTON AIR DAY 2000 WITH XE689 & WT723
 
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"Between July 14th and July 16th 2000 two former FRADU Hunters; GA.11 XE689 and PR.11 WT723, returned to their former base RNAS Yeovilton to take part in the Station's International Air Day. The jets were then operated by Classic Jets based at Exeter, and I was lucky enough to be given special access to them during the show, where I took a small selection of photos that you see scattered on this page and the next.

My thanks go to Barry Pover, John Sparks, John Rodd, Shirley Cooper, John Wolstenholme, Brian Grant, and last but by no means least Michael Pover for their hospitality during the show. Lastly I must also extend my thanks to Hugh Trevor for allowing me use some of his photographs on this page.


FRIDAY 14th / SATURDAY 15th JULY 2000 [page 1 of 2]


GA.11 XE689 RETURNS TO ITS FORMER HOME
 
1.
[ Hugh Trevor]
2.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(1 & 2) Here was a sight that hadn't been seen at Yeovilton for exactly five years, an ex-FRADU Hunter back at its former home base for their Air Day. The time was 11:10am and the first of the two Hunters, GA.11 XE689/864 G-BWGK arrived overhead after departing from its Exeter base. At the controls was ex-FRADU Chief Hunter Pilot Brian Grant, who has over 8,000 hours on type.
The aeroplane was then put through its 8-minute display rehearsal by Brian, including a series of fast and slow passes all flown with the Harley light switched on in the nose, before landing and taxiing, as shown above to its allotted parking space in the static/flying area. I was stood under the display line as 689 was put through her paces and it brought the memories flooding back when Yeovilton was home to 25 examples at its peak in the mid-1980's.


BRIAN GRANT CLIMBS OUT OF THE JET
 
3.
[ Hugh Trevor]
4.
[ Hugh Trevor]
5.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(3, 4 & 5) Here shows Brian Grant climbing out of the cockpit after shutting the aircraft down, leaving the aircraft in the hands of John Sparks. Brian then got into a car to take him back to Exeter to get ready for fly the second aircraft up to the show.


JOHN SPARKS PUTTING THE JET TO BED
 
6.
[ Hugh Trevor]
7.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(6 & 7) Two shots showing CJAC engineer John Sparks preparing the jet for its display commitments the next day. This included John exchanging the used set of starter cartridges for a new set ready for start-up the next day, and making sure that everything else is all is safe with the aircraft. After this has all been completed the cockpit covers will be put on the aircraft and it will be put "to bed" prior to the show the next day, but not before more photos were taken :)


BACK ON ITS OLD HUNTING GROUND
 
8.
[ Hugh Trevor]
9.
[ Hugh Trevor]
10.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(8, 9 & 10) Three shots showing XE689/864 on the tarmac at her former home.
This was the first time she had returned since leaving the base in mid-1995 on her delivery flight to civilian life with Classic Jets at Exeter.

The middle shot shows off the high-powered Harley light that was mounted to all FRADU Hunter GA.11's during their service life. This is the most obvious feature that differs the GA.11 from its single-seat RAF counterparts, along with the arrestor hook under the tail and the removal of the armament.


A RARE PEAK INSIDE XE689's COCKPIT
 
11.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(11) Here is a shot of XE689's cockpit, it could prove a useful source should there be any modellers out there working on a Hunter GA.11 project.


ANOTHER FRADU HUNTER RETURNS HOME
 
12.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(12) After the GA.11 had arrived I was treated to several other interesting arrivals, including an RAF Nimrod, a couple of Belgian Alpha Jets and the C17 Galaxy. At 2:30pm another Rolls Royce Avon was heard overhead and joining the circuit was the second Hunter, PR.11 WT723/866 G-PRII.
The aircraft touched down shortly afterwards then came back along the taxiway to give the assembled enthusiasts a nice photograph opportunity, though unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me :(


EN ROUTE TO ITS PARKING SPACE...
 
