Royal Navy Historic Flight

The Royal Navy Historic Flight (RNHF) maintains and flies a small number of aircraft that are important to British Naval aviation. The organisation is not part of the military establishment; it has charitable status and it is staffed by civilians. It is based at RNAS Yeovilton and provides aircraft for air displays; the station is not open to the public.[1]

The Royal Navy[2] states that:

The RNHF is an educational charity whose mission is to ensure that the unique British Heritage collection of aircraft that is the Royal Navy Historic Flight continues to fly long into the future. Their aim is to preserve the opportunity for future generations to best understand the nature of those who built, maintained, operated and fought in Naval aircraft of the past by experiencing the reality of the sound, smell and the sight of them actually flying. They delight millions with their air displays nationwide and educate future generations.


The RNHF was established at RNAS Yeovilton in 1972 and became the home for a number of aircraft that had been donated to the Royal Navy over more than a decade. The first aircraft was Fairey Swordfish II LS326, presented in 1960 by Westland Aircraft. In 1971, Hawker Siddeley Aviation presented a Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 and in 1972 a Fairey Firefly AS.5 WB271 was donated. The separate units caring for the three aircraft were merged in 1972, forming the Historic Flight.

Over the following years, the RNHF benefitted further from gifts of aircraft from the German government, Royal Navy and British Aerospace. Technical assistance was also obtained to rebuild and refurbish aircraft. Three aircraft have been lost in accidents, with two fatalities.

In 1995, the ground staff service personnel were replaced by civilian employees but aircrew remain as serving navy pilots who volunteer to spend free time with the RNHF. Air training uses the Flight's DHC Chipmunk. The Fly Navy Heritage Trust (Navy Wings), formerly the Swordfish Heritage Trust, a charitable institution to oversee fundraising, makes grants to fund the RNHF's staff. The Flight's other sources of income are fees from flying displays, direct donations from the general public and sponsorship from the aerospace industry.[3]



Aircraft type Serial Operational dates Squadrons Notes
Fairey Swordfish Mk.I W5856 21 Oct 1941 - 1945 Used as a training aircraft during the war and kept in reserve. Served with the Mediterranean Fleet for a year and restored to flying condition in 1993. A long-term rebuild was completed in 2015, returning the aircraft to airworthy condition.
Fairey Swordfish Mk.II LS326 Aug 1943 - 1945 836 War-time service on MAC ships, including MV Rapana and Empire MacCallum. Appeared as aircraft '5A' in the film Sink the Bismarck!. Following discovery of corrosion in 2002 the aircraft was withdrawn from service. New wing spars were manufactured by BAE Systems as part of a complete restoration. As of November 2010, LS326 is airworthy.[5]
Fairey Swordfish Mk.III NF389 Apr 1944 Aircraft Torpedo Development Unit, Torpedo Trials Flight, 781 NAS Under reconstruction (Jan 2009).
Fairey Firefly AS.5 WB271 Jun 1949 - 1962 814 NAS, RAN service: 816 NAS, 724 NAS, 723 NAS Destroyed during an air display, July 2003; aircrew (Bill Murton and Neil Rix) killed
Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 TF956 Oct 1947 - 1954 805 (RAN), 799, 807, 738 Lost 10 June 1989, due to hydraulic failure in flight; aircrew survived.
Hawker Sea Fury T.20 WG655 Oct 1951 - Dec 1955 Seriously damaged 14 July 1990 after engine failure in flight; aircrew survived. The aircraft was later sold and rebuilt to airworthy condition. It is now based at Duxford.
Hawker Sea Fury T.20 VX281 ? - ? Damaged in emergency landing during RNAS Culdrose Air Day 31 July 2014. The pilot, Lt Cdr Chris Götke (CO of the Flight) was awarded the Air Force Cross in an Operational Honours list on 26 February 2015.[6][7]
Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 VR930 Mar 1948 - Jan 1961 802 Out of use.
Hawker/Armstrong Whitworth Sea Hawk FGA6 WV908 Feb 1955 - Jun 1962 807, 898, 806, 738 In storage.
De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk T.10 WK608 June 1966 - 1993 (naval service) Used as air trainer. Airworthy.


  1. "Royal Navy Historic Flight". BAe Systems. 2006–2007. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  2. "Royal Navy Historic Flight (RNHF)". RNAS Yeovilton. Royal Navy. 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  3. "Royal Navy Historic Flight". P&H Media. 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  4. Russell, Mark (2004). "The Royal Navy Historic Flight's Aircraft". Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  5. Howard, Lee (2010). "Return of the Stringbag". Aeroplane. Kelsey Publishing (November 2010): 47–48, 53–55.
  6. "Exemplary airmanship saves historic Sea Fury". Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  7. "No. 61155". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 February 2015. p. 3469.
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