XW664, the Nimrod R1 at Donington Aero Park

The Nimrod at Donington Aero Park

I realised that last time I wrote about the Donington Aero Park, the aircraft museum beside East Midlands Airport, I mentioned the Nimrod there but did not include any photographs of the aircraft. I took a trip back there at the weekend, and it seemed a good opportunity to take a few photos of the Nimrod whilst I was there.

The Nimrod was an aircraft built by Hawker Siddeley to replace the Avro Shackleton, and was introduced in 1969 as the MR1 variant, with the aircraft based on the Comet 4 civil airliner. The aircraft were fitted with electronic warfare sensors, and a MAD (magnetic anomaly detector) boom. This gave the aircraft a distinctive shape.

Three Nimrods were converted for a signals intelligence role, and entered service as the R1 variant in 1974. XW664, who is now resident at Donington Aero Park, is an R1 variant.

The MR2 variant was introduced in the late 1970s, and the Falklands War saw the aircraft fitted out for mid air refuelling and the ability to carry Sidewinder missiles, creating the MR2P variant. Some of these were further modified to operate as part of the Gulf War force, complete with additional electronic counter measures.

The Nimrod has the look of an aircraft from another age of aviation warfare, but was in service until very recently, operating until 2010 and seeing active service over Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. The loss of XV230, an MR2 variant, near Kandahar, in 2006, was the most recent of the five aircraft that were lost in incidents, and the report into XV230 appeared only a month after another incident over Afghanistan when the crew of XV235 spotted a fuel leak during air-to-air refuelling. This led to the suspension of air-to-air refuelling by the RAF for Nimrods.

Ten Nimrods are available to view around the UK, eight of which are the MR2 variety, and two R1s, both of which I have been fortunate enough to visit. XV249 now resides at RAF Cosford, and of course, XW664 at Donington. The R1 variety flew for the last time in June 2011, and on the 12th July 2011, XW664 made its way to Donington Aero Park, its retirement home. The aircraft received a water canon salute on its arrival at East Midlands.

The Nimrod is found near the mound overlooking the runway, which gives a good view of planes landing and taking off. As well as regular passenger aircraft movements, there was an Antonov cargo aircraft unloading whilst we were there. East Midlands Airport has a significant volume of cargo passing through, so this is not an unusual sight there.

Xander was quite taken by XW664, and it was quite an effort to stop him climbing the stairs to investigate.

Xander also spotted that a Nimrod is quite a large aircraft today…

A photo posted by Mark Haggan (@markhaggan) on

The park is full of fantastic aircraft that make up part of the aviation history of the UK, including military and civilian aircraft, and is certainly worth the amazingly low £3 entry fee. If you find yourself in Castle Donington, for East Midlands Airport, Donington Park circuit, the Download music festival, or even just passing through, check the opening hours and if you can, pop along. Definitely an interesting place to visit.