Visit organiser Dick Poole reports…
A group of 28 Association Members and guests visited Tangmere Military Aviation Museum on the 20th July to a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the P.1067, Hawker Hunter prototype WB188, from A&AEE Boscombe Down. The aircraft, converted to be the only Mk 3 (with reheated Avon) is displayed in immaculate condition in the museum. Neville Duke CTP (Chief Test Pilot) of Hawker Aircraft Ltd at Dunsfold made an approximately 60 minute sortie after a series of ground acceleration-stops at ever increasing speeds to determine a suitable airspeed for lift off. On landing after general handling checks he declared the aircraft to be “jolly good“.
The day’s programme started with a period of socialising which members enjoyed having not been able to do this since March 2020 . The group was then welcomed to Tangmere by Dudley Hooley, Chairman of the Museum. A short presentation by Museum Director David Coxon on the first flight of WB188 revealed that Sir Sidney Camm was delayed in setting off to Boscombe Down and arrived after the flight was over and the observers had left.
A presentation by Association Member Kieron Kirk covered the numbers of aircraft produced, the range of marks and the customers who operated them. He also described the re-manufacturing and upgrading of early aircraft which proved very profitable for Hawker.
Heinz Frick, retired Dunsfold CTP, then described
what the Hunter was like to fly operationally and noted its
serviceability problems in the very hot and wet climate in the Far
East. He explained that the squadrons suffered many electrical failures
as a result. He and Chairman (also a retired CTP) Chris Roberts agreed
that the aircraft was a “dream machine” to fly and praised its handling
Finally, the writer made a brief presentation on the successful World Absolute Airspeed record attempt at low level off Little Hampton, the modifications to the aircraft, the course and the work-up flying. Prior to the record attempt the port main leg extended un-commanded resulting in a massive wing drop at 540 mph and 1,000ft. This was skilfully arrested by Neville who carried out a nose- and main-wheel landing at Dunsfold after handling checks in the landing configuration. The port wing and gear were removed for repair at Kingston and the aircraft was ready to fly on the 7th September when two attempts were made and a record of 727.6 mph was achieved.
Chris Roberts thanked the museum management and staff for hosting the event. This was followed by a sandwich lunch, more socialising and a group photograph in front of WB188 taken by the redoubtable Frank Rainsborough (Contact Richard Cannon for a link to see this and others of the day’s activities).
The management and staff of the museum were very supportive in organising and realising this event and I would recommend a visit to anyone.