Broadstairs College - Students help give fighter jet a makeover
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Students help give fighter jet a makeover

Students were on cloud nine as they helped prepare a fighter jet for its museum debut.

Broadstairs College’s Engineering students got a rare opportunity to get up and close with a Hawker Hunter plane, removing four layers of paint ahead of a project to restore its original livery.

The XF509 Jet – owned by Hornby Hobbies - has done three tours as a flight training vehicle and then part of a showcase. The famous model company plans to gift the jet to Manston Museum for permanent display, however restoration work is required beforehand.

Museum director Tom Groombridge told his son of the plan, who then made his College lecturers aware. Lecturer Lea McClean got in touch with Mr Groombridge to see if and how the students could get involved.

The communication culminated in a two day event beginning on Wednesday, March 23, which saw learners make as much progress as possible on stripping down the fighter to its bare aluminium.

Industry Liaison Officer for the Technical Industries department, Said Elakil, thought it was an excellent opportunity for the group to learn about the Hawker Hunter, a plane which once held the world air speed record of 727.63 mph in 1953.

Said thanked Manston Museum and Hornby for the opportunity, saying: “The sessions went really well, students made quite a lot of progress and really got stuck into it. It's been a fantastic opportunity for them all.”

Students echoed this sentiment, with one saying afterwards: “It was very interesting and a good day out.

“The plane was very old so it was tough to scrape some of the paint off, but all in all it was a great experience.”


About Hawker Hunter planes


Hawker Hunter planes were first produced in the early 1950s and only retired in 2014.

Perhaps the best known examples are the Black Arrows and Blue Diamonds – the RAF’s predecessors to the Red Arrows.

In one aerobatic display in 1958, the Black Arrows performed a loop and barrel roll of 22 Hunters, a world record for the greatest number of aircraft looped in formation.

Jets of this model saw combat in arenas across the world and were leased to a number of international forces.

In 1968, a fighter pilot flew a Hawker Hunter under the upper span of Tower Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the RAF. In a more recent and tragic incident, a Hawker Hunter was the plane involved in the Shoreham Airshow crash. The 2015 incident resulted in the death of 11 people and the injury of 16 others – the deadliest airshow accident in the UK since 1952.