Newsletter 7
Autumn 2004
Updated on 12Oct2004

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

A Career in the Life Of Len Hearsey
The following is abridged from a memoir published in the Hawker Siddeley News in 1975 when Len retired.

I joined Hawker Aircraft Ltd in 1939 at Brooklands and was immediately transferred to the Experimental Department at Langley which was housed in an area adjoining the paint shop and was surrounded by scaffolding and hessian to keep nosy parkers from the all important aircraft; at that time the Vulture powered Tornado. Next came the Typhoon and I went with it to the Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down to assist with maintaining it during service trials. When the first squadron of Typhoons was formed Hawkers set up an experimental-cum-service department and I was the first HAL representative at RAF Duxford with 56 Squadron. Ultimately I finished up at Newchurch - 'Doodle-Bug Alley' - with 150 Wing where I was seconded into the RAF as a technical representative with the rank of SDO (Special Duties Officer). As D Day approached I followed the Typhoon and Tempest squadrons into France.
In April 1945, when with 135 Wing at Uden, Holland, I was recalled for posting to the Far East with the Tempest II. The crated aircraft were shipped to Karachi, India then, where a production line was set up assembling enough aircraft for two squadrons. I was fortunate in having the opportunity to travel widely over the following 15 months and see India in all its glory.

In  1948 I was sent by Hawkers to assemble two crated Sea Furies in Canada. One went to Watson Lake, Alaska, for winterisation trials whilst the other was cocooned at Edmonton to see how the aircraft stood up to those climatic conditions. Next I went to assist the newly formed Royal Pakistan Air Force which had  Tempest IIs, left in India by the RAF and divided between India and Pakistan under the terms of the partition. Later, new Sea Furies began to arrive. The C in C was Air Marshall Atcherly, who on retiring from the RAF became a director of Folland Aircraft and later of Hawker Siddeley Aviation.

Egypt was my next port of call after that country also bought Sea Furies. I witnessed Neville Duke's arrival when he gained the London-Cairo speed record. Back in the UK I worked with the Royal Navy Sea Fury squadrons and also was with the Royal Australian Navy on HMAS Sydney as the 21st Carrier Air Group worked up. My next ordeal was promotion - Assistant Service Manager to John Gale.

The Company broke into the South American market by selling Hunters to Peru and I led the team which was to uncrate and assemble the 16 aircraft at their destination. Our problems during the assembly programme, which was carried out in the open air, were many and varied. The day we arrived in Lima in February 1956 I was informed that all the Hunters were required to fly on National Day, July 28th. This was very ambitious but we managed to carry it out.

In September 1958 I arrived in Cuba for the assembly of 17 refurbished Sea Furies which had been crated and shipped to Havana. A colleague, Derek MacKay, and myself, together with Cuban Air Force personnel, started work. This proceeded very well until one evening the manager of our hotel asked if I had heard the news from Venezuela. Naturally I hadn't, and even if I had it probably would have meant nothing to me. He told me that the Freedom Front leader, Senor Castro, had broadcast on Radio Venezuela, quoting my name and room number, holding me responsible for assembling the Sea Furies that were bombing and gunning his troops. He gave me three days to get out of Cuba! That night Derek and I locked ourselves in our room with a bottle of Scotch and the next day moved out of the hotel and into Campo de Columbia, the Air Force headquarters. We stayed there until our departure after we had more or less completed 12 aircraft, then returned to England.

Early in 1961 I was asked to replace the retiring experimental supervisor at Dunsfold, Bill Turner. Naturally I could not reject this offer although it would mean that my wanderings were finally over. In February I took over the Dunsfold Experimental Department as Assistant Experimental Supervisor responsible to the Experimental Manager at Kingston, Mr Rowe. I was immediately involved with the development flying programme of the prototype P.1127 from which we have developed the Kestrel and Harrier.

The experience I have gained both technically and in travelling for and on behalf of Hawker Siddeley Aviation could not be measured and I am indeed grateful to this company for affording me these wonderful opportunities.