The Last Lightning Show

On a very wet Saturday in August 1987 British aviation enthusiasts headed towards the north-east corner of Lincolnshire to the home of the last remaining Lightning squadrons ( 5 and 11, as well as the Lightning Training Flight) serving the Royal Air Force.

Disbandment was fast approaching, Lightnings were due to be replaced by the Tornado F3 as the main interceptor for the Air Force. For many of us it was the last chance to see them in action for the last time at their home base of RAF Binbrook.

11 squadron finally relinquished their Lightnings in May 1988, heralding the end of purely British designed/built fighters in military service.


British summer time ensured that we were treated to (almost) four seasons in one day. The rain was relentless, the cloud level was low and if the show had been held under modern regulations it would have, without doubt, been cancelled. However there was no way that the Lightning’s were going to be stopped on their day.

Eventually, if I recall correctly, 11 ships made it into the air and we were treated to an immense show. The photos below do no justice to the show and the noise. The sight of Nine Lightnings in formation is something that will live with me forever, it was one of those moments you never forget. Even though the weather was abysmal for most of the day, and I was soaked through, I would relish the opportunity to relive this show again. It’s only after the event you realise how lucky you were to be able to witness something so special and so final.

I make no apologies for the poor quality of these photo’s. They were scanned from my slides which had been sat in the loft for many years and I’ve done my best to process them as best as possible using Lightroom. Regardless of the quality they represent my record of a remarkable day, the last time I saw Lightning’s alive in their natural habitat.

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