Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde

Aircraft Profile
British Airways Concorde G-BOAA
(photo, not known)


“Soon there will be only two kinds of airliner: Concorde, and all the rest”. So ran the copyline in press adverts during the early 1970s. The intention was to draw attention to Concorde’s imminent introduction into service, but thirty years later the prediction still holds true – Concorde is treated differently from all other airliners.

Concorde has always been different. It entered service amid huge controversy over rising development costs and possible environmental impact, went on to become the ultimate in prestige trans-Atlantic travel and then arose from a fiery grave to take to the skies once again.

The idea of a supersonic airliner was first conceived around the time that Britains’s pioneering Comet jet airliner ran into major problems. By the mid-1950s, military aircraft were routinely able to exceed Mach 1 in a short duration dash, but supersonic passenger travel would require sustained high speed for hours at a time, opening up a whole new set of technical challenges. It was clear that, if the technical issues could be overcome, the result would be a world-beating aircraft which would restore Britain’s lead in airliner design.

British aircraft companies began seriously examining the possibilities of a Supersonic Transport (SST) in 1955. To co-ordinate and encourage these project studies a join government-industry committee was formed in November 1956, called STAC (Supersonic Transport Aircraft Committee). STAC initiated the development of a number of aerodynamic research aircraft (BAC 221 and HP.115), and funded some 400 technical papers covering every conceivable aspect of SST design and operation. A final report was issued on 9 March 1959, recommending development of a Mach 1.2 100-seat medium-range (1500 miles) SST and a Mach 1.8 150-seat long-range (3000 miles) variant. A major conclusion was that Mach 2.2 was the upper limit for aircraft with aluminum alloy structure. The Bristol Aircraft Company had been a leading player in developing a workable aircraft configuration for STAC, producing several successive designs under the generic label Type 198. In 1959 further contracts were awarded to continue design studies and by January 1960 the Type 198 had evolved into a shape recognisable as an ancestor of Concorde. It featured a tail-less slender delta wing with a gentle curved leading edge, six engines in two groups of three in nacelles under the wing, and was to carry 136 passengers at Mach 1.8. A comparative study of a Mach 3 version (made of steel to withstand the increased air friction heating) was designated Type 213, but soon dropped as uneconomic.

During 1961 a less-ambitious scaled-down version of the latest Type 198 was studied in parallel, under the designation Type 223. This design was a 100-seater with only four engines but otherwise of similar configuration. In the meantime, Sud Aviation in France had been studying a 70/80 seat short-range (1500-1800 miles) Mach 2 SST to replace the Caravelle. Designed for use on European and African routes, the Super Caravelle, as it was known, looked very similar to the Type 223, but lacked a drooping nose. When BAC approached potential joint-venture partners in early 1961, (at government insistence due to the likely cost), Sud Aviation was the only one to give a positive response. The Americans were planning a Mach 3 SST and weren’t interested in BAC’s slower design. The first Anglo-French meeting was held at the June 1961 Paris Air Show, and after a further talks an intergovernment agreement was signed on 29 November 1962. Funding was to be shared equally between the two governments, with the industry partners being BAC and Sud Aviation (later Aerospatiale) for the airframe and Bristol Siddeley (later Rolls-Royce) and SNECMA for the engines. Initially the project was going to comprise two versions of the SST – a short/medium range aircraft and a heavier trans-Atlantic version, but the former was dropped after consultation with potential airline customers showed it to be non-viable.

In early 1965 the design was frozen and construction of two prototypes commenced. The industrial workshare was: BAC – nose, tail and engine installations; Sud Aviation (Aerospatiale) – wings, centre fuselage and landing gear. France had a larger airframe share because Britain had a greater share of the engine work – Bristol Siddeley on the Olympus engines and SNECMA on the exhaust system and afterburner. The infrastructure required to support this production effort was huge and included the transport of completed airframe sections between production sites, the construction of numerous full-size test rigs and the introduction of an ‘air bridge’ aircraft shuttling engineers daily between Filton and Toulouse to co-ordinate the development process. There was no precedent for Anglo-French collaboration on a major prestige industrial project, and lessons had to be learnt the hard way. At the same time, the original estimates for the programme costs were proving to be hopelessly optimistic and revised estimates were seriously undermined by the high inflation rates prevalent at the time.

The subtle and graceful external shape of Concorde hides a great many advanced engineering features. The wing is a masterpiece of aerodynamic shaping. The slender delta shape with an ogival (curved) leading edge was only arrived at after a huge amount of wind tunnel testing and reaches optimum efficiency at around Mach 2.2. Most of the fuel is stored in the wings, where it acts as a heat sink for the wing skin during prolonged supersonic flight. Fuel is also used to control the aircraft centre of gravity, to counter-act the rearward shift in the centre of lift as the aircraft goes supersonic. Fuel is pumped into trim tanks in the rear fuselage during acceleration and forward again during deceleration to subsonic speed. Computer controlled variable-area air intakes ensure that each engine receives an optimum air flow under all flight conditions. The nose of the aircraft can be hinged down 17.5 degrees to improve the view of the pilot while landing or taking-off, although in practice only 12.5 degrees is normally used.

By 1967, 74 options from 16 airlines had been obtained, including Pan Am and Air Canada. This good start gave great confidence in the future prospects for the project, with potential for 240 sales being forecast by 1978, when the American SST was expected to be available. These options were fully refundable and couldn’t be converted into contracts until guaranteed performance figures had been established by the flight test programme.

The first prototype (aircraft 001 F-WTSS) was rolled out at Toulouse on 11 December 1967, but extensive ground testing meant that it didn’t fly until 2 March 1969. The first British aircraft (002 G-BSST) flew a month later. The flight test programme proceeded smoothly without any major problems. In December 1971, the first pre-production aircraft (101) made its maiden flight. The pre-production aircraft featured a much improved visor design, with greater cockpit window area, a longer forward fuselage and extended tail. The flight test programme verified aircraft and systems performance under a very wide range of conditions, and included a substantial amount of work refining the operation of the computer-controlled engine intakes. This was followed by nearly 1000 hours of endurance flying over typical airline routes, using the first three production aircraft (201 to 203).

The first airlines to formally place firm orders were British Airways and Air France, who ordered a total of nine aircraft on 28 July 1972. Restrictions had been placed on over-land supersonic routes by various countries due to the expectation that frequent sonic booms would cause damage under the projected flightpath, and this had an adverse affect on potential sales. In fact, during the route proving trials, many complaints of sonic boom problems from affected countries turned out to have more to do with gaining increased access to Heathrow and Paris for national airlines than any actual damage. Vociferous protests over noise and air pollution from politically motivated pressure groups also generated a lot of adverse publicity for Concorde. However, the oil crisis sparked by the ‘Yom Kippur’ war of 1973 had a most devastating affect on sales. The soaring cost of fuel rendered Concorde completely uneconomic for all but state-subsidised airlines. No further orders were achieved and production ceased after 16 production aircraft, with 201 and 202 going into store and the remaining fourteen aircraft being shared equally between British Airways and Air France.

