Hunter Production at Dunsfold

A number of interesting images from the early 1950’s has been recovered recently. Many thanks for the contribution by Russell Powell.

Hunter 1. Hunter Erection Line No. 2 Bay Left hand view, neg number H2453 21-06-1954.
Hunter 2. Hunter Erection Line No. 2 Bay Right hand view, neg number H2452 21-06-1954.
Hunter 3. Hunter Erection Line No. 1 Bay, neg number H2451 21-06-1954.
Hunter 4. Hunter Aircraft cleared Flight line preparing for Delivery, neg number H2454 21-06-1954.
Hunter 5. Production Apron aircraft preparation for flight tests, neg number H2450 21-06 -1954.

 

In this last photo it looks like WT591. Aircraft on charge of the RAF DFLS (Day Fighter Leader’s Squadron). It skidded on ice on landing on 24/1/1957 at RAF West Raynham, Norfolk. Aircraft overshot and hit the boundary fence, shearing off the starboard undercarriage leg.

Struck off charge as Cat5(G/I): Allocated to Ground Instructional Airframe use as 7411M at 1 SoTT at RAF Halton on 23/4/1957. Not used as such, instead re-classified as Cat.5(c) at 19 MU RAF St. Athan on 26/4/1957. Re-classified Cat.5(scrap) struck off charge and moved to fire dump 17/5/1957.

WT581 is at the back left. A tragic story is associated with this aircraft. It ran out of fuel at the end of an air test including aerobatics and manual landings. Crashed 1 mile west north west of Leuchars after the engine cut on final approach. Pilot – Flying Officer Alan MacKillop-Watkinson – ejected too low (at 250 – 500 feet) did not separate from the seat, and was killed.

Could Red Arrows ‘come home’ to Dunsfold?

Many will have seen the news last week that the RAF is closing Scampton – the airbase which, among other things, is the home of the iconic Red Arrows display team. Those with an interest in UK aviation history, including neighbours living around Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, will probably also know that the Hawk trainer jet which is used by the Red Arrows was developed, assembled and first flown at the Dunsfold Aerodrome in 1974.  More than a few people are therefore asking the question – is now the time to consider offering a new base for the Red Arrows, at the historic home of the Hawk, Dunsfold Aerodrome?

Hawk 168 in 1985 over Dunsfold: Image by Andy Lawson/ BAe Systems
Red Arrows and BAe aircraft in 1985 at Dunsfold: Image by Andy Lawson/ BAe Systems
Red Arrows at Dunsfold 2010. Photo courtesy Karen Sutton www.limelight-marketing.co.uk

By coincidence (or may it be providence?), a rare example of a Hawker Hunter fighter jet which has for many years been on public display in a shopping street in Woking, is also looking for a new home. ‘XL623’ was the last Hunter T.7 to be built, and it is believed it first flew at Dunsfold.

T7 Hunter XL 623 as art in Woking
T.7 Hunter XL 623 as art in Woking Photo Courtesy Neil Randell
T.7 Hunter XL 623 being removed from Woking, July 2018 Photo Courtesy Carol Fenton-Balch
XL623. Royal Air Force Hawker Hunter T.7 at RAF Leuchars. Image copyright Jim Cain

Having been donated to Brooklands Museum, and with the help of the Hawker Association, restoration of Hunter T7 XL623  is about to begin – very fittingly at Dunsfold Aerodrome! How good would it be if that aircraft could also find a permanent home at the Dunsfold site?

Dunsfold Aerodrome is also the semi-permanent home of the Brooklands-owned VC10 aircraft, which although not fit to fly, regularly starts up its engines for a short taxi round the runways. In addition, it is a base frequently used by a WW2 Dakota painted in D-Day landing colours.

