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
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
of Defence Sales!
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
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
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
The Folland Gnat
Fighter had been rejected by the
RAF but adopted by the Indian Air Force who requested an
'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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
came Alan's way when he was the A&AEE Commandant. It flew well
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
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.