A GNAT is buzzing over Bournemouth airport after the former Red Arrows jet was cleared for take-off following a lengthy restoration.

Now operated and maintained by the De Havilland Aviation concern, the Folland Gnat two-seater trainer entered service with the RAF in 1964 and was used as the lead plane with the RAF Red Arrows from 1976 until the aerobatic display team switched to its current BAe Hawk aircraft.

Given the civil registration G-NATY, the aircraft kept its Red Arrows livery and RAF service number XR537 when it passed into private ownership and later became a popular exhibit at the Bournemouth Aviation Museum.

But "Gnaty", as the plane became affectionately known, looked destined to remain grounded as efforts to restore the aircraft to flying condition repeatedly stalled.

Now after a concerted effort by De Havilland Aviation, Gnaty has again taken to the skies with former Red Arrows number two Justin Hughes taking the controls to become one of the few Red Arrows pilots to have flown both types of aircraft used by the team.

Geoff Beck, managing director of DHA, said: "It is great to have Justin on board with Gnaty's operations programme, and it certainly adds more prestige to our team by having had a former Red flying this famous aircraft."

Flying duties are also shared by chief pilot and former Red Arrow veteran Brian Grant and his successor Lt Cdr Matt Whitfield, Officer Commanding of Fixed Wing Standards for the Royal Navy.

And De Havilland Aviation is offering a limited number of syndicate shares in the aircraft to allow serious thrill-seekers the chance to enjoy the experience of flying in Gnaty.