After the AGM on April 13th Chris Hodson, son of Gordon Hodson, the
originator and project director of the Hawk, talked to Members at the
Hawker Centre and by simultaneous Zoom to remote Members. Chris started
with a brief history of the P.1182 Hawk project and of XX154, the first
As recorded by Roy Braybrook the Hawk originated in February 1968 at informal talks between Gordon Hodson and RAF and MoD officers at “The Dive”, a bar in the Tottenham Court Road, not far from the Ministry of Defence building, St Giles Court. Preliminary design started in October 1971 in the Hawker Project Office with Ron Willams’s SP.117. Under the designation P.1182 dozens of configurations were studied culminating in P.1182 AJ (A for the engine, the Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca Adour and J for July, the month it was proposed). A Contract was issued in October 1971 and ratified in March 1972 for 176 aircraft. The name Hawk was chosen in August 1973. An intensive programme of wind tunnel and engine intake tests, systems rig tests, ejection seat firings, fatigue and strength tests, was carried out.
XX154 was rolled out at Dunsfold August 12th 1974, the first engine
run was on the 14th and chief Test Pilot Duncan Simpson made the first
flight on August 21st in the evening. On completion of flight trials,
Hawk TMk1 CA Release was granted on November 14th 1976. One million RAF
fleet flying hours was reached on July 5th 2006 and was marked by
giving the now retired Duncan Simpson a passenger flight at RAF Valley.
A total of 1028 Hawks of all Mks has been built to date and the type
has been inmanufacture in the UK for 50 years.
On January 18th 1982, having flown 400 hours of flight trials, XX154 left Dunsfold for RAF Llanbedr and after a major upgrade at St Athan to as near current standard as possible, flew in support of Jindivik, Meteor and Canberra target drones for the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) over the local weapon range. On October 9th 2000 XX154 left Llanbedr to fly with the Empire Test Pilots School at Boscombe Down where its last flight took place on December 19th 2018 to complete 5917 flying hours 13147 landings.
The aircraft was then put up for disposal by its owners, Qinetic, who were unaware of the its historical significance. ‘Closed bid tenders’ were sought for its purchase. Chris wanted to save the airframe for the nation so gave its owners a lecture on XX154’s significance explaining that it was not “just another Hawk”. They were supportive of Chris’s bid to purchase the aircraft but the full tender process had to be followed. After much lobbying and many problems Chris’s perseverance was rewarded; he became the owner of the first Hawk.
Now a permanent home had to be found. Various organisations were approached by Chris but XX154 didn’t meet the charters of many. He finally agreed with the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection (BDAC) that it would be housed there, open to public view and under cover. The next problem to be solved was moving the aircraft from Boscombe Down to Old Sarum, the BDAC site. Chris persuaded the RAF to do this as an ‘uncleared underslung load’ beneath a Mk 6 Chinook helicopter from 27 Sqn, RAF Odiham. Special slings were made and tested, the lifting chains were padded to prevent damage to the aircraft, the aircraft centre of gravity was established, and insurance was obtained for XX154, the Chinook and public liability. The target date for the move was August 21st 2019, the 45th anniversary of XX154’s first flight. The take off and landing sites were surveyed, the latter being a private airfield with public access leading to many safety considerations. The target date was met. The lift went smoothly and the Hawk aligned itself with the airflow at the 60 - 70 knot transit speed. In the hover at Old Sarum XX154 started to rotate slowly in the Chinook downwash but a second attempt resulted in a very smooth touchdown followed by successful chain disconnection. The 3 ¼ ton airframe was towed off the grass to the hard standing and manhandled into the hangar. There had been plenty of news media coverage by the BBC, the Times, the Telegraph and Force’s News.
XX154 is registered with UK Aviation Heritage as a Benchmark Airframe of national interest, a first of type and of excellent internal and external condition. Under Chris’s leadership it is maintained as a ‘live’ aircraft with functioning systems, fully serviceable for demonstrations, possible because of Chris’s hard work in obtaining ground support equipment (GSE), pylons, hydraulic rigs and electrical power supplies. Its home at the privately owned BDAC is secure for the foreseeable future and it lives in a Grade 2 listed hangar where it delights the public and inspires young people’s interest in careers in aviation and aeronautics. Visit the HA online video library to see the full talk.
Well done Mr Chris Hodson!