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WB271 Fairey Firefly AS.5 c/n F8497 - Royal Navy - Groningen Airport Eelde in Holland - 8 June 1992 Groningen Airport Eelde (GRQ)

The Fairey Firefly is a British two-seat low-wing fighter and anti-submarine low-wing cantilever monoplane with a wide-track undercarriage built by Fairey Aviation Company. The Firefly was designed by H.E. Chaplin at Fairey to met the specifications for a new naval fighter that were issued by the British Air Ministry in 1938. Designed to the contemporary Fleet Air Arm (FAA) concept of a two-seat fleet reconnaissance/fighter, the pilot and observer were positioned at separate stations. On 22 December 1941, the prototype Firefly was flown first. The limitations of a single Rolls Royce Griffon engine in a relatively heavy airframe reduced its performance, but the Firefly proved to be a fairly sturdy, long-ranged, and docile aircraft during carrier operations. On 4 March 1943, the first production aircraft was delivered to RNAS Yeovilton. The Fairey Firefly served in the WW II as a fleet fighter. During the post-war era the Firefly performed in other roles, including strike operations and anti-submarine warfare. In these capacities, it remained a mainstay of the FAA until the mid-1950s. Next to the FAA, the Firefly was operated by the naval air arms of Australia, Canada, India and the Netherlands. Its final uses were in various secondary roles, such as trainers, target tugs and drone aircraft. In the period 1941-1955 over 1700 Firefly aircraft were built.

Fairey Firefly s/n F8497 was built as an AS.5 at Hayes, Middlesex, and delivered as WB271 to RNAS Culham on 1 June 1949. At RNAS Culham, the WB271 was prepared for front-line duty and in July 1949, the WB271 entered service with 814 NAS at RNAS Culdrose and went onboard of HMS Vengeance. About a year later WB271 was returned to Fairey for maintenance before being placed into storage at RNAS Anthorn. In 1951, the WB271 was sent to RNAY Fleetlands for maintenance and preparation for possible use in the Korean War. In November 1951, the aircraft was shipped out to the Far East on aboard the Light Fleet Carrier HMS Warrior as deck cargo. The WB271 was re-assembled at RNAS Sembawang in Singapore and placed into storage. On 11 February 1952, the aircraft was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy as WB271. With the Royal Australian Navy the aircraft served on the carrier HMAS Sydney with 816 NAS Squadron before conversion to TT.5 standard in 1954. Between 1954 and 1962 WB271 saw service with 723 NAS and then 725 NAS who were both based at Naval Air Station Nowra, New South Wales. After 1962, the aircraft was placed into open storage at Nowra and then Struck off Charge during 1966. Firefly WB271 was purchased by members of 814 NAS from HMS Victorious and brought back to the UK onnoard of the HMS Victorious during 1967 and presented to the Fleet Air Arm Museum for display. In 1972, WB271 was restored to a flying condition and joined the Royal Navy Historic Flight. The first flight was in December 1972 with WB271 painted as a 812NAS aircraft of HMS Glory during the Korean War, wearing the code 204 and R. On 21 April 1997, WB271 departed RNAS Yeovilton to under-go a full rebuild at BAe Dunsfold. When Dunsfold was closed in 2000 WB271 was moved back to RNAS Yeovilton and work was continued by a team of 4 BAE-Systems employees on temporary deployment. In early 2003, Fairey Firefly WB271 made it's first post-restauration flight, followed by the debut display at Yeovilton in May 2003. Unfortunately WB271 was destroyed in a flying accident at the Flying Legends Air-show at RAF Duxford on 12 June 2003. Tragically both crew members were killed in the accident. Following the RN tradition of scrapping the airframe after a fatal crash, the remains of this Firefly were shredded.
On 8 June 1992, Fairey Firefly AS.5 'WB271' of the Royal Navy Historic Flight was seen in the markings of 812 Naval Air Squadron at Groningen Airport Eelde.

page last updated: 26-01-2021
Copyright © Jack Wolbrink, Emmen, the Netherlands

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