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Gnat T1

'Teddy' Petter, designer while at English Electric of the Canberra and the Lightning, penned the diminutive Gnat during his time with Folland Aircraft, later part of Hawker Siddeley. It was a development of the Midge light fighter, built in prototype form but never produced. Indeed, it was as just such a fighter that the Gnat started out, the resulting Gnat F1 serving in Finland and India. Out of that came the Gnat T1 advanced trainer, first flown in 1959. No 4 Flying Training School at RAF Valley employed the Gnat from 1962 until its final replacement by the Hawk in 1978. During that period, No 4 FTS established in 1963 the Yellowjacks aerobatic team, the name deriving from the colour scheme worn by the team's aircraft, under the leadership of Flt Lt Lee Jones. For the 1965 season, responsibility for providing the RAF Aerobatic Team passed to the Central Flying School, and the Red Arrows were established, still on the Gnat - but now painted red. The rest is history. Those days are recalled by the Gnat Display Team, part of the Heritage Aircraft Trust and based at North Weald in Essex. For 2014 it now has three airworthy Gnats; those in Yellowjacks and Red Arrows colours will be on static display at RIAT.

Photo credit: Ben Dunnell

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