Peter Hickman was reminded by a recent test report of tests he was involved with on the Hunter and Harrier…

Part 2 - The Harrier
    In the Spring of 1967 ground vibration testing of the Harrier was to be carried out. Due to the totally different airframe configuration, and particularly the large wing anhedral, the Hunter low frequency supports were unusable (I am not even sure that they still existed).
Consequently we had to resort to the well tried method of testing with the aircraft tyre pressures suitably reduced, and we still had to borrow recording equipment and exciters from RAE Farnborough. Fortunately the old photographic processing system had been replaced with much more up-to-date equipment which, nevertheless, was to cause us a lot of problems and delay the start of the testing.

Ground Vibration Testing Harrier

toptop toptop toptop

Barry Laight was now Chief Engineer and he decreed that the testing had to be completed in a fortnight. To achieve this we were faced with a three shift system, each of eight hours, and continuous testing for seven days a week. We needed teams of seven people for each shift and Kingston could not provide enough of the right disciplines of engineers so people were recruited from Woodford, Brough and Hatfield.

Accommodation for them was provided at the Burningfold Hall Hotel outside Dunsfold village. Those on the 4 pm to midnight shift had an evening meal there. To prevent testing delays the 8 am to 4 pm shift brought a daily menu back for the later shift to fill in so that the meal would be served more quickly. With the travelling to and fro, in a Company minibus from the airfield, we managed a one hour break. One day we lost a visiting engineer; he just disappeared. After many ’phone calls we found out that he had gone home without telling anyone. He didn’t like being away!

The Dunsfold canteen manageress had to put out coffee, milk, tea, etc and also prepare soup and sandwiches for the midnight to 8 am team. She proved to be a very difficult and unhelpful person. She would not give us the canteen keys, insisting that they were left every day, at her normal going-home time, at the police box by the north main gate, so in all weathers I usually had to walk from the Production Hangar to the gate to collect them. One Friday she forgot to leave the keys, took them home and went out to a party. In those days mobile ’phones didn’t exist so we couldn’t contact her. That left us with a problem. Lo and behold Barry Laight turned up to see how we were getting on. Assailed by us about a lack of sustenance his response was, “I know what I would do”. So we did; we broke in. The following day all hell broke out with the manageress but she did reluctantly agree then to hand the keys over to us directly.

The Harrier was rigged in the western bay of the Production Hangar and we used one of the Inspection offices upstairs for analysing the records. At the start of the testing there were a lot of delays whilst sorting out the equipment, which resulted in most of the team keeping out of the way while the problems were solved. As well as reading, some started playing cards, and one evening Roch popped in to see us and caught them at it. He was furious and took it out on me, telling me to make sure it didn’t happen again. Of course it did; but we kept a very good lookout.

Transport for the teams was provided by the Company in the form of a minibus and driver. My shift assembled at Richmond Road at 2.30 pm to give us plenty of time for the 4 pm shift hand-over. We were using the old A3 from Kingston and had to go through the middle of Guildford to get to Dunsfold. On arrival we sorted out our evening meal (top priority) and the bus returned to Richmond Road with the off-going earlier shift of Kingston people. It later returned to Dunsfold arriving by midnight with the Kingston people for the night shift so that we could then be taken back, finishing our trip at around 1 am. One night we were stopped in Guildford by Police believing that we were a gang, in spite of the bus having ‘Hawker Siddeley’ on the side! After that we were often given a Police escort through Guildford - just to make sure we left town!

The test results were reasonable but I don’t think they were as good as those obtained on the Hunter trials ten years earlier.

Apart from involvement in a test at the A&AEE outdoor wind tunnel on a Harrier front fuselage to establish smoke and fumes clearance times, the Harrier vibration programme was my last big test before leaving the Research and Development Department in 1968 to join Gordon Jefferson in engineering management.