English Electric Lightning Mk1

This English Electric Lightning was on display at Duxford. The Lightning is a  twin-engine (Rolls-Royce Avon 301 afterburning turbojets) sweep-wing, single-seat, supersonic fighter.

English Electric Lightning

The English Electric Lightning is a British fighter aircraft that served as an interceptor during the 1960s, the 1970s and into the late 1980s. It remains the only UK-designed-and-built fighter capable of Mach 2. The Lightning was designed, developed, and manufactured by English Electric, which was later absorbed by the newly-formed British Aircraft Corporation.

This aircraft, XM135, was the second production Lightning. It served with the Air Fighting Development Unit at RAF Coltishall, Norfolk, for three years. It then joined No. 74 Squadron, and served until 1964 as part of the Fighter Command Aerobatic Team. After a period of storage and maintenance it joined the RAF Leuchars Target Facilities Flight in Fifeshire. The aircraft joined No. 60 Maintenance Unit in 1971, and was acquired by the Imperial War Museum in 1974.

In 1966, an RAF engineer, Wing Commander ‘Taff’ Holden, accidentally flew the aircraft. While carrying out a ground test, he inadvertently activated the aircraft’s afterburners, and was forced to take off. He was able to land it safely. ”I needed to do one more test. On opening the throttles for that final test, I obviously pushed them too far, misinterpreting the thrust…and they got locked into reheat… I had gained flying speed…and I had no runway left. I did not need to heave it off the runway, the previous test pilot had trimmed it exactly for take-off and with only a slight backward touch of the stick I was gathering height and speed… Once airborne, with adrenaline running rather high, I found myself in a rather unenviable position. No canopy, no radio, an unusable ejector seat, no jet flying experience, Comets and Britannias somewhere around me and speed building up…’