Newsletter 18
Autumn 2007
Updated on 5Nov2007
Association Ties
Book Reviews
Burmese Sea Fury Incidents
Committee News
EDO To Project Office Part 2
F-35 Lightning II News
Flight Testing Early Jets
Harrier News
Hawk News
Joint Force Harrier Operations
Neville Duke Appreciation
RAF Harrier Story
RAF Museum Visit

Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved Hawker Association
    Roy Whitehead has some flights of fancy. Like Roy, don't we all look skywards at the sound of a jet engine? Of course, but Roy gives his imagination full reign...
    I should first explain that my career at Hawkers started in the Experimental Department at Canbury Park Road in Kingston. There, in 1947, a small group of us was involved in the firm's first primitive forays into what is now called flight test instrumentation (FTI) for our prototype and development aircraft. The Experimental Dept. moved to the Richmond Road factory at Ham in 1948. Eventually I became Chief Experimental Instrumentation Engineer, until in the late '70s the Design Department felt the need to take over responsibility for FTI and I joined Instrumentation and Electronics in a lesser capacity.
    In 1989 I accepted the firm's offer of early retirement having worked for Hawkers and BAe for forty-two years, including my two years of RAF National Service. With my pension coupled with some voluntary redundancy pay I was able to move to Wiltshire and have lived happily in Wilton and Salisbury ever since.

toptop top top
    Having been in the Salisbury area since late 1989 I have often been reminded of my days in the aircraft industry. After all, Boscombe Down is not far away to the northeast and Yeovilton only a few miles further away to the west. Over the years aircraft of the types I have been closely involved with, especially Hunters, Harriers and Hawks, have often passed overhead as reminders. At the sound of a jet engine I still turn my eyes to the sky.
    There have been times in recent years when I've been outdoors minding my own business, sometimes with no other person within sight or sound, when I have had an uncanny impression that some of those aircraft up there know that I'm down here looking up at them!
    For instance, in 1990 a Hunter, presumably loitering, waiting its turn to land, circled half a dozen times at about 2,000 ft overhead Wilton, just off the Boscombe Down runway approach path. Banking steeply in a very tight turn, the inner wing seemed to point, accusingly, straight at me all the while. I had the thought that the pilot was perhaps daydreaming and not quite in control, or else the Hunter knew I was down there. It is quite feasible that some of the instrumentation equipment fitted to that particular aircraft could date back to my time at Hawkers. Fancifull of course, but who knows?
    In the early 2000s while walking across a car park in Yeovil, I experienced what I fancied to be a personal, close, low level, very tight formation flypast by four Sea Harriers, their engines strangely quiet. More recently, in 2006, a Hawk heading towards Boscombe Down and flying at only about 400 ft, without any obvious rhyme or reason, did a flick quarter roll to port, slicing the sky immediately overhead before quickly regaining level flight.
    Then in March 2007 my wife, Pam, and I visited Michael's Wood, a Natural Burial Ground at Cholderton in north Wiltshire. We wanted to see if it might just be suitable for our last resting place. As we were having details of the large wooded area with clearings explained to us we came across the grave of a thirty year old woman who died in 2003. A small marker gave few details; she had been a helicopter pilot and keen cyclist but there were no details of how she came to die so very young. We were told that when her body was interred a military helicopter came up over the edge of the wood to as if to perform a low flypast in her honour. Cholderton is not all that far from the School of Army Flying at Middle Wallop, and much closer to Boscombe Down which is not as busy as in the past but is still in daily use.
    While we were chatting to Vivienne who was showing us round we heard a high flying jet about half a mile away. We caught a glimpse through the trees of the very recognisable shape of one of the latest versions of the Harrier. I thought no more of it. Five minutes later it was back again, but this time much nearer and flying semi-jetborne, slowly, directly overhead. It was then I felt prompted to recount some of the 'daydreams' I had experienced. Vivienne reminded me that having noticed my tie with the Harrier motifs she had asked if I had worked at Boscombe Down. Then in her next sentence she used the word "uncanny". Another five minutes went by and there was a repeat performance. Could we now construe this as a confirmation that this is the place, for me at least? Pam says she would consider it too. All in good time we shall see.
    Checking on the OS map No.184 I found that Michael's Wood (map reference 220430) is under the flight path to the main runway at Boscombe, just three miles from the threshold. Hardly surprising, then, that the Harrier was flying low and slow. As the A303 is only about 200 yards to the north there is also some traffic noise as, well as the occasional aircraft noise; but who cares? It's just a reminder that life goes reassuringly on, as it always has - for us, so far!
    All right, so maybe I do have 'daydreams'. I have enjoyed my contacts with aircraft before, during and after my working life. I feel very privileged to have been involved; they have been happy days and I wouldn't have missed any of them for the world.