At the end of 2021, Jay Smith, an oil entrepreneur who had sold his business and has a passion for fast jets and head of Hangar 51, bought the Thunder City collection.
The Thunder City collection of cold-war era British jets once owned by the now deceased Mike Beachy Head and based at Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa, has been sold out of his estate, SA Flyer reports.
Beachy Head died at 59 in May 2016 after a heart attack and since he was the driving force behind the maintenance and flying of this unique collection of jets, Thunder City died with him.
Thunder City owned the world’s largest civil 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 the company premises). These aircraft were used to perform in airshows and also be hired by the public for novelty flight including supersonic flights.
The unique collection of aircraft were moved outside after the Thunder City Hangar was sold and they stood 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 year that passed, the chances of any of the aircraft being returned to flying condition decreased.
Then, at the end of 2021, Jay Smith, an oil entrepreneur who had sold his business and has a passion for fast jets, bought the Thunder City collection. Smith and his company Hangar 51 want to getting the aircraft back in the air.
A big step forward was made on Jan. 13, 2022 when the two Rolls Royce Spey engines of Buccaneer S2B ZU-BCR (former RAF XW987) were started again. According to SA Flyer, given how long they had been standing, this is a considerable achievement and testimony to the quality and skills of the engineers still available to work on the aircraft.
Jay Smith would like to get as many of the aircraft flying as possible so that Hangar 51 could use them to offer adversary air services for military branches similar to Draken International in the US. Hangar 51’s personnel hope to finalise negotiations to move the collection to a large hangar in Cape Town, where the company will be able to work on these iconic jets.
Photo credit: Godot13 Own Work via Wikipedia