60th Anniversary of Yorkshire Built Blackburn Buccaneer to be Celebrated at Yorkshire Air Museum

Buccaneer at Yorkshire Air Museum

Sunday 29th April

The Spring “Thunder Day” taking place at the Yorkshire Air Museum on Sunday 29th April will mark a very significant milestone of Yorkshire aviation history as it will celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the first flight of the development prototype of the aircraft that was to become the Blackburn Buccaneer.

Spring “Thunder Day”
The Museum’s live example of the Buccaneer S.2 XN974 will be one of the highlights at the first “Thunder Day” of the 2018 season at the Yorkshire Air Museum on Sunday 29th April, perfectly timed to celebrate this 60th anniversary of the Blackburn Buccaneer. It will make a full engine power up during the course of the day, performing its control surface movements, wing folding, bomb bay door rotation and rear air brake activation, all under power. The mighty Spey engines were capable of producing 11000 lbs of thrust each, so this is an exciting, noisy display! We are also delighted to announce that Wing Commander David Herriott, Secretary of the Buccaneer Aircrew Association will be with us to give a presentation about the aircraft and its history, from the perspective of a navigator on the aircraft.

The other 6 live aircraft in the Museum’s collection will also be started up, including the Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a and diminutive Eastchurch Kitten WWI bi-planes, the 1945 WWII Douglas C-47 Dakota, the 1947 de Havilland Devon VIP transport, with both of these twin-props firing into life amongst plumes of smoke as they cough and splutter into life. Then, there will be the mighty Nimrod MR2 with its four Spey engines and finally the thunderous Handley Page Victor XL231 firing up her four Rolls Royce Conway power-plants that can produce 80 000 lbs thrust!!
All this will be carried out under the watchful eye of the Yorkshire Air Museum’s unique Volunteer Fire Team, who will also be conducting children’s activities and displaying their impressive fire appliances.

Blackburn Buccaneer – Historical Background
The military requirement was for a carrier based, low level strike and reconnaissance aircraft, capable of delivering conventional or nuclear weapons at very low level to counter the threat of the expanded Soviet Union naval capability with the huge Sverdlov–class cruisers. The aircraft was to be capable of approaching these warships below radar level at high speed, deploying weapons and quickly flying out of range.

First Flight
The tender for the Ministry of Supply specification M.148T was won by the design (Project B.103) by Blackburn’s Barry P Laight and became the last true Blackburn designed and built aircraft from the historic Brough factory near Hull, East Yorkshire. The development project (NA.39) was fully codenamed Blackburn Advanced Naval Aircraft, which resulted in the nickname of the “Banana Jet”, something unwittingly reinforced by the unusual contours of the design, implementing for the first time the principle of Boundary Layer Control, to disperse slow moving air over the wing surfaces to enhance stability and reduce stall speed for effective low altitude operation.

The first flight of Project B.103 took place at the Royal Aeronautical Establishment test centre, Bedford, at 12:57pm on 30th April 1958. According to test pilot Derek Whitehead, the flight went “exactly as planned”, with the aircraft in its duck-egg blue/grey and white “anti-flash” underbelly markings weaving gently as the pilot tested the controls whilst holding the aircraft at very low level, then rising easily away. The success of this first flight was a matter of great pride for Blackburn, especially the Chairman at the time, Eric Turner, who described it as “a wonderful achievement in getting the N.A.39 prototype in the air by the target date.” It was actually the first time that a very tight target date for a large and complicated military aircraft had been met, a result of superb teamwork at every level. Early Blackburn Buccaneer S.1 production models went into service with the Fleet Air Arm on 17th July 1962. However, they suffered from a lack of power from the original de Havilland Gyron Junior engines, resulting in some tragic accidents under more severe testing and operation. This was solved when the superior new Rolls Royce Spey engines were fitted, producing 40% more thrust for the following S.2 and other variants. By this time, Blackburn Aircraft Company had merged with Hawker Siddeley, so S.2 and later variants were known as Hawker Siddeley (Blackburn) Buccaneers.

Blackburn Buccaneer S.2
The first production Buccaneer S.2 was XN974, now to be seen at the Yorkshire Air Museum. XN974 is certainly no ordinary Buccaneer. It first flew on 5th June 1964, from Holme-on-Spalding Moor, East Yorkshire, and then went to the Royal Aircraft Experimental test facility in Bedford and then to HMS Eagle for sea trials, including work on HMS Hermes and HMS Ark Royal. In 1965 in went to the USA for hot weather testing and, on its return flight, on 10th October, became a record breaker by becoming the first Fleet Air Arm aircraft to fly the transatlantic route non-stop and un-refuelled from the Canadian Air Force base at Goose Bay, Newfoundland to RNAS Lossiemouth, achieving the distance of 1950 miles in 4hours 16 minutes. It became a prime avionics and system development test bed between 1967 and 1982, and, during the ”Gulf War” (Desert Storm), it took part in the RAF activities designated “Operation Granby”, flying high altitude re-fuelling trial sorties with Tornado GR1 aircraft, lasting up to 3 hours in flight. It was flown into retirement here at Elvington on 19th August 1991, wearing RAF camouflage markings, and has remarkably been kept in live, ground operational condition since then. It has now been restored into its original Fleet Air Arm colours, and makes a very striking looking aircraft.

Fulfilling its design brief, the Buccaneer has been described as the most stable low-level strike aircraft ever built. It served with the Fleet Air Arm until 1978, when the Sea Harrier was introduced. The RAF acquired the type in 1969, after the cancellation of the proposed British Aircraft Company TSR2 project, then taking the Fleet Air Arm Buccaneers. The RAF fleet was gradually reduced to 60 aircraft, with the scaling down of the Cold War, coming out of service on 31st March 1994 to be replaced by the new PANAVIA Tornado as production of this type escalated.

However, the Buccaneers saw service alongside the Tornado GR1’s during the first Gulf War during 1991, crucially providing laser target designation for the Tornado’s which they lacked at that time.

Thunder Day Admission:
Admission: £12 Adults; £10 Concession; £5 Child (5-15) or £30 Family (2A+3Ch).
Gates Open at 10:00am until 17:00pm.
Propeller aircraft will be run during the morning and then again in the afternoon from 13:15pm. Buccaneer XN974 will conduct its run at 14:30pm


Tags: , , ,