HAWKER HUNTER GA.11 WT744 - '868'

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WT744's service history

Hawker Aircraft Ltd. built WT744 as a Hunter Mk.4 for the Royal Air Force at its Kingston-upon-Thames factory, and it took its first flight on 28th February 1955 at the hands of Duncan Simpson.
Following its necessary flight tests, the aeroplane was handed over to the RAF at Kemble on 25th March 1955, where it was placed into the care of 5MU (Maintenance Unit) for service preparation. The aeroplane was issued to the Air Fighting Development School(AFDS) based at RAF West Raynham and used for training duties. It's next posting was to RAF 247(F) Sqn based at RAF Odiham, where the Hunter F.4 proved to be a very popular aeroplane amongst its pilots and groundcrew.
In 1960, the aeroplane was withdrawn and placed in store.

One of 40 Hunter F.4s transferred to the Royal Navy from the RAF, WT744 was converted to GA.11 specification by Hawker Aircraft Ltd at Kingston-upon-Thames. Following flight tests from Dunsfold, the aeroplane was handed over to the Fleet Air Arm on 14th February 1963 at RNAS Lossiemouth, and a week later it entered Squadron service with 738NAS (Navy Air Squadron). Assigned the identity '641', WT744 was employed on training duties and it moved to RNAS Brawdy in December 1963 with the Unit, where it was later re-coded '781'. The aeroplane was transferred to 764NAS at RNAS Lossiemouth on 17th February 1966, but was placed in store at Kemble with 5MU six months later. During March 1967, WT744 was put back into service as '691', which began an eventful second spell with 764NAS when it suffered damage caused by GA.11 XF300 during a landing incident.
On 7th January 1972, the aeroplane was moved to Kemble for maintenance, and was returned to Lossiemouth for a third spell with 764NAS as '692' with a 'LM' shore code on the fin in July. This proved to be only a three-week stint, as it was returned to Kemble in August for fitment of a Harley light, and then subsequently placed in long term store.

The aeroplane was held in reserve, aside from a brief period with Hawker Siddeley at Bitteswell (March-August 1976) until February 1977, when it was issued to the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) fleet at RNAS Yeovilton as '692' but this was promptly changed to '868'. Later that year it suffered a multiple bird-strike, but continued in service until May 1984, aside from spells at Kemble (April-June 1980) for re-finishing, and RAF Abingdon for modernisation (April-August 1982).
On 2nd May 1984, the aeroplane was ferried to RAF St Athan for re-finishing into dark sea grey, returning to Yeovilton inside the same month. It remained a part of the FRADU fleet, aside from a spell on the ground at Hurn between November 1990 and January 1992 where it received a full overhaul by Lovaux Ltd, until its final military flight on 10th March 1994. The aeroplane was placed in store, and offered for disposal via tender.

[ Chris England]

[ Eric Tammer]

[ Hans Rolink]

[ Peter Mitrovitch]

[ Rob Schleiffert]

WT744's civilian life

WT744 was acquired by the South West Aviation Heritage group, and was moved by road from Yeovilton to its new home at Eaglescott Aerodrome in Devon where it remained for the next fifteen years in open store.

During 2009, it was acquired by a private owner based in Ilfracombe, Devon and was moved to an Industrial Estate within the town where restoration was due to begin. In May 2016 it moved on again, to a location in Saunton in Devon.

- December 2020

[ Paul Fiddian]

[ Mike Rigby]
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