The Boscombe Down Aviation Collection (BDAC) located at the Old Sarum Airfield just North of Salisbury, UK has recently acquired an English Electric Lightning cockpit and arranged for a reunion with its last pilot, Squadron Leader Jim Wild who last flew the craft 36 years ago. The plane still bears his name stenciled on the fuselage just outside the canopy and the emotion of that reunion must have been palpable.
The two parted company on April 4, 1977 when Wild flew the craft to Farnborough, UK from RAF Gütersloh in Germany. The RAF No. 92 Squadron was retiring their Lightnings and being disbanded with a new No. 92 (Designate) Squadron already formed several months earlier. The plane was then shipped by road to the Ministry of Defence’s “Proof and Experimental Establishment” Base Shoeburyness in Essex for use as a target in weapons testing, determining what types of projectiles would afflict the most damage on the fuselage of an attacking enemy aircraft. Despite the torturous testing and 30 years exposed to the elements, the cockpit of the plane survived more or less intact and was rescued when the remains of the plane was to set be scrapped.
The restoration of the cockpit is expected to be complete by the end of this summer, and Wild has donated some keepsake items he pulled off the decommissioned plane after his final flight like the the joystick and some other minor odds and ends. He’s even volunteered to return and help with the restoration despite living some 200 miles away. After the restoration has been completed, the cockpit will go on display along with the museums fairly extensive collection of historic plane cockpits, that allow visitors to climb in and try them on for size.