Newsletter 10
Autumn 2005

Updated on12Sep2005
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents © Hawker Association
Association Tie
Aviation Double
Christmas Lunch
Fastest Hunter?
Harrier News
Hawk News
Hunter Delivery Flight
Jsf Prototype
Outsider's View of Camm
Philatelic Cover
Programme 2005-6
Regional Executive
Sea Harrier Book Review
Sydney Camm Wit

"Once Upon A Time I Was A Regional Executive"
This was the title of Peter Boxer's July 13th talk which was instructive in content, loaded with anecdotes and witty in delivery; and hence difficult to report. However...

In the Hawker Siddeley Group, Regional Executives (REs) were senior people positioned in their regions, in Sir Arnold Hall's day as the Chairman's representative. They were responsible for moving in the right circles, and occasionally deliberately in some of the 'wrong' ones too, throughout their region, and for giving the impression at least, that they spoke for the highest levels in the Company.

In the aerospace business only Roll-Royce had a similar system; a small network of senior representatives around the world who were there to prepare the ground for business and to assist in closing the deal when the time was right. BAC tended to open offices overseas to administer contracts once obtained.
The main characteristic of the Hawker Siddeley marketing approach was that REs were cross-divisional, or even cross-company, and this applied to both civil and military products. This enabled the 'best bang for the buck' in what was usually a HQ expense.

When based at Kingston as part of the Aircraft Group the REs were administered by two executives and a small staff, in contrast to the Government Defence Marketing Organisation which became a £30 million-a-year hydra, not unlike the system in operation in a later era of out Company's history!

Peter's launch into the world of the RE happened in the States when working with the HS125 team, having set up a direct marketing organisation to take over from the previous fairly unsuccessful liaison with Beech Aircraft. (The 400th 125 sale in N.America was made while he was there). Eric Rubython and his wife Joan 'happened' to appear in Los Angeles, where Peter was by then based, as part of a wider tour of N and S America. Having been tipped the wink on the impending visit Peter and his secretary spent the best part of a day ensuring that the Rubythons' suite, the flowers and the scotch were all just right for their check-in. Peter was detailed to take Mrs Rubython to the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, for lunch while her husband followed a separate programme. Eric Rubython and Peter then had an apparently casual conversation at the end of which Rubython said that, in the event of Peter being appointed as an RE, he wasn't to look upon any such move as a quick career stepping-stone back to the UK, but rather as the first of up to three such postings beforehand. In the event, two of the three never happened.

There it was, Peter, feeling pretty chuffed as the post held considerable stature and responsibility, was about to become one of  'those' REs. However, he was slightly alarmed to hear that he was going to take over, from Stuart Ides, francophone North and West Africa; not a part of the world he knew much about, and A-level French was the last time he'd actually used that language. There was quite a lot going on in the region although, owing to the nature of the economies, the potential aircraft sales were small in number. As part of a six month transition from the States to West Africa, including language training, Peter and Stuart did a thorough briefing tour. Soon it became obvious that there was one principal exception to the small number expectation; Algeria, whose economy was burgeoning as a result of the laying of oil and natural gas pipelines under the Mediterranean into Europe.

Of his three years as an RE, the Algerian campaign took up the majority of his time. There was even a Hawk sales tour to Tunisia and Algeria, the latter wanting to use some of their emerging wealth to establish a flagship aerospace industry, using the Hawk as its basis, with technology transfer on the lines of the Finnish Hawk programme. There was a long series of visits, some of which seemed to go absolutely nowhere and whose 'tea-leaves' were impossible to read, so inscrutable were the hosts. The Algerians had an Arab mentality mixed with French attitudes towards bureaucracy and a Russian trained attitude towards military thinking...and secrecy.

Slowly it emerged that as a precursor to getting Hawk they wanted refurbishment, first, of their MiG 21s and then, it emerged even more slowly, their MiG 23s also. As a result Peter took teams of other suppliers - Rolls, Smiths, Ferranti and so on - as well as the usual Kingston project management, design and production people. Government representatives and specialists were always present and even Warton civil engineering types got involved when the project had come to include factory and airfield construction. The situation had constantly to be checked with people closer to the powers-that-be for advice on reading those same 'tea-leaves'. Sometimes even the nature of the reception committee and the types of official cars used in and around Algiers were reported. If the team was collected in a government fleet of rather elderly oil-burning-fuel-lubricated, over-revved BMWs, and piloted to the hotel with sirens, flashing lights and frequent use of the pavements, then the campaign was probably going pretty well. At the other extreme there would not even be an escort officer at the airport; so it was taxis into town. Eventually, the drop in energy prices undermined the economic support for the programme, which had grown to over £400 million in its ambitions. The whole thing went, and stayed, quiet: Peter's team never quite 'got there'.

Not all the campaigns in Peter's region were on such a scale. For example he tried to get rid of the last six new Strikemasters which had been lying around in crates for some years. He reckoned he could make them sufficiently lucrative for BAe to include a Jetstream 31 as an apparent British Government 'gift' to the Senegambian Federation, a hot concept in the early 80s for increasing co-operation between Senegal and Gambia. In spite of close liaison with the Foreign Office and the British Embassy in Dakar the plan was foiled when Warton reassigned the Strikemasters to Ethiopia, who never got them either, by which time the appeal of Peter's package had collapsed.

Another small campaign was to provide the Mali government with a BAe146 to shuttle rich tourists arriving in their 747s to internal destinations, like Timbuctu, in jet comfort. The early 146 was ideal for both the tourism role and a little government VIP work as well. However, the prospect had never been taken seriously because of the apparent lack of finance. Surprisingly, it turned out that sufficient Export Credit Guarantee cover was available in the UK. So, the aircraft was sold, the contract was signed in England and the delivery flight departed for Nioro, in honour of which the aircraft had been named. On arrival the extremely shiny new jet found itself in the middle of nowhere, parked on a small apron in the midst of flat scrubland, beside a small mud-hutted village...from which creaked and groaned every serviceable vehicle (about 6), each loaded with its share of village elders. Respective lines were formed, solemn greetings were given and the British Ambassador rose splendidly to the occasion with duly effusive words. Then he was ushered to a small commotion at the front of the aircraft to discover the nose-cone being liberally smeared with the blood of a just- slaughtered sheep. His Excellency rapidly recovered his poise and the naming ceremony was duly completed after he had managed yet more appropriate words in response to the invocations for the future well being of the aircraft.

This is but a small part of  Peter's most entertaining talk but suffice it to say that, after questions and a vote of thanks from Chris Farara, who had been one of the Algerian team, the audience responded with loud applause.
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