THE FRADU CANBERRAS

ENGLISH ELECTRIC CANBERRA TT.18 WK142 -'848'

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WK142's service history

Built under contract from English Electric by A.V. Roe Ltd at Woodford as a Canberra B.2 for the Royal Air Force, WK142 was delivered declared ready for collection on 27th October 1954. Its first posting was to RAF 115 Squadron (Sqn) based at RAF Marham, but the length of time it served with the Unit is unknown at the time of writing, as is the duration with other RAF Squadrons it would serve with in the future.
WK142's next posting is confirmed as RAF 207 Sqn, and it also moved onto the strength of RAF 90 Sqn, both of which were also based at Marham. The aeroplane's final confirmed posting was to RAF 98 Sqn, which was based firstly at RAF Tangmere, and then later at RAF Watton. It then moved into store at 5MU (Maintenance Unit) Kemble.

On 12th September 1969, WK142 was transferred to the Royal Navy as it joined the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) at Hurn as aeroplane '847'. Maintained by Airwork Services Ltd and flown by civilian pilots, WK142 was the sole B.2 Canberra to see service with the FRU, and remained in use until June 1972. The aeroplane was then ferried to Salmesbury for conversion to TT.18 specification by English Electric.
Following two years of inactivity, WK142 returned to flying duties in October 1974 when it was loaned to the Ministry of Defence Procurement Executive (MoD(PE)) for trials, before it re-entered Fleet Air Arm service in March 1975. The aeroplane became a part of the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) at RNAS Yeovilton as '848', and it remained in service until November 1979 when it was moved to Salmesbury for refurbishment.

WK142 returned to FRADU on 4th March 1981 to begin its next stint with the Unit. Aside from a short time at St Athan receiving modifications (December 1982-February 1983), the aeroplane remained in service until March 1986, when it was returned to Warton for a major inspection, eventually. The first attempt to ferry it to Warton ended with hydraulic failure just after take-off, which resulted in a precautionary landing being made at Boscombe Down!
On 21st October 1986, WK142 returned to Yeovilton for its third and final period with FRADU. At a time when the surviving members of the Canberra fleet were being rotated to conserve their flying hours, WK142 remained in service constantly until it was withdrawn in April 1992, and flown to St Athan for storage. The following year it was entered into the July 1993 Phillips auction.



[ Mike Freer]

[ Kev Slade]

[ Michael Baldock]

[ Malcolm Clarke]

[ Peter Mitrovitch]
 
 
 

WK142's civilian life

WK142 reportedly did not attract a buyer at the Phillips auction, but was later sold to a US-based collector who in turn sold it onto Bill McCoy, also based in the USA. A restoration team was put together to prepare the aeroplane for a ferry flight, and the US registration N76764 was issued. Following lots of hard work, WK142 departed St Athan on 17th August 1995, but within an hour of taking off it had returned caused by a developed snag. Undeterred, the team repaired the fault and tried again a month later, this time successfully, and the aeroplane arrived at its new home at Phoenix Field in Arizona.
In 1998, the aeroplane was re-registered to the Jet Aviation Historical Society in Phoenix, Arizona, and was maintained by David Ridsdale's European Warbird Organisation for several years, alongside TT.18 WJ614.

Today, the aeroplane remains in open store at Falcon Field, its paintwork slowly fading in the hot sun. It is currently on loan to the Arizona Wing museum of Commemorative Air Force in Mesa, Arizona, who is keen to improve the appearance of the airframe, subject to approval from the owner.
Sadly, it would appear that WK142's flying days are over, at least for the foreseeable future.

[ Fred Saggie]

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