Despite protests over noise a trial service did begin to Washington DC in 1976, and when that proved successful a ban on flights to New York was overturned in 1977. Noise measurements of Concorde operations at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York all proved to be within the legal limits. New York soon became the favoured destination for Concorde passengers. After service-entry the maximum take-off weight was raised to 408,000 lb (185,066 kg), and a number of aerodynamic refinements were introduced, comprising a sharper leading edge to the upper portion of the fin, a thinned and lowered engine intake lip, and extending the rudders and elevons aft by 2 inches (0.05 m). This combination gave significant reductions in drag and fuel consumption. In subsequent years, fuel prices became relatively much cheaper, and the premium-price fares levied for supersonic service allowed a handsome operating profit to be made. In regular service Concorde proved to be very reliable and load factors remained high. In 1984, after prolonged negotiations, British Airways took over financial responsibility for in-service support of Concorde from the British Government, who had previously paid for everything. From 1995, the Concorde fleet was progressively equipped with the TCAS collision avoidance system.

Niggling incidents did sometimes occur. On more than one occasion, part of the rudder broke-away in flight, but the aircraft’s handling was not seriously affected. The rudder was replaced by a newer design. Tyre bursts on take-off or landing had been shown to cause minor damage to the wing skin on a number of occasions, but these incidents were regarded as minor. Then, on 25 July 2000, while on its take-off roll from Paris-Charles De Gaulle Airport, Air France Concorde F-BTSC hit a strip of titanium metal dropped onto the runway by a preceding aircraft. The metal strip sliced into the left front tyre of the left mainwheel bogie, which immediately exploded, causing large chunks of rubber to penetrate the lower wing skin at very high speed. The fuel tank in this portion of the wing was ruptured by the force of the impact, causing fuel to stream back along the underside of the wing. At this time number 2 engine lost all power and number 1 engine began behaving erratically. The fuel stream then caught fire. As the aircraft was already too far down the runway to stop, the pilot decided carry on and attempt an emergency landing at nearby Le Bourget Airport. After take-off the landing gear would not retract, and the aircraft could not gain airspeed. The aircraft stalled and crashed at Gonesse less than three minutes later, killing 113 people.

An unbreakable rule of airliner safety is ‘No single failure shall cause the loss of the aircraft’. In this case a single tyre burst resulted in a crash, and once a probable cause had been established, all Concordes were immediately grounded. Teams of engineers in Britain and France strived to produce workable solutions that would eliminate the problem but not cripple the operating economics of the airliner. On 5 September 2001 the proposed package of modifications was agreed by the airworthiness authorities. New Michelin-developed Near Zero Growth (NZG) tyres would be fitted, which didn’t explode when punctured, and Kevlar liners were to be installed in each fuel tank to drastically cut the rate of fuel leakage if the wing skin was damaged. The hydraulics for the main landing gear was also protected and potential sources of sparks eliminated. The first modified British Airways aircraft flew on 17 July 2001. On 7 November 2001 British Airways and Air France resumed regular passenger services, with the first Concorde arriving to a very special welcome in New York. The downturn in airline travel after 11 September 2001 slowed down the rate of return to service for the rest of the fleet, but with a new interior trim and plenty of fatigue life remaining the aircraft was still good for several more years yet. Four Air France and five British Airways Concordes underwent the modification programme.

On 10 April 2003, British Airways and Air France simultaneously announced that they would be withdrawing Concorde from service. Since it’s return to service, passenger numbers had not recovered to a sustainable level and the aircraft could no longer made a profit. The drastic decline in transatlantic air travel – Concorde’s only route – after September 2001 meant falling passenger revenue at the same time as support costs had increased. For example, the mandatory fitting of new cockpit security doors would cost ten times as much for the small Concorde fleet as it would for a Boeing aircraft. On 31 May 2003 Air France operated its last commercial service in a very low-key manner, and in the following month proceeded to deliver its aircraft to various museums. On 24 October 2003 British Airways celebrated the end of Concorde operations in grand style, with three aircraft landing one after another at Heathrow in front of a large crowd. The last ever Concorde flight occurred on 26 November 2003, when 216 (the last aircraft off the production line) returned to its birthplace in Filton, to be the centrepiece of a planned new Aviation Heritage Museum.

In the end, the real legacy of the Concorde programme is not just a beautiful airliner, but the culture and infrastructure of European technical collaboration which arose from its production. The Concorde factories at Filton and Toulouse became part of the Airbus company, which has now reached parity in airliner sales with the once dominant Boeing. Meanwhile, Concorde is still the world’s only commercial supersonic airliner in service.

Two views of G-BSST performing at the 1972 Farnborough Air Show. (photos, Keith McKenzie)


Requirement Specification: n/a
Manufacturers Designation: n/a

Development History:
Bristol Type 198 Series of SST design studies for STAC 1956-1960, evolving from a Mach 1.3 M-wing aircraft to a Mach 2.2 tail-less slender delta with 6 Olympus 591 engines.
Bristol Type 213 Mach 3.0 design study by Bristol (1959) with steel structure.
Bristol Type 223 Scaled-down version of final Type 198 design. Mach 2.2 design with four Olympus 593 engines and 100 passengers. (1961)
Super Caravelle Short/medium range 70-80 seat SST project design by Sud Aviation.
Concorde Trans-Atlantic British-led design study of long-haul version with additional fuselage fuel tank.
Concorde Medium Range French-led design study of short-haul version with ventral stairway instead of rear fuel tank. Dropped in favour of trans-Atlantic version.
Concorde 001/002 First and second prototypes. Shorter fuselage and only small windows in metal nose visor. Olympus 593-1, 2B or 3B engines.
Concorde 101/102 Pre-production aircraft with lengthened fuselage, smaller cabin windows and new glazed visor design. Olympus 593-4 or 593 Mk 602 engines.
Concorde series 200 Production version with higher gross weight, slightly extended main landing gear legs and improved systems. Olympus 593 Mk 602 or 610 engines.
Concorde Freighter Projected freighter version for Federal Express.
Concorde ‘B’ model Improved production version – planned for introduction from aircraft 17 onwards. Full span leading-edge droop and exended wingtips. Uprated engines with reheat deleted. Not built.
F-BTSD in ‘Pepsi’ colour scheme
(photo, Carl Ford)
British Airways Concorde G-BOAD
(photo, APG)


