The Lightning, a dying relic

On my way to work there’s an amazing monument erected in the grounds of a workplace just next to a main roundabout that marks the entrance to a large business estate outside Edinburgh. The estate is called South Gyle, the workplace the abandoned premises of BAE, and the monument is a full size English Electric or BAC Lightning.

It is indeed an impressive sight, sitting as it is on a stand with its landing gear down and banking as though it were turning round the roundabout in the opposite direction. If, like me, you love old planes then this marks an extra treat for you. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it…

The English Electric Lightning (later the BAC Lightning) was a supersonic British fighter aircraft of the Cold War era, particularly remembered for its great speed, and its natural metal exterior that was used throughout much of its service life with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force. The aircraft was a stunning performer at airshows, former holder of the world air-speed record and the first aircraft capable of supercruise*. The Lightning was one of the highest performance planes in formation aerobatics.

*A supercruising aircraft is able to cruise at supersonic speeds efficiently without the use of afterburners. The first aircraft to exceed Mach 1 in level flight without afterburners was the P.1 prototype of the English Electric Lightning, on August 4, 1954.

So this gorgeous looking invention was the first plane to break Mach 1 in level flight without afterburners, and to boot it is a strikingly unique looking aircraft. A momentous time in aviation history and in the history of British invention.

So now BAE have left their premises, the building been demolished and the Lightning just left there to rot.

There are panels falling off it, a wheel missing, and rust streaks appearing down that famous metal exterior, and all the while Edinburgh Council (or whoever) concern themselves over trivial debates to which none of us have any connection. Then here we are each day driving past this historic monument watching it slowly die.

Update: 22/05/2006: The Lightning has been moved! It disappeared the other day and all that was seen in its place was a large crane. That’s now gone too…I guess we can presume it’s not living in the same place with the fibreglass cows that were stolen from Edinburgh by drunks one evening, it’s a bit too heavy to carry! Anyone know where it’s gone?

2 comments on “The Lightning, a dying relic”

  1. Patrick Reply

    The first time I went around that roundabout and saw the Lightning sitting there, as if heading into the road, it was a great shock – I am sure my foot touched the brake before I realised that it was actually static. (Kind of appropriate for Lightning, you might think!)

    It is a shame it has been left there – I hadn’t realised the factory was now demolished.

    Perhaps the air museum out by Haddington should come and rescue it!

  2. Lee Reply

    If there’s no connection with the site any longer maybe it’s time to think about a loving home in East Fortune.

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