My fascination with the English Electric Lightning started in 1979, still in the RAF I was posted back to RAF Binbrook from RAF Laarbruch in Germany after 3 great years working on the Buccaneer. 5 Squadron was my allocated work place as an aircraft Electrician, working 2nd Line servicing in the Hangar with support for 1st Line as required. I was lucky to get a squadron posting and to be able to work on this iconic cold war aircraft was a bonus, the only RAF British built supersonic fast jet to have graced the skies. I soon discovered just how much TLC this jet needed to stay serviceable and in the end it was the ratio of man hours to flying time that decided her fate, coupled with airframe fatigue, the Lightning was replaced with the Tornado. Today the Lightning still survives as a revered icon that generates great interest with the British public,

Early days at Binbrook during a Taceval exercise, me on the left working from an ORP at the end of the runway. Aircraft would be made ready on the squadron line the taxi up to the ORP awaiting instruction from Op's what their mission was and usually only parked there for a short stay, before taxiing straight on to the main runway and airborne. Occasionally the wait was slightly longer and with engines still running would need topping up with fuel. A fuel bowser would be parked nearby just for this event and if required would refuel the aircraft while the starter fuel would also be topped up. It was an exciting job, and one which was sought after during exercises, the alternative was to be back on the squadron site and employed on guard duty and all that entailed. Nothing better than being on active aircraft essential work.

Binbrook Q shedQRA duty which both 5 and 11 Squadron Lightnings took turns in doing, was a weekly duty which involved staying at the QRA shed with two fully functional armed aircraft, sleeping accommodation and a kitchen all included, with probably the best rations ever served up on an RAF unit, best of everything for the lads. Most of the time there was spent prepping the aircraft for immediate launch, should the alarm klaxon sound. Aircrew also shared this accommodation with their own quarters, always at the ready for a quick launch. In the picture, me hands in pockets, supervising a flight servicing, one of many.

Note the yellow nose wheel guide, this was used for a hands free taxi from the shed, also the red 2x2 wooden canopy prop, this was always in place to save the canopy from closing as it would without hydraulic pressure, the pilot once strapped in and engines running, would having now got sufficient hydraulic power, use the switch to raise the canopy fully, and elbow the 2x2 out as he moved off. It was a very short taxi to the runway, and usually in reheat just as he lined up for take off. So a QRA launch would take just minutes to get airborne.

AkrotiriAnother perk of squadron life was the annual gun firing practice camp, a 5-6 week holiday out to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. The squadron pilots had to brush up on their gun firing skills, firing the Lightning's Aden guns at a banner which was towed behind a Canberra. We worked 12 hour shifts and then 12 hours off, plenty of time to enjoy the delights of the island and get a good sun tan whilst doing so. We flew out there by C-130 Hercules from Binbrook and always returned by VC10 which was a luxury compared to the former.

Plenty of eateries just outside camp and of course a short bus trip into Limmasol which had lots of nice bars and cafe's to enjoy the local food and drink. Back in those days 80's. the tavernas used to supply house red wine, Kokanelli and fresh crusty bread while waiting on your meal being served, something I believe is no more done. It was inexpensive to dine out and of course they got plenty of custom from us. To cool down in the evenings we sometimes went to the station cinema, the coolest place to be. I managed to get out there several times during my Lightning days. Many happy memories of times well spent, never to be forgotten.

RAF ValleyAfter 3 years on 5 Squadron I got promoted to Sgt and took up my new post with Lightning Training flight which was the next hangar along from 5's. I now had a role as Electrical trade manager with the extra responsibilities which that entailed. An enjoyable experience and worked with a good bunch of guys there. Even managed to exchange with my opposite number on 5 squadron and got a last trip out to Cyprus, so can't be bad.

The picture here is another role played by the Lightnings, Missile Practice camp at RAF Valley in Wales, usually lasting 2 weeks. The aircraft this time homing in on a remote controlled target drone the Jindavic which itself  towed IR targets for the missiles to home in on. On occasion, one Jindavic was accidentally shot down itself, resulting in a week of inactivity till a new one was made serviceable. Not a very good picture this one, but you can just make me out sitting on the wing, second from the right, the grey hair is a giveaway here.

Six years spent at Binbrook and an end to my Lightning involvement 1985, apart from taking over the Lightning Association website, which kept me busy for a while. Then in 2009 I had a call from an ex 5 squadron pal who asked me if I fancied a trip up to Bruntingthorpe Airfield where they have two Lightnings XS904 and XR728 which are kept in remarkable condition and do fast taxi runs with reheat, the nearest thing you will ever get to seeing these jets perform everything other than actually fly. The CAA will not grant a license for flight due to many reasons unfortunately, but if you have never been to Bruntingthorpe and seen the Lightning Preservation Groups jets perform, you have missed out big time.