Key Dates:
5 November 1956    First meeting of STAC.
9 March 1959    STAC report recommends UK develop long-range supersonic transport.
February 1960    Bristol merged into BAC.
June 1961    Super Caravelle model displayed at Paris Air Show.
29 November 1962    Anglo-French Agreement signed and initial order placed for 2 prototypes, 2 pre-production examples and 2 test airframes.
January 1963    Concord(e) name first used.
June 1963    Three key airlines place first order options.
early 1965    Short-range Concorde version dropped by the French.
May 1965    Pre-production design announced.
11 December 1967    Prototype 001 rolled out at Toulouse.
September 1968    Prototype 002 rolled out at Filton.
2 March 1969    Maiden flight of prototype 001 at Toulouse.
9 April 1969    First flight of prototype 002 at Filton.
1 October 1969    001 exceeds Mach 1 for the first time.
1 January 1970    Sud Aviation merged into Aerospatiale.
4 November 1970    001 exceeds Mach 2 for the first time.
December 1970    Production version design frozen.
17 December 1971    First pre-production aircraft (101) maiden flight.
April 1972    Initial production batch started.
28 July 1972    First firm orders placed by BOAC & Air France.
10 January 1973    Second pre-production aircraft (102) maiden flight.
6 December 1973    First production aircraft (201) maiden flight.
January 1974    US airlines cancel their options.
July 1974    Agreement to limit production to 16 aircraft already ordered.
21 January 1976    World’s first supersonic passenger services, to Bahrain and Rio de Janeiro.
13 October 1975    French Certificate of Airworthiness granted.
5 December 1975    British Certificate of Airworthiness granted.
19 December 1975    First aircraft delivered to Air France (F-BVFA).
14 January 1976    First aircraft delivered to British Airways (G-BOAA).
March 1976    Concorde banned from New York JFK airport
24 May 1976    Services to Washington DC begin.
April 1977    BAC merged into British Aerospace.
22 November 1977    New York services begin.
20 April 1979    Maiden flight of last production aircraft.
1 April 1984    British Airways buys UK Concorde fleet from the British Government and assumes responsibility for their upkeep.
25 July 2000    Air France flight AF4590 crashes near Paris. Air France fleet grounded.
15 August 2000    British Airways fleet grounded following initial findings of accident investigation.
January 2001    Details of return to flight modifications announced.
17 July 2001    Successful test flight by first modified Concorde (G-BOAF)
5 September 2001    Modifications approved by airworthiness authorities – CofA restored
7 November 2001    Passengers services to New York resumed.
10 April 2003    British Airways and Air France announce withdrawal of Concorde from service.
31 May 2003    Air France operates last commercial services.
27 June 2003    Last Air France Concorde flight – delivery to a museum.
24 October 2003    British Airways operates last commercial services.
26 November 2003    Last ever Concorde flight – delivery to museum at Filton.


Military Operators


Government Agencies


Civilian Operators

UK BOAC – later British Airways
France Air France
Head-on view of F-BTSD
(photo, Bernard Charles)
Air France Concorde F-BVFC
(photo, Antoine Grondeau)


Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde (prototype version)
Accomodation: Three crew + flight test observers and test equipment
Dimensions: Length 184 ft 6 in (56.30 m); Height 37 ft 5 in (11.40 m); Wing Span 83 ft 10 in (25.55 m); Wing Area 3,856 sq ft (358.22 sq m)
Engines: Four Rolls-Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593-1, 593-2B or 593-3B turbojets rated at 28,000 lb st (13 075 kg), 32,900 lb st (14 935 kg) or 34,730 lb st (15 767 kg) respectively with 17% reheat
Weights: Operating Empty 136,625 lb (61,976 kg); Maximum Take-off 326,000 lb (147,880 kg)
Performance: Maximum Speed Mach 2.08 at 51,300 ft (15,635 m); Cruising speed for optimum range Mach 2.02 at 51,300 ft (15,635 m); Maximum rate of climb at sea level 5000 ft/min (1525 m/min); Service ceiling 60,000 ft (18,290 m); Range not known.
Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde (Pre-production version)
Accomodation: Three crew + flight test observers and test equipment
Dimensions: Length 203 ft 9 in (62.10 m)
Engines: Four Rolls-Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593-4 or 593 Mk 602 turbojets rated at 36,800 lb st (16 707 kg) with 17% reheat
Weights: Maximum Take-off 358,000 lb (162,532 kg), later 389,100 lb (176 650 kg)
Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde (production version – final configuration)
Accomodation: Three crew + up to 144 economy-class passengers or 100 first-class passengers
Dimensions: Length 203 ft 9 in (62.10 m); Height 37 ft 5 in (11.40 m); Wing Span 83 ft 10 in (25.55 m); Wing Area 3,856 sq ft (358.22 sq m)
Engines: Four Rolls-Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593 Mk 610 turbojets rated at 38,050 lb st (17259 kg) with 17% reheat
Weights: Operating Empty 173,500 lb (78,698 kg); Maximum Take-off 408,000 lb (185,066 kg)
Performance: Maximum Speed Mach 2.2 at 51,300 ft (15,635 m); Cruising speed for optimum range Mach 2.04 at 51,300 ft (15,635 m) – equivalent to 1,354 mph (2,179 kph); Maximum rate of climb at sea level 5000 ft/min (1525 m/min); Service ceiling 60,000 ft (18,290 m); Range with maximum fuel 4,090 miles (6,582 km) with FAR fuel reserves and payload of 19,500 lb (8,845 kg), range with maximum payload at Mach 2.02 cruise 3,870 miles (6,228 km) with FAR fuel reserves.
F-BVFA landing
(photo, not known)
F-BVFB cleans-up after take-off
(photo, not known)


Design Centre

Head of Design Team: Dr Bill Strang and Lucien Servanty (Chief Engineers)
Design Offices: Filton & Toulouse


Sud Aviation
(St Martin, Toulouse, France – later Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
prototype (001) 1 Toulouse Feb 1965-1967
pre-production (102) 1 Toulouse 1967-1973
pre-production* (201-215) 8 Toulouse 1973-1979
Total: 10    

* Odd numbered airframes.

BAC – British Aircraft Corporation Ltd
(Filton, Bristol, UK – later British Aerospace)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
prototype (002) 1 Filton Feb 1965-1968
pre-production (101) 1 Filton 1968-1971
production* (202-216) 8 Filton 1971-1979
Total: 10    

* Even numbered airframes.

Total Produced: 20 a/c (all variants)
[An additional two complete airframes where built for static load testing (France) and thermal/fatigue testing (UK-RAE Farnborough), in parallel with the pre-production aircraft].

Production List

Listing of Concorde production and aircraft final locations

(photo, British Airways)
(photo, British Airways)

More Information


‘The Concorde Story’ [Order this book from USA] [Order this book from UK]
by Christopher Orlebar
Osprey Publishing, UK, 2002(5th)   ISBN: 1855326671
* Very comprehensive and detailed history.

‘Concorde: The Inside Story’ [Order this book from USA] [Order this book from UK]
by Brian Trubshaw
Sutton Publishing, UK, 21 Nov 2001 (2nd)   ISBN: 0750928115
* Authoritative history from the Concorde chief test pilot.

‘Flying Concorde – The Full Story’ [Order this book from UK]
by Brian Calvert
Airlife Publishing, UK, 1 Mar 2002(3rd)   ISBN: 1 840373520
* Development and service history.

‘Concorde – Airlife’s Airliners: 14’ [Order this book from UK]
by Gunter Endres
Airlife Publishing, UK, 31 Oct 2001   ISBN: 1 840372052
* Well illustrated service history.

‘Concorde’ [Order this book from UK]
Science Museum, UK, 15 Dec 2001   ISBN: 1 900 7474 21
* Explains the technology that went into Concorde’s design.

‘Concorde’ [Order this book from UK]
by Phil Birtles
Ian Allan, UK, 23 Nov 2000   ISBN: 0 7110 27404
* Concise development history.

‘Concorde – Airliner Color History’ [Order this book from UK]
by Gunter Endres
Motorbooks International, USA, Oct 2001   ISBN: 0 760 311 951
* Good pictorial history.

