The Lightning Preservation Group – Bruntingthorpe

On Target is privileged to offer the opportunity to experience close access to the iconic Lightning at selected events taking place at Bruntingthorpe Airfield, near Leicester. All access supports our friends at the Lightning Preservation Group (LPG) and their on-going fund raising to complete their Cold War Q-Shed Project. 

The dedicated volunteers at the LPG have come a long way in the 20 years since their first Lightning was delivered to them from the Royal Air Force. With the Q-Shed project edging closer to completion, the LPG’s vision of a museum to commemorate the Cold War and the men & machines of the Lightning Force is close to becoming a reality.

Going back 20 years to the retirement of the Lightning force, a small band of aviation enthusiasts planned to save at least one example of the aircraft from the scrap man at Binbrook, the long time home of the Lightning in the Lincolnshire Wolds. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) tender form required a name, and so the 'Lightning Preservation Group' was formed. Shortly afterwards, in an atmosphere of excitement and no doubt a certain amount of disbelief, the group received notification that their tender had been successful. They now owned XR728, an example of the only pure British Mach 2 interceptor!

XR728 was offered a retirement home by the Walton family, owners of Bruntingthorpe airfield in Leicestershire, and on 24th June 1988 Flt Lt Chris Berners-Price made several low passes across the tower and along the runway before touching down. The initial plan was to keep the aircraft as a static exhibit, and indeed the RAF's intention was to drill holes into the fuel tanks, but fortunately their employees were persuaded otherwise…

The LPG's second aircraft, XS904, was delivered from BAe Warton by Deputy Chief Test Pilot Peter Orme on 21st January 1993. This was the final military flight of a Lightning, and followed British Aerospace's withdrawal of the last four Lightning's from use as high speed targets in Tornado F.3 Foxhunter AI.24 radar trials.

The Group's third major acquisition came in 1994, when the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) hangar from the former Lightning/Phantom base of RAF Wattisham in Suffolk was obtained in 'kit form'. During the 1960's, QRA hangars (or Q-Sheds) were built next to the main runways at RAF stations such as Wattisham, Binbrook and Leuchars to enhance the Lightning's rapid response capability and to reduce the amount of fuel use during taxiing! Lightning's were held on ten minutes readiness against any intrusion into the UK Air Defence Region and were in the fore front of the defence of the United Kingdom from 1960 to 1988. The Wattisham Q-Shed was obtained by the LPG when the RAF retired the F-4 Phantom force, control of the airfield eventually passing to the Army Air Corps. The Trafalgar House Construction group generously donated the Q-Shed to the LPG in January 1994 where after it was carefully dismantled and moved on six forty foot trailers to Bruntingthorpe.

In addition to providing a museum site and home base for the LPG, the Q-shed also importantly offers the two Lightning's very welcome protection from the elements. The Q-Shed is itself a historic building, being an important relict of a rapidly forgotten era of British history, the Cold War.

LPG: XR728 & XS904 Histories


ADA = Aircraft Disposal Account.
ASF = Aircraft Servicing Flight.
ASSF = Aircraft Storage & Support Flight, which (approx. 1983) became LESF.
CWP = Contractor's Working Party.
FEAF = Far East Air Force.
LESF = Lightning Engineering Support Flight.
MEAS = Mechanical Engineering Air Squadron (incorporated ASSF/LESF and ASF).
MOD(PE) = Ministry of Defence (Procurement Executive).
MU = (Maintenance Units).
60 MU at RAF Leconfield.
71 MU at RAF Bicester ("crash & smash" repairs, detachments visited Binbrook).
103 MU at Akrotiri.


17/03/1965: First Flight as F.3; then Samlesbury to Warton for conversion to F.6.

01/11/1967: To 23 Sqn, Leuchars, coded 'D'.

17-23/05/1969: 23 Sqn detachment via Gutersloh to Fassberg for Berlin corridor Exercise QUICKSAND VIII.

16/10/1969: To Akrotiri with 23 Sqn as 'D'.

31/03/1970: Used by XI(F) Sqn detachment at Akrotiri.

