A fantastic opportunity has arisen for CAHC which we have grasped with both hands!
The RAF Cosford Air Show 2018 will be very special with celebrations of the centenary of the RAF, a part of which will be a unique display line-up of 100 aircraft from throughout the Royal Air Force’s history. To assist with this the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre has been asked to loan our English Electric Lightning ZF580 to form part of a Quick Reaction Alert line-up alongside a selection of other QRA aircraft, positioned together to showcase the evolution of air defence fighters which have defended Great Britain’s airspace since the 1950s, one of the Royal Air Force’s primary roles.
Needless to say, the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre is delighted to participate. In February GJD Services will collect the airframe from CAHC and transport it to their new base at St. Athan, where she will stop off for restoration and new paintwork. GJD will then deliver her to RAF Cosford in early June to take her place in the line-up. After the Centenary events ZF580 will return to Cornwall for display at her permanent home at CAHC.
It is a real compliment to be asked by the RAF Cosford to loan an aircraft for this event, not just to CAHC but to its outstanding force of volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain the ever-growing fleet of aircraft and to greet, inform and entertain our thousands of visitors every year.
ZF580 is in fact an F.53 version, originally built for the Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force (53-672). She first flew on 28/11/67, piloted by none less than Roland Beamont of Canberra and TSR2 fame and interestingly her 7th flight was a demonstration to some Kuwaiti guests which helped seal the very important deal for the Kuwaiti Air Force Lightning purchase.
ZF580 was subsequently delivered to Saudi Arabia in 1968, operating on active service in the air defence and ground attack roles with the tail number 53-672. As an F.53, she was equipped with interchangeable gun, missile and SNEB rocket packs and extra hard points below and, at that time uniquely, above the wings. Ed Rundle, one of CAHC’s stalwart volunteers, actually maintained ZF580/53-672 out in the Middle East, working on secondment from BAC/BAE in various senior engine and propulsion roles between 1974 and 1986. Ed’s knowledge of ZF580, her innards and her history is of enormous value to CAHC and we are very grateful for his help.
At the end of her service ZF580 returned to the UK on 14/1/86, arriving at BAE Warton and, after 2,304 flying hours followed by a period of external storage, she was mounted on a pole as the Samlesbury BAE gateguard in 1990. The GRP replica English Electric Lightning that you see displayed today outside BAE’s headquarters alongside a replica Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II was fabricated by Gateguards UK (our next-door neighbours) using moulds taken from ZF580 herself.
After restoration by GJD her new colour scheme will be that of an RAF 74 “Tiger” Squadron aircraft, circa 1970, the classic silver of RAF Lightnings seen streaking through the UK’s skies to fend off intruders throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
RAF Cosford Air Show Operations Manager, Mr Peter Reoch said, “Having an English Electric Lightning is vital to our RAF100 line-up, being an icon of the RAF during the Cold War. We’re very pleased that the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre & GJD Services are providing us with ZF580 to be part of our unique display.”
Co-founder of the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre, Richard Spencer-Breeze said, “It is a great honour for the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre to be asked loan our English Electric Lightning for the RAF100 QRA line up and we are tremendously grateful to GJD Services for their hard work restoring and transporting the aircraft on our behalf. Many of CAHC’s staff, volunteers and visitors have happy associations with RAF Cosford and this is a unique opportunity to contribute to the RAF Centenary celebrations at the same time as strengthening our relationship with the Royal Air Force.”