‘Concorde – From The Flightdeck: 5’
by Leney & Burney
Ian Allan Ltd, UK, 1991   ISBN: 0 7110 18960
* Describes a typical Concorde flight.


‘Flight International’ – various issues 2000-2001

‘Flightpath Volume 1 Autumn/Fall 2003’
AIRtime Publishing, UK/USA, 2003   ISBN: 1 880588 65 X/1 880588 66 8
* Includes 60-page feature on Concorde – published just to soon to cover it’s retirement.

Production List:
‘Jet Airliner Production List – Volume 2’
The Aviation Hobby Shop, UK, 1998   ISBN: ?
* Full production and service histories of several jetliners – including Concorde.


Concorde at Filton
* Visit G-BOAF at Filton.

British Airways

Air France

Last flight
* Video of Concorde’s last flight, returning to Filton in Bristol.

UK DoT Air Accidents Investigation Branch

BEA France Website
* Official Concorde crash report (in English).

* Huge website dedicated to every aspect of Concorde.

Concorde Supersonic Jet – Homepage
* Enthusiasts website dedicated to Concorde – several pages don’t work yet.

Le Site du Club Concorde AIACC
* Well illustrated history of Concorde.

Concorde en 1969
* French text illustrated report on the status of Concorde in June 1969.

BBC News In Depth Farewell to Concorde
* Full coverage of the retirement from service by British Airways.

BBC News In Depth Concorde Crash
* Another site covering the crash in detail.

Guardian Unlimited Special Reports The Concorde Crash
* Detailed coverage of the events surrounding the crash.


Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
To be added.


‘Concorde – The Ultimate Profile’ [Order this video from UK]
Catalogue Number: DD2919
* A more recent history of Concorde.

‘The Concorde Story’ [Order this video from UK]
Catalogue Number: CHV2035
* History of Concorde.

‘A Celebration of Concorde – 25th Anniversary’ [Order this video from UK]
Catalogue Number: DD983
* 25 years of Concorde operations.

‘Concorde In The 21st Century’ [Order this video from UK]
Catalogue Number: FFP9533
* Profile of the British Airways Concorde fleet.

‘Concorde – The New Era’ [Order this video from UK]
Catalogue Number: FFP9683
* Concorde operations after the crash.

‘Concorde’ [Order this video from UK]
Catalogue Number: DD05634
* New profile of Concorde.

English Electric Lightning

Aircraft Profile
BAe chase aircraft F. Mk 6 XP693 in 56 Sqn
colours at Wattisham in 1992.
(photo, Joop de Groot)


The only all-British supersonic aircraft to enter production, and the last all-British single-seat fighter, the English Electric Lightning defended United Kingdom air space for more than twenty-five years. It’s astounding performance and docile handling wowed airshow audiences and won the hearts of all the pilots that flew it. Almost cancelled at one point, it suffered from chronic underdevelopment throughout much of it’s career and this adversely affected it’s export potential.

Following the cancellation of the Miles M.52 supersonic programme in 1946 and the record breaking flight by the Bell X-1 in October 1947, design studies for a manned supersonic research aircraft began at English Electric in July 1948 under Chief Designer W.E.W. Petter (designer of the Westland Whirlwind fighter of World War 2 and of the Canberra bomber). On 12 May 1949 English Electric was awarded a contract by the Ministry of Supply to proceed with detail design work on it’s proposal, designated P.1 (Project 1) by the company.

The P.1 configuration featured a highly swept-back untapered wing and a long parallel-sided fuselage. The two engines were housed inside the fuselage in a staggered arrangement, one above the other. The lower engine sat beneath the centre wing box structure, while the upper engine was positioned behind the wing. This arrangement conferred high thrust for low drag and small frontal area. A disadvantage was that most of the fuselage volume was taken up with intake ducting and jet pipes, leaving little room for fuel. As a result, the wing was designed as a complete integral tank, without any separate bag tanks. Wind tunnel testing confirmed that the design held a lot of promise.

Controversy over the low-set tailplane position, and concern over the possible adverse handling characteristics of the swept wing led to the construction of the Short SB.5 (WG768), a research aircraft designed to explore the low-speed handling characteristics of the Lightning configuration. During it’s eighteen month test programme it generally confirmed the accuracy of English Electric’s predictions.

Two P.1s (WG760 and WG763) were ordered on 1 April 1950, with a third airframe constructed for static testing. The design team now turned its attention to a supersonic fighter derivative of the P.1. Back in September 1949 the Ministry had circulated a draft specification, F.23/49, based on this idea, and it was formally issued in April 1950. (Specification ER103 is associated with the P.1 in some sources, but that document was for the Fairey Delta 2). The fighter variant required a redesigned fuselage, with the cockpit raised to provide a better all-round view for the pilot. A long spine fairing from the redesigned canopy to the base of the fin provided additional equipment space. The Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engines used in the P.1 were replaced by more powerful Rolls-Royce Avons, which promised speeds above Mach 2 with reheat. A suitable air intake was required to manage the shock waves which appear at such high speeds. The answer was to mount a central conical ‘bullet’ in a circular air intake. The central cone was also used to mount the Ferranti AIRPASS radar scanner. While it was expected that air-to-air missiles would eventually be the main armament of interceptor fighters, their reliability was not yet high enough to guarantee a kill, and so guns and air-to-air unguided rockets were recommended as effective alternatives. The new fighter therefore had provision for all three types of armament.

In 1952 the original two research aircraft were redesignated P.1A and the fighter version designated P.1B. A contract for three P.1B prototypes was agreed in August 1953. To speed-up development, a pre-production batch of 20 aircraft was ordered in February the following year.

On 4 August 1954, the first P.1A prototype (WG760) made it’s maiden flight at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. The new aircraft handled extremely well, and exceeded Mach 1.0 in level flight on 11 August 1954. The second P.1A prototype (WG763) joined the flight test programme on 18 July 1955. This aircraft featured two Aden guns in the upper nose and a bulged ventral fairing to accommodate an additional fuel tank. WG760 was then fitted with a simple afterburner (reheat) and resumed flight testing on 31 January 1956. It eventually reached a top speed of Mach 1.53.

Th first P.1B (XA847) fighter version took to the air from Warton on 4 April 1957, and went supersonic on the same flight. On the same day Defence Minister Duncan Sandys announced that all fighters then in development for the RAF would be cancelled and replaced by anti-aircraft missiles – except for the English Electric P.1 which had advanced too far to cancel. Mach 2 was first reached by XA847 on 25 November 1958. The first of 20 pre-production aircraft (XG307) made it’s maiden flight on 3 April 1958. The large number of test aircraft allowed development to progress rapidly and without major problems. In August 1958 it was announced that the name ‘Lightning’ had been chose for the type, and this was officially conferred in October.
XM134 was the first full production Lightning F. Mk 1, making its first flight on 29 October 1959. Controller (Aircraft) release, certifying the aircraft fit for service, was achieved in December of that year, with a handful of aircraft going to the AFDS (Air Fighting Development Squadron) of the Central Fighter Establishment. No.74 at Coltishall received it’s first Lightning F. Mk 1s on 29 June 1960. The slightly improved F. Mk 1A version served with Nos.51 and 111 Sqns.

