During 2007 steady progress was
made in getting Sea Harrier FA.2 XZ439 up to airshow standard. New
radios, a GPS and Stencil ejection seat were amongst the major changes
introduced, the latter requiring only minor machining to the rails.
Engine runs revealed the usual sorts of minor problems which were duly
resolved. Art Nalls himself managed some USMC simulator rides in
preparation for the big day.
Art made the first
flight from St Mary's Airport, Maryland, on 10 October 2007. The
undercarriage was not retracted on this flight. A second flight on 11
October, however, did not end entirely happily. This time the
undercarriage was retracted soon after take-off and after some 12
minutes a 'HYD 1' warning came up. Art selected undercarriage down but
all indications were red - undercarriage not locked down - although the
landing light was illuminated. In spite of positive and negative g
manoeuvres the undercarriage indications remained 'unlocked'. After
diverting to Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center (Pax River) Art
carried out a gentle vertical landing on the VTOL grid but the nose
gear and starboard outrigger collapsed and the nose fell violently to
In Art's own words, "The nose gear collapse caught me completely by
surprise since the landing light was illuminated and we thought the
gear was locked down despite the unsafe indication. I should have given
it one more hard yank in the pattern. The fall was quite violent. I'm
fortunate I didn't kill myself on the HUD since the harness was not
locked (I've added that to the check list).
thought was, 'I'm dead". My second thought was, 'The seat will fire any
second.' When it didn't I safed it and looked for fire; there was none.
I thought I had broken my back so I wiggled my toes. They worked just
fine. I didn't see any fuel seeping, no flames and the engine didn't
My next thought was to transmit that I was
fine, so I transmitted that on the radio and secured the engine, the
batteries, and started a manual egress. I took my time since my neck
did ache and I didn't want to cause any damage to my spine.
first words were, 'These sumbitches almost land themselves!' The ground
crew knew that if I could make a joke just after banging my own
Harrier, we'd be OK."
Fortunately damage appeared
to be minimal and replacements for the radome, nose gear doors,
starboard air data probe and VHF aerial were despatched from the UK.
The Sea Harrier was lifted onto its wheels for towing back to St Mary's
by road for repairs.
A hydraulic leak was found in a
cracked hydraulic line that had been modified, apparently for flight
test instrumentation, with a blue 'tee' piece that had been capped off.
A new pipe is to be made and the hydraulic pump is being checked.
During this enforced down-time the HUD will be removed and an EFIS
(electronic flight instrument system) installed, the windscreen washer
fluid tank will be removed as will redundant radar system items.
Art says, "We did quite a bit of good stuff in only two flights: cg
acceptable with full internal fuel at 4g and 359 knots to hover; hover
capability acceptable; pilot hover performance acceptable; short field
performance very acceptable and safe from civilian airfield." He hopes
to fly again in February or March.