Chippy WK518

The Chipmunk

The two de Havilland Canada Chipmunks held on charge by the RAF Memorial Flight are the last in RAF service and are probably the least-seen aircraft of the Memorial Flight fleet. They are used year-round, primarily for the conversion and continuation training of the Flight’s pilots on tail-wheel aircraft. Other functions of the ‘Chippies’ include the reconnaissance of new venues, the delivery or collection of pilots and, occasionally, the delivery of small spare parts.

Chipmunk WG486 WG486 was also delivered to the RAF in January 1952 and served with No 5 Basic Flying Training School, No 9 Refresher Flying School and No 2 Flying Training School (FTS) before being used by the Army Air Corps with 651 and 657 Squadrons. In December 1958, the aircraft was issued to 114 Squadron in Cyprus, where it was used in operations against the EOKA terrorists, flying low-level reconnaissance patrols and convoy escort missions from Famagusta, Xeros and Akrotiri airfields, with British Army officers in the rear seat. The crisis ended in March 1959 and WG486 was brought back to the UK in 1961.

The aircraft returned to training flying for 16 years, with units that included the RAF College at Cranwell, Initial Training School at South Cerney and Church Fenton, No 1 FTS, Liverpool and Bristol UASs and No 3 AEF. In 1987, WG486 moved to Germany to operate as part of the Gatow Station Flight in Berlin, which was then surrounded by Soviet Communist Block territory, where it embarked on a second phase of operational flying. For the next 2 years it was flown on what were then highly secret ‘Cold War’ covert photographic reconnaissance ‘spying’ flights in and around Berlin. When RAF Gatow closed, the aircraft spent a year at Laarbruch before joining the Memorial Flight in 1995.

Both Chippies, 2012 WK518 has been with the Flight the longer of the two Chipmunks; it was delivered from No 1 Air Experience Flight (AEF) at Manston in April 1983. This aircraft first entered RAF service in January 1952, being allocated to the RAF College at Cranwell for elementary flying training of student pilots.

Other units which have operated WK518 include the University Air Squadrons (UASs) for Liverpool, Manchester, Cambridge, Hull, Leeds and London Universities. WK518 is now painted in the colours it actually wore when it served with Hull UAS in 1961.

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