View Full Version : English Electric Lightning

Ian Fleming
21st Mar 2003, 22:11
I was watching a TV show last night, and in it a young woman was given a ride in an English Electric Lightning. On the side of the aircraft was a web address, www.Thundercity.com. (Hope I can do this!) Anyway, a vist to the site says they operate the last two operational 2 seat Lightnings as well a single seater, as well as a Hunter and a Buccaneer. Based in South Africa, you can buy a ride in the Lightning (O-50,000 ft in 60 seconds) for $9,000 Dollars!

I remember as an ATC cadet in the early 60's watching a pilot in a simulator take a Lightning through it's paces, at RAF Scampdon? I wondered when the Lightning was taken out of service in the UK.

I also remember seeing at least 6 Lightnings sitting at Kuwait City airport in 1976 or 77, and I wondered if anyone knew what had become of them. (And whatever happened to the Cheiftain MBT's I was commissioning for the Q8-ti government when I saw them, for that matter. Do tanks rust in the desert?).
Wonderful looking aeroplane, the Lightning, and what a sight to see, taking off with full reheat. Quite a performer.

22nd Mar 2003, 01:21
The Lightning was retired from RAF service in 1988. RAF Scampton was once a Vulcan base. Perhaps you were visiting the Lightning base at RAF Binbrook, also in Lincolnshire, when you were an ATC cadet?

22nd Mar 2003, 09:31
Saw a Lightning rehearsing a display at Coltishall, late sixties or very early seventies.

22nd Mar 2003, 16:28
Scampton never had any connection with the Lightning - it was a long-time Vulcan (and before that Canberra) base, and it certainly never had a Lightning simulator. I suspect Spekesoftly is correct - you must have visited Binbrook (isn't the visit logged in your ATC logbook?)

22nd Mar 2003, 16:56
I worked at Prestwick, ScATCC, 1978-82. One year the Prestwick Airshow had a Lightning. After a lot of co-ordination between the tower and us, we gave the tower up to FL250 overhead the field for a few minutes. Lightning took off runway 31 and climbed vertically to FL250. Levelled off and turned cross wind, downwind and landed back on runway 31. Unbelievable.

Mr G.

Ian Fleming
22nd Mar 2003, 17:21
Spekesoftly, FJJP,
The haze of time has obscured my memory, too much Gin I suspect. I believe you are right, it was Binbrook where I saw the Lightning sim, must have traveled up from Scampdon for a day or two's visit during the summer camp.

As for my ATC years, I joined 308 squadron in Colchester in 1960, "served" until 1965. Sadly in my move to the U.S, my logbooks went missing, but I do remember flying several times in Chipmunks at Cambridge, a Hastings in Stormy Island?, and once in a Beverly, but can't remember where. I'm fairly sure I went to 'camp' each summer, but once again the gin has interfered with the locations.

I do remember the 'Officers' of the Squadron sitting around one night talking about their wartime experiences in Bomber Command flying Wellingtons, Lancaster's, and Halifax's. All are probably gone now, along with those memories, "Like tears in rain". Today I feel privileged to have been there, and to have been allowed to share those memories with them.

I have been an ex pat for many years now, please tell me is the ATC still in in existance? I learned so much from that organisation, and so did many of the friends I made there. It would be a pity if the teenagers of today were deprived of such an opertunity.

22nd Mar 2003, 17:32
If you are interested in the Lightning you might like to refer to a thread I started on Nov. 27th last year on this forum. Called XS937/M. All about Lightning crashes/incidents. If I was really clever, I would put in a link for you, but as I am a clutz, you will have to do it the hard way and find it yourself !!!!

Mr G.

22nd Mar 2003, 17:35
Ian - regarding surviving Lightnings in Kuwait, there are a few - see my website:

Thunder & Lightnings (http://www.thunder-and-lightnings.co.uk)

22nd Mar 2003, 18:38
For Stormy Island read Thorney Island. The ATC is very much in existance. See


22nd Mar 2003, 21:25
Mr_Grubby's post (http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?threadid=73801&highlight=xs937)

23rd Mar 2003, 01:18
Superb website DamienB.

Always did wonder what had become of the airframes up at Cranfield. Recall seeing several parked in formation years ago and was told they were privately owned.

Noah Zark.
23rd Mar 2003, 20:46
Ian Fleming.
According to a popular AvMag article (Pictures & text) here in the U.K., an outfit calling itself Anglo-American Lightning Organisation, based at Stennis, Mississippi, has an E.E. Lightning T.5 (XS422) almost airworthy.
There is an address to join the supporter's group, which amongst other things gives members, quote " Access to this fascinating project for visitors to the Mississippi airfield." unquote.
(By the way, I am in no way connected to this organisation, and am therefore not "drumming up" custom!)
Although I do wish them well with the project, and the organisation in Thunder City for keeping these magnificent beasts alive.
Pity we can't have the same level of understanding / leniency / help / support / w.h.y.? here in the U.K. so we can enjoy one of the greatest ever aeronautical spectacles yet again.
If you need the address of the above, come back to me.

India Four Two
25th Mar 2003, 06:19
Here's the URL of the US Lightning site (http://www.lightningusa.org/index.html)

28th Mar 2003, 16:56
The last Lightnings in use in the UK were the two seater chase aircraft that were used at warton during the Tornado programme.

These used to be used for chase trials during post production trials. I am certain that they were there until around 1992.

