For Sale: English Electric Lightning Jet Interceptors

© 2020 by Historic and Classic Aircraft Sales.
© 2020 by Historic and Classic Aircraft Sales.

Back in 2014 a man named Dave from the UK listed his Mk 6 English Electric Lightning on Gumtree for £30,000 which raised some eyebrows at the time.

Today, three restored English Electric Lightnings are being sold through aircraft enthusiast site where it is more likely a buyer will be found.

The three aircraft, a two-seater T5 training plane, and two single-seat Mk6 versions are all described as airworthy and have been resprayed in gloss black livery.

The T5 was constructed in 1965 and flew with the RAF until the fleet was retired in the late eighties.

ZU-BBD, the two-seat training aircraft flew with the 11th, 111th and 56th Squadrons prior to retirement.

In 1988 it was bought by Tony Halls and restored before it went on to become part of the Thunder City Aircraft Company Fleet, flying out of Cape Town, South Africa.

The company is slimming down its display fleet, also putting its Buccaneers and Hunters on the market, but the real gems are these English Electric Lightnings, the only UK designed and built aircraft capable of attaining Mach 2.

The Lightning was born following the Second World War, with the need for a supersonic jet fighter identified as a key part of the UK’s future strategy of keeping the skies over Britain safe.

Chief design engineer W ‘Teddy’ Petter of Westlands Aircraft put forward proposals to the UK Government in 1947 and in 1953 work started at English Electric on three prototypes.

In May 1954 the first flight took place at Boscombe Down, piloted by Roland Beaumont. The third time it was in the air the Lightning achieved supersonic flight for the first time, breaking the sound barrier.

Designated the P.1, it received the name Lightning in 1956 in recognition of its speed.

© 2020 by Historic and Classic Aircraft Sales.
© 2020 by Historic and Classic Aircraft Sales.

As a defensive aircraft range was never top of the list for designers who emphasized speed, climb rate and acceleration.

The Lightning was made to intercept enemy aircraft as quickly as possible, in order to frustrate bombing raids in the event of a nuclear attack and defend the V-Force airfields.

Its climb rate was close to 20,000 feet per minute with a ceiling of 60,000 feet.

The Lightning entered service with the RAF in the summer of 1960 with 74 Squadron and within the first six months of being operational achieved 100 flying hours per aircraft.

The plane was popular with pilots who reported it was an easy aircraft to fly, but the complex systems and lack of easy access to spare parts kept them on the ground for longer than anticipated.

While it remained a familiar sight in the skies over the UK during its thirty-four years of service with the RAF the Lightning never saw combat and only one aircraft was officially recorded as being shot down, a pilotless Harrier heading for the border with East Germany.

Kuwait Air Force Lightning F.53 in 1969. RuthAS – CC BY 3.0
Kuwait Air Force Lightning F.53 in 1969. RuthAS – CC BY 3.0

As part of the Concorde flight trials in 1985 British Airways offered the supersonic passenger plane as an intercept target for NATO fighter plane practise.

F-16 Falcons, F-15 Eagles, F-14 Tomcats, F-104 Starfighters and Mirages were all up against the Electric lightning, which was the only aircraft able to catch and overtake Concorde on the day.

Later models were exported to Saudi Arabia where the Lightnings flew with the Royal Saudi Air Force between 1967 and 1986. Their neighbours in Kuwait also flew the Lightning from 1968 to 1977.

So, if you have some spare life savings and have always harboured an interest in these iconic supersonic British jet fighters then now is your chance to put one in your hanger.

If jet fighters are your thing then the website also has a Hawker Hunter GA11 for sale, though without an engine.

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It is on sale at $30,000 but you would have to organise your own shipping from the US, and it is unlikely that a replacement engine will be listed on Gumtree.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE