Why XR753?

October 2023

XR753 is an English Electric Lightning F6 - an “alternative form of vertical take-off”.

As a boy, my father and I attended many air displays in the UK. The Lightning’s party piece was to take off, and before the upwind end of the runway, climb vertically!

Yes, I know - there are planes that can do this now! But this aeroplane was designed in the late 1940s, and it flew at a time when I was a very impressionable young boy!

Its sheer power was awe-inspiring. In fact, I would be correct in saying it WAS truly awesome! in every true sense of the word.

Furthermore, it could quite easily go supersonic whilst in a vertical climb!

The ground shook, your body shook, young children cried, and the car alarms went off during its displays.

Fond memories!

A bit like this …

Jim Ludford (Harrier pilot), is introduced to an alternative form of vertical take-off!

The aircraft in this clip is XS422. Taken from a BBC documentary on test pilots (1986) (full documentary can be seen here). XS422 belonged to the Empire Test Pilots’ School ETPS but now is in the US as part of an Anglo American project tasked to bring one back to airworthiness.

Unfortunately, the video does not convey the sheer power of this machine, but I hope you get the idea.

Lightnings had one Achilles’ heel - endurance. With the two engines that it had, it could be very a thirsty beast, and required regular air-to-air refuelling.

Lightnings were retired from the RAF in 1988.

Sadly, not one of these marvellous aircraft is flying now. Difficult and complicated to maintain, they are deemed unfit for the privateer.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will never allow lightnings to fly in British skies ever again.

They are restricted to museums, gate guardians, static displays, and doing fast taxi runs.

To a child, seeing one of these doing “its thing” started a lifelong interest in aircraft and fuelled an everlasting impression. Sadly, few children experience such spectacles today, and I find that sad.

There is no substitute to seeing one of these things “in the flesh” - so to speak.

XR753 Stats

Manufacturer English Electric
Model Lightning F.6
Delivery Date 23rd June 1965
Year Built 1965
Aircraft Type Fixed Wing multi-engine
Number of Seats 1
Number of Engines 2
Engine Type Turbojet
Engine Rolls-Royce Avon 301
Speed Mach 2.0 (2,136 km/h) at 36,000 feet (11,000 m
Climb 20,000 ft/min(100 m/s)
Ceiling 54,000 ft (16,000 m), zoom ceiling > 70,000 ft (21,300 m)
Range 850 miles (1,370 km)
Current Status Preserved at RAF Coningsby
Owner The Royal Air Force

Some photos of XR753