Hangar 51 Corporation buys Thunder City’s ex-military collection, aims to use it for opposing air services

At the end of 2021, Jay Smith, an oil entrepreneur who sold his business and passionate about fast jets and owner of Hangar 51, bought the Thunder City collection.

The Thunder City collection of Cold War-era British aircraft once owned by the late Mike Beachy Head and based at Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa, has been sold of his domain, reports SA Flyer.

Beachy Head died aged 59 in May 2016 after a heart attack and as he was the driving force behind the maintenance and flight of this unique collection of jets, Thunder City died with him.

Thunder City had the world’s largest civilian collection of ex-military jets, including three English Electric Lightnings, three Blackburn Buccaneers, seven Hawker Hunters, one Aerospatiale Puma (a demonstrator of the company’s upgrade and refurbishment services) , a Jet Provost and a Gloster Javelin FAW Mk.1 (RAF No. XA553, mounted as a “Gate Guard” on display at the entrance to company premises). These aircraft were used to perform at air shows and were also rented by the public for novelty flights, including supersonic flights.

The unique collection of aircraft was moved outside after the Thunder City hangar was sold and they remained exposed to the weather for five years.

The situation was grim, especially for complex aircraft such as the English Electric Lightnings and Blackburn Buccaneers. In fact, with each passing year, the chances of any of the aircraft being restored to airworthy condition diminished.

Then, at the end of 2021, Jay Smith, an oil entrepreneur who had sold his company and who has a passion for fast jets, bought the Thunder City collection. Smith and his company Hangar 51 want to get the plane back in the air.

A big step forward was taken on 13 January 2022 when the two Rolls Royce Spey engines of the Buccaneer S2B ZU-BCR (former RAF XW987) were restarted. According to SA Flyer, given the length of time they have been there, this is a significant achievement and a testament to the quality and skill of the engineers still available to work on the aircraft.

Jay Smith would like to fly as many planes as possible so that Hangar 51 can use them to provide adverse air services to military branches similar to Draken International in the United States. Hangar 51 staff hope to finalize negotiations to move the collection to a large hangar in Cape Town, where the company can work on these iconic jets.

Photo credit: Godot13 Own work via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is a writer specializing in aviation, defense and the military. He is the founder and editor of “The Aviation Geek Club”, one of the most widely read military aviation blogs in the world. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other media. He reported from Europe and flew Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.


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