THE Lightning Preservation Group’s English Electric Lightning F3 XR713 was unveiled in a new dual colour scheme at Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire on 23 July. The starboard side now wears the markings of a No 56 Squadron Firebirds aerobatic team machine, complete with the serial XR718, while the port side has been repainted in the markings XR713 wore with No 111 Squadron at Wattisham in the mid-1960s.
The Firebirds repaint came about following discussions between the Centre of Aviation Photography (COAP) and the Lightning Preservation Group during October 2016, the project being partsponsored by COAP. The repaint was carried out during June/July.
The Firebirds — so named after the No 56 Squadron crest — was the official aerobatic team of the RAF during 1963, flying nine Lightning F1As from Wattisham. XR713 first flew from the BAC factory airfield at Warton on 21 October 1964, being delivered to No 111 Squadron on 8 January the following year. It served with No 5 Squadron at Binbrook from October 1974-March 1978, moving on to the Lightning Training Flight in September 1985. During March 1987 it was flown to Leuchars where it was given the identity 8935M for use as a battle damage repair airframe, and ended up as a unit mascot within the ‘Treble One’ complex. The squadron disbanded in March 2011, and XR713 was put up for disposal when control of the historic Scottish base passed to the British Army. Following a fundraising campaign it was secured by the LPG, and during March 2015 was roaded to its new home at Bruntingthorpe.