4. USA - Hawk
For the next overseas visit I changed
continents, this time it was
Los Angeles, California and it was the week before Christmas 1979. The
purpose was to collect the Request for Quotation (RFQ) for the supply
of a training aircraft for the US Navy, issued by Navair . I was
accompanied by Gordon Hodson and Reg Gearing.
We collected our copy of these large documents and
digest them as we sat around the hotel’s swimming pool. Alongside us
was a shopping mall playing non-stop “Jingle Bells”. We returned to the
UK for Christmas but knowing we would be returning for a three month’s
stint in the New Year. I had got married that year on 29th September
and after recent trips to Finland and the USA I decided to keep this
news to myself until after Boxing Day.
The first week in January saw us settled in LA at Longbeach
alongside the Douglas plant. Gordon Hodson was our leader and Mike
French and Reg Gearing looked after contract matters. We were a team of
about six or seven with representatives from Product Support and Design
with additional resources available to us back at Kingston. It was
decided that we would submit a stand-alone bid to the US authorities.
Douglas would submit their own bid and also advise us on presentation
and the best way to prepare our bid. The three month period soon went
by and although we managed to do some sightseeing in the early weeks,
towards the end it was work seven days a week. Our submission went in
on time and we were short listed for the next round. Others in the race
were most of the US aircraft manufactures and the Alpha Jet from
France. The Douglas bid did not get through.
5. Kenya - Hawk
On my return to the UK things had taken off on the
Hawk front with both Kenya and Indonesia showing serious interest. As
the Finnish programme was taking up a lot of my time I decided to take
on board the programme liaison tasks for the Kenyan Hawk with my
deputy, Eddie Hunt, looking after the Indonesian programme. My first
involvement was to chair a conference at Kingston with representatives
of the Kenyan Air Force, MoD(PE) and the Kingston experts from the
Design, Product Support, Contracts and Sales departments. Following
this the contract evolved but some of the detail needed to be defined
in Kenya. To this end I set off with Dennis Whittaker, from Product
Support, with the task of agreeing the ground equipment and ground crew
We landed in Nairobi and headed to the home of the
UK Defence Attaché and planned our movements for the week. This started
with a visit to the Kenyan Air Force headquarters at Eastleigh and to
get there we had to drive through a shanty town which was quite an eye
opener. At Eastleigh we defined most of the requirements but they were
subject to agreements by the users. Therefore we set off north next day
to Nanyuki, one of the Air Force main bases, and with their Engineering
Officer, John Kiluta, looked at the equipments already available at the
base and so refined the Eastleigh listing.
We had two days at Nanyuki spending the night
locally at the Mount Kenya Safari Club. We had quite a job getting
there as there had been a heavy rainfall and the mud track with its
high camber was like an ice rink. For much of the time we travelled
sideways and arrived at reception with a car which looked like a mud
heap. After our two days Dennis was not feeling too well so we decided
to return to the UK.
On arrival at Nairobi we found that the BA flight had gone down and
only the Kenyan Air flight was available, so we took it. Every seat on
the 707 was taken which was unusual due to the height of the airfield
above sea level. Later we learnt that we had taken off with reduced
fuel, so an unscheduled stop at Athens was made to take on more. The
Greeks were not keen to accept Kenyan credit so we spent the night in
the airport lounge whilst negotiations took place. Next day we got as
far as Paris for another fuel stop; eventually we arrived at Heathrow -
all I can say is poor long suffering Dennis.
We followed-up this visit some two weeks later and
agreed with the Kenyans the spares package needed to support their
aircraft. On this occasion we were joined by Jock Martin from Spares
Provisioning. As we crossed the Equator on the way to Nanyuki Jock
noticed a stall selling local knicknacks and he wanted a souvenir of
the trip. What we forgot to tell him was that the purchase price was
about half of their asking price; you can guess for yourself what he
6. USA - T45
For the next round of bids for the US Navy’s trainer
our team was stationed at the McDonnell Douglas Corporation plant at St
Louis. This site was selected as they had much experience and expertise
on naval aviation and carrier operations. Roger Dabbs took over the
leadership and we joined forces with MDC to submit a joint proposal. To
cut a long story short our proposal went in on time, we won and the
T45, based on the Hawk design, was born.
On return to the UK it was decided to reorganise the
Departments and Chris Farara took over the programme management aspects
as Hawk Project Manager and I joined the Purchasing Dept. as Purchasing
However, this did not bring an end to my travels abroad
7. Algeria - Migs and Sukhois
Little did I know when I joined the Purchasing Department that it would
lead to a visit to Algeria. The Algerian Air Force had a fleet of aging
Russian aircraft which they were finding difficult to support. This led
to an approach to BAe proposing a visit to Algeria to establish what
assistance we could provide. The team of Brough airframe experts and
Kingston equipment suppliers was led by Brough executive Barry Kensett.
I led the supplier team which included companies such as Rolls-Royce,
Dowty-Rotol, Ferranti, Smiths Industries, Martin Baker, Normalair and
Plessey. On arrival in Algiers we were taken to our hotel, the El
Aurassi at the top of the town, to be told that reasonable hotel space
was limited so we would need to double up. My roommate was Jim Adams
from the Kingston Contracts Dept; an essential member of the team.
