TT.18 - WJ574 [NN77844]
Built as a B.2 by Handley Page, Radlett, in 1953, WJ574 was ready for collection on 4 June of that year. Taken into RAF service, it was initially issued to 540 Sqd at RAF Benson.

540 Sqd was a PR squadron equipped with PR.3s but at that time only four PR.3s were avialable on the squadron as production of these aircraft was delayed by English Electric due to a few minor snags. The squadron was loaned two B.2s to enable the crews to continue familiarisation and work-ups with the Canberra. After the PR.3 deliveries re-started, the squadron held onto two or three B.2s until mid 1954 for crew training and limited PR duties, the B.2s were fitted with a forward facing F.95 camera. This means that WJ574 was actually a PR Canberra in the early days of its career.

In mid-1954, WJ574 was transferred to the charge of 57 Sqd then just recently moved to RAF Cottesmore. This was a true bomber squadron so WJ574 would have had the F.95 camera removed. It stayed with 57 Sqd until they disbanded in December 1957 at RAF Conningsby and from there...?

After hiding out somewhere for twelve years (anybody know where?) WJ574 was sold to BAC in December 1969 and allocated the civilian registration of G27-182.

A five year sojurn at BAC followed before WJ574 was converted to TT.128 configuration and issued to the Royal Navy's charge on 4 October 1979. For the next four years it flew as a target tug with the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) out of Yeovilton.

In October 1978, this TT.18 was detached to the US Naval Air Station Key West in Florida where it no doubt gave a good account of itself before returning to FRADU. Its length of stay in the US is unknown to me and so, therefore, is its time with the Royal Navy's FRADU upon its return. However, in May 1989, WJ574 was transferred to RAF St Athan and put into storage. Again, no idea how long it stayed at St Athan but it did return for another stretch with FRADU before being sold off again. This time it was bought by Tom Foscue in the US.

Given the US registration of NN77844, WJ574 had now found a permanent home.

  • As a result of this page being posted on the internet, I received a mail from a Les Wilson who was involved in getting WJ574 back into the air. Read Les' story below.

Bob Connolly's photos were taken in July 2000 when WJ574 visited Van Nuys Airport, California, for an avionics upgrade.

WJ574, current
Shown at Van Nuys Airport, California (July 2000) (Photo : Bob Connolly)
[ Click pic for larger image of Bob's photo ]

  WJ574, Fin
Unloading from the back hatch. (Photo : Bobb Connolly)

Another angle on Tom Foscue's Canberra (Photo : Bob Connolly)

Les Wilson's Story

As a regular visitor to this web site, I was quite surprised to see the photographs of NN7784 after her arrival at Van Nuys and after reading the comments with the photographs I am compelled to fill in some of the history of this aircraft upon its arrival in the USA.

But first for some personal details:

  • Name: Les Wilson
  • Country of origin: Australia
  • Background: Twenty years service with the RAAF, during this period of service, I was involved with Canberra aircraft at Number Three Aircraft Depot (currently 501 Wing Amberley) undertaken A to E Maintenance Servicing and major modifications as a Engine Fitter and later with 2 Squadron until disbanded. 2 Squadron served in Vietnam (see Lincoln Canberra and F111 in Australian Service by Stewart Wilson), with the last role of the Canberra being Target Towing and Aerial Survey.

So ended my contact with the Canberra, so I though, but this was not to be, as I as was later to be involved with the restoration of A84-229 in exchange for a Ventura for the RAAF Museum in 1991.

The aircraft was returned to flying condition with ex-members of 2 Squadron and the aircraft as flown to America via Townsville, Guam, Wake Island, Honolulu and on to San Francisco. A84-229 did this return trip several times for airshows in Australia and won several awards in the States at the Oshkosh Airshow.

However that another story.

But, Canberras never grow old and die, but are restored to fly again. I am now involved with NN77844 (WJ574), and I am able to fill in the some details for you prior to her arrival at Van Nuys the details are as follows.

Prior to her trip from England to America I undertook the role of ensuring that her soul and airframe was capable of making the flight over the cold blue ocean. This I did via review of NDT Reports and many hours on the telephone speaking with those who a had undertaken the inspection. Once all was well, she was flown on her merry way to the States. Upon arrival she underwent several modifications and review to obtain her "N" Number, which she now wears with pride.

To ensure her ability to fly in the new land, I developed with her owner and maintenance crew a program of inspection that would met FAA’s requirements and that of the Military Inspection Program that she was use too.

This inspection and maintenance program involved the following:

  • Review of all her component history logs and cards
  • Development of Non Destructive Inspection Plan to address the center section, wing spars, and other areas which require regular inspection.
  • Training of personnel to maintain the very important lady of the sky
  • Development and approval of the FAA inspection program
  • and most important of all teaching these people to respect the Lady of the Sky.

Considering that all I had to work with was American trained A and P personnel the tasks were undertaken with the success as can be seen from the photographs.

Prior to her arrival here she was stored in Boise and was required to undertake her yearly inspections, but this year was to be different.

Her annual inspection was undertaken which addressed the NDT and that of the engine, airframe and avionics inspections it was decided that a RAAF modification to the brakes and wheel would be undertaken.

This involved increasing the size of the brake units and wheels, plus the introduction of anti-skid devices, which the RAF did not fit to their early aircraft. Like all projects, things started off well and ended with the required result, but as we all know things don’t always go as planned and this small project was no different. What should have take about a week to do was completed in two weeks, however it was completed.

As she was being serviced and modified any onlooker would believe that she would not find her way into the sky, but these simple people did not know the heart of a Canberra and the will of the Australian Inspection Team plus the loyal team of supporters.

So after many hours of inspection, swearing and reassembly this Grand Lady of the Sky was ready for ground run and taxi tests prior to the next day's test flight.

The ground run and taxi test was a great success with the engines performing as if they were straight out of the box. The taxi and brake test showed up no problems with the modification of the wheels and brakes and the small hydraulic leaks that had developed in the anti-skid system sealed themselves. This Lady was ready to fly.

The following day she was towed out of the hanger and with a bang she was given life once again. The air waves buzzed with the request from Canberra N844 for clearance to taxi and undertake test flights within the Boise area.

All those that did not believe that this Grand Lady of the Sky would not fly again stood there and watch as she took her place once more in the sky with a perfect take off and clean up. The test flight was a great success with all system working, she was now ready to fly to Van Nuys, where the photographs were taken, which lead me to send you this up date story on such a great aircraft. For this I thank you

Thanks once again

Les Wilson