The Lightning F. Mk 2 introduced improvements such as a steerable nose wheel, liquid oxygen breathing system and better avonics. In addition, the Avon 210 engines were fitted with a fully variable reheat system. Deliveries to Nos. 19 and 92 Squadrons in Germany commenced on 17 December 1962. These aircraft were later upgraded to F.2A standard, as outlined below. More advanced changes came with the F. Mk 3, which introduced a new larger square-topped fin, Red Top collision-course missiles, improved radar and uprated Avon 301 engines. These modifications were first trialled on P.1B Development aircraft XG310, before being introduced onto production aircraft. The first true F. Mk 3 (XP693) took to the air on 16 June 1962 and deliveries to the RAF followed in April 1964, equipping 23, 29, 56, 74 and 111 Sqns.

Designation-wise, the next variant was the T. Mk 4. Work had started on a two-seat trainer version of the P.1B in October 1953. A widened forward fuselage allowed side-by-side seating while retaining full operational capability. Based on the F. Mk 2 airframe, two T. Mk 4 prototypes were produced, the first (XL628) flying on 6 May 1959. While twenty production examples were produced, design work started on a trainer version of the F. Mk 3 airframe. Designated T. Mk 5, twenty-two combat capable machines were built, plus two conversions of T. Mk 4s.

The last version of the Lightning for RAF service was the F. Mk 6. Initially designated F. Mk 3A, this variant embodied a whole series of improvements aimed at improving operational effectiveness. The outboard wing leading edge was kinked and cambered to increase wing area and the wing structure was strengthened to take underwing pylons, although these were never actually fitted to RAF aircraft. A new fuel system with a longer and deeper ventral tank of double the previous volume was installed. The front portion of the tank could house two 30 mm Aden cannon or more fuel. The prototype F. Mk 6 (XM697), a converted F. Mk 3, first flew on 17 April 1964. The first production Mk 6 flew on 16 June 1965, and entered RAF service in December 1965. The first 13 aircraft were F. Mk 3 aircraft converted on the production line to F. Mk 6(Interim) standard before the full version reached production. These early aircraft were later upgraded to full F. Mk 6 standard. The F. Mk 6 served with Nos.5, 11, 23 and 74 Sqns. In a parallel upgrade, 30 F. Mk 2s were upgraded to near F. Mk 6 standard during 1966-70 under the designation F. Mk 2A. The only external difference with the Mk 6 was the retention of the gun muzzle outlets in the nose.

The highly specialised air-defence role of the Lightning had somewhat limited it’s export potential, but the advent of the F. Mk 6 offered the possibility that a multi-role version could be developed – combining fighter, attack and reconnaissance missions in one airframe. The modifications proved straightforward and a marketing campaign was launched. In December 1965 it was announced that Saudi Arabia was to place an order for forty Lightnings. The aircraft were to be 34 single-seaters, based on the F. Mk 3 but with features from the F. Mk 6, designated F. Mk 53 and six 2-seaters based on the T. Mk 5 and designated T. Mk 55. To facilitate pilot training, two T. Mk 4s and four F. Mk 2s were supplied in 1966 under the designations T. Mk 54 and F. Mk 52 respectively.

In December 1966 a second export order was achieved, for fourteen aircraft for Kuwait. This order was to comprise 12 single-seat F. Mk 53K and two T. Mk 55K aircraft of very similar standard to the Saudi aircraft. The prototype F. Mk 53 first flew on 1 November 1966 (53-666) and was followed two days later by the T. Mk 55 prototype (55-710). Deliveries to Saudi Arabia started on 1 July 1968, when two F. Mk 53s flew from Warton to Jeddah. Deliveries to Kuwait began on 18 December 1968. Deliveries to Saudi and Kuwait were completed in September 1969 and December 1969 respectively. Despite an intensive sales campaign, no further orders were forthcoming. The last Lighting built was serial 53-700, an attrition replacement for Saudi Arabia which made its first flight on 29 June 1972.

From 1974 RAF Lightning squadrons began to re-equip with the Phantom FGR.2, and by the Spring of 1977 only No.5 and 11 Squadrons at Binbrook remained. Kuwait retired it’s aircraft in 1977. Saudi Arabia’s 1985 order for Tornados included the trade-in of it’s 22 surviving Lightnings. These aircraft were flown back to Warton in January 1986 and placed in storage. Although available for sale, no customers were found for them. In July 1988 the RAF finally withdrew the Lightning from service, and Binbrook was closed shortly afterwards. A few aircraft remained operational with British Aerospace (BAe) at Warton as chase and radar target aircraft for the Tornado programme until December 1992.

The surviving Lightnings were sold-off to museums and private individuals. Enthusiasts in the growing ‘warbird’ movement of the 1990s attempted to get a civilian-owned Lightning flying again, but the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) refused permission. In the military service the Lightning had a reputation for catching fire, and this is likely to be the main reason for the the refusal. The legal liabilities following an accident in a civil-owned example over the relatively densely populated British Isles would be quite considerable. Since a redesign of the Lightning was not feasible without the cooperation of BAe, UK-based aircraft are limited to fast taxi runs – the Lightning Preservation Group at Bruntingthorpe in Leicestershire still operates two aircraft in this manner. Meanwhile enthusiasts looked overseas for a more benign environment. At Cape Town, in South Africa, the Thunder City organisation was set up to operate ex-military fast jets for pleasure flights and other contracts. The fleet includes three Lightnings. In Mississippi, USA, the Anglo-American Lightning Organisation is also in the process of refurbishing a T. Mk 5 to flying condition. The Lighting still flies, albeit far from home.

By designing a twin-engined aircraft with the fuel volume of a single engined aircraft, English Electric produced a relatively light and extremely powerful fighter, but with the inevitable consequence of a lack of range. Subsequent versions began to tackle this problem with an increasingly bulged ventral tank, but fuel usage was always a worry for Lightning pilots. At the same time, penny-pinching development funding meant that it took until the Mk 6 before a wing stressed to carry weapons pylons and external fuel tanks was fitted. The Lightning was never fitted with a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), or adapted to carry Sidewinder missiles, and in it’s final years was forced to rely on it’s gun armament to supplement it’s ancient Red Top missiles. The mechanical complexity of the Lightning was of a entirely different order to that of it’s predecessors and gave the RAF a major maintenance challenge upon it’s introduction into service. On the other hand, pilots converting to the Lightning found it to be a delight to fly – fast, agile and responsive.

Fifty years after it’s first flight, audiences at three different locations around the world can still enjoy the unique combination of speed and control that made the Lightning in it’s heyday a deadly threat to enemy aircraft.