Our first day took us to a facility on the
outskirts of Algiers, Maison Blanche. It was rather run down but could
well be modernised and updated so that airframe work could be
undertaken. The next day was Friday so members of the Moslem Algerian
staff were not available to us. The BAe team, after a session to
discuss out thoughts regarding Maison Blanche, decided to explore the
town so we descended from our hotel and took off down the hill, through
the Arab quarter, to the sea. It was fascinating but after a while we
had our doubts and one Brough member who lingered behind us found
himself, much to his surprise, all alone. A distraught figure soon came
around the corner and caught us up; he did not stray again. Next day at
the Air Force Headquarters we were told by the staff that they would
not venture into that area as it was a place where the French were
massacred during the troubles; ignorance is bliss. The Dowty reps.
somehow heard that a local nunnery needed some DIY work undertaken at
their convent and so set off in the early morning to see what could be
done. We never did find out what they got up to but they had their legs
pulled for the remainder of the trip!
The next day was Armistice Day and we were invited by our consulate
to attend the memorial service at the allied war cemetery in Algiers.
We ordered our wreath at a local florist, to be delivered on the day.
Much to our surprise when it arrived it was not a poppy wreath but an
ornate floral creation made up of parrot flower plumes and the like.
Presumably our request had been misinterpreted; our schoolboy French
must not have come up to the mark. Despite this we attended the service
which was quite moving and after the dignitaries had placed their poppy
wreaths it was our turn. Two of us solemnly walked forward, holding the
wreath between us, and amid some smiles laid the wreath in on behalf of
The following day was scheduled to be a visit to an Air Force base
to inspect some of their Russian aircraft, aging Mig17s and Su7s. We
set off for the local base at Boufarik and were ushered onto a waiting
transport aircraft which was equipped for parachute jumping, with
wooden side seats and strap hangers. We took off and followed the
coast as far as Oran and then headed inland over the Atlas Mountains
and into the Sahara. We landed an hour or so after take-off at an
isolated desert landing strip. It was a day for questions to the
suppliers such as: could we service Russian equipments in the UK, could
it be reverse engineered, could equipments be replaced by more up to
date UK equivalents etc. etc. The team spent all day pouring over the
aircraft, had detailed discussions with the Algerian engineers and
established the thoughts and intentions of our hosts.
The visit ended with a meal in the officers mess. The table was laid
out with their best cutlery, several layers of it, and it was evident
that we were in for a bean feast. All I can say was that our hosts
enjoyed it but it was not to our palate and some dishes we found hard
to identify. We flew back to Algiers later that evening, ignored the
hotel’s evening meal and took to our beds.
The remainder of the week we went backwards and forwards to the Air
Force Headquarters for detailed discussions with the senior staff to
enable us to finalise our proposals. On our return to the UK the
suppliers laid out their suggested way forward and provided detailed
costed plans whilst BAe did the same for the airframe aspects. These
proposals were consolidated by the Contracts Department and were
forwarded to the Algerian authorities. Needless to say you can’t win
them all and the Algerians expanded their fleet of aircraft by
obtaining further, more modern, Russian aircraft :Mig 29s and Su 24s.
As an afterthought, most overseas trips leave you
with memories. With this one they were most unusual; they were of
apricots. There must have been a bumper harvest of them that year in
Algeria as when you ordered orange juice for the hotel breakfast it
arrived as apricot juice. For the evening meal apple pie was served as
apricot pie and for a main course a lamb chop was accompanied by
grilled apricots. It was rumoured that I said that if I were to be
offered apricots when I get home it could lead to divorce. Fortunately,
now many years later, I am still happily married!
8. USA - Single Seat Hawk
A radar was needed for the Single Seat Hawk and
favoured suppliers were in the USA. A party of us set off to St Louis
to see what Hughes had to offer. The technical team was led by Roger
Dabbs and included avionic, software and logistic experts and I was the
commercial representative. We spent two days at their plant assessing
what was available, their willingness to supply units, free of charge
for our flight trials, prices and supply conditions for production
items and the support they would provide both in America and the UK.
Our next port of call was to be Westinghouse in
Baltimore. We purchased our flight tickets and on arrival at the
airport were told all flights were on hold due to Baltimore being
snowbound. This went on all day until it became obvious that we were to
be in St Louis for another night. The airline said they would find us
hotel accommodation but we would have to pay as our tickets were
purchased in St Louis and by their rules we must be local residents.
Then came the challenge from Roger, “You are our commercial rep - see
what you can do!” Negotiations took place, more senior airline managers
were summoned and a compromise was eventually reached, the bill being
split 50/50 between us and the airline. Success!!
Next day we made it to Baltimore and had two
days of discussions going over the same topics raised at Hughes.
Westinghouse were most helpful and apart from providing the information
we needed, took us to their hangar to show us their flying test bed
which, to our surprise, was a BAC 111.
9.USA - Hawk
We were experiencing windscreen supply problems at
Kingston and it got to the state that the supplier needed a shake-up.
Maurice Lomas decided we would both go to LA to confront our supplier.
We set off from Heathrow, had a night in LA, a next-day meeting with
the supplier and flew back to the UK that evening. It was one the
shortest overseas visits I had had so far for the Company, but we got
the results we needed.
The only other quick visits like this were outings
to Bodensee Werke in Germany with Ted Pincombe and a visit to Micro
Turbo in France, but they are both in Europe.
10. USA - McDonnell-Douglas Corporation
MDC throughout the AV-8 programme were one of the
suppliers to Kingston and as the purchasing responsibilities were
progressively being transferred from Kingston to Warton, Roger Roberts,
the Warton Purchasing Director, decided he should make contact with his
opposite numbers at St Louis. With my years of experience in dealing
with MDC he asked me accompany him and make the appropriate
arrangements. With Bill Phillips assistance (our man at St Louis) we
had a very successful and helpful three-day visit.