Iconic plane returns to guard airfield gate at BAE Systems

TOUCH DOWN: The new model of a Lightning is winched into place at the airfield gates
TOUCH DOWN: The new model of a Lightning is winched into place at the airfield gates
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Lighting is about to strike twice at an aerodrome in Lancashire.

A full-scale fibreglass replica of the original English Electric Lightning fighter returned to guard the gates of the BAE Systems site in Samlesbury this week.

And there are plans to build a current Lightning alongside it at the entrance to the airfield, where the famous plane first took to the skies 55 years ago.

Workmen assembled the life-size model over the weekend to replace one which had stood at the gates on the A59 for more than two decades, until it was taken down in 2013. Samlesbury site director Ian Wood said: “It is fantastic to see the Lightning back in its rightful place at the entrance to our Samlesbury site where it was manufactured for so many years.

“This replica is far better designed to handle the Lancashire weather than the fuselage it replaces, which had seen better days having faced the elements for so long. It is an aircraft which is a proud part of our heritage and one which has helped to lay the foundations of aircraft such as Typhoon, which are crucial to the success of our business both today and in the future.”

It was in November 1959 that the first Lightning took to the skies over the aerodrome, which today houses advanced manufacturing facilities making parts for some of the world’s leading aircraft programmes. That flight marked a turning point in aviation history as the first completely British designed and built fighter aircraft able to fly at twice the speed of sound.

The proposed second replica will be an F-35 Lightning II, parts of which are built at Samlesbury.