13/05/1971: To 60 MU Leconfield for major servicing.

24/11/1971: To 56 Sqn as 'D', Akrotiri.

22/08/1973: 103 MU Akrotiri.

18/09/1973: To 56 Sqn as 'D'.

31/01/1975: 56 Sqn transferred from NEAF to 11 Group, Wattisham.

22/10/1975: To 56 Sqn as 'J'.

28/06/1976: 56 Sqn disbandment.

01/07/1976: With Aircraft Storage & Support Flight (ASSF), Binbrook.

27.06.78: To 5 Sqn.

03/07/1978: With ASSF.

12/07/1978: Air-test, coded 'J' with no unit markings.

01/08/1978: To Lightning Training Flight (LTF) as 'D' - first F.6 for LTF and named 'Tiverton Trainer Target'.

26/08/1978: Static display at Binbrook Open Day.

02/07/1979: With ASSF.

06/10/1981-05/11/1981: Air-tests.

12/11/1981: To Abingdon for repaint of grey/green camouflage.

27/11/81: To Binbrook Mechanical Engineering Air Squadron (MEAS).

01/02/1982: To XI(F) Sqn as 'BA'.

03/06/1982: To 5 Sqn.

07/07/1982: To XI(F) Sqn as 'BA'.

07/03-13/04/1983: To Akrotiri for APC.

03/08/1983: To MEAS.

08/08/1983: To St Athan for repainting in dark sea grey.

25/08/1983: To MEAS.

07/09/1983: First noted uncoded in XI Sqn markings.

24/05/1985: First noted uncoded in 5 Sqn markings.

11/06/1985: To XI(F) Sqn as 'B'.

29/07-04/09/1985: To Akrotiri for APC.

19/12/1985: First noted with starboard nose roundel zapped XXX by 29 Sqn.

22/04/1986: To MEAS.

23/06/1986-19/09/1986: To Aircraft Servicing Flight (ASF), Binbrook, for wing strengthening modifications.

11/06/1987: To XI(F) Sqn as 'BS'.

07/07/1987: To LTF markings as 'JS'.

04/08/1987: Allocated to 5 Sqn.

22/08/87: Led nine-ship at Last, Last Lightning Show.

07-08/09/1987: Valley Missile Practice Camp.

29/09/1987: 5 Sqn three-ship with XS932 'AG' and XR771 'AN' to mark final official Lightning F.3 flight.

02/11/1987: To MEAS.

03/11/1987: To 5 Sqn.

07/11/1987: Flew as number six in nine-ship at 5 Sqn Reunion, replacing XR771 'AN'.

09/11/1987: To MEAS. 

16/11/87: To Lightning Engineering Support Flight (LESF) to complete servicing.

03/12/1987: Noted flying with 5 Sqn.

21/12/1987: Last to touch down after 5 Sqn final four-ship.

04.01.88: To XI(F) Sqn.

27/01/1988:  Flown over Binbrook church at Neil MacLachlan's funeral by Furz Lloyd (last ever Lightning flight by a 5 Sqn pilot).

29/04/1988: Number four in XI(F) Sqn final nine-ship.

28/05/1988: Static display at Beauvechain Air Show, Belgium.

22/06/1988: Allocated to Lightning Preservation Group.

24/06/1988: Delivered to Bruntingthorpe by Flt Lt Chris Berners-Price.

Total Hours: 3708.40


26/08/1966: First flight; Samlesbury to Warton for storage.

19/04/1967: To XI(F) Sqn, Leuchars, coded 'A'.

05/02/1969: Returned from detachment to FEAF.

12/08/1970: To 60 MU, Leconfield, for major servicing.

21/12/1970: To XI(F) Sqn as 'A'.

21/05/1971: To 71 MU, Bicester.

05/07/1971: To XI Sqn as 'A'.

22/03/1972-22/07/1972: XI(F) Sqn transfer from Leuchars to Binbrook.

16/10/1972: Loaned to MOD(PE).

26/10/1972: To XI(F) Sqn as 'A'.

