XV168 was delivered to the Royal Navy in late 1966 and was the very last Buccaneer to take off from an aircraft carrier in the early 1970s. By 1971, the airframe was issued to 12 Sqn based at RAF Honnington. The aircraft took part in operation Western Fox alongside our very own XX894. XV168 retired into BAE Brough on the 15th of October 1993.
The airframe was placed on display on the site as a memorial to all the test pilots and observers who sadly lost their lives during the Buccaneers development. However, XV168 was only ever viewable from a distance while at Brough.
About a decade ago, British Aerospace downsized their operations at Brough, the airfield was also under threat of redevelopment. Due to this, BAE Brough reduced the size of the site, and so they started to clear up and dispose of stuff they no longer needed to keep, the Buccaneer being a part of that list.
In 2013 Brough had donated XV168 to the Yorkshire Air Museum (YAM) based in Elvington for display.
The museum didn’t have the workforce at the time to move an entire aircraft nearly 30 miles by road. It was at this point one of TBAG’s volunteers, who spent some of his time at YAM, had suggested that TBAG could look into the possibility of helping move the aircraft. Both Brough and YAM agreed that TBAG was the most experienced team at the current time on the aircraft type, and so the group began looking into several trips to Brough to scan over the airframe and what it would need doing to it to make it moveable.
Thankfully, XV168 is rather complete, and so it was decided that the group should attempt to make the airframe live for the road move. This way with the airbrakes closed, bomb door rolled over, and undercarriage retracted, it would make moving the aircraft much easier.
A small number of TBAG volunteers arranged as part of the team who prepared XV168 for its journey, these being Dave Webber, Andy Webber, Francis Wallace, Graham Pool, Ollie Suckling, Kay Bennet, Russ Clancy, and Andy King.
Due to the team working on a BAE site, they were given a Health and Safety talk before work could get underway. Many of the prepping days involved many cans of WD40, spraying the jets each time and leaving it to all soak in. Eventually, panels could be opened and the condition of the hydraulic systems could be checked over.
Many many WD40 cans later… things started to move again! Albeit it was slow to start with (being stood for 20 years certainly didn’t help) the airbrakes opened, the bomb door opened and the undercarriage retracted. These areas were exercised several times until they started to free up and move more swiftly.
On the 17th of August 2013, XV168 was loaded onto the low loader with its wings folded, bomb door open, airbrake closed, and undercarriage was retracted. This was to allow the aircraft to sit flat on the flatbed trailer. To make the aircraft just a little bit shorter, the nose cone was removed for the journey as well.
The airframe said its final goodbyes to its home on the 18th of August 2013. XV168 arrived safely at YAM in the afternoon, she was lifted off of the low loader and carefully placed onto a set of jacks before lowering the undercarriage. This was not the only Buccaneer YAM had, XV168 became the third of the type on site, joining their live example XN974, and their ex-Gulf War airframe XX901. With Bruntingthorpe’s once impressive lineup of four Buccaneers that is no more, YAM is now the only place in the UK where you can see three Buccaneers within metres of each other!
TBAG was only paid expenses as well as lots of spare parts from Brough, plus XV168’s pylons which have since had several blasts along a runway attached to XW544.
The group was invited back to YAM in October 2013 for XV168’s unveil and welcome which started with all three Buccaneers lined up, and XN974 performing a static run in front of the crowd. A plaque was also unveiled next to XV168 which is to remember those who sadly lost their lives during the development of the type, this plaque can still be seen today with the aircraft.
TBAG’s NEW book “You’ll never run a Buccaneer out of the boot of a car” goes into more depth on XV168s move and even shares some of the volunteers fond memories of moving it to YAM.