continues his story….
PART 2 - RAF AND MOD
My next involvement with company products was when I was at RAF Leuchars in 1957 when I used a Fowler steam plough with a cable and drum under the boiler to drag a Hunter out of the estuary of the River Eden. It had an engine failure just after take off from the "short" runway. We also had a Hunter flying around the airfield one day with its jet pipe sticking out of the rear fuselage when the attachment to the rear of the engine had failed or not been connected properly!
Next came a spell at RAF Colerne where amongst other duties I looked after two squadrons of Sapphire engined Hunters which one day were flown in as surplus to requirements. I was then told to dismantle and put them on the dump for sale as scrap. We had got through the first two or three when I had a visit from a familiar face from Kingston. It was an inspector by the name of Kemp who wanted to buy them back for the company for refurbishment and conversion to the Avon variants. They were all retrieved, including the dismantled ones we had put on the scrap dump, but when the final tally was made there was one short. I had earlier "given" one away without telling anyone and taken it on two 60 ft long loaders to a friend at RAF Gaydon for fire practice by the RAF fire crews there. Can't say it was not put to good use.
After a three year tour on a Canberra squadron in Singapore I was sent to Vickers Armstrong at Weybridge on the TSR2.This involved frequent visits to English Electric at Warton and to Bristol to cover the Olympus engines and then Boscombe Down for the flight trials. I spent the final two years on this project in the London Project Office until the aircraft was cancelled in 1966.
I was next employed in London in the P1127 project office where I had the task of dividing up the assets of the West Raynham P1127 Tripartite Squadron post disbandment, between the UK, FRG and the US - no mean task on occasions due to entrenched national interests. Following yet another review of UK defence requirements, including cancellation of P1154, we were then tasked with compiling a specification based on the P1127 to meet the Air Ministry operational requirement and hence the Harrier was born.
The UK had by this time decided to procure the Phantom for both the RN and RAF and I was attached to the United States Navy (USN) at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego California. The purpose of this posting, which lasted nearly three years, was to gain experience on the Phantom and to see how the USN supported Phantom operations. This was a particularly interesting period since it was in the middle of the Vietnam war and North Island was the main west coast port for the carrier force and all their aircraft repairs were undertaken here.
Following a spell at Staff College I was sent to RAF Aldergrove in NI where we were receiving the Phantoms as they were delivered from St Louis via the Azores. There was a considerable amount of modification to be performed on each aircraft before they were test flown and delivered to the RAF Germany squadrons, Leuchars, Coningsby and RN 892 Squadron. At one time we had nearly 100 Phantoms accommodated in hangars no more than twenty miles from Belfast. This was 1969-1971 when things were quite hot out there.
Further acquaintance with RAF Leuchars followed where I was station engineer for two squadrons of Lightning Mk6s, a flight of Lightning Mk1As, a squadron of Phantoms and a flight of Whirlwinds in the SAR role. Latterly we were also home for the disembarked RN Phantoms. Leuchars was a master diversion airfield and provided 24 hour Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) cover for encroaching Russian aircraft probing our airspace. At that time it was a very busy airfield since it was at the height of the Cold War.
Headquarters Strike Command was my next appointment where I was the RAF Engineering Authority for operational Phantom, Lightning and Harrier aircraft. This of course necessitated visits to Brough for Phantom fatigue issues and to Richmond Road where I found the front of the factory, as I had known it, covered by an office block. I particularly remember the rather lavish lunches which were provided during these visits.
This appointment was followed by a tour in the MoD where I had the engineering project office for the Hawk, Sea King Mk3, Chinook and the NATO AEW project. Apart from visits to the US, Brussels and Yeovil I spent quite a time at Richmond Road, with the Gordons Hudson and Hodson, and at Dunsfold. My Hawk involvement culminated in the Maintainability and Reliability incentive aspects of the Hawk contract. These timed trials, held at Dunsfold, included component replacement on the flight line followed by flight and turn rounds. The company passed with flying colours and gained the maximum incentive bonus provided by the contract. We then had to explain to the MoD bean counters why we had made it so easy!
Following attendance at the Air Warfare College I had an appointment covering engineering aspects for fixed and rotary wing aircraft at all training airfields, which at that time were operating the Hawk, Jetstream, Bulldog, Dominie and Gazelle. My final engineering appointment in the RAF covered all third line aircraft engineering activities at Abingdon (Jaguar), Kemble (Hawk - Red Arrows), St Athan (Harrier, Phantom, Victor) and the Adour engine and Cardington (gases). I then decided to take early retirement from the RAF and joined Ferranti Defence Systems in Edinburgh in 1984. (To be continued).