19/08/1974: To 60 MU, Leconfield.

09/01/1975: To XI(F) Sqn as 'A'.

Early 1975: To Akrotiri with XI(F) Sqn to replace 56 Sqn on QRA duties.

27/04/1976: To Aircraft Storage & Support Flight Storage Flight (ASSF), Binbrook (first camouflaged around this time?).

04/08/76: Possibly coded 'A' with XI(F) Sqn.

07/1977: 'B' with XI(F) Sqn.

07/04/1978: Storage with ASSF.

01/02/1980: To XI(F) Sqn as 'D'.

14/03/1980: XI(F) Sqn QRA; to Faroes Gap to intercept pair of Russian Tu-142 'Bear F' aircraft.

15-18/07/1980: XI(F) Sqn APC, Akrotiri.

30/07/1980: To 5 Sqn.

05/09/1980: To XI(F) Sqn as 'D'.

17/08/1981: To Mechanical Engineering Air Squadron (MEAS), Binbrook.

04/12/1981: Aircraft Disposal Account (ADA).

10/05/1983: MEAS; LTF hangar, unmarked.

21/08/1984: To XI(F) Sqn.

05/09/1984: Coded 'BM' with XI(F) Sqn.

02/01/1985: Skidded off taxiway on ice, nose wheel leg sheared off.

02/1985: Returned to service.

29/07-04/09/1985: To Akrotiri APC.

13/05/1986: To MEAS.

28/05/1986: To 5 Sqn.

09/06/86: To MEAS.

14/07-14/10/1986: To Aircraft Servicing Flight (ASF), Binbrook, for wing strengthening modifications.

06/01/1987: ASF hangar, un-coded.

20/02/1987: To XI(F) Sqn.

16/03/1987: Coded 'BQ' with XI(F) Sqn (first Lightning to carry this code).

03-07/08/1987: XI Sqn exchange to Reims (FAF EC.30 Mirage F.1C).

22/08/1987: Took part in nine-ship at Last, Last Lightning Show.

02-10/09/1987: XI(F) Sqn exchange with 323 Sqn RNethAF, Leeuwarden.

21/10/1987: To ASF for servicing, Check 2A.

14/12/1987: To ASF for fitting of over-wing tanks.

15/12/1987: First flight with over-wing tanks, then to Lightning Engineering Support Flight (LESF) and No.1 hangar on BAe test work with Tornado ADV Foxhunter AI.24 radar.

01/02/1988: LESF hangar; Check 2A.

08/04/1988: Delivered to BAe Warton (unmarked) by Flt Lt Dick Heath for continuation of radar trials.

12/04/1988: Assigned MOD(PE) Warton; cumulative flying time 3959.11 hrs &  3881 flights.

18/04/1988: First target flight (with Tornado F.2 A03).

24/08/1988: Achieved 4000 flying hours on 3912th flight, flown by Peter Gordon-Johnson.

11/10/1988: Tail hook came down at 400kt, pilot Colin Rae.

08/05/1991: Derek Reeh took the RHAG (Rotary Hydraulic Arrester Gear) after the brake chute candled.

11/10/1991: Flown to Wildenrath by Derek Reeh; fin zapped by 19 Sqn with blue dolphin.

14/10/1991: Returned to Warton, flown by Peter Gordon-Johnson.

31/01/1991: 4000th flight (4121.30 hrs); target Tornado F.2 A03.

13-14/06/1992: Static display at Boscombe Down Air Tournament International.

16/12/1992: Last Lightning three-ship with XP693 and XR773; Warton (fly-through's at RAF Leeming, BAe Samlesbury & Blackpool Squires Gate).

22/12/1992: Last static line-up of the four Warton Lightning's.

21/01/1993: Delivered to Lightning Preservation Group by Peter Orme, escorted by Gp Capt Andy Williams in Tornado F.3.

Hours: 4161.51 (4034 flights); 203 hrs whilst based at Warton

Please visit the LPG website for more information

On-Target sincerely thanks all at the LPG for their hospitality and co-operation during many visits to Bruntingthorpe.



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