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Newsletter 4
Autumn 2003

Updated on 24Oct2003

Published by the Hawker Association for the Members.
Contents Hawker Association

Contents

Editorial

Bill Sherwood remembers

Book reviews

Christmas lunch

Dunsfold update

Dunsfold's Dove

George Anderson

Harrier II production

Harrier web site

HA members

Hawker memories

India makes up her mind

Kingston Aviation Heritage

Mick Mansell retires

Philatelic cover

Programme for 2003-4

Putting the record straight

Requests for information

Transatlantic air race

Visit to Farnborough

V/STOL Historical Society

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THE TRANSATLANTIC AIR RACE


Maurice Carlile remembers the Daily Mail Transatlantic Air Race of May 1969

The race was timed from the top of the Post Office Tower in London to the top of the Empire State Building in New York, at 5th Avenue and 34th Street, Manhatten. Entrants in the race found various methods of crossing the Atlantic in the shortest possible time. The Harrier was entered as a ruse to get the aircraft into the USA to demonstrate it to the military and to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. HSA, the MoD, the RAF and Defence sales agreed that Harriers from the A&AEE at Boscombe Down would be flown by RAF pilots Sq.Ldr Tom Lecky-Thompson and Sq.Ldr. Graham Williams, both test pilots at Boscombe. HSA would manage the race attempts, clear the ferry tips with 100 gal drop tanks, prove the range performance and provide technical support; the RAF would provide flight refuelling tankers.

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.

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