In the past year, the Aerodrome has benefitted from a flurry of Listings of buildings on the near-intact and still operational airfield.   During 2017, Historic England listed as Grade II;

VSTOL Blast Pads

Engine Running Pens

Royal Observer Corps Monitoring Post

Canadian War Memorial

So are we about to see a resurgence of interest in Dunsfold Aerodrome becoming a living museum as the home of a VC10, Hunter XL623, and – possibly? – a base for the Red Arrows flight of Hawk jets?    Well, while the threat of obliteration of the aerodrome under housing development remains, this would seem a remote dream. But, surely, the site owners, who often cite their interest in the flying history of the airfield, would do well to consider how popular such a proposal might be, and how many tourists the new museum could attract? It may, just, be time for the planes to come home to Dunsfold.

Banner Image: Red Arrows at Dunsfold 2010. Image courtesy of Gareth Stringer

Collection of Photos from heyday of Dunsfold

Eric Hayward had worked at Dunsfold for many years and over that time was able to take photographs of the activities and aircraft that he saw.   His whole collection has been scanned and assembled into an album on Flickr.  Whilst it is a diverse collection, in no particular date order, many images are from Dunsfold, and some are of very significant aircraft.

If you can assist in identifying aircraft and locations, please do add the detail in the comment section.

Eric Hayward. Mainly Dunsfold

Open Day for VC10 at Dunsfold

On Saturday 15th July we will be holding an Open Day at Dunsfold Aerodrome for our VC10 ZA150, which lives there. This was the very last VC10 of 54 built at Brooklands in the 1960s and was one of the last two to fly with the RAF from Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. On its retirement in September 2013 it was acquired by Brooklands Museum and flew in to Dunsfold, where a team of dedicated volunteers maintain it in running order.

Entry is by pre-purchased ticket only and the timetable is as follows:

  • 12.00-14.00 Pre-booked visitors will arrive via Stovolds Hill
  • 13.00-13.15 Taxi run
  • 13.45-15.30 Visits on board in small groups
  • Last entry to Dunsfold will be 14.00

More info at Brooklands site.

Willards Farm Spitfire Crash

A Spitfire Mk XIV of the Flying Training Wing crashed at Willards Farm Dunsfold on 19th January 1945. The pilot – Flying Officer Fisher – bailed out and was injured.

Has anyone further information and about the cause of the crash and what became of the aircraft?

Spitfire Mk XIV similar to that involved in the crash at Willards Farm Dunsfold

Mystery Mitchell Crash Summer 1944

Bill Allom has asked for some more information on a number of incidents at Dunsfold during 1944 that don’t appear in our limited records.  Bills father was stationed at Dunsfold with 180 Sqdn.

1 – The first is about a Mitchell FL 217 that crashed on landing on 20/6/1944. Bill states: I think this date is correct my ORB copy is poor and hard to read”

2 – The second query:   Bill says:  ” My father returned on a mission with the hydraulics shot out. While the ORB does not indicate the plane crashed on landing it appears to never fly again.   This occurred on 24/7/1944 in Mitchell FW 185.  Dad records 40 hits a/c badly holed, hydraulics shot up. Could the undercarriage still be lowered with damaged hydraulics?   I am unable to confirm if this aircraft returned to service or was written off.  I hope you can help solve these mysteries.”

Continue reading “Mystery Mitchell Crash Summer 1944”

Harrier in private hands – XZ439

The legacy of the Dunsfold Harriers goes far and wide.   50 years on, and the Harrier is still flown in American skies.   Significantly the point is made that the Harrier was the only non-US aircraft used by the US Military since World War 1.

This story shows the passion of one man for the Harrier.    Art Nalls has had a life long dedication to flying. His addiction to the sky has lead him to an honourable military career and an even more adventurous retirement. Nalls has had the unique opportunity to purchase his own British Harrier Jump Jet. Now this retired Lt. Col test pilot uses his passion for flight to help preserve military history with the maintenance and upkeep of the last three remaining Sea Harriers. Continue reading “Harrier in private hands – XZ439”

Sea Fury

Hawker Sea Fury at Dunsfold, by Jonny White on Flickr

The Hawker Fury was designed to a RAF requirement for a ‘light Tempest’, which they had found to be very effective as a ground attack aircraft.  A lighter version, it was argued, would make a good fighter.  The Fury was built in the same general arrangement as the Hawker Tempest but with a reduced wingspan and with the Tempest II’s Bristol Centaurus engine, the first production aircraft flying in 1946.

