HAWKER SEA FURY FB.11 TF956
Built at Langley as the first production FB.11 for the Royal Navy,
TF956 first flew on 5th September 1947. It was delivered to RNAS
Culdrose a month later, but was immediately placed in store. A move to
Stretton followed in July 1948, where it was readied for service. A
month later it entered service as '108/JR' with 805 Squadron, Royal
Australian Navy, based at RNAS Eglinton. This Unit was 'working up' in
the UK before returning to Australia.
From August 1949 TF956 was used by 799 NAS, based at RNAS
Yeovilton. It was then moved to Anthorn in January 1950 to be readied
for a voyage to Asia and ultimately Korea. It was loaded onto HMS
Warrior and carried to Sembawang for re-assembly and testing. On
October 24th 1950 TF956 joined 807NAS, becoming '123/T', the 'T'
representing HMS Theseus. The aircraft 213 hours in the Korean War
conflict, and was hit by flak several times. It returned to the UK
aboard Theseus, and was ferried to Fleetlands in May 1951.
During May 1953 TF956 joined 738 NAS at RNAS Culdrose as '125/CW' and remained in use for a year. From 1954 to early 1960 it was again in store, emerging in May 1960 when it was transferred to the Fleet Requirements Unit at Hurn. In November 1962 it was struck off Navy charge.
In January 1963 Hawkers bought the airframe back from the Navy, and
it was flown to Dunsfold where, yet again, it was placed in store. A
few years later the aircraft was placed on rebuild, albeit at a slow
pace. When completed it would join the company's 'Hawker Historic
Flight alongside the Company Hurricane 'hack' PZ865.
As soon as the aircraft arrived through the gates at Yeovilton, a team
of Fleet Air Arm engineers re-commenced the restoration. The project
was duly completed in December 1971, and on 16th January 1972, TF956
was test flown with Hawker's Chief Test Pilot Duncan Simpson at the
controls. Five days later, the airframe was officially handed over to
the RNHF, resplendent in its 807NAS Korean War livery.
She flew with the RNHF regularly for the next seventeen years, and was seen at events across the UK, and was a frequent sight over the Yeovilton area during the summer months.
Unfortunately the aircraft was lost in a flying accident ion 10th
June 1989. Shortly after taking off from RNAS Prestwick, the pilot, Lt Cdr. John
Beattie retracted the undercarriage, but one wheel retracted and
locked, the other didn't lock.
The pilot was then stuck with an aircraft with only one wheel down, and one that would be highly likely to turn upside down and catch fire in any attempted forced landing. There were various systems to help this hydraulic problem, all were tried, but none managed to break the locks, as the hydraulic leak was so large. Despite nearly three hours of frantic "po-going" along Prestwick's runway John was told to bail out from the aircraft. He switched the aircraft's engine over the North Sea at a height of 6,000ft, and bailed out. He floated down into the sea before being picked up by a Sea King helicopter. The empty aircraft dived into the North Sea.
The wreckage was recovered and taken for investigation. Although nothing could be conclusively proved, it was widely accepted that the hydraulic failure was to fault.
A sad end for the first production Sea Fury.
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