ACA Woking News by Paul Holden, PRO

20 January 2004


At their very well attended January meeting, Aircrew Association Woking Branch members re-elected their existing Committee and Officers, with the welcome addition of Stan Instone as their new Treasurer. A very warm vote of thanks went to their stalwart former Treasurer Clive Watt, who stood in again as Treasurer at short notice following the sad loss of their greatly loved ex-Spitfire pilot Freddie Lewis, last year. An exciting programme of visits was announced, commencing with Kinloss in March, Benson, Coltishall, and the 60th Anniversary celebration of their Liberation Day in Verne, Belgium in September.

John Farley
John Farley
Following the short AGM, members were treated to an authoritative illustrated presentation by John Farley OBE, AFC, CEng, the Hawker Chief Test Pilot during development of the Harrier, on the 41 years of development of jet powered Vertical or Short Take Off and Landing (V/STOL) aircraft, from the early experiments preceding the Hawker P1127 (the Harrier Prototype) to the American Design Competition for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Prototype in 2001.

John Farley covered the contributions made by key development engineers over the years, since the Frenchman Michel Wibault first suggested rotating nozzles to vector thrust way back in 1956. When he failed to interest Marcel Dassault or the French Government in his idea, this were taken up in Britain by a succession of development engineers, resulting in the "Flying Bedstead" test rig in the late 1950s and the Short SC1 which had 4 vertical lift engines and a fifth engine for forward Thrust. Sidney Camm at Hawkers didn't like the multiple engine concept, and one of his team, Ralph Hooker, developed the idea of a split vectored exhaust, which gave rise to the development of the Pegasus 1 engine, on the Turbo Fan principle, and the design of the P1127, with stability during takeoff and hover controlled by high pressure air siphoned off from the rear compressor, vented through shuttered jets in the wing tips and fore and aft.

In 1969, the Harrier went into service, not only as a world first jet V/STOL aircraft, but also fitted with a very advanced Head Up Display (HUD), a self contained Inertial Navigation System not depending on any radio transmissions, and a Moving Map Display, with the aircraft position always in the middle of the correctly-orientated map.

In 1978, a brilliant notion by a serving Naval officer led to the introduction of the Ski Jump to enable the Sea Harrier to take off from the short flying deck of LPH (Landing Platform Helicopter) Class ships, which was demonstrated for the first time at the Farnborough Air show that year. The Sea Harrier was adopted by the US Marines to give them close cover for amphibious operations, and they commissioned McDonnell Douglas to develop the Harrier II with thicker wings to carry more fuel. The Sea Harrier FA2 now carries the US AMRAAM missile with a range of 30 miles and with its own Inertial Navigation System and its own radar for final homing, which enables it to attack and destroy targets beyond visual range. This aircraft is still the world's best V/STOL Interceptor, whilst the RAF's GR7 is also the world's best V/STOL bomber. Being fitted with forward looking infrared, Head Up Display and night vision goggles, it is cleared to fly in black night, at 420 knots, 250 feet above variable height terrain, using its totally synthetic vision aid.

It is noteworthy that, following the success of the Harrier, the United States is developing the concept of a stealthy single-seat V/STOL Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The successful design prototype, the X-35B by Lockheed Martin, was entrusted for its maiden flight to a British Test Pilot, selected as the most experienced in the world in this field of aviation. Its computer controlled, "fly by wire" capability is the legacy of 27 years of continuing Harrier development by British engineers, and it successfully demonstrated all its specified performance characteristics within six weeks in 2001 - a startling tribute to the quality of modern aircraft design techniques.

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