T. Mk 5 XS420 seen at RIAT 2003 in 226
OCU colours. (photo, John Hayles)


Requirement Specification: F.23/49
Manufacturers Designation: P.1B (Lightning F.1 & F.1A), P.11 (Lightning T.4), P.25 (Lightning F.2), P.26 (Lightning F.3 & F.6), P.27 (Lightning T.5)

Development History:
P.1 Initial designation for supersonic research aircraft.
P.1A Retrospective designation for supersonic research aircraft. Two flying prototypes. Armstrong Siddeley AS Sa.5 engines. Elliptical pitot nose intake.
P.1B Redesign of P.1 for fighter role. Three flying prototypes. New fuselage, circular intake with shock cone housing radar scanner, no ventral tank, Rolls-Royce Avon 200 engines, modified wing, short fin, two Aden cannon.
P.1B Lightning Pre-production version of P.1B. Avon 201 engines, ventral fuel tank introduced, taller round-tip fin introduced 1958.
Lightning F. Mk 1 Initial production version. Avon 201 engines. Aden cannon and Firesteak missiles.
Lightning F. Mk 1A F. Mk 1 with provision for in-flight refuelling and improved radio equipment.
Lightning F. Mk 2 Improved production version with all-weather navigation avionics, fully variable afterburner, steerable nosewheel, liquid oxygen breathing system. Avon 210 engines. Some structural improvements. Aden cannon and Firestreak missiles.
Lightning F. Mk 2A F. Mk 2 conversion to F. Mk 6 standard with updated avionics, increased ventral tank fuel capacity for longer range.
Lightning F. Mk 2B Provisional designation for multi-role export version of F. Mk 2.
Lightning F. Mk 3 Improved avionics. Aden cannon deleted. Red Top missiles. Avon 301 engines. Small ventral fuel tank. Larger fin with square tip. Overwing fuel tank capability.
Lightning F. Mk 3A Initial designation for F. Mk 6
Lightning F. Mk 3B Provisional designation for multi-role export version of F. Mk 3.
Lightning T. Mk 4 Side-by-side dual trainer version of F. Mk 2. Avon 201 engines.
Lightning T. Mk 5 Side-by-side dual trainer version of F. Mk 3. Avon 301 engines.
Lightning T. Mk 5A Provisional designation for multi-role export version of T. Mk 5.
Lightning F. Mk 6 Improved F. Mk 3 with kinked and cambered outer wing, inset ailerons, larger ventral fuel tank/weapons pack, provision for arrestor hook, provision for overwing fuel tanks. Avon 301 engines. Red Top missiles.
Lightning F. Mk 52 Ex-RAF F. Mk 2 conversions for export to Saudi Arabia.
Lightning F. Mk 53 New-build export version of F. Mk 6 with additional ground attack capability. Avon 302C engines. Two over and two under wing pylons. Provision for ventral cannon pack with 2 x 30 mm Aden. Firestreak/Red Top missiles.
Lightning F. Mk 53K Minor change version of F. Mk 53 for Kuwait.
Lightning T. Mk 54 Ex-RAF T. Mk 4 conversions for export.
Lightning T. Mk 55 Ex-RAF T. Mk 5 conversions and new-build for export. Avon 301 engines.
Lightning T. Mk 55K Minor change version of T. Mk 55 for Kuwait.
P.3 Projected development of P.1 with side intakes, March 1951.
P.5 Projected development of P.1 with one Rolls-Royce Avon RA.12 with reheat, March 1952.
P.6 Projected development of Lightning to meet ER.134T, April-August 1953.
P.8 Projected development of Lightning – tandem 2-seat high altitude fighter to meet F.155T. Area-ruled fuselage, air-to-air missiles on wingtips. September 1955
P.15 Projected photo-reconnaissance version of Lightning, Feb 1956 .
P.18 Projected low-altitude bomber version of Lightning, Oct-Nov 1956.
P.19 Projected interceptor variant of Lightning.
P.23 Projected development of Lightning.
P.33 Projected 2-seat strike-fighter version for Australia.
P.34 Projected single-seat ground-attack version for RAF.
VG Lightning Projected version of Lightning T.5 with variable-geometry wing, enlarged ventral pack and folding fin for carrier-borne naval interceptor role, autumn 1963-April 1964.
F. Mk 6 XS899 of 11 Sqn seen during the
1988 Tactical Fighter Meet at Waddington.
F. Mk 6 XS921 of 74 Sqn during exercise
“Berstu Padu” in 1970.
(both photos, Keith McKenzie)


Key Dates:
July 1948    First proposals developed by English Electric for a supersonic research aircraft
3 August 1948    English Electric awarded contract for a detailed design study
1 November 1948    Initial design submitted to Ministry of Supply and studies continued
12 May 1949    Contract received to proceed with design work on project designated P.1
September 1949    Draft specification F.23/49 for a supersonic fighter circulated
February 1950    W.E. Petter replaced by F.W. Page as Chief Engineer
1 April 1950    Contract for construction of 3 P.1 airframes (2 flying + 1 static test) to specification F.23/49
June 1952    Research aircraft redesignated P.1A and dedicated fighter derivative designated P.1B
5 August 1953    Contract for 3 P.1B aircraft placed
October 1953    Work starts on design study for two-seat trainer version of P.1B
26 February 1954    Twenty ‘P.1B Lightning’ development aircraft ordered
4 August 1954    First P.1A maiden flight (WG760)
11 August 1954    P.1A exceeds Mach 1.0 in level flight
18 July 1955    Second P.1A first flight (WG763)
15 May 1956    Contract to build 2 trainer prototypes, designated T.4
November 1956    Order placed for 50 production F. Mk 1 aircraft
4 April 1957    First P.1B first flight (XA847)
4 April 1957    Defence White Paper declares manned fighters obsolete
5 September 1957    Second P.1B first flight (XA853)
3 January 1958    Third P.1B first flight (XA856)
3 April 1958    First flight of a ‘P.1B Lightning’ development aircraft (XG307)
August 1958    Announcement of the name Lightning for the P.1B
25 November 1958    XA847 exceeds Mach 2 in level flight for the first time
6 May 1959    T.4 prototype maiden flight (XL628)
29 October 1959    Maiden flight of first F. Mk 1 production aircraft (XM134)
December 1959    Air Fighting Development Squadron (AFDS) begins operational trials
12 January 1960    British Aircraft Corporation formed
29 June 1960    First deliveries to 74 Sqn at Coltishall
11 July 1961    First F Mk.2 maiden flight (XN723)
November 1961    XG310 flies as F.3 prototype
29 March 1962    T.5 prototype maiden flight (XM967)
16 June 1962    First F Mk.3 maiden flight (XP693)
April 1964    First deliveries of F. Mk 3 to RAF
17 April 1964    F.6 prototype maiden flight (XP697)
16 June 1965    First production F.6 maiden flight (?)
December 1965    First F.6 deliveries to RAF squadrons
21 December 1965    Saudi Arabia announces selection of Lightning for RSAF
1 November 1966    Maiden flight of F. Mk 53 (53-667)
3 November 1966    Maiden flight of T. Mk 55 (55-710)
18 December 1966    Export contract signed with Kuwait
December 1967    First deliveries to RSAF
December 1969    End of series production
June 1972    Last Lightning built (Saudi attrition one-off)
1977    Kuwait withdraws Lightning from service
January 1986    Saudi Arabia retires Lightning from service
30 July 1988    Lightning withdrawn from RAF service
December 1992    BAe retires Lightning test & chase aircraft
2001    Thunder City begins Lightning flights.
F. Mk 6 XS927 on 74 Sqn’s flight line at
RAF Tengah, Singapore, in 1970.
F. Mk 53K G-AXEE at the Paris Air Show in
June 69, later Kuwait AF K418.
(both photos, Keith McKenzie)


