Designed initially as an anti-submarine strike aircraft with Double Mamba turbines driving co-axial propellers, the first prototype Fairey Gannet made its maiden flight on 19 September 1949 from Aldermaston and its first carrier landing on 19 June 1950 on the deck of HMS Illustrious. The first production Gannet AS.1 made its initial flight from Northolt on 9 June 1953. These aircraft were equipped with sonobuoys, markers and flares and were armed with various combinations of homing torpedoes, depth charges and mines in a bomb bay.
The completely redesigned Gannet AEW.3 airborne early warning aircraft entered service in 1960. Carrying a crew of three, it had a maximum speed of 250 mph, a range of 700 miles and a ceiling of 25000 feet. Ironically, the type was withdrawn from service in 1977, just before the Falklands conflict revealed the value of the surveillance that this remarkable aircraft would have been able to provide.
The Museum’s aircraft, previously at Sandtoft, Lincolnshire, was the last Gannet in service with No 849 Squadron and the last Gannet to display at air shows. It was acquired by the Museum with the assistance of a grant from the Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material (PRISM) Fund, and by donations from the Beverley Association and Museum supporters.