A FIGHTER plane that stood for two decades outside an East Lancashire factory has ‘landed’ in Cornwall.
The English Lightning F53 was a well-known landmark outside BAE Systems in Samlesbury for more than 20 years.
Now it is to become part of the Classic Air Force collection in Newquay.
The fighter is a veteran of the Cold War, dating back to the 1950s, but remains one of only a handful of aircraft able to go supersonice while climbing.
It was capable of climbing 20,000 feet in just one minute and although its service ceiling was never released, records exist showing it reached 88,000 feet.
The aircraft’s future was in question when it was removed from the gate at Samlesbury as years of exposure to the elements had taken their toll on the airframe and it was deemed necessary to remove it.
BAE Systems shipped the dismantled Lightning to Gateguards UK who made moulds to create a convincing replica.
Tim Skeet, chairman of the Classic Aircraft Trust, said: “We are incredibly grateful to both Gateguards and BAE Systems for working together to bring a fabulous machine like this to us.”
Gateguards managing director David Hobson said: “The Lancashire weather had done its worst, but Classic Air Force has quite a track record for bringing aircraft back from the brink.”
Trevor Bailey, Classic Air Force’s aviation director, said: “It is perfect for our collection. This was one of the all-time greatest British fighters.
“When I checked its records and found its first flight was in the hands of the legendary Roland Beamont, I knew we had to find a way to acquire it.
“Gateguards and BAE Systems have shown amazing generosity to make this donation possible.”
Wing Commander Roland ‘Bee’ Beamont was a British fighter pilot and test pilot for the RAF during the Second World War. Hed later became chief test pilot for the English Electric Company.
He was the first pilot to make a double Atlantic crossing by jet and was posthumously awarded the Belgian ‘croix de guerre’ in 2002.