Canberra B6/WK163

Serial #: WK163
Construction #: 1148
Civil Registration:
  Canberra B6
Name: None
Status: Airworthy
Last info: 2001

The Canberra Display Team
Operators of the worlds only flying record breaker

    Built by AV Roe at Woodford in 1954 as part of contract No 6/Acft/5990/CB6 for 100 B2 Canberra aircraft WK163 was taken on charge with controller (aircraft) on 28th January 1955. The same day the aircraft was transferred to Armstrong Siddeley Motors Ltd at Bitteswell Leics for Viper engine trails WK163 flew a total of 39 hours and 30 minutes on Viper development during its eleven months with ASM. On the 2nd of Dec 1955 the aircraft was transferred to Napier and Sons at Luton Beds becoming the Scorpion Rocket Motor test airframe. WK163 first flew after modification on the 20th May 1956 and whilst undertaking these trials the aircraft obtained the world record for aircraft altitude at 70,310ft on the 28th August 1957. Mike Randrup with Walter Shirley acting as flight observer piloted the aircraft for the record attempt. Whilst at Napier the aircraft also test flew air sampling equipment that was to be used in conjunction with the Grapple nuclear tests of 1958.

    After the cancellation of the Scorpion program the aircraft was passed to the RRE Pershore Warwickshire on the 30th April 1959 and was originally used for Infra-red line scan development. Whilst at Pershore in April 1966 WK163 was converted to Mk B6 specification being fitted with Canberra MK B6 mainplanes and engines. It was used in this guise for various radar research work. Then during April 1972 the B2 nose was removed and replaced with a standard B6 nose from Canberra XH568. When research flying finished at Pershore WK163 became the fist Canberra to relocate to RAE Bedford on the 1st July 1976. Extensive installation work was carried out on the airframe in the late eighties to prepare for its reconnaissance research and development role. This installation was based on the Tornado GR1A Infra-red reconnaissance system for which WK163 carried out the original trails program. The research was carried out on behalf of DRA Malvern. The installation in the aircraft consisted of three primary sensors, two sideways looking infrared sensors (SLIRS) and a Tornado infrared line scan sensor (TIRLS). Other equipment included forward-looking infra-red/thermal image common module (FLIR/TICM) forward-looking super VHS camera and recorder, two vertical looking airborne cameras F95 and F126. Also a data link transmitter along with its associated electric's and aerials.

    Arriving at DRA Farnborough in March 1994 the aircraft was then stripped of all internal research equipment. The aircraft was purchased the same year by ourselves and registered with the UK CAA as G-BVWC. After restoration work to being the airframe back to Mk B6 standard, the aircraft made its debut on the UK airshow circuit in 1997. The aircraft operates under the banner of The Canberra Display Team and we average 30 shows a season. The team, whose pilots and engineers are all ex Royal Air Force or Defence Research Agency, is based at Coventry Airport hear in the UK.

Special thanks to Dave Jackson for providing the information for this interesting aircraft.

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