Military Operators

Kuwait – Air Force (12 F.53 + 2 T.55)
Saudi Arabia – Air Force (5 F.52 + 35 F.53 + 2 T.54 + 6 T.55)
UK – Royal Air Force (F.1, F.1A, F.2, F.2A, F.3, T.4, T.5, F.6, F.6A)

Government Agencies

UK – Empire Test Pilot’s School (ETPS) (1 x T. Mk 4, 1 x T. Mk 5 used for pilot training)
UK – A&AEE Boscombe Down (Several used for test duties)

Civilian Operators

British Aerospace (5 x F. Mk 6 used as Tornado chase aircraft)
Lightning Preservation Group (2 x F. Mk 6 – fast taxi runs only)
Anglo-American Lightning Organisation (1 x T. Mk 5)
Thunder City (2 x T. Mk 5, 1 x F. Mk 6)
Two F. Mk 3s of 74 Sqn scramble from
Leuchars in 1966.
Short SB.5 WG768 at Finningley in 1966.
(both photos, Keith McKenzie)


English Electric P.1A
Role: Single-seat research aircraft
Crew: 1
Dimensions: Length 56 ft 8 in (17.27 m); Height 17 ft 3 in (5.26 m); Wing Span 34 ft 10 in (10.62 m); Wing Area 458.5 sq ft (42.59 sq m)
Engine(s): Two Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Sa.5 turbojets each of 8,100 lb (3674 kg) st – later fitted Sa.5R engines with reheat giving 5,500 lb (2,495 kg) st dry or 10,300 lb (4672 kg) st with reheat.
Weights: Empty 21,000 lb (9,525 kg); Maximum loaded 28,000 lb (12,700 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed Mach 1.53 (1000 mph, 1609 kph) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m); Typical Endurance 50 mins.
Armament: None (Two 30 mm Aden cannon in upper nose on second aircraft).
English Electric Lightning F. Mk 1A
Role: Single-seat all-weather interceptor fighter
Crew: 1
Dimensions: Length 55 ft 3 in (16.84 m) over probe; Height 19 ft 7 in (5.97 m); Wing Span 34 ft 10 in (10.61 m); Wing Area 458.5 sq ft (42.59 sq m)*
Engine(s): Two Rolls-Royce Avon 210 (R.A.24R) turbojets each of 11,250 lb (5103 kg) st or 14,430 lb (6545 kg) st with reheat.
Weights: Empty 25,737 lb (11,674 kg); Maximum loaded 39,000 lb (17,690 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed Mach 2.1 (1390 mph, 2237 kph) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m); Initial climb 50,000 ft/min (15240 m/min); Service ceiling 60,000 ft (18,920 m); Range 895 mls (1440 km).
Armament: Two 30 mm Aden cannon in upper nose, plus interchangable weapons packs for two de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles on forward fuselage sides, or two retractable boxes each containing 22 spin-stabilised 2-in (51 mm) rockets, or two 30 mm Aden cannon.

* NOT 380.1 sq ft (35.31 sq m) quoted in some sources.

English Electric Lightning F. Mk 6
Role: Single-seat all-weather interceptor fighter
Crew: 1
Dimensions: Length 55 ft 3 in (16.84 m) including probe; Height 19 ft 7 in (5.97 m); Wing Span 34 ft 10 in (10.61 m); Wing Area 474.5 sq ft (44.08 sq m)
Engine(s): Two Rolls-Royce Avon 301 turbojets each of 12,690 lb (5756 kg) st or 16,360 lb (7420 kg) st with reheat.
Weights: Empty 28,040 lb (12,719 kg); Maximum loaded 41,700 lb (18,915 kg)
Performance: Maximum level speed Mach 2.27 (1500 mph, 2415 kph) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m); Maximum Cruising speed 595 mph, (957 kph) at 36,000-39,000 ft (11,000-12,000 m); Initial climb 50,000 ft/min (15240 m/min); Time to 40,000 ft (12,200 m) 2 min 30 sec; Service ceiling 60,000+ ft (18,300+ m); Range (with ventral tank) 800 miles (1287 km).

Armament: Interchangeable packs for two Hawker Siddeley Red Top or de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles, or two retractable boxes each containing 22 spin-stabilised 2-in (51 mm) rockets. Twin 30 mm Aden cannon in optional ventral pack with 120 rpg.
F. Mk 6 XS904 seen at Boscombe Down in 1992 F. Mk 6 XS899 seen at Upper Heyford in 1986
(both photos, Anthony Noble)


Design Centre

Head of Design Team: W.E.W Petter (F.W. Page from February 1950)
Chief Designer: A.E. Ellison
Design Office: English Electric Aviation Ltd, Warton, Lancashire.


English Electric Aviation Ltd (From 1963? BAC – British Aircraft Corporation Ltd)
(Warton, Lancashire, UK)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
P.1/P.1A prototypes 2* Samlesbury Apr 1950-July 1955
P.1B prototypes 3 Strand Road, Preston Aug 1953-Jan 1958
‘P.1B Lightning’ 20 Samlesbury Feb 1954-Sept 1959
Lightning F. Mk 1 19* Samlesbury Nov 1956- 1959
Lightning F.1A 28$ Samlesbury 1959-July 1961
Lightning F. Mk 2 44 Samlesbury Dec 1959-Sept 1963
Lightning F. Mk 2A (30 F.2 conv) Warton 1966-Sept 1970
Lightning F. Mk 3 47+16 = 63 Samlesbury June 1960-early 1965
Lightning T. Mk 4 2 Samlesbury May 1956-Sept 1959
Lightning T. Mk 4 20 Samlesbury July 1958-May 1962
Lightning T. Mk 5 (2 T.4 conv) Filton early 1962-Dec 1962
Lightning T. Mk 5 20 Samlesbury Aug 1962-Feb 1966
Lightning T. Mk 5 2 Samlesbury early 1966-Dec 1966
Lightning F.3A
/F. Mk 6(Interim)
16** Samlesbury early 1965-late 1965
Lightning F. Mk 6 13+33 = 46
(+2 F.3 conv)
Samlesbury late 1965-June 1967
Lightning F. Mk 52 (4 F.2 conv) Warton Apr 1966-July 1966
Lightning F. Mk 52 (1 F.2 conv) Warton May 1967
Lightning F. Mk 53 33 (+1 F.3 conv) Samlesbury May 1966-Dec 1968
Lightning F. Mk 53 1 Samlesbury early 1972-Sept 1972
Lightning T. Mk 54 (2 T.4 conv) Warton March 1966-June 1966
Lightning T. Mk 55 6 (+1 T.5 conv) Samlesbury May 1966-July 1969
Lightning F. Mk 53K 12 Samlesbury Dec 1966-Sept 1969
Lightning T. Mk 55K 2 Samlesbury Dec 1966-Sept 1969

Total Produced: 339 a/c (All variants)

* Plus one static test airframe. $ Plus two aircraft not assembled – stored for spares.
** Updated to full F. Mk 6 standard 1967-1969 at Warton.

