Tornado F2A ZD902 TIARA Arrives at Jet Art. Now FOR SALE
December saw an exciting new addition to the Jet Art stable. Our mission was to dismantle, load, extract and transport 250 miles by road our latest acquisition; the pristine Tornado F2A ZD902 also known as ‘TIARA’ (Tornado Integrated Avionics Research Aircraft). I don’t know about you but for starters the name Tiara is certainly doing it for me! Tiara is a very special and rare variant Tornado, the trials work she conducted contributed hugely to avionics evaluation and development for a host of aircraft such as the Sea Harrier, Eurofighter and Tornado as well as testing exciting new technology in experimental trials such as airborne control of UAVs. More about her history later but it’s safe to say she did great things!
First flown in 1984 and delivered to the Royal Air Force -as a F2 specification Tornado ADV (Air Defence Variant) she was one of only 18 F2s built. Rare then you might say but it does not stop there. These 18 F2 Tornados were scheduled for upgrade to F2A standard which was in essence the F3 but with the older RB.199 103 engines (same as the ones used in the original GR1 ground attack version) but in the end only ZD902 airframe was converted making this the only F2A variant in the world. With the majority of ADV Tornado aircraft being ‘reduced to produced’ spare parts and in essence corporately scrapped this jet is now an endangered species as far as aircraft preservation goes and a real rare beastie bound to have serious investment value for the future. What you are looking at in all seriousness is basically the last virtually complete RAF Tornado ADV in existence. The end of an era it may be but this beautiful aircraft is now out of captivity, in private hands and available for sale.
Ummmm I hear you say…..cancel the Bugatti Veyron order.
Tiara’s last Sortie was flown on the 30th November 2011 adding 1 hour 20 minutes onto her total flight time tally of just 935 hrs. For a Tornado that is incredibly low. Speaking to one RAF engineer he compared it to buying a car with 10,000 miles on the clock telling us with a big grin on his face it ‘hadn’t even been run in yet’. It’s clear to see why this aircraft is in such good condition, compared to the rest of the ADV fleet she lived a pampered life, rarely used and has been lovingly maintained. Regular preventative maintenance was carried out until 2014 and she was fully fuelled right to the brim prior to being defueled in Nov 2015 in preparation for the dismantling process. We applied electrical power from the battery master a number of times during dismantling and the cockpits lit up like a Christmas tree.
Tornado ADV was designed and conceived at the heart of the Cold war as a fast jet long range Interceptor whose sole purpose was to bring down nuclear armed Soviet Backfires, Bears and Blinders as they approached over the North Sea. It’s a twin man, twin engine variable geometry swing wing fighter capable of MACH 2.2. This particular example was one of the first aircraft delivered to the Royal Air Force arriving on 229 OCU in June 1985 as one of the aircraft used to convert and train crews for the RAF’s all new state of the art fighter jet. As such it was one of the few ‘T- Bird’ trainer variants with full flying controls in both cockpits. Yes it keeps on getting better!
After only 3 years’ service with the OCU ZD902 was issued to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in 1988 to begin her new life as a test aircraft eventually becoming TIARA. This saved her from the nasty fate that awaited the majority of the other F2 Tornados who donated their centre fuselages to a number of F3’s who had undergone a contractor drilling ‘accident’ on multiple airframes which basically wrote off the centre fuselages of 16x aircraft…whoops! I bet somebody didn’t get their Christmas bonus that year. RAE Farnborough was renamed the Defence Research Agency in 1991 and TIARA continued to provide sterling service for trials work including having a Sea Harrier FA2 Blue Vixen radar installed in the nose for evaluation. I bet that was a fruity combination and probably seriously outperformed the original and problematic Fox Hunter set installed in standard Tornado ADV. This aircraft had the privilege of being the last MOD aircraft to fly out of RAE Farnborough on the 18th Oct 1994 . ZD902 reportedly took off then conducted a low level pass over the airfield and engineers below. This formally ended 90 years of military test flying at the historic station which started back in 1904 with Army hot air balloons. Aviation certainly had come a long way in 90 years.
The pinnacle of TIARA’s testing career was in 2007 when the aircraft was used for world first surrogate UAV trials. A pilot flying ZD902 was able to take over the controlled flight of a BAC 111 airliner acting as a technology demonstrator – or surrogate UAV – providing a platform to test the operation of an unmanned aircraft from the cockpit of a single frontline jet.
To collect our latest acquisition required a hefty portion of proper preparation and planning. It’s not the first time we have dismantled and moved a Tornado and as we had refined the process on more than a dozen previous occasions we had a feeling it would go like clockwork. That said, we decided well in advance that this one would be treated with kid gloves and no expense was spared to source the correct ground equipment in the form of wing stand trestles, fin stand and taileron stand. It’s safe to say that the logistics involved in planning this operation and sourcing equipment and tooling from one end of the country to the other stretched our logistics department to the max in the weeks leading up to the move.
The highlight of the dismantling job was the removal of the wing pins. In accordance with the maintenance procedure liquid nitrogen was used to contract and shrink the pins, this ensured there was no stress on the wing box when they were extracted and removed. With the wings, fin and tailerons removed by day 4 it was time to crane the load onto the low loaders for transport.
Once dismantled TIARA was safely transported 250 miles by road attracting rather a lot of attention as she was hauled up the M1. A slight issue on arrival at her new home with roads being closed due to flooding resulted in a 2 hour magical mystery tour of North Yorkshire while an alternative accessible route for the rather long and wide low loader was found. A sterling job was done by our lorry driver affectionately known as ‘HGV Stig’ who ended up with no option but to negotiate some rather narrow and twisty roads to delivering TIARA safe and sound to her new home – a former RAF base with cosy heated hangars ready and waiting to house this brute of an interceptor. All we had to do now was unload her then back home for tea and a well deserved beer. Not bad for a week’s work!
Pictured above Tiara was craned slowly off the Low Loader then lowered down to terra firma. This is a serious lump of heavy metal and fully kitted this fuselage weighed in at 12,400kg. The wings, fin and tailerons were methodically unloaded then all pushed inside the hanger for storage. Check out the gallery below to see how we unloaded the dismantled Tornado.
It had been a long and hard week (a month if you include all the prep and planning) but it was entirely worth it, TIARA is a stunning airplane with serious history and she’s now available for sale to the public! See more details on ZD902 including 60 photos on our Aircraft Page.
As a finishing note quite poignantly on the nose undercarriage door is a sticker applied by TIARA’s ground crew which was applied before the last flight. Strange how things work out, this aircraft was one of the first Tornado ADV’s to enter service and has ended up being one of the last survivors. This aircraft really is the last of the F3w!