Bidding farewell to a "Queen of the Skies"
Published Friday 2nd September 2005
The last remaining three-seater Canberra T4 took off from RAF Marham on its final flight yesterday, 1 September 2005, having completed its role as a training aircraft for the Canberra PR9.
The crew for the trip consisted of pilot Squadron Leader Terry Cairns RAF, a veteran of 41 years service with nearly 8,000 flying hours, and navigator Wing Commander Clive Mitchell RAF, currently Officer Commanding 39 (1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit) Squadron. In the third seat sat Air Vice-Marshal Andy White RAF, Air Officer Commanding No 3 Group, enjoying his first flight in a Canberra.
The flight went over the bases which were home to the RAF Canberra Operational Conversion Unit during the type's 54 years in service (so far), as well as its places of manufacture - Bassingbourne, RAF Wyton, RAF Cottesmore, Salmesbury and BAe Warton, before returning home to RAF Marham. Thanks to the sunny weather, the crew were able to fly the whole route at 3,000 ft.
Squadron Leader 'Rem' Merrick, Media Communications Officer at RAF Marham, said:
"The day started cloudy, but it dispersed as the day wore on.
"The sky was blue crystal for the entire flight, which was particularly fitting on an occasion to say goodbye to yet another 'Queen of the Sky'."
This particular Canberra T4 airframe was delivered to the RAF in 1954, three years after the type entered service, and has been used for pilot training ever since.
The Canberra T4 has been retired from service prior to the last operational variant, the PR9 (Photographic Reconnaissance), which is expected to go out of service in 2006.
Canberra was designed as a replacement for the Mosquito bomber, and first flew on 13 May 1949. The airframe which flew yesterday is painted in the livery of the first prototype, Canberra VN799.
The aircraft has a top speed of 450 knots (Mach 0.83), with a service ceiling of 45,000ft. Its shape is unusual and memorable, being almost square in its dimensions (65ft 6 in long, with a wing span of 64 ft) and with its engines well spaced, embedded in the wings, also keeping the classic "cigar shaped" fuselage commensurate with the early jets.