However, with the end of the Second World War, the RAF decided that they would not proceed with this aircraft in favour of waiting to re-equip with jets.  At that time the Royal Navy felt that the operation of jet aircraft from ships flight decks was still something of an unknown quantity and instead specified a Naval variant of the Fury.

Re-designed with a strong point for a catapult strop, an arrester hook, folding wings and high energy absorption undercarriage the Sea Fury entered Naval service in 1947 as the Sea Fury F.10 (Fighters).  Like many aircraft of the day it could employ Rocket Assisted Take Off Gear to help a heavily laden aircraft achieve flying speed from the restricted length of a flight deck.

The Sea Fury was the Fleet Air Arm’s last piston-engined fighter to serve in front-line Squadrons.  The prototype Sea Fury first flew on 21 February 1945 and carried out deck landing trials in HMS Ocean in October of that year.  The first production aircraft (Mk.F.10) flew on 15 August 1946 and the first Squadron, No.807 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), re-equipped with F.10s at the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in late 1947.  The first Squadron to fly with the FB.11 variant, 802 NAS, re-formed in May 1948.  In all, fifty Sea Fury F.10s were built, followed by 615 Sea Fury FB.11s (Fighter Bombers), the last of which came off the production line in November 1952.

A 2-seat weapons trainer variant, the T.20, was also produced with the prototype flying in January 1948.  Quite apart from the obvious addition of the rear cockpit fitted with duplicated controls, the T.20 differed from its F.10 and FB.11 brethren in a number of ways: not being intended for carrier operations the arrester hook was removed, as was the retractable tailwheel unit – presumably the removal of the associated hydraulic jacks and piping going some way to help redress the centre of gravity issue caused by adding the second cockpit.

Training for carrier landings were carried out at Culdrose and often at nearby Predannack in what were termed Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landings (ADDLs) prior to aircrew getting to try the real thing.  Mounted between the front and rear cockpits a tripod periscope arrangement developed by Hawker enabled the instructor in the rear cockpit to see what the student in the front seat was viewing through his gyro gunsight.

This was probably all the instructor could see as those who have flown in the back seat will probably testify that visibility is, to say the least, dire!  Two of the Hispano Mk.5 20mm canon were deleted from the centre mainplanes in order to provide additional space to house equipment displaced from the fuselage by the addition of the rear cockpit.  A total of 60 of these aircraft were built.

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, the Sea Fury was the Fleet Air Arm’s leading single-seat fighter, and it fought with great distinction during the conflict.  The Sea Fury squadrons involved in Korea were 802 NAS (HMS Ocean), 807 NAS (HMS Theseus), 801 NAS and 804 NAS (HMS Glory) and 805 NAS and 808 NAS (HMAS Sydney).

The aircraft were used in the ground attack role armed with bombs and rockets and were also engaged in air-to-air combat with the much faster MiG-15.  On 9 August 1952 a Flight of Sea Furies from 802 NAS flown by Lieutenants Carmichael and Davis, and Sub-Lieutenants Haines and Ellis, were on an armed reconnaissance flight in an area just North of Chinimpo when they were attacked by eight enemy MiG-15s.

Despite the enemy’s superiority in numbers and a 200 mph speed advantage, the Sea Fury pilots shot down one MiG and badly damaged two others without incurring serious damage to their own aircraft.  As Flight leader, Lieutenant Carmichael was officially accredited with the ‘kill’ and was subsequently awarded the DSC for his heroism, but all of the other pilots officially claimed their quarter share.

With the advent of the introduction into Fleet Air Arm service of jet aircraft such as the Sea Hawk, the Sea Fury was relegated to second-line duties, with many being employed by the Air Branch of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR).  After the axing of the RNVR units in 1957 the majority of Sea Furies were scrapped.  Happily a handful survived to see service with the civilian-run Fleet Requirements Unit, used as ‘flying targets’ for the training of Royal Navy ship crews, until finally being retired in 1962 – the final piston-engined, fighter-type aircraft to see service in Royal Navy markings.