Buccaneer XX894 started its flying career with 16 Squadron based at RAF Laarbruch in Germany towards the latter part of 1975. After a stint with 16 Squadron, XX894 then went on to serve with 15 Squadron.
In 1980, XX894 took part in the Red Flag exercise held in the United States, sadly during which Buccaneer XV345 broke apart and crashed during a low level sortie. The cause was subsequently traced to a crack in the wing spar resulting in structural failure. This accident caused a temporary grounding of the entire fleet. Once flying eventually resumed, XX894 went on to serve with 208 Squadron, 237 OCU and 12 Squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.
In 1990, XX894 acquired an overall grey colour scheme with a large green and black flash from the tail down the side of the fuselage to the nose cone on both sides. This was to mark 12 Squadron’s 75th anniversary.
The following year in January 1991, XX894 was prepared for operation in the Gulf War. The aircraft received secure radios and improved IFF along with a coat of ARTF (Alkali Removable Temporary Finish), or as it more commonly became known as, desert pink. Each Gulf War Buccaneer was given a name and a tail code, XX894’s being Aberlour, ‘O’.
XX894’s claim to fame came on February 27th 1991 when on return from a sortie. The aircraft flew over the Iraqi airfield Shaykh Mazhar where it attacked an Antonov AN-12 which was taxiing, this resulted in the AN-12 being completely destroyed – making XX894 the only Buccaneer in the Gulf War to destroy another aircraft. Buccaneer XX901 also dropped a bomb onto an aircraft around the same time period, however, the bomb failed to detonate.
Sadly, XX894 didn’t quite get the full credit it deserved though. After landing, Buccaneer XX885 (also on the same sortie) taxied into XX894’s parking slot, resulting in XX885 receiving the AN-12 symbol on its nose instead of XX894.
XX894 kept all of the hard-earned mission symbols, as well as the ARFT colours up until 1992 and by the end of 1993, was moved back to 208 Squadron.
Moving forward to February 1994, XX894 was repainted to represent Fleet Air Arm Buccaneer XV869 ‘020’ just several weeks before retirement to celebrate the Buccaneers service in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
XX894 made its final flight on the 7th April 1994 into St Athan for disposal.
In 1995, Gary Spoors transported Buccaneers XX894 and XX900 by road from St Athan to Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire. Later that same year, Gary moved XX894 by road again, this time to former RAF Kemble in the Cotswolds. The aircraft was generally cared for at Kemble, but ultimately ended up donating some parts to Buccaneer XW986 (ZU-NIP) which in 2002 flew to Thunder City in Cape Town, South Africa making it the last ever Buccaneer flight in the UK.
During XX894’s stay at Kemble, the aircraft was briefly looked after by several volunteers, known as the Buccaneers Supporters Club, and was frequently seen on static display at the very popular Kemble airshows.
Later in 2002, XX894 was road moved once again, this time to Farnborough for storage. The airframe was also looked after rather well by a small number of people, but XX894 didn’t stay at Farnborough all that long.
In 2003, Guy Hulme brought the airframe to display in his garden as a memorial to his father who flew as an observer and sadly lost his life in a Buccaneer. After some gentle persuasion that XX894 could become semi operational once again, Guy transported the airframe by road back to Bruntingthorpe where full restoration to fast taxing condition finally began…
Guy’s team made great progress with the restoration and by July 2007, XX894 made its first slow taxi in over a decade.
Around this time, the two individual teams working on XX894 and XW544 started to gel together, this collaboration eventually went on to become The Buccaneer Aviation Group.
In March 2011, Guy put XX894 up for sale, and was quickly sold back to its original owner, Gary Spoors. Months later in October 2011, XX894 was sold again to The Buccaneer Aviation Group who continued with the restoration.
Looking quite tired, XX894 was repainted in the winter of 2013/14 with a rollout event in early 2014 to show off its new shiny paint.
In 2020, Bruntingthorpe’s days of seeing vintage cold war jets fast taxi along the 2-mile long runway sadly came to an end. After much discussion, and kind invitation, The Buccaneer Aviation Group elected to move both XX894 and XW544 to Cotswold Airport (former RAF Kemble) as this prospering location will allow both aircraft to continue doing what they do best…. blasting down the runway!
After an amazing 17 year journey at Bruntingthorpe, on 20th August 2020, XX894 left the aerodrome for Cotswold Airport with XW544 leading the convoy. The next day, both XX894 and XW544 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, XX894 had its first anti-deterioration run at the airport which was overall very successful. Today XX894 performs performs regular anti-deterioration runs to our supporters and to reward the crowderfunder supporters who paid a certain amount of money towards our road move with the reward of a backseat static run.
Happily, in March 2022, XX894 carried out its first trundle at Cotswold Airport.
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 intends to keep performing fast taxi runs and other events for future generations to experience.
To see more photos of XX894 throughout the last two decades then please take a look at the Gallery.