By Chris Frear

After a winter of hard work in their new hangar, Saturday April 28th marked a milestone for members of the Lightning Association when their English Electric Lightning F.6 XR724 was rolled outside for the first time since October. As well as showing off the jet’s partially completed repaint, the engineering team was able to run tests that will hopefully eventually lead to XR724’s engines being started for the first time in over 17 years.

To the British aviation community, the English Electric Lightning is almost as iconic as the more widely known WWII-era Supermarine Spitfire. But by the late 1980s, the Lightning — a 1950s-era air defense fighter akin to the F-102 and F-106 — was technologically obsolete and finally slated for retirement. As a type it served at many RAF bases, but it’s RAF Binbrook in the sleepy rural county of Lincolnshire that is considered the type’s spiritual home, as it was here in 1988 that the type was finally retired.

In 1990 the RAF placed XR724 in climate-controlled storage at RAF Shawbury. In 1991 the Lighting Association was able to purchase her and begin making her flight-ready (including having to find two engines and a working ejection seat) as the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority had granted permission for one final flight, home to RAF Binbrook on July 23rd, 1992. Fast forward 31 years to this June and after more than three decades mostly outdoors, XR724 the last complete Lightning at RAF Binbrook, finally has a new home. As previously reported by Vintage Aviation News the Lightning Association has built a new aircraft shelter at the former airfield.

Chief Engineer John Watson told VAN, “We undertook priming starter runs on the Number 1 Avon engine and then a live and successful Start and ignition of the Plessey LTSA 140 Starter thus spinning the Rolls Royce Avon engine ready for ignition in the future.” So while it may have been a long wait, with a bit of luck the sound of a pair of Rolls-Royce Avon engines may once again reverberate around Binbrook and across the Lincolnshire landscape.