Our team of Sales, Public Relations and Maintenance personnel arrived in New York at the beginning of May to prepare for the arrival of the Harrier. The US Marine Corps had selected a suitable VTOL site on a vacant lot at the bottom of 23rd Street on the bank of the East River and had laid an appropriate metal pad. The site not only had an unobstructed approach to the pad but also was only just over a mile from the Empire State. Graham Williams brought in XV744 having proven the route and the in-flight refuelling rendezvous. We had established the quickest way from the top of the Empire State to the pad. The Empire State had an express lift from top to bottom so we positioned someone to keep it free for our use, not an easy task, then onto a motor cycle to roar down 34th Street, turn right into 1st Avenue and then left at 23rd Street down to the pad.
So, we were ready when Tom Lecky-Thompson raced XV741 across on the 5th May, East to West, in 5 hrs 57 min, pad to pad
.Now it was Graham's turn, West to East. We had been blessed with good weather throughout our preparations so we were confident of a quick time from clocking in to arrival at the pad. Graham had laid the flight plans for take-off on the 9th May. All was set but we awoke that morning to a downpour of heavy rain. Graham confirmed that the flight was on so it was 'action stations everyone'.
Graham was making his way to the Empire State Building when through the gate to the pad ran a man screaming "You can't take off!". "Who are you?" I said. "I'm from the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency), you can't take off, the weather is too bad". "Yes", I said, "I heard you the first time. Come into our tent and meet Bill Bedford, our Sales Director and ex Chief Test Pilot. He will tell you all about the aircraft". I introduced him and whispered to Bill that he had to keep the FAA official occupied until Graham was on his way. Running out of the tent I saw Graham entering the site. "The FAA are here", I said, "but we are keeping him out of sight. Good luck!". Graham jumped in, the engine wound up, lift off and XV744 was on its way. Walking back into the tent I said "That was a clean take-off and you can tell your boss that it stopped raining just in time". Crestfallen, the FAA officer left the site mumbling some derisive remarks about the perfidious British.
Just 5 hrs 31 mins later Graham landed at St Pancras Railway Station and reached the top of the Post Office Tower in the shortest West to East time.