Wednesday 16 October 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the first flight of de Havilland Sea Vixen FAW.2 XP924. ‘Foxy Lady’, as she is known by her operators DS (Drilling Systems) Aviation, is a highly distinctive presence on the UK display circuit with a unique sound and appearance. The aircraft is also a living, breathing tribute to postwar naval aviation in the UK, which is currently at something of a low ebb.
Sea Vixen XP924 greets fans attending her 50th anniversary party
The DS Aviation team and volunteers held a birthday party for XP924 at the Sea Vixen’s base at Bournemouth International Airport on Wednesday. The event was well attended, and featured live music, a WI cake sale, autograph sessions with pilot Matt Whitfield and a Sea Vixen simulator – not to mention the chance to get right up close to the aircraft herself, a rare opportunity.
Pilot Matt Whitfield chats with Sea Vixen enthusiasts in the autograph queue
XP924 is maintained in superb condition by DS Aviation’s Chief Engineer Paul Kingsbury and his team. It is the fastest civilian-run ex-military jet in Europe, and the only Sea Vixen currently airworthy.
A big screen showed footage of the incomparable all-weather fighter in action while visitors could inspect the aircraft herself at close quarters
The de Havilland Sea Vixen was developed as the DH110 from the late 1940s, as a night-fighter and all-weather fighter for the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm. The DH110 took the twin-boom layout of the Vampire and Venom to create a much larger and faster twin-engined, swept wing jet. The aircraft showed great promise from the beginning, and though the RAF chose the rival Gloster Javelin instead, the Royal Navy selected the DH110 to be its main all-weather fighter. The Sea Vixen entered service in 1957 and never saw actual combat, though its capabilities helped the RN suppress a number of ‘brush fire’ conflicts and dissuade at least two potential invasions. The Sea Vixen was easily supersonic in a shallow dive, and carried a formidable array of air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground rockets and bombs.
In beautiful condition, wearing her in-service 899 Squadron colours, XP924 awaits the 2014 display season
XP924 served with 899 Naval Air Squadron, flying from HMS Eagle from 1964 to 1972. All Sea Vixens were retired in 1972 after Eagle was decommissioned, but several continued in second-line roles. XP924 was converted to a drone and used as a radar target until 1991. She was restored by DHA in the early 2000s, and has been operated by DS Aviation since 2006
Thanks to Dawn Stokes, Matt Whitfield and Chief Engineer Paul Kingsbury for their time and for putting on the event. Click here for more information on DS Aviation and their operation of the Sea Vixen or follow the team on Facebook