28th Mar 2003, 17:30
By all accounts the CAA will not let a civvy registered Lightning in the UK as there is nothing capable of catching it if things "get out of hand".
Seeing the list of a/c flown in by the ATC cadet above, what else have others flown in as Air cadets?
As a member of the ATC 1970 to 1979 I flew in:
Lancaster (B of B flight)
Phantom (sim)
Cessna 172
Kirby Cadet
Short Belfast

28th Mar 2003, 22:40
when i was in the cadets i flew in a Hercules Mk3, Tristar KC over the north sea refuelling Taornado GR1's from Germany, Chipmunk, one of there last cadet flights from Cambridge, Bulldog... Taxiied in an F3.... oh the memories!!!

My father has always told me about a lightning that took off from Hatfield aerodrome in the 60's/70's?? went into its vertical climb out where upon its engine cut.... the pilot ejected and went rocketing into some nearby green houses! never seen anything written about it though?? anyone can shed any light??

28th Mar 2003, 22:53
There is an excellent photo of that Lightning just after George Aird ejected...

...and here it is: http://www.aeropages.co.za/ThisnThat3.html

29th Mar 2003, 09:02
Stuff I logged while in the ATC (1982 - 1989):

Chipmunks - first one was WB569, she lives in hangar 2 north at Duxford now. Belongs to someone else, but she'll always be mine... <sigh> ;) Most of my AEF was at Cambridge.
The Husky - at Cambridge, think she's still flying somewhere.
Cessna 150 - a jolly at Bourn in return for painting the runway, followed by thirty hours in the beasts on a flying Scholarship.
Venture T1's - did my BGT in these before I passed my driving test. :cool:
Jag T2 - scared to death in one of these at Coltishall. But I loved every minute of it! :D
Oddly enough, I also logged five minutes in a hovercraft at Ramsgate in 1982. We were at summer camp at RAF Manston at the time, and being a bit young and silly, I got a little bit too eager with the logbook I think... Ah, what the heck, it was off the ground, so it counts. :p

Also remember stooging around in Pumas and Chinooks at some point in the dim past, but I think that was all with the TA a few years later, as were the US Army UH60 and UH1, which we rapelled out of on exercise one year. Great fun!

Rhino power
30th Mar 2003, 03:05
maninblack, the last Lightnings operated in the U.K. by BAe in support of the ongoing Foxhunter radar development trials were actually F.6s, not T.5s, the airframes in question were XS904, XS928 and XP693 which was also used to investigate the causes of Lightning re-heat fires, this particular airframe actually started life as an F.3 and remained with BAe for its whole career having never served with the RAF.

Regards, Rp

I. M. Esperto
2nd Apr 2003, 03:31
Sorry Gent's, but this is The Lightning:

2nd Apr 2003, 14:51
Have to agree IM; I am a great admirer of the EE Lightining, but as a Big Piston Fan the P-38 does get my vote. Mind you, its rate of climb isn't quite as good...:p

Oscar Duece
2nd Apr 2003, 15:42
If only EE had put the avons side by side, lightened the airframe a bit (it was overdesigned for mach speed) and given it a lot more fuel capacity. What could have been... A British export success like the MD Phantom ??

Sadly we were never to design and build a top line fighting bird on our own ever again. TSR2 in the scrap bin and what about that concept aircraft just before the tornado thing started. Couldn't we have build that ourselves. Hell even the loony French could see it would be cheaper and better to stay out of the Tornado and Eurofighter programes. 'On budget and on time' are swear words for the British defence industry.........

I. M. Esperto
2nd Apr 2003, 19:12
Here's it's humble beginnings:


Dr Illitout
3rd Apr 2003, 19:00
the P-38 and the E.E. "Frightening" are both things of beauty, but did you know that one of the many things the Lockheed YF-22 was called was the Lightning 2?. I distinctly remember seeing a photo taken at a roll out ceremony with a YF-22 and a P-38 together. Lightning 3 maybe!!!!. I also remember hearing that some clown in the pentagon then re-named the YF-22 the Superstar!!!. But I digress. I wonder if we will ever see the Stennis Lightning in formation with the Lockheed example?. By the way did'nt Lockheed make some wonderful aircraft?
Rgds Dr.I

4th Apr 2003, 14:25
My vote for the scariest 'Frightning' story goes to the engineering officer who inadvertantly took off in a Lightning at RAF Lyneham when he was doing some checks. He had no bang seat, canopy or radio and had to do a couple of overshoots before he got it back on the ground. Years later he had a nervous breakdown. The aircraft is now at Duxford.

Dr Illitout
4th Apr 2003, 16:52
That "inadvertant" take off always makes me smile!!. If an aircraft on a high power engine run,has a brake "Failure" and then jumps the chocks. The first thing you do instictivly is to chop the throttles!!. Your don't leave the thing on full throttle long enough to gain enough speed to do a flapless take off!!!. When ever I have done a high power run and had an engine "surge" on me, I am amazed how quick I can get the throttles back to Idle.
Rgds Dr.I.

henry crun
4th Apr 2003, 17:03
I think the story has been embellished somewhat over the years.

I am fairly sure it took place at St Athan and the tech officer in question was doing a brake check which involved a fairly fast run down the runway, but it got away from him.

4th Apr 2003, 17:51
The 'fright' happened at 33 MU Lyneham and the story goes that the engineer was checking a fault with the UHF radio which only happened when high power was selected. The MU usually borrowed a Lightning pilot from nearby Boscombe Down but on that day no one was available. During a test run the engineer engaged reheat by mistake and suddenly saw a vehicle crossing the runway in front of him so he hauled it into the air to avoid hitting it, only then did he realise his situation.

He was Wg Cdr Walter Holden, who wrote his story in Air Clues many years ago.

henry crun
4th Apr 2003, 18:02
Thank you Wub, I knew someone would tell me if I was wrong.;)