June 13, 2013 - AirVenture attendees this year will have the opportunity to see the world's only flying example of a Fairey Gannet T5, a Cold War-era Royal Navy aircraft originally designed for anti-submarine operations.
The dual control, contra-rotating turboprop operated from carrier decks and was later used for electronic countermeasure missions. It appeared here once before - in 1996 - as chronicled in the December 1996 edition of Sport Aviation - creating a scene whenever it folded or unfolded its wings.
To its owner, Shannan Hendricks, of New Richmond, Wisconsin, the plane is Janet the Gannet - so-named when people involved in her restoration decided she was a wonderful old lady deserving of a nickname. "We kept throwing around 'Janet the Gannet' as it rhymed," Hendricks recalled. "It stuck, and when people from around the world contact me about the plane, they ask me how Janet is."
Hendricks acquired Janet, which carries the military registration XT752, in 2003. "It was the right place at the right time," she said, purchasing the burly Brit from the former Polar Air Museum (Fisk/Amjet collection) in Blaine, Minnesota. After the purchase, a crew was in the process of flying it to the U.K. in 2004, but mechanical problems forced the crew to reverse course over Greenland and return to Goose Bay, Canada. There it sat for the next six years due in part to an ownership dispute.
When Canadian officials ordered that the plane be removed to avoid seizure, Hendricks explored a number of transport options before space was reserved on an AN 124 - which just happened to be flying to Minneapolis. (It would not fit on a C-5). It was then transported to a private hangar on the New Richmond airport via semi truck, and has been undergoing restoration since then.
Janet was designed by Fairey Aviation UK, built as the first dual control T2 Gannet prototype in the world. It first flew August 16, 1954, and is the sole surviving prototype of any historic military aircraft flying in the world. Only a few others remain on static display in museums.
The prototype T2 became the Fairey factory's only privately registered Gannet in history. Within five years it was completely rebuilt as a new prototype T5 dual control Gannet. After a year of being owned by Indonesia to train that country's Gannet pilots in the U.K., the plane was sold back to Britain in the 1960s to serve in the Royal Navy until 1978.
The plane is powered by an Armstrong Siddeley Double Mamba turboprop engine - essentially two Mambas mounted side-by-side coupled through a common gearbox. The engine is rated at 2,950 hp.
Other facts about Janet the Gannet: it's the oldest turboprop aircraft flying in the world of any type; the world's only Gannet to be owned by the U.K.'s Fairey factory; and the last Gannet in the world to land on an aircraft carrier when selected by the admiralty to fly on to the U.K.'s biggest aircraft carrier, Ark Royal, when Gannets were retired from military service.
Janet, resplendent in its original T5 paint scheme, was officially pulled out of the hangar on Saturday, June 8, in New Richmond so people could see it. Several people, including a number of EAA members, were on hand. Hendricks has also visited various EAA chapters over the last two years to talk about XT752.
The airplane is virtually ready for flight, awaiting a new canopy and some avionics work. Amazingly, Janet only has 1,500 hours of logged operations.
Plans are to fly the aircraft to Oshkosh on opening day July 29, make a fly-by, then be on display on Phillips 66 Plaza. Team members will be on hand to answer questions from attendees throughout the week.
Long-range plans call for the airplane to be the flying centerpiece of a planned museum of flight and education center in New Richmond.