Production List

See The Crowood Aviation Series title listed below.

More Information


‘Lightning Force: RAF Units 1960-1988 – A Photographic Appreciation of the English Electric Lightning’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Fred Martin
Published by Dalrymple and Verdun Publishing, June 2005 ISBN: 1905414005
* Pictorial coverage of all the RAF squadrons that operated the Lightning.

‘Lightning Strikes: English Electric’s Supersonic Fighter in Action’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Martin W Bowman
Published by The Crowood Press, May 2001 ISBN: 1840372362
* Superb collection of action photos, with informative captions and amusing anecdotes.

‘English Electric Lightning: Vol.1 Birth of a Legend ‘
by Stewart Scott
Published by GMS Enterprises, Sept 2000 ISBN: 1870384784
* Very detailed comprehensive history of the formative years of the Lightning.

‘Lightning From The Cockpit: Flying the Supersonic Legend’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Peter Caygill
Published by Leo Cooper Ltd, 30 July 2004 ISBN: 1844150828
* Sixteen personal accounts of what it was like to fly the Lightning.

‘The English Electric Lightning: A Comprehensive Guide for the Modeller’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Richard J Caruana
Published by SAM Publications, 1 Jan 2003 ISBN: 0953346579
* Well illustrated guide for modellers with fold-out scale plans and close-up details.

‘The Last of the Lightnings’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Ian Black
Published by Patrick Stephens Limited, Oct 1996 ISBN: 1852605413
* Recalls the operations of 5 and XI Squadrons from Binbrook, with excellent colour photos.

‘English Electric Lightning (Crowood Aviation Series)’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Martin W Bowman
Published by The Crowood Press, 29 April 2005 ISBN: 1861267371
* A celebration of the British fighter, with appendices listing units, production totals and individual aircraft histories.

‘English Electric/BAC Lightning’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Bruce Barrymore Halpenny
Published by Osprey Publications Ltd, Nov 1984 ISBN: 0850455626
* Very well written history of the Lightning, published before it’s retirement.

‘The English Electric Lightning (Images of Aviation series)’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Martin W Bowman
Published by Tempus Publishing Ltd, Aug 1999 ISBN: 0752417061
* Collection of b+w Lightning photos.

‘Lightning: The Operational History’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Kev Darling
Published by Airlife Publishing, July 1995 ISBN: 185310521X
* Development and service use of the Lightning by RAF, RSAF and KAF.

‘English Electric Lightning: Warbird Tech 28’
by Kev Darling
Published by Speciality Press, Jan 2001 ISBN: 1 58007 028 0
* Development history with b+w reprints from Lightning technical manuals.

‘English Electric Aircraft Since 1908’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by A J Jackson
Published by Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1990 ISBN: 0 85177 834 8
* Detailed company history with a chapter on the Lightning.

‘Wings Of Fame Volume 7’
Published by Aerospace Publishing, 1997 ISBN: 1 874023 97 2 (pb)/1 874023 98 0 (hb)
* Includes well written 66-page feature on the Lightning.


To be added.


Aviation Picture Hangar – English Electric (BAC) Lightning
* Collection of photos of Lightnings, sqn use & colour profiles, 3-views & specifications for main variants

Lightning Preservation Group
* Bruntingthorpe-based group which operates two Lightnings for fast taxi runs

* The Lightning Association – history, photos, units, aircraft histories etc

Thunder & Lightnings Lightning page
* Lightning history, complete survivors list and a lot of nice photos

Warbird Alley
* Brief history, Spec, photos, links
* 14 pages of excellent Lightning photos

English Electric Lightning (1960-1988)
* Development, specification, photos, further reading

* History, variants, operators, comparison, links

Wings Palette
* 57 colour profile drawings of Lightnings

Paul Nann
* Long page of good Lightning photos from the 1980s and of preserved examples

The English Electric (BAC) Lightning
* Well written comprehensive profile of the Lightning

British Aircraft Directory
* Production summary, specification, list of preserved Lightnings in the UK

Anglo-American Lightning Organisation
* Restoration to flight status of Lightning T.5 in Mississippi, USA

Thundercity – The English Electric Lightning
* Book your flight in a Cape Town-based Lightning + photos & video clips


Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
See the SAM Publications title listed above.


To be added.

Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde Manufacture

Production List

Aircraft Listing

This page gives brief information of each individual aircraft, together with a note on their final fate.

MSN Reg’n Delivered Last Flight Remarks
001 F-WTSS 19 October 1972 French prototype. Flew 2 March 1969. Preserved Musée de l’Air, Le Bourget, Paris
002 G-BSST 4 March 1976 UK prototype. Flew 9 April 1969. Preserved Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton
101 G-AXDN 20 August 1975 UK pre-production aircraft. Flew 17 December 1971. Preserved Imperial War Museum, Duxford
102 F-WTSA 29 January 1976 French pre-production aircraft. Flew 10 January 1973. Preserved Musée Delta (now Athis Aviation Museum), Orly Airport, Paris
201 F-WTSB First French production aircraft. Flew 6 December 1973. Preserved outside Clement Ader building, Airbus France, Toulouse
202 G-BBDG First UK production aircraft. Flew 13 February 1974. Retired 24 December 1983. Stored Airbus UK, Filton. Due to move to Brooklands Museum, Weybridge
203 F-BTSC 5 January 1976 25 July 2000 Air France. Destroyed in fatal crash on 25 July 2000 at Gonesse, near Paris
204 G-BOAC 13 February 1976 31 October 2003 British Airways. Preserved at Manchester Airport Aviation Viewing Park
205 F-BVFA 19 December 1975 12 June 2003 First Air France delivery. Preserved Smithsonian Museum’s ‘Steven F Udva Hazy Center’ at Dulles Airport, Washington DC
206 G-BOAA 14 January 1976 12 August 2000 First British Airways delivery. Stored Heathrow Airport. Due to move to Museum of Flight, East Fortune, Scotland
207 F-BVFB 8 April 1976 24 June 2003 Air France. Preserved Auto und Technik Museum, Sinsheim, Germany
208 G-BOAB 30 September 1976 15 August 2000 British Airways. Stored Heathrow Airport. Due to go on display at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5
209 F-BVFC 3 August 1976 27 June 2003 Air France. Preserved outside Aero Constellation building, Airbus France, Toulouse
210 G-BOAD 6 December 1976 10 November 2003 British Airways, Singapore Airline colours 1977-80. Preserved Intrepid Air and Space Museum, New York
211 F-BVFD 26 March 1977 27 May 1982 Air France. Broken up in 1994 at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris
212 G-BOAE 20 July 1977 17 November 2003 British Airways. Preserved at Grantley Adams Airport, Barbados
213 F-BTSD 19 September 1978 14 June 2003 Air France. Preserved Musée de l’Air, Le Bourget, Paris
214 G-BOAG 6 February 1980 5 November 2003 British Airways. Preserved Museum of Flight, Seattle
215 F-BVFF 22 October 1980 11 June 2000 Air France. Preserved at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris
216 G-BOAF 13 June 1980 26 November 2003 British Airways. Preserved at Airbus UK, Filton, Bristol.