Grounded Lightning

Possibly not something you expect to find in the middle of the British countryside – this 1960s era English Electric Lightning languishes in a field close to the town of Darlington in Northern England, a far cry from it’s previous role of defending the country’s nuclear strike ‘V Bomber’ air bases during the heightening tensions of the Cold War.

Ready for herding cattle at Mach 2. Well, after a few repairs at least.
Ready for herding cattle at Mach 2. Well, after a few repairs at least.

The Lightning officially entered service with the RAF in 1960, following the production of several prototypes that began development shortly after WWII. Several incremental variants were produced in the decades that followed, until it’s role was gradually diminished with the arrival of more modern aircraft, and then was finally retired in 1988 with the RAF gravitating towards the Panavia Tornado.

This particular plane – Registration XR718 is an F.3 variant, and served with a number of RAF squadrons (info here if you’re interested) – undergoing constant repainting, as each outfitted it in their own trademark liveries; often in incredibly distinctive colour schemes until it was decided that they were so distinctive, they would most likely give enemy aircraft an easier time spotting it, and so the palettes were eventually adjusted towards darker, more muted designs. After it’s flying career, it was used as a teaching aid for RAF mechanics as part of Battle Damage Repair Training which explains the numerous patchwork repairs evident on much of the airframe.

The tail is now missing most of it's fins, however I've heard that they should still be in storage nearby; so could still be reassambled.
The tail is now missing most of it's fins, however I've heard that they should still be in storage nearby; so could still be reassambled.
Slightly confusing - This roundel appears to have been the standard livery of the now defunct RAF 111 Squadron, but it doesn't seem like XR718 ever served there. It might well have been added during the later 'grounded' period of it's life.
Slightly confusing - This roundel appears to have been the standard livery of the now defunct RAF 111 Squadron, but it doesn't seem like XR718 ever served there. It might well have been added during the later 'grounded' period of it's life.
Try as I might, I can't seem to find a positive ID for this emblem - possibly it's a late addition by No. 11 Squadron - the last to which XR718 was assigned.
Try as I might, I can't seem to find a positive ID for this emblem - possibly it's a late addition by No. 11 Squadron - the last to which XR718 was assigned.
It might take more than a refuel to get her flying again.
It might take more than a refuel to get her flying again.
The aircraft is a treasure trove of interesting and corroded textures.
The aircraft is a treasure trove of interesting and corroded textures.
The Armament Safety Break definitely looks broken to me.
The Armament Safety Break definitely looks broken to me.
Languishing amongst the thistles in a Yorkshire field.
Languishing amongst the thistles in a Yorkshire field.

These days it’s in the hands of a collector who, alongside the Lightning; owns several cockpits from iconic British jets that at one, time judging from other’s photos, were scattered around his farm (although I saw no evidence of them on my visit – possibly locked away out of sight). Now it sits, gradually corroding and providing a home for the many spiders who’ve taken shelter within it – possibly awaiting an eventual restoration, although it’s days of attaining 2500 kmh at Mach 2 are most definitely over.

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