Most of Lee's jet movements in the early 1970's were generated by NATIU (Naval Trials Installation Unit) situated in the `T2' hangar (Overlord) adjacent to the Main Camp. At that time NATIU were modifying Hunter GA.11s for Fleet Requirement duties with FRADU at Yeovilton.
This year sees the 40th Anniversary of an event by which an immaculate and NATIU modified Hunter departed Lee for delivery to Yeovilton for FRADU's use - but it never got there, being "delivered" instead to the Royal Navy Air Accident Unit (located at Lee) by means of spashdown in the Solent itself, recovery by floating crane and barge, use of the slipway at Fleetlands and road transport from there back to Lee for accient investigation.
The RN ferry pilot received only minor injuries and flew again soon afterwards. In fact he didn't even get his feet wet. The accident cause was found and the Hunter was written off - ending up with the UK Atomic Energy Authority in a laboratory at their Lightning Studies Unit, at Culham near Abingdon.
At the end of it's time at Culham - itself a former Royal Navy Air Satation (RNAS Hornbill) - the by now also heavily 'lightning striked', damaged airframe was to be disposed of. Normally it would have been scrapped but as aviation enthusiast Mr Dave Webb had shown interest in the aircraft sometime previously he was contacted and alternative arrangements were made. Today the immaculately restored Hunter cockpit section is exhibited at various aviation events by Mr Webb.
So it is, that this weekend, by this even more circuitous route, the Hunter is set to return to Lee YET AGAIN! The cockpit section will be on display at Lee's Hovercraft Museum Open Days on Sat/Sun 28/29th April. It is planned that the aircraft's last pilot, Lt Mike Sharp, will be re-united from the cockpit he ejected from four decades ago and share his experiences.
To help fund the appearance of the Hunter Cockpit at the open day Mr Bob Wealthy of Solent AeroMarine has produced a
pamphlet (£3) telling the story of the accident, including pilot and eye-witness accounts, plus photographs of its recovery and the story of the cockpit restoration. It is an interesting read.
It is of course now perfectly possible to fly in to Lee these days - no PPR required by the Airfield Operator FlyBN (02392 551714). Visiting Pilot Guide (PDF file) is at: http://www.eghf.co.uk/images/stories...ril%202012.pdf
or google "Lee Flying Association" and see the "Visiting Pilot" link.
The Hovercraft Museum is 100 yards from the Tower so if you'd like to visit the Hovershow Open Day(s) by air you can - do have a look at their excellent event page at Hovercraft Museum Charity Website
The Gosport Aviation Society and Lee Flying Association will be setting up table-top displays inside one of the two massive ex-cross-channel Princess Class Hovercraft (shown arrving at Lee here
) so please stop by and say "Hi".