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Sea Vixen image © Lee Howard
Julian Jones and Rear Admiral Russ Harding
A Sea Vixen of 899 NAS is catapulted off HMS Eagle in trials mid-60s

de Havilland Sea Vixen returns to Yeovilton

Published: 22 Sep 2014

The Fly Navy Heritage Trust is delighted to announce that it has received a substantial transformational gift of a historic 1950s Royal Navy de Havilland Sea Vixen. The classic Fleet Air Arm fighter was formally handed over to the Fly Navy Heritage Trust by her former owner and Ambassador of the Fly Navy Heritage Trust, Julian Jones, at a spectacular presentation ceremony at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton on Tuesday 16 September 2014. 

Sea Vixen FAW2 (Fighter all Weather) G-CVIX XP924, the only flying Sea Vixen in the world, flew into RNAS Yeovilton in style, thrilling the waiting reception of guests with a poignant and emotional display. Unfortunately, she burst a tyre on landing but this did not deter the excitement of her homecoming or the enthusiasm of the welcome she received from the Fly Navy Heritage Trust Sea Vixen Team and veterans who flew and maintained the aircraft when she had been in naval service. 

The aircraft, painted in 899 Naval Air Squadron colours from HMS Eagle in 1971, and flown by a former 899 Naval Air Squadron pilot, Jonathon Whaley, was handed over by Julian Jones to Commodore Bill Covington CBE, the G-CVIX team leader for the Fly Navy Heritage Trust.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Commodore Covington said “We are going to keep G-CVIX flying.  The Sea Vixen has a seminal place in the heart of the Fleet Air Arm. Today’s presentation of the last flying Sea Vixen to the Fly Navy Heritage Trust, in partnership with the Royal Navy, is an exceptional act of generosity, safeguarding the future of this iconic fighter for the benefit of the public and her loyal supporters.” 

In recent years G-CVIX, affectionately known as Foxy Lady, has been flown and operated by Bournemouth based, DS Aviation, owned by Julian Jones, founder of Drilling Systems, a global provider of simulation technology to the oil and gas industry. 

Speaking as he handed over two sets of ceremonial keys to the aircraft, Julian Jones said “It gives me great pleasure to know that G-CVIX has been returned to her home base at RNAS Yeovilton. I know she will have pride of place in the Fly Navy Heritage Trust collection and will continue to be part of our national naval aviation heritage for many years to come.” 

“In 1961, the year I was born” continued Julian Jones “Sea Vixens were patrolling the skies of the Arabian Gulf, maintaining peace and stability in the region and ensuring that oil flowed through the Straits of Hormuz to the Western world - quite fitting as my own business, some 50 years later, trades freely throughout the Middle East region. I have been privileged to have the opportunity to show my appreciation, 50 years on, by keeping the Sea Vixen flying and fast jet, carrier based aviation alive in the public eye.” 

Also speaking at the handover ceremony, Rear Admiral Russ Harding OBE, Head of the Fleet Air Arm and Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Aviation, Amphibious Capability and Carriers said “We are delighted that the Sea Vixen is returning to the Fleet Air Arm. She is a landmark aircraft in the Naval Aviation Heritage story and will be an important addition to the Fly Navy Heritage collection. We are extremely grateful to Julian Jones for his great generosity. His passion and sustained commitment to keeping the Sea Vixen flying over many years has saved a national treasure.” 

Rear Admiral Harding continued “The Sea Vixen flew on continuous and intensive operations throughout the 1960s and early 1970s at the height of the Cold War and represents the high speed strike aircraft of the ‘jet age’ of naval fixed wing carrier operations. She not only symbolises the evolution of naval carrier jet aircraft but is a powerful and direct link with the Royal Navy’s return to ‘big deck’ naval carrier operations with the two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and the Lightning II aircraft poised to enter service with the Royal Navy in the next few years.” 

Among those attending the ceremony was Admiral Sir Michael Layard KCB CBE, President of the Fly Navy Heritage Trust Sea Vixen Team and a former Commanding Officer of 899 Naval Air Squadron. “It has been a very special and historic day” said Admiral Sir Michael. “Seeing C-VIX being flown so superbly in the safe and deft hands of Jonathon Whaley brought back many memories; especially of the many fine naval aviators who gave their lives in that most intensive era of naval flying. We don’t under estimate the challenges of keeping such a magnificent and potent aircraft flying and we will rely greatly on our supporters, enthusiasts and the generosity of benefactors to raise the money needed to keep her in superb flying condition.” 

The Sea Vixen has displayed on four occasions in the last few weeks culminating in a classic Avon three aircraft display alongside a Hunter and Canberra at the Bournemouth Air Show last month.  As part of the handover from its Bournemouth base to RNAS Yeovilton, the Sea Vixen also flew at RNAS Yeovilton on 12 September. Sea Vixen G-CVIX will be operated by Naval Aviation Ltd, a subsidiary of the Fly Navy Heritage Trust and after a period of winter maintenance will continue to fly at air shows and events around the country in 2015 as a signature aircraft in the Royal Navy’s Heritage Collection. 

For further information or to make a donation to keep the Sea Vixen flying email seavixen@fnht.co.uk or contact Sue Eagles, Campaign Director Fly Navy Heritage Trust on 01935 849200.

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