The Royal Navy Historic Flight was established at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in 1972 in order to preserve Naval heritage, and to be a living memorial to all Fleet Air Arm personnel, especially those who gave their lives in maintaining the freedom of our nation. The first aircraft to join this unique collection was Swordfish II LS326, which was presented to the Royal Navy in 1960 by the Westland Aircraft Company at Yeovil. This was followed in 1971 by the presentation of a Sea Fury FB.11 to the Royal Navy by Hawker-Siddeley Aviation. In 1972 the Sea Fury was joined at Heron Flight by Fairey Firefly AS.5 WB271, the units looking after the three aircraft merged into one, and so the Historic Flight was born.
In 1976 the Flight acquired a second Sea Fury - WG655,
a T.20 two-seat trainer donated by the Federal German Government who had
used the aircraft in a target towing role. Also in 1976 work began at
the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose - which bears the name HMS Seahawk
- to restore Sea Hawk FGA.6 WV908 to flying condition, a task which completed
in 1978. Thereafter it flew from its Cornish base for several years before
being transferred to the RNHF collection. After a few display seasons
the aircraft was placed in storage in 1989 until 1995 when it was transferred
to British Aerospace's Dunsfold works for restoration, returning to the
Flight in October 1996.
Firstly, the aircraft are historically significant. During the Second World War Swordfish aircraft accounted for the sinking of over 300,000 tons of enemy (Axis powers) shipping - more than any other single Allied aircraft type, and thereby made the most important maritime airpower contribution towards the Allies winning the Battle of the Atlantic and in gaining seapower supremacy in the Mediterranean. Sea Fury aircraft fought with distinction during the Korean War, helping to provide the spearhead of British Forces' ground attack air offensive operations. One Sea Fury had the distinction of being the first United Nations piston engined aircraft to shoot down the much faster MiG 15 jet, and it remains to this day the fastest production single piston engine-powered military aircraft in the World. The Sea Hawk was the Royal Navy's first truly successful fighter/ground attack jet aircraft and made the greatest contribution to the success of British ground attack forces during the Suez campaign on 1956.Secondly, the collection contains some of the rarest airworthy military aircraft in the World. There are only four flying Swordfish in the World - one is in Canada, one in America and the other two are owned and operated by the RNHF with a third currently in storage awaiting an opportunity to rebuild. The Sea Hawk flying with the RNHF is absolutely unique, there are no others in flying condition anywhere in the world. Although there are a number of Furies/Sea Furies still airworthy throughout the world, the majority have been re-engined and converted into "hot-rod racers" and are therefore not truly authentic examples of the type. VR930, the example flying with the RNHF, is currently the only FB.11 variant in Europe.
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