Hawker Hunter WT723 (G-PRII)
Built by the Hawker Aircraft Company Ltd as a Hunter F4 in Kingston, Surrey and was first flown from the company airfield at Dunsfold, Surrey on the 16th February 1955 by Duncan Simpson.
Delivered to 5 Maintenance Unit at RAF Kemble on the 25th March 1955 and then delivered to 54(F) Squadron at RAF Odiham to begin her service career
Following tours with 14(F) Squadron at RAF Oldenburg in Germany, WT723 was then delivered to 229 OCU based at RAF Chivenor in Devon. With the introduction into service of the more capable Hunter F6 variant, WT723 was placed in storage.
WT723 was selected as one of a number of stored F4's to be converted to Hunter GA11 standard for the Royal Navy as ground attack trainers. The ADEN gunpack was replaced by a TACAN navigation suite and the gunports were faired over. Other modifications were also implemented with the most visible being the under fuselage arrestor hook. This modification was never intended to be used on a carrier, but to use the runway arrestor gear (RHAG) that was now being used at fast jet airfields. After painting into the Royal Navy standard colours of white lower and blue upper surface and all mods in place, WT723 was reflown on the 9th August 1962 and delivered to RNAS Lossiemouth and then onto the based 764 Squadron on the 30th August wearing the nose number 694 and tail code LM.
During her time at Lossiemouth, WT723 and several other GA11's were dispatched to Short Brothers in Belfast for conversion to PR11 standard. This modification utilised the Hunter FR10's nose and the installation of three F95 cameras. One camera facing forward behind an eyelid shutter, another facing down and the last camera oblique to the right.
WT723 was then detached to RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset as a Supermarine Scimitar replacement and assumed the 866/VL coding. The following years saw WT723 taken on by the Fleet Requirements And Direction Unit (FRADU) at Yeovilton and during this period was repainted in the Royal Navy all-over sea grey colour then being adopted. Retired from flying duties on the 23rd May 1993, WT723 was flown to the School of Flight Deck Operations (SFDO) at RNAS Culdrose. Three years later she was placed in storage awaiting disposal.
Following an MoD Disposal Auction, WT723 was aquired by american Lynn Florey and the work to bring her into civilian life was commenced, with a ferry flight to Exeter Airport from RNAS Culdrose in September 1997. The aircraft had now received the appropriate UK Registration of Golf-Papa Romeo India India (G-PRII). Following a complete service and the paperwork completed to CAA Permit to Fly standard, her first test flight was carried out on the 21st August 1999. A couple more test flights were carried out before WT723 made her airshow debut at Beavechain in Belgium on the 5th September 1999 in the capable hands of ex RAF Squadron Leader John (BJ) Aldington.
WT723 was regularly flown after this period, but due to increasing fuel and insurance costs was placed into storage at Leuwarden AFB, Netherlands.
With the possibility of a potential new owner, WT723 was ferried back to Exeter and a complete service was commenced, for her possible sale. However it would not be until 2008 that WT723 was prepared for her return to the UK airshow scene.
2008 saw WT723 assume the all-over gloss black colour scheme of 111 Squadrons XG194. This was in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 22 Hunter loop by 111 Sqn in 1958, and in true style WT723 attended the SBAC airshow at Farnborough in July.
In 2008 WT723 was purchased by Andy Gillett and became number 5 in Team Viper displaying at the Dubai Airshow and several other shows in the UK.
During 2013 WT723 went through a deep maintainance schedule which saw the removal of the 111 Squadron scheme. She will be returned to her Royal Navy markings within the early part of 2014.
Hawker Hunter PR11 Data:
Engines: One Rolls Royce Avon 122
Thrust: 7,425 lbs static thrust
Wingspan: 33 ft 8in (10.25)
Height: 13 ft 2 in (4.0m)
Length: 45 ft 10.5 in (13.98 m)
Empty Weight: 12,510 lbs
Max Speed 0.94 at 36,000 ft
Ceiling: 47,000 ft
Range: 590 nm
Internal armament: Nil