Newsletter 21
Summer 2008
Updated on 29Aug2008
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents Hawker Association

American Awards
Doctor Michael Pryce
Farnborough Airport
Hawker Thoroughbreds
Hawker's TSR.2 - P.1129
Joseph White
My Life with Hawkers
News of Future RN Carrier
News of Harrier
News of Hawk
News of JSF
RAF Club Camm Memorial
Summer Barbecue
Two Good Years at Kingston
    Air Vice-Marshal Alan Merriman came to Kingston on July 9 to tell the Association how 'Hawker' aircraft contributed to his flying career. Ambrose Barber introduced the speaker saying that in 1951 he graduated from Cranwell and then amongst other things flew Hunters with 263 Squadron, was a student at the ETPS (Empire Test Pilots School), flew with 'A' Squadron at the A&AEE  (Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment), Boscombe Down and with the CFE (Central Fighter Establishment), was the CO of 'A' Squadron, Station Commander of RAF Wittering, CO of the ETPS, Commandant of the A&AEE and Deputy Head of Defence Sales!
    The Hunter prototype, WB188, flew, said Alan, just a few days before he graduated from Cranwell in July 1951. After four years of his flying Meteors the Hunter was about to enter service. It had had its problems: buffet and rudder vibration at high Mach numbers, heavy ailerons and elevator, the latter also being ineffective at high Mach numbers, the flaps were ineffective as air brakes (their intended secondary function), pitch-up using manoeuvre flap, and engine surge when manoeuvring, throttle slamming and gun firing.
My Life With Hawker Aircraft

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    In early 1955 Alan joined 263 Squadron at Wattisham as they received their first R-R Avon powered Hunter Mk 1 deliveries. Soon came the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire powered Mk 2. This engine had a better surge margin than the Avon but there were still gun firing surge problems. The Sapphire was not a reliable engine and Alan had to make two forced landings: when the engine would only run at idle and when all the accessories failed. A colleague, Hughie Edwards, achieved notoriety as a result of his Sapphire disintegrating at 12,000 ft during a full throttle climb. He ejected after a manual hood jettison near Stowmarket and after a calm parachute descent managed to avoid a steam train and some 33 kilovolt cables only to crash through the roof of a house nearly into the bedroom of a sleeping 65 year old lady. Intent on rescue, a local raised an unsafe looking ladder to the eaves of the house but the Fire Brigade arrived allowing Hughie to descend without any more heroics. This event hit the headlines in a French magazine: "Outrage - the Nightmare was True!"
    Among the types Alan flew at the ETPS was the Sea Hawk. In his three or four flights he found it quite similar to the Hunter but with a very high rate of roll; so fast in fact, that after three rolls it was necessary to ease off  the aileron.
    At the A&AEE Alan took part in Hunter gun firing trials, the solution to the engine surge problem being "fuel dipping" where the engine fuel supply was automatically reduced as the pilot pressed the firing button. Tests looked at the reaction of the engine at various firing conditions, for gun gas leaks, and at the integrity of the airframe during intensive gun firing. The latter involved firing 20,000 rounds from one aircraft at maximum speed, some 600 kn, into Lyme Bay Range, only about twenty miles from Boscombe. Four to six sorties were being flown each day and there was some rivalry as to who could get out and back in the shortest time; fifteen minutes from wheels rolling to touchdown being normal. However, one pilot managed thirteen minutes - but cartridges cases were picked up in Lyme Regis!
    The Folland Gnat Fighter had been rejected by the RAF but adopted by the Indian Air Force who requested an A&AEE  'clearance'. The basic idea of a simple, small, fighter was brilliant, said Alan. For example, all three undercarriage doors were used as air brakes and the inboard ailerons also functioned as flaps. However, extension of the undercarriage or flaps gave a strong nose-down pitch so full up elevator had to be held on selection. On take-off when retracting the undercarriage the opposite occurred; a strong nose-up pitch. Air Commodore Clouston, the Commandant at the time, was caught out and took off into a  spectacular vertical climb. Alan deemed the Gnat Fighter the worst he had ever flown. However, in the later Gnat Trainer, problems were solved.
    The A&AEE were also asked to give a deliberate spinning clearance to the RAF's new advanced trainer, the Hunter TMk7. At Boscombe some five hundred spins were made from 40,000 ft. It was found that the aircraft would not recover with out-spin aileron applied; stick central or in-spin aileron was essential. Work was also done on the cockpit layout, the blind flying panel being moved from the centre to the left, the student's station making it similar to the Hunter F Mks. Alan carried out a night lighting assessment flying from Dunsfold. He took off in twilight but by the time he had to land it was dark so he asked Air Traffic Control to switch on the runway lights. The reply was that they had six 'goose-necks' (a kind of crude paraffin lamp) so where did he want them?
    Hot weather trials in the two seater at Bahrain involved low level runs at max. continuous thrust, cold soaks at 40,000 ft and -70 degrees centigrade and supersonic dives whose sonic booms caused a visiting Bill Bedford to complain -  house had been targeted.
    The FGAMk9 Hunter had all the excrescences: gun gas deflectors, 'Sabrinas' to collect the ammo links, chutes for dumping the shell cases etc but the performance was still good. The FRMk10 had  nose cameras and was to replace the Swift FRMk5, in RAF Germany, which had very nice aileron controls. The Hunter had more sensitive ailerons and it was thought that this might give problems of camera steadiness. Consequently a gear change mechanism was introduced but in service the original high gear was used habitually.
    On his second tour with the A&AEE Alan flew Harriers including a Preview on XV276 at Dunsfold and CA Release trials on XV277 at Boscombe Down. Other test pilots were Hugh Rigg, Graham Williams and Tom Lecky-Thomson. Trials included weapon carriage and release, SNEB rocket firing intervalometer tests and engine relighting at up to 40,000 ft at stalling incidence.
    The Hawk came Alan's way when he was the A&AEE Commandant. It flew well and reliably although there was a problem at high altitude. The CFS syllabus required demonstrations of stalling and recovery at 40,000 ft! At this altitude with flaps down at the stall the tailplane was ineffective and the aircraft dived until the flaps were retracted. The cause was found to be strong downwash from the flaps and Kingston's cure was to cut away the outboard section of the slotted flap vane.
    When it came time to retire Alan chose a Hunter TMk7 for his last flight, a fine tribute to 'Hawkers'. Of his career Alan said that he had "enjoyed every minute of it."
    After a lively questions and answers session the vote of thanks was given by Duncan Simpson.