English Electric Lightning F.53 (53-696 / ZF594) belonging to the North East Aircraft Museum was purchased from BAC and flew in the Saudi Arabian Air Force.
On 14. November 1968 test pilot John Cockburn lifted Lightning F.53, 53-696, from the runway at Samlesbury on its maiden flight, cunningly disguised as G-27-66. Upon landing at Warton, the aircraft began a series of shake-down flights that were to culminate in its ferry trip to Saudi Arabia. The pilot on this occasion was R. Ingham and as before, the aircraft staged via Akrotiri supported by RAF Victor tankers. Arriving at Jeddah on 3. June 1969 the Lightning joined the LCS with whom it was serving when they moved to RSAF Riyadh on 26. November 1972. Unfortunately not long after arrival, on 9. July, the aircraft suffered Category 3 fire damage which grounded it for the next few months. A tour at Dharan with 2 Squadron followed the repair work, the aircraft remaining with them until transfering to 6 Sqdn at Khamis Mushayt in May 1975.
No. 6 Sqdn was to move to King Abdul Aziz AB in June 1976, taking ‘696 with them, although this state of affairs only lasted until 23 January 1977 when ‘696 joined 2 Sqdn again, this time at King Faisal / Tabuk AB in the north of the country. A short tour on the strength of 13 Sqdn as 1308 began on 18 April 1978 and continued until 1982 when the aircraft returned again to 2 Sqdn. Initially coded 226 the aircraft later assumed the code ‘Y’. It was still wearing this code when it made its last RSAF flight on 13 January 1986.
The next day, painted as ZF594, the aircraft headed for Warton where it was to enter long-term storage whilst awaiting possible resale. During its working life 53-696 had flown a total of 2.057,06 hours. With no market forthcoming, 53-696 was put up for disposal, being purchased by the NEAM for a token sum during 1988. In November of the following year 53-696 was moved to the Museum’s premises near Sunderland to join the rest of this burgeoning collection.
- quoted from Lightning, The Operational History by Kev Darling. Airlife Publishing, ISBN 1 85310 521 X
The ex-Saudi Lightnings were sold by Saudi Arabia on the understanding that they would not carry Saudi Air Force livery right from the moment they flew out from the country. This ban on Saudi livery extends to their existence in museums.