After that initial trip to Bruntingthorpe, I found myself hooked on the old cold war icon and since then have gone up there whenever I get the opportunity. Working with a good few of my old buddies and found it amazing after all these years, how much you remember. Have helped on several engine changes, anti-deterioration ground runs, electrical problems, just like being back at Binbrook. The LPG participate in the 2 annual open days with numerous other cold war jets fast taxiing and thrilling the public. This year I was voted in as an honorary member of the LPG which was a welcome honour. So my involvement with the Lightning continues as does the enthusiasm, especially seeing and hearing all the compliments paid for the efforts of the team, makes it worth while. Check the link to the LPG above, for the latest open days, something not to miss.


English Electric Lightning 60th Anniversary 27th July 2014 with the Lightning Preservation Group at Bruntingthorpe Airfield. To celebrate the occasion a double QRA Lightning scramble simulation was carried out with all the commentary from an ex Lightning Fighter controller on the tannoy.  The aircraft had been prepared during the weekend and were all set to be launched from the QRA shed. The LPG shop doubling as the QRA crewroom for pilots and groundcrew. The Pilots for both aircraft XR728 and XS904 both FMk6 Lightnings were John Ward and Dennis Brooks, both ex Lightning pilots who as LPG members run these aircraft at all the Cold War events here at Bruntingthorpe.

I travelled down there with some ex 5 Squadron pals, expecting to help out on the final preparations, but was surprised and privileged to be asked to be one of the starter crew team looking after XR782 for the day. Along with Pete O'Callaghan, Max Waldron and pilot Dennis Brooks. The scene was set, crew and pilots had a briefing in the QRA shed, then it was off to the crewroom to await the tannoy for the scramble. QRA1 was first to go and looked superb, doing what it was built for, hot footing it out of the shed fast taxi to the runway and off she went in full reheat.

Then QRA2 our aircraft was called to duty and off we ran from the crewroom into the QRA shed, External power applied to the aircraft as the pilot was strapped in, start No1 followed by start No2 and she was ready for action, external power disconnected and with the mighty Rolls Royce Avon's in idle, off she went out of the shed and off down the taxiway to the runway, then with full reheat applied, sped down the runway. Must admit the excitement was still there after 29 years since I last worked on these aircraft for real at RAF Binbrook. Many thanks to the LPG team for looking after the aircraft and keeping them in such good shape that the public can see how awesome the Lightning is in all its glory. I never had the chance to get any photos of my own this trip, but have to thank the photographers who captured superb shots of the occasion for recording a special event.

Crew briefing in the QRA shed, credit to Scott McPhee for the photograph.

QRA2 groundcrew preparing for launch, from left to right myself, Pete O'Callaghan, Max Waldron holding the ladders and Dennis Brooks about to enter the cockpit. Credit for the photo to Scott McPhee.

Pete O'Callaghan signaling to me to get ready for external power disconnect. Credit for the photo to Scott McPhee

QRA1 and QRA2 returning back up the runway, mission accomplished. Photo credited to Scott McPhee. Many thanks to all who attended the celebration and trust you had a great experience seeing these two Cold War icons doing what they were intended to do.

 I hope you have enjoyed reading about my passion for the English Electric Lightning, if you would like a larger photograph of any of the ones shown, please email me

I have compiled a pdf file of my 22 years in the Royal Air Force from 1971 to 1993 which is a lighthearted look at how life in the military was for me. I managed to find a lot of photographs to add to the written text account, I hope you will enjoy reading it, may bring back memories for those that served in the RAF. If I had my time again, I would probably do it all again. with a few changes here and there, hindsight is a grand thing. As it is now in retirement, I enjoy being able to pass on what I learnt working on the Lightning.



This is a PDF file, if you want to read the story, please email me here and I will send it to you.


Have recently set up a new website which was requested by David Harvey and Colin Murray as a gateway to an extensive English Electric Lightning database, photo albums and a host of other Lightning information. The aim was to have one source of information for the Lightning enthusiasts. You can look up all the airframes by serial number and you can find out everything related to that particular aircraft and lots more. The database spreadsheet is constantly being updated and stored on a Google document. Well worth the visit, you won't be disappointed. Click here

A must have for all English Electric Lightning enthusiasts, superbly cast coin which comes in a lovely presentation box. Images show front and reverse


  
Crafted by  Clubcoinsuk you can find them here

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