THE FRADU CANBERRAS

ENGLISH ELECTRIC CANBERRA TT.18 WK126 -'843'

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WK126's service history

WK126 was built by A.V.Roe Ltd at its Woodford factory, on the behalf of English Electric Aircraft Ltd. Declared ready for collection on 1st June 1954; the aeroplane entered Royal Air Force (RAF) service with RAF 9 Squadron (Sqn) based at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire. The aeroplane also saw service with RAF 100 Sqn at Wittering, but the dates and length of service are unknown at the time of writing. WK126's next confirmed movement is on 25th April 1967, when it was moved to the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) airfield at Warton, for conversion to TT.18 specification. It returned to the RAF and placed into store at RAF Shawbury, under the care of 27MU (Maintenance Unit), pending its future move.

On 13th November 1969 WK126 was transferred to the Royal Navy, and after a further period of storage was issued to Flight Refuelling Ltd at its Tarrant Rushton airfield on 18th June 1970. WK126 was then moved to Hurn airfield (now Bournemouth Airport), where it joined the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) as aeroplane '843', and it was maintained under contract by Airwork Services Ltd. Operating regularly on target facilities work WK126 continued to fly in and out of Hurn until it moved, along with the FRU unit to RNAS Yeovilton in November 1972. The following month, the FRU merged with the Yeovilton-based Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU) and as a result became the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Training Unit (FRADTU).

The aeroplane remained in service for the next six months, when it was withdrawn and moved to RAF Aldergrove for a major inspection. Returning to FRADU (the word Training was dropped from the Unit's title) in February 1974, WK126 was operated without incident until it was taken out of service again in March 1979, this time for a thorough refurbishment at Warton. WK126 returned to Yeovilton to begin another spell of steady service as '843' on 15th October 1980, receiving some modifications at RAF St Athan (Jan-April 1983) before it was returned there for a period of store in June 1983.

Following two years on the ground, WK126 was sent to Salmesbury for a major inspection in December 1985 prior to re-entering Fleet Air Arm service.
On 21st April 1986 the aeroplane was back at Yeovilton, and remained in use until the winter of 1988 when it was again returned to St Athan for long term storage. Between January and October 1990 it was operated by FRADU, but spent the remainder of its Fleet Air Arm career as a reserve aeroplane, prior to be released for disposal in July 1993.



[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Dave Jones]

[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Mike Bajcar]

[ Bob Turner]
 
 
 

WK126's civilian life

WK126 was entered into the July 1993 Phillips auction, but apparently failed to attract a buyer. The aeroplane was eventually sold to an American buyer, who in turn sold it onto another owner based in the USA. It was placed on the US register as N2138J, and work was begun to restore WK126 to flying condition, that would allow it to make the ferry flight to its new home. Unfortunately, this plan did not proceed and WK126 was sold to a UK-based owner instead, its flying days permanently over.

WK126 was dismantled and moved by road to Hucclecote on 13th June 1995, and placed on loan to the Gloucestershire Aviation Collection (GAC). Its stay turned out to be very short, as it was relocated to Gloucestershire Airport at Staverton by the end of the year, due to the GAC having to move out of its accommodation at Hucclecote. The Canberra then became a popular exhibit in the collection, which subsequently became known as the Jet Age Museum until the group had to move out again, due to developments at the Airport. Due to the Museum effectively becoming homeless, WK126 was moved into store at a private site, but was subsequently moved back to Staverton after that storage location became unavailable!

During January 2011, the Jet Age Museum received the encouraging news that planning permission has been approved for its proposed new hangar. Full permission from the UK Secretary of State will still have to be granted in order for construction to start, but WK126's future as an exhibit is now looking more encouraging.


[ Tim Radford]

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