Newsletter 9
Summer 2005
Updated on 9Jun2005
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents © Hawker Association

Annual General Meeting
Half a Century in
Hawkers In the 50s
Programme for 2005
Reminiscences of a
Roy Goodheart
Sea Harrier
Thirty Years Ago
Visit to Imperial War
Wartime Hawkers
On 9th February John Parker gave an engrossing and witty talk, delivered in his inimitable style, on some of the less well known Kingston sales campaigns.

Prior to joining Hawkers John had a varied and fascinating career in the RAF which he joined straight from university in 1942, undergoing flying training in South Africa before joining a Hurricane OTU in Palestine. 1944-45 was spent with 208 Squadron in Italy flying fighter-reconnaissance on Spitfires. Next it was to a Communications squadron in Heliopolis, Egypt, flying a variety of aircraft from the Fairchild Argus to the Lodestar, Ventura and Dakota. From 1947-53 he flew Meteors with 263, 245 and 601 Squadrons and instructed at the Chivenor fighter OTU. In 1953 he was posted to Malaya during the Emergency as Senior RAF Intelligence Officer, Air HQ, returning to the UK and Staff College in 1957. He was then delighted to be given a command; but extremely disappointed to find that it was a helicopter squadron, No. 275 Search & Rescue, equipped with Sycamores.

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However, on arrival he found that the helicopter world was urgently in need of development so it turned out to be a challenging posting. Helicopter operations were very much in their infancy with accident and death rates higher than front line fighters. From 1959-63 he joined the Air Ministry Operational Requirements office covering OR.345 and Hunter Mks 9 and 10, and in 1964 was appointed Wing Commander Flying at Odiham and was awarded the AFC for his work on developing helicopter operating techniques and flight safety. From 1966-67 he was Station Commander at RAF Sharjah before moving to the British Embassy, Washington DC where he made all the logistical arrangements for the operation of the Harriers during the Transatlantic Air Race.

In 1969 John retired from the RAF to join HSA Kingston where Bill Bedford had begun to put together a proper sales department to take the place of the previous one which had consisted solely of John Crampton. In spite of trying to sell a product costing a million pounds a copy the lack of facilities "beggared belief." Potential customers had to be briefed in the Executive Lounge with a temporary screen and projector. There was no adequate office space and apparently nobody cared. This prompted Bill to assemble his team under umbrellas on the flat roof outside his office and to send a photograph to John Glasscock saying "This is what we have been reduced to." JLG returned the photo' inscribed "Why aren't they out selling?" Gradually they became better equipped but it was several years before a proper presentation theatre was built.

John continued with stories of many sales campaigns but space has forced your editor to select just a few.Ecuador provided a good example of highs and lows experienced, and the complex manoeuvres required, when campaigning for a sale. Firstly the Ecuadorian Air Force (EAF) had to be persuaded that the Harrier was suitable for defending the border with Peru. Secondly a means of payment had to be devised which would reduce the strain on the national budget and this was tackled by investigating a counter-trade deal involving Ecuador's biggest export; bananas. Commonwealth Preference protected the West Indian banana trade so increasing UK imports was not possible. However, and this was before the Berlin Wall came down, there were Eastern Bloc markets, particularly in Hungary. From there, by arranging trades, it would be possible to finish up in a usable currency. The EAF top decision makers were equally divided between Harrier and Jaguar but the C-in-C favoured Harrier. However, the C-in-C retired and was replaced by a Jaguar man. Also, the BAC agent was the technical representative who had come with the EAF Canberras, had stayed on and 'grown up' with the officers who were now in senior positions, so his influence was considerable. Nevertheless John continued to push the Harrier, but no decision was made. One day John awoke to find soldiers in his hotel foyer and tanks in the streets; there had been a coup - with excellent results for Kingston. The new C-in-C was Col. Morejon, the Air Attaché from London, who considered the Harrier essential. He was quickly made Minister of Defence; even better! Soon John was asked meet him and flew out to Ecuador and called at the Air Attaché's office to get an update on local affairs. Apparently Morejon had paid a formal farewell visit to the airbase near Guaquil where the base commander gave him a Meteor to fly himself back to Quito. He spun in on the approach and was killed. His successor was pro Jaguar and the Harrier's fate in Ecuador was sealed.

In Venezuela, after nearly two years of hard work, Vernon Lidstone and the Minister of Defence signed a contract for 24 Hawks on 25 March 1982. As is normal a period of 30 days was allowed before the first payment was due. Unfortunately, on 1st April, Gen. Galtieri invaded the Falklands and the president of Venezuela, in a gesture of Latin American togetherness, witheld payment while he waited to see what would happen. By the time the dust had settled, the Venezuelan government found that, despite exporting 1.8 million barrels of oil per day, they had a cash flow problem and the Hawk contract was cancelled. Vernon and John worked hard to recover the situation but eventually had to let it go. The saga was reported in 'Zeta', the Venezuelan equivalent of 'Time' or 'Newsweek'. On 1st August 1982 the headline ran "The Government bought Hawk secretly and now say they haven't the money to pay for them." The article continued "All this year 'Zeta' has followed the movements of John I Parker, the BAe Hawk representative. On the day following Gen. Narvaez Churion taking up his post as Minister of Defence, Parker submitted to his office a demand for payment in respect of the contract signed secretly by Gen. Leal Pucchi one week before the outbreak of the Falklands war." 'Zeta' continued "The Hawk is a project that is characteristic of a decadent British industry. It is operated only by such countries as Zimbabwe and Kenya. On the other hand the Alphajet is fully accepted in Europe and seems superior to the Hawk in every respect. Finally the Alphajet package is 30 million Bolwares (£ 40m) cheaper than that from England where their industrial inefficiency results in higher costs." They didn't buy Alphajet either!

John's last big job was on the 1988 Hawk Far East tour which took in Australia. An order eventually materialised 12 years later, an example of the long time scales involved in selling military aircraft. However, the record is held by India which, John said, took 15 years.

Looking back over 20 years at Kingston, John said his main memory was the support given by various departments. After an initial period of suspicion it was realised that the only way to stay in business was to sell the product profitably, resulting in unstinting support - except for the shop steward's mafia at Dunsfold. Whenever there was an aircraft to go to an air show or sales tour they conducted running battles with management over the make up of and conditions for the ground crew, threatening to boycott the deployment if their demands weren't met. Nevertheless, John considered himself greatly privileged to have represented two first class aircraft on the world's markets and to have mixed with the people who created them. But there was another side; long periods away from home, hours wasted in airport departure lounges, standing around baggage carousels and sitting in hotel rooms waiting for the 'phone to ring. As for these hardships, John quoted an old RAF maxim: "If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined!"

After many questions the vote of thanks was given by Les Palmer who noted than John had always been a master of understatement.