Site Updated:

Engineering Section Archive1

As the new look website is currently taking shape, we hope that it will generate new interest from the Lightning community and encourage those of you out there with relevant engineering experience to join us in bringing XR724 back to life.  As part of that initiative, this section of the website will report all engineering activity on XR724.  This first article covers the engineering situation from the final published Lightning Review in 2004 to date. 

As you all probably know, the Lightning Association needs engineers of all trades, as we have not just XR724 to look after but a substantial amount of ground equipment and spares.  Currently we have to try to maintain and keep serviceable a Douglas conversion of the David Brown airfield towing tractor and a diesel Houchin 200v 3-phase/28vdc ground power unit.  We also have a Rolls Royce Artouste Mk102.  There are many other items of essential ground equipment which require regular servicing and maintenance if they are to be able to be used to keep XR724 as a live aeroplane.  Unfortunately this is not done by magic but by what is realistically achievable by the engineers we currently have, and good engineers with spare time and understanding families are always in short supply. 

As far as the ground equipment is concerned, the current status is that our tractor needs the braking system overhauling yet again and a good lick of paint would make her look nice once more.  She is more or less serviceable and appears to run well, but the gearbox needs new oil seals to stop a small leak.  Apart from this, the exhaust system blows a bit and needs slight attention.  A brand new tractor battery has been sourced and fitted, and the tyres still hold their pressure well.  All of the engine & transmission oils have been topped up and the radiator has had  plenty of antifreeze.  Otherwise all mechanical systems seem to work quite well (apart from a lack of brakes)! 

Much work has continued on our Houchin  ground power unit.  This has taken up quite a bit of time as  the electrical control panel was badly corroded and needed attention.  Currently, all we have left to do is swap a 3-phase trip and a noisy potentiometer, which sets the dc output supply voltage to 28vdc, fit a new starter battery and mend the blowing exhaust.  Apart from this, our Houchin still regularly supplies our Lightning with AC/DC ground power.

Rolls-Royce Mk 102 Artouste

The Rolls-Royce  Mk 102 Artouste is a small jet engine which is able to perform an air delivery of min: 2.2 lbs/sec @ 38 psi with engine mass flow: 7.2 lbs/sec @ 35,000 rpm, supplying air via the air hose to the Lightning main air system connection. The last Artouste run took  place at the end of September 2010.  An adjustment to the butterfly valve and routine maintenance needs once again to be done, thus enabling further Artouste runs to be performed on '724 in 2011.

The Artouste mounted on an old caravan chassis substantially modified and strengthened by us with the gravity-feed fuel tank mounted on top of the box housing the flexible trunking, which was made from an old consulting-room table donated by Charles, boxed in with steel sheet and with a door adapted from a dish-washer.  Note the large battery, one of two required to start the jet engine.  All a bit Heath-Robinsonish, but it works.

We also own a 1960s AEC refuelling bowser which has been totally renovated and is currently on long-term loan to David Walton at Bruntingthorpe in Leicestershire, refuelling many of the operational aircraft at the Proving Grounds.  David's massive support for the aviation heritage movement needs no introduction from us, and the loan of our bowser is a small return for the resources he has for many years put into maintaining classic aircraft in operational condition.


Pip Sweetman behind the radar bullet doing a FOD check and an inspection of the turbine blades. 

As for XR724, this is the current situation, warts and all.  The two Rolls-Royce Avon engines are regularly spun by hand and both appear visually to be in good shape & condition, spinning freely and showing no signs of water ingress, but an internal inspection with a borescope needs doing before we could even consider running these again. On the last engine run we had an A-failure on No.2 engine (an A-failure is when combustion of the IPN or Avpin fuel does not take place in the starting system).  The No.2 Avpin starter has inherently had bad fuel drain problems and needs further attention, with No.1 engine starting & spooling up and then petering out due to fuel starvation.  The most likely causes are the L/P cocks, fuel pump problems or fungal growth in the fuel system.

Port and starboard shots taken prior to an engine run, with the Houchin providing ground power and the upper engine hatch removed.

A Turb warning light still illuminates, but only when running No.1 engine.  It goes out  when a No.2 only engine run is made, and is possibly due to a sticking relay in the air turbine gearbox.  No.2  reheat fuel drain still needs to be fitted & the stacking order of the JPT amplifier connections needs to be checked (we do have AP 101B-1000-5A3C).  The JPT (jet pipe temperature) circuit to No.2 engine cockpit indicator still needs slight rectification.

