XW544 was delivered to the Royal Air Force in 1972 and entered service with 15 Squadron at RAF Laarbruch. XW544 later moved to 16 Squadron in 1979 and before returning back to 15 Squadron in 1982.
XW544 spent many hours in the hangars due to fuel leaks and in only after a decade of flying, was withdrawn from service on the 4th July 1983 at RAF Shawbury with 2227:10 hours of flight logged. The airframe was then placed into storage with its engines removed along with various other instruments to keep the rest of the fleet flying, however, the engines were replaced with ‘out of hour’ ones.
In 1984, XW544 was moved to No.2 School of Technical Training as 8857M at RAF Cosford. During it’s time at the SoTT, XW544 received a repaint into 16 Squadron colours, as well as obtaining a refuelling probe which it never flew or retired with. XW544 was seen at the RAF Cosford airshow in the 1990s with Buccaneer XW547 (now at Hendon).
With the Buccaneers retirement in 1994, the RAF had no use for XW544 at the SoTT and was sold to Rob Goldstone who transported the airframe to a scrapyard near Shawbury for open storage. The airframe sat in the corner of the yard on its belly draped in tarpaulin looking in some need of some care.
By mid 2004, the XW544 was acquired by Dave Webber, Andy Webber and George Palmer, who moved it by road to Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground where it joined Buccaneers XX894 and XX900, making it the third aircraft of the type on site.
Although very much an ambition, there were plans to restore the aircraft back to running condition and after much work and effort from the volunteers with help from the guys with XX894, XW544 made its first engine run in 25 years in May 2008. Later that same year, it moved under its own power once again, this was a massive step for all involved in the project. XW544 first performed its first public fast taxi run in May 2011 alongside XX894 and XX900 which made it the first time 3 Buccaneers ran together in the UK since retirement.
XW544 got a much needed repaint over the winter of 2011/12. The repaint was revealed in March 2012 with a rollout event which included all three Buccaneers performing fast taxis to celebrate the achievement of restoring the aircraft back to taxing condition. Names of the volunteers who were involved with the project had their names applied in vinyl’s to the nose door which could be seen for several years.
XW544 has performed at almost every Cold War Jet and TBAG event without fail ever since its restoration.
In 2020, Bruntingthorpe’s days of seeing vintage cold war jets fast taxi down the 2 mile long runway sadly came to an end. After much discussion, The Buccaneer Aviation Group elected to move both XX894 and XW544 to Cotswold Airport (formerly RAF Kemble) as this prospering location will allow both aircraft to continue doing what they do best…. blasting down the runway!
After an amazing 16 year journey at Bruntingthorpe, on 20th August 2020, XW544 left the aerodrome for Cotswold Airport with XX894 following behind. The next day, both XW544 and XX894 touched down (by low loaders) at Cotswold Airport to start their next chapter of preservation.
Maintenance work started straight away to get the aircraft back to running condition after several months of being untouched due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On a damp Saturday in October, XW544 had its first anti-deterioration run at the airport which was overall very successful. After more COVID-19 restrictions during the winter and lots of effort made by the volunteers, XW544 finally went for its first trundle along Cotswold Airport’s runway on 5th June 2021. This was celebrated by spraying alcohol free champagne over the nose of each aircraft and an updated group photo kindly taken by Damien Burke.
After a month of maintenance work, XW544 made its first public fast taxi run at Cotswold Airport on the 3rd July which was also successful.
A big thanks goes out to all our supporters for helping us in moving the Buccaneers to Cotswold Airport, it would not have been possible otherwise. TBAG intend to keep performing fast taxi runs and other events for future generations to experience.