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Foxy Lady grounded as repairs to vintage Sea Vixen fighter halted

Foxy Lady banks left as she passes over the crowds at Yeovilton Air Day in 2016
9 December 2020
The world’s last flying Sea Vixen fighter has taken to the skies for the last time after custodians abandoned restoration plans.

After three years’ work attempting to restore Foxy Lady to flying order after the jet’s airframe was badly damaged in a heavy landing, Navy Wings say they are still £2m short.

The veteran interceptor has not flown since she landed ‘wheels up’ at RNAS Yeovilton back in 2017 after her undercarriage failed following an appearance at an air show at Duxford.

Sea Vixens, with their distinctive twin boom tail, was a mainstay of Royal Navy carrier operations in the 1960s through to the early 70s.

Foxy Lady was delivered to the Fleet Air Arm at the end of 1963 and served with 899 Naval Air Squadron until 1971

She was donated to the collection of vintage naval aircraft at Yeovilton in 2014, the last of 145 Sea Vixens built for the Royal Navy still airborne, and was a regular on the display scene until the accident.

Although Commander Simon Hargreaves brought the aircraft down safely, the speed and force of the landing left the aircraft with cracks in both tail booms, a badly damaged gearbox and warped bulkheads in her engine compartment.

It is difficult having to make choices between historically-important and beautiful aircraft

Louise Evans, Navy Wings

Three years down the line and despite hopes of crowdfunding or a ‘white knight’ to underwrite repairs, the charity has taken the reluctant decision to halt the repair and maintain Foxy Lady as a non-flying exhibit.

Instead the charity will focus its efforts on restoring a single-seat Sea Fury FB11 to airworthiness, so it can share the skies with the collection’s Sea Fury T20 two-seat trainer.

“It is difficult having to make choices between historically-important and beautiful aircraft,” said Navy Wings’ spokeswoman Louise Evans. “They all have their place in our story.

“We will not do anything to render the Sea Vixen unfit to fly in case someone comes forward in the future and she will continue to be a star attraction at Yeovilton Air Day.

“She will always have a special place in the hearts of many and continue to impress and inspire for years to come.”

The charity, which keeps the flame of Fleet Air Arm memories and sacrifices alive by maintaining vintage naval aircraft, intends to formally take ownership of most of the former RN Historic Flight.

With the 2020 display season mostly guillotined by the pandemic, the Yeovilton-based charity hopes to return to the skies in earnest in 2021 with Swordfish W5856, the Sea Fury T20 and the tiny Westland Wasp helicopter at the core of its air show appearances. 

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