13.
[ Hugh Trevor]
14.
[ Hugh Trevor]
15.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(13, 14 & 15) After posing for the cameras WT723 crossed the main runway and made her way to the North dispersal to her parking spot in the static park of the show. You will see from the images that the aircraft is fitted with 4 x 100 gallon drop-tanks, a common sight when the aircraft were in active service with the FRADU.


THE AEROPLANE IS SHUT DOWN
 
16.
[ Hugh Trevor]
17.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(16 & 17) WT723 was guided in to her parking spot by John Sparks and these images show the aircraft after shutdown, and Brian Grant finishes another flight in the Hunter, and chalked up another 30 minutes on type.


BRIAN GRANT POSES FOR THE CAMERA
 
18.
[ Hugh Trevor]
19.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(18 & 19) Brian Grant poses for Hugh's camera. Brian joined the FRADU in 1970 and remained with the Unit, being promoted to Chief Hunter pilot in 1983, until retiring in 1994. During his flying career he acquired over 8,000 hours on the Hunter, the most of anyone anywhere in the world. In addition to Hunters he also has a fair few hours on the Hunter's predecessor with the FRADU, the Sea Vixen and some 300 hrs on its successor the BAe Hawk when he helped ferry them to their new base at RNAS Culdrose in 1995.


JOHN SPARKS ONCE MORE AT WORK
 
20.
[ Hugh Trevor]
21.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(20 & 21) Two shots showing John Sparks firstly tuning WT723's brakes and latterly exchanging the used starter cartridges for fresh ones, ready for the aircraft's next flight.


SHOW DAY AND THE JETS ATTRACT ATTENTION
 
22.
[ author]
23.
[ Jim Russell]
24.
[ Jim Russell]
(23, 24 & 25) At last you see some of the Russell family photos on this page.
It is July 15th and it is show day. Here are three pix showing the two jets on view to the public. WT723 was positioned next to a Sea Harrier T.8 in the static park and gained a lot of attention throughout the day. The GA.11 was positioned in the static/flying area and the CJAC team were answering questions and meeting former FRADU pilots throughout the day, who all remarked how great it was to see both jets back on home soil.


EN ROUTE TO THE RUNWAY
 
25.
[ author]
26.
[ Hugh Trevor]
27.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(25, 26 & 27) It is 1440hrs and it is XE689's turn to entertain the crowds with its slot at 1455.
The first shot shows the familiar sight of black smoke emulated from the belly of the jet of Brian Grant pushed the starter button.
After his request for permission to taxi across the runway was granted by air traffic Brian taxied the aircraft to the south-side of the airfield before being asked to hold. A few minutes later permission was received for 864 to proceed to runway 27, and Brian lined up the jet ready for departure.


XE689 IN ITS DISPLAY SLOT
 
28.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(28) After takeoff Brian banked the aircraft to the left to reach the start point of his display over the south side of the airfield. He then put on his 8-minute display in front of the 40,000+ crowd complete with the Harley Light switched on with a combination of fast and slow passes that showed off all angles of this classic jet.


IN THE LANDING CIRCUIT...
 
13.
[ Hugh Trevor]
14.
[ Hugh Trevor]
15.
[ Hugh Trevor]
(29, 30 & 31) At the completion of the display Brian joined the circuit and landed, here are three shots showing XE689 as she approaches Runway 27.


XE689 TAXIES BACK TO ITS SPOT
 
32.
[ author]
(32) Brian Grant then taxied in to the flight line and was marshalled onto the chock before he commenced the shutdown. Brian un-strapped himself, left the cockpit and the ground-crew began their post flight checks ready for the next flight.
The display received excellent reviews and both ex-Royal Navy jets fitted perfectly into the bases' 60th birthday celebrations. Another milestone that coincided with the show was 25 years since the FRADU formed the Blue Herons display team of four GA.11's. Some members of the team were present at the show, including one in the cockpit!

[Part 2 of Yeovilton Air Day - departure day]

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Hugh Trevor gave all images shown above to myself. If you wish to use these photos for anything other then personal use you must first get his permission.

Mark Russell, 1998-2015