Since 2004, the No.2 jet pipe, which was replaced by the corresponding jet pipe from XR725 overhauled by Les Overton, Geoff Commins & myself, has had  the solenoids  refurbished & rewired, resulting in what appears to be a very serviceable jet pipe.  To this day she has an annular gear which spins freely, including the eight screw jacks & rollers which can be turned by the pilot's fingers (they always do this, don’t they?!)  Since fitment of the refurbished jet pipe, the No.2 engine needs its max. rpm governor adjusting if engine runs permit, as the newly datumed No.2 jet pipe has a larger variable nozzle area than before.  No.1 jet pipe has still to be overhauled when time and engineering resources permit.

Removing the upper engine jet pipe from XR724 using the correct jet pipe trolley supported by another piece of our ground equipment, an ex-Bloodhound missile side loading fork-lift truck rated to
12,000 lbs at full tower extension.  It's tatty, but it all works.

The air turbine gearbox is in remarkably good order, with a blanking disc fitted in the exhaust to keep water out.  Such water as gets in is regularly drained and the ATGB spun by hand.  It is also Artouste spun with hot bleed air when time permits.  The aircraft hydraulic systems need attention & the airbrake ram seals both need overhauling.  The dc fuel  pumps have been switched on and swirled on a regular basis.  The aircraft battery has been overhauled with new cells, enabling a full dc battery supply for '724. 

A new wheel/tyre change has been done on the starboard side and the port side is to follow suit.  We are still looking for help sourcing Schrader tyre valves,  as tyre pressures in both main wheels only lasts 6 weeks or so when pumped to full working pressure.  This will be an ongoing problem for us until new spare valves are sourced.  The reference numbers are as follows: Schrader 6100E , 5230 & AHO 81765 . If you  have any or can help, please contact us.  Other items that would be very useful are a maintenance manual for the David Brown aircraft towing tractor and the relevant air publication for the diesel Houchin ground power unit, OM15 hydraulic oil & OX38 engine oil, Waxoyl, PX25 and WD40.

The cockpit seat has been very kindly re-packed by Mike Ramsay, an ex-Binbrook armourer, following an earlier break-in before the site was fitted with security cameras & manned 24/7, and is awaiting fitment to the aircraft.  This has deliberately not been carried out at the present time, as more work needs to be done in the cockpit.  Many cockpit instruments have been switched on & switches cleaned & exercised.

'724 has been moved several times but always parked in the usual place, except once when it was decided to move her to the side and the other way round for the June RAF Binbrook 70th Anniversary weekend organised by Ray Whiteley.  In September 2010 we towed '724 yet again around the pan with our tractor as fast as was safely possible, thus keeping the oleos exercised and the brakes from sticking.  We have been able to do this as the pan is currently free of equipment, but over the years the oleos have dropped in pressure a little bit  and although not a problem for now will need rectification in the future.

XR724 being towed round the pan in 2010 by our David Brown airfield towing tractor to keep the moving parts exercised.


A new thicker spine cover has been made which keeps the essential parts in the spine dry with a new cockpit cover being donated  by Dart Engineering.   XR724's fibreglass jet pipe cover was lent to XR770  for the 2009 RAF Waddington air show season and has now been returned. The jet pipe cover was going to used as a mould for one to be manufactured for '770, but in the end a suitable cover was sourced elsewhere. 

The airframe preservation situation is that during the last three years over 30 gallons of WD40 and Waxoyl have been applied by Ray Whiteley, Darren Swinn and myself over many occasions, including a liberal coating of PX25 in the wheel wells, although this does not last very long in the Binbrook weather.

A planned technical inspection of the airframe and engines is to follow in 2011 if enough suitably qualified engineers can be assembled at the same time, with a view to assessing the status of the airframe and its systems and what will be needed to ground-run XR724 safely once more.

Finally, we must acknowledge a great debt of gratitude to Winchester Marine for all the company's help concerning XR 724, including the use of their heavy equipment which on many occasions was essential to enable us to complete specific tasks.


The reheat diamonds light up again during a night run at Binbrook.  One day again, perhaps, with your help.

I hope that this page answers some of your questions regarding XR724 and its associated ground equipment.  Thanks to all who have supported and continue to support us and for having an interest in what we do here at Binbrook   Please note if you would like to volunteer to work on XR724 and the associated ground equipment we would love to hear from you.  Former experience within the RAF or aviation industry would be ideal, but any engineering help is of use and other skills may benefit our various ongoing projects.  For anyone with a technical question or who wants to know more about XR724, I can be contacted via the details below.

John Watson

Chief Engineer, XR724

15 Cuthbert Avenue


N. Lincolnshire


Mobile:  07765450612




Return to Top 

Copyright © 2010 The Lightning Association.  Designed by David Evans