Hawker Hunter T. Mk 7 with the registration number XL 618 was built in December 1958 and first flew on the 7 January 1959. She was delivered to RAF Gütersloh, were she served on No 14 Squadron RAF from the 12 May 1959 till 27 November 1961. During this time XL 618 was also used by the Gütersloh Station Flight for Instrument and Navigational Rating Flights for the Pilots of the 3 Hunter Fighter Squadrons No’s 14, 20 and 26 who were flying Hunter F. Mk 4 to enable them to remain current on type. The Station Flight at RAF lever also used XL 618 in this role for their pilots on the RAF Iever Hunter squadrons.

During the middle 60’s XL 618 was transferred to No 229 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) based at RAF Chivenor where she was used to train pilots who were training to fly Hunters. In September 1974, No 229 OCU was moved to RAF Brawdy and shortly afterwards disbanded. In reality they were renamed to become No. 1 Tactical Weapons Unit (TWU). XL 618 was assigned the tactical number 87 and was used for training pilots in the use of the various weapons that the Hunter carried.

 

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Hunter T. Mk 7 XL618 at RAF Station Shawbury. Photo © Keith Horsewood

She stayed in this role at RAF Brawdy until 1980 when she was removed from active service and moved to No. 5 MU RAF Kemble where she stood until 1983. She was moved again to RAF Shawbury and finally went into Storage. At Shawbury the tactical number was changed fro 87 to 05. On the 3 April 1986 XL 618 was given the maintenance registration 8892M and was used for Ground Maintenance Instruction.From 19 November 1986 she was used as an instructional airframe by the Battle Damage Repair Flight (BDRF) at RAF Cottesmore, to train service personal in the repair of damage which had occurred during operational service. After approximately 5 years with the BDRF she was towed to the Dump at RAF Cottesmore. 0n the 27 September XL61 8 was rescued from the Dump at RAF Cottesmore and moved by road to Caernarfon Airworld Aviation Museum, Dinas Dinlle in Wales as the gate guard. Shortly after her arrival she received a fantasy paint scheme in blue, green and brown. Then at the end of 2008 XL 618 was repainted in the typical red and white (strawberry ripple) paint scheme of Air Training Command, which was more fitting than the previous fantasy paint scheme. During June 2014 XL 618 was again on the move this time to the Newark Aviation Museum on loan to Lakes Lightnings who had saved her from becoming scrap.

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Hawker Hunter T. Mk 7  photographed at Caernarfon Airworld Aviation Museum in Dinas Dinlle as gate guard with the phantasy painting colours blue, green and brown. Photo © David Burke

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End of 2008 Hunter T.7 XL618 got the typical red-white colours of air training commands. Photo © Vodka Burner

The future of XL 618 Hunter T. Mk 7 who during more than 20 years service has trained hundreds of pilots, observers and technicians is to become a museums piece in her first and last posting to Gütersloh in the Flugplatz Museum Gütersloh.

Marcus Herbote and Marc Tecklenborg, March 2016