The Fairey Gannet was an anti-submarine warfare aircraft designed for use by the Royal Navy. It first flew in 1949 and entered service with the Fleet Air Arm in 1953. Initially used as a carrier borne anti-submarine and strike aircraft, it was able to find submerged submarines and attack them. Later versions were used as AEW (airborne early warning) aircraft, carrying a radar scanner in a radome beneath the aircraft. As this radar was carried several thousand feet above the carrier group, it could see further and detect threats earlier.
In common with most other naval aircraft, the Gannet had folding wings enabling it to be stored below decks – in the case of the Gannet, these had a distinctive Z-fold due to the aircraft’s size. Also unusual was the Armstrong-Siddeley Double Mamba engine. This was actually two turboprop engines mounted side-by-side, driving one propeller each on a common shaft. Both engines were used for take-off, after which one was shut down for economical cruising. Half way through the mission, the other engine was started and the first shut down, mainly to keep engine hours equal. For landing, both engines were used.
Our AEW aircraft first flew in November 1960 and was assigned to 849 HQ Flt. Culdrose. In January 1966 it was shipped to Changi in the far east and served with 849C Flt. aboard HMS Ark Royal and then with HMS Eagle, but was back in the UK by August 1968. XL497 has always been assigned to one of the 849 Flts and in addition to Culdrose has been based at Brawdy, Yeovilton and Lossiemouth. Its last sea posting was with HMS Ark Royal.
This aircraft was struck off charge and became the gate guardian at HMS Gannet at Prestwick Airport in December 1978. The MOD put the aircraft up for tender in January 2006 and the museum acquired the aircraft.
Our Gannet’s old carrier HMS Ark Royal was scrapped in 1979-80 at Cairnryan near Stranraer, and parts of the ship are displayed at either side of the aircraft.
The Gannet is displayed outside, near the entrance.