T.17 - WJ576
WJ576 - front
(Photo : Damien Burke)
WJ576 - front
(Photo : Tom Atkinson)

A bit of an enigma is this Canberra. It started, as did so many, as a B.2. But when? It was owned by 231 OCU at first but was transferred to the Ministry of Aircraft's "Swifter Flight". This special flight was set up in 1960 at El Adem to investigate the effects of high-speed low-altitude flying on aircraft structures and the aircrew. The Flight provided data for use in the TSR.2 programme as well as giving general details about such flight profiles.

WJ576 was one of six B.2s used by Swifter Flight, the others being WD950, WF890, WH648, WJ573 and WH644. Each aircraft was specially strengthened for the rigorous programme as well as being fitted with a full suite of recording instruments. Sorties were flown both day and night and all at heights of 100-600 feet. The crews, mostly from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, underwent continuous monitoring by the Institue of Aviation Medicine.

Swifter Flight aircraft all had white painted centre and forward fuselages and carried a "Swift" emblem on the fin.

But back to WJ576. In 1963, it was transferred to Boulton Paul's Seighford factory for ECM trials. These lasted until 1965 when it was taken off the Ministry of Aircraft charge, sent to BAC for conversion to full T.17 role and finally delivered to 360 Sqd at RAF Watton in 1967. It flew with 360 Sqd until the mid-70s when it was sent into store at RAF St Athan.

WJ576 was broken up at St Athan in 1983. The fuselage nose section was saved originally by the South Wales Aircraft Preservation Scociety, based at Rhoose Airport (outside Cardiff). The nose next went to Phoenix Aviation at Bruntigthorpe Aerodrome, Leicstershire.

Now owned by Alec Brew's Black Country Aircraft Collection. On display at the Boulton Paul Aircraft Heritage Project, Smiths Aerospace, Wobaston Road, Wolverhampton.

The cockpit of T.17 WJ576 (Photo : Tom Atkinson)