Newsletter 16
Spring 2007
Updated on 16Mar2007
Egyptian chaos
F-35 flies
Harrier - tiger on my back
Harrier news
Hawk news
Hawk vs Goshawk
Hawker apprentices
Hawker people news
Old Hawker Aircraft news
Programme for 2007
RAF Club Camm Memorial
Restored Hawker Nimrod
Restoring Hawker biplanes
Sea Harrier set to fly on
Sopwith - America's Cup
Typhoon and Tempest
Typhoon fund
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents © Hawker Association

    John Dale whose career ran from BS53 Development Engineer in 1959 to Chief Engineer Pegasus at his retirement in 1976, finally, on 31 August 1976, got to ride the engine he had been responsible for throughout its running life...
    Ten years to the day after the first flight of the Harrier I was climbing into the cockpit of G-VTOL at Filton. John Farley (then Deputy Chief Test Pilot, HSA Dunsfold) had telephoned me: "You're dining with us on the 31st. We're coming to fetch you in a Harrier, OK?" I was to borne on my own hot air at last!
    I had been kitted out, my helmet adjusted to suit my head, and I had studied Part 1 of AP 101B, Aircrew Equipment Assembly and Associated Systems. A bit complicated for an amateur, I thought, but it was good background stuff, and finally I had been briefed by John himself, with the quiet confidence he exudes.

Harrier - And The Tiger On My Back

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    So this was it. I settled myself in the rear seat which was adjusted for my weight; the leg restraint cords were secured and all the various clips and buckles made fast - what a positive audible click each one made as it snapped home. "A bit tight those shoulder straps" - "No good if they're too loose." The Koch fasteners rode on my sparsely covered collar bones - expect I'll soon forget them (but I didn't for a day or two).
    Now the helmet and the mask; check the intercom. No go, I couldn't be heard (bloody electrics again, we say in the engine trade). New mask OK for sound, although, truth to tell, I never did succeed in finding the little switch for my microphone without a lot of fumbling (perhaps the mask is GFE? - Government Furnished Equipment).
    Out come the little pins to be housed in the rack on the starboard edge of the cockpit. "The seat's live now, John..." The canopy is lowered and John Dale is in his own private world for a few minutes to look around at the workmanlike equipment of the cockpit - the stick much more rugged than I had expected; now I understand the pilots' expression "polling around".
    "OK John?". I affirm, the GTS (Gas Turbine Starter) winds up and the RPM rise rapidly to 40% and beyond - ah, that's the HP (High Pressure compressor) tacho, which seemed to me better placed than the LP instrument which I should have been watching. JPT (Jet Pipe Temperature) satisfactory, IGVs (Inlet Guide Vanes) on the move; the rudder pedals move sharply as we taxy off.
    So - end of the runway - "All set?". The throttle moves forward in one easy movement and within seconds the tiger leaps on my back. The seat urges me forward and my helmet is forced back against the head-rest. Almost at once the trundling of the undercarriage ceases, and the concrete drops away. We can't be going fast enough to be wingborne, but then, of course, we don't need to be.
    We are boring our way into the overcast sky above the Bristol Channel looking for the Rolls-Royce Navajo - ah, there it is, and we creep up to formate wingtip to wingtip and wave to the occupants. Our nozzles are well down to enable us to fly at the 160 knots of the other aircraft. As Farley eases them aft the Harrier leaps ahead and the Navajo slides aft and is lost to view (not a good mirror, I thought - why not make it convex in the vertical plane as well as in the horizontal?)
    Climbing to 5,000 ft we cut through the overcast and clouds and after only a few minutes Farley briefs me. "Six minutes from Dunsfold now, we'll just get into their radar pattern and then pop down to the South Coast." And now we pass over the coast, wheel to port with a cargo ship below our wingtip, and we head east a little way off-shore. "Will you take the stick now, John?", Farley instructs me, and I am in control as we fly smoothly at 350 knots,  1,000 ft above the sea. Brighton, Eastbourne and Hasings come up and vanish in quick succession under the port wing. The aeroplane responds so easily to my small stick movements and it is immensely exciting to feel the delicate response as we drop a little too low - stick back a fraction and up she comes: 800-900-1,000 ft again.
    "Now we'll turn and run back." Farley takes charge and the aeroplane seems to stand on, and pivot about, the port wingtip, while I lose an inch or two of my height under the pressure of my helmet, and there we are, heading west.
    Now an exercise in VIFF (Vectoring In Forward Flight). "First let's try a slam decel. to flight idle from 90%, 400 knots." The speed drops off. "You see, 35 seconds to 200 knots. Now up to 400 knots again, RPM at 90%, and let's put the nozzles down...now!" On the instant an aerodynamic all-Hell-breaks-loose as the huge momentum drag at the intake faces takes over, obviously well forward of the aircraft centre of gravity as the tail shows every sign of wishing to overtake the nose, and all but succeeds. The intakes spill and judder and the ASI (Air Speed Indicator) winds down rapidly, and in half the previous time we are down to 200 knots. That was indeed impressive. Nozzles back and all is peace again but for the reassuring whine of the Pegasus just behind me.
    Now we are approaching Dunsfold again and we are into the return transition. With so many new experiences in a short time it is difficult to remember precisely, but I fancy I was controlling height during this transition. In the resulting hover I certainly was, and what a beautiful height control the engine throttle is. We seem to have just the right rate on that so-called Merewether cam in the fuel system, and hours of debate flash across my mind.
    Farley lands us, and now for a VTO (Vertical Take-Off)...Slam the throttle, the aircraft lurches on the undercarriage, a momentary battle between thrust and weight, and we are off and moving forward into wingborne flight. And I have another flashback to that cold day in 1960 when Bill Bedford made the first VTO in the P.1127, at Dunsfold. Along the runway we tear, I miss Farley's brief in the excitement of speed, and suddenly we are all ends up with sky all over the place, including under my feet. "That was just a gentle roll. Are you all right, are you all right?" "I'm still here."
    Again we come to the hover and now I take the stick while Farley watches the height. What a splendid operation the hover is; the response of the aircraft to the stick so delicate, so positive, yet not too rapid. There is a feeling of great stability and none of the horrible tentative feel one gets in a helicopter. "Can I land her?" I ask, but (thank God) my instructor chickens out and takes over as we sink to the ground. Slam back the throttle (it is nice to get the thrust off quickly) and my flight is over.
    As we taxy off I recall the words engraved on the Harrier model presented to me by my Hawker friends: "We like to hear a continuous roaring noise." Well, the Pegasus roared satisfactorily, when I had time to notice it, as I flew and became, for a brief space of time, part of the fabulous Harrier.
    Thank you John Farley and thank you Hawker.
    This piece was originally published in the Roll-Royce house newspaper in October 1976.