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Harrier Story – Presentation by John Farley

Former Dunsfold Chief Test Pilot John Farley’s presentation of his story of the Harrier development from 1951 to 2015. This hour long presentation is a unique insight into the early development of the “jump jet” and the evolution of Hawker’s prototypes P.1127 to the Harrier as a military aircraft. This recording was made by the Brooklands Museum Trust in 2015.

Video Copyright Brooklands Museum Trust ©2015 (digitally remastered 2020)

Video Copyright Brooklands Museum Trust ©2015 (digitally remastered 2020) The original slightly longer video is here.

The Harrier story – transcript of 2015 presentation

Now the Harrier story goes back to 1951 and the meeting at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Now 1951 is a long time ago. I mean that’s 64 years, isn’t it? And to try and get ourselves in the sort of mindset to thinking how long ago that was. It was two years later that our queen came to the throne. It was two years before Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing wandered up Everest and it was two years before the Supreme allied commander in Europe, Dwight Eisenhower now became president of the United States. That’s a long time ago. It’s also one year after I started my engineering apprenticeship at the Royal aircraft establishment. Now in those days, the main gate looked like that. And in the evening, this is the sort of thing you saw, people went to work on their feet in buses or on bikes. There were very, very few cars and indeed the number of bike sheds that Farnborough was astonishing. 

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Peacetime Aircraft Accidents

Evolution of Harrier – in Newsreels

The evolution of the Harrier from prototype to the last variants has generated press interest from the early 60’s onwards. Pathe Newsreels visited Dunsfold on a regular basis to tell the story.

1963 Hawker P.1127 XP831 1st prototype at Dunsfold. Pilot Bill Bedford ©Pathe News
1962 Farnborough Airshow first sight of the Hawker P.1127 XP972 (the 3rd prototype ) and G-APUX Hunter. Air to air filming and XP831 (1st prototype) STOL demonstration ©Pathe
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Kestrel returns home

XS694 arrives in the UK. Photo from https://www.facebook.com/wingskestrel/
Museum number 1: Wings Museum’s 10,000sqm building situated off the Dunsfold – Alfold road. The curved roof design is now not part of the proposal.

Warbirds Magazine reports the “return home” of the crash damaged Kestrel XS694 that has been languishing in the USA for many years. But the question is – coming home to where? The Wings Museum, who bought the airframe some years ago, are based in Balcombe Sussex and don’t have space in their agricultural building that is packed with their current display artefacts. The Warbirds report skirts over the huge elephant in the room that Wings Museum have plans to build a 10,000sqm warehouse to the South of Dunsfold aerodrome as part of their ambitious plans to move their museum from Sussex to Dunsfold.

A restored Kestrel would make an excellent centre piece to this new museum, but with supporters being asked for donations to help with the restoration it begs the question: what about the money earmarked to construct the new Museum? Professional estimates indicate there will be little change out of £10m to build the museum – and that’s without factoring in the operating costs. Half of the proposed museum space is destined to be telling the Dunsfold Story but so far the Kestrel appears to be the only item in their catalogue that has any link with Dunsfold.

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Don Riches

Hawker Siddeley Test Pilot 1968-1980

Don Riches

Donald Riches, was a Squadron Leader in the RAF. He was posted to Singapore in the early 60’s and subsequently to Devon and then Norway.

In August 1968, Don Riches completed his posting with the Norwegian Air Force 336 SKV at Rygge and took up his new posting at Dunsfold with Hawker Siddeley as Squadron Leader on secondment from the RAF due to the belief that both the Navy and Air Force would be purchasing Harriers and Sea Harriers in the future.  After a couple of years, he was asked by Hawker Siddeley if he wanted to give up his RAF career and continue as a test pilot for them. 

Don was test flying the Harrier and the Hawk. He flew at the Paris and Farnborough airshows. His contemporaries at his time at Dunsfold were Andy Jones, John Farley, Dick Whittington, Jim Hawkins and Duncan Simpson.

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Pilots of 320 Squadron Facebook page.

Son of airgunner Richard Heinrich Tessers. I have start a special new webpage on Facebook in memory of all pilots and crews who was at the sq.320 RAF/MLD Mitchell´s at Dunsfold, also at the training schools and later at 8 okt. moved to Melsbroek Belgium. If you have pictures of crews in front of the Mitchell of the Dutch ones, if you know that family had a family or crew member with the sq.320 RAF/MLD let me know that they can tell their stories and put pictures on my webpage, here is the link.

Hawker’s Secret Cold War Airfield:

Dunsfold: Home of the Hunter and Harrier

by Christopher Budgen

A new book will be available in July. Amazon Link

Author Christopher Budgen has spent his life imbued with military aviation. His father and two uncles all served with the RAF during and after the Second World War. His father, Maurice, served in India on Liberators and Tempests before working for Skyways at Dunsfold during the Berlin Airlift and subsequently for Hawker Aircraft as they started production of the superlative Hunter at the aerodrome. Chris followed his father into employment at Dunsfold in the 1970s, initially working on RAF and export Hawks before moving on to Harrier and Sea Harrier. A move to Development saw him become involved in the launch of the Sea Harrier FRS.2 and the HS.125 flying test-bed, as well as numerous trials on the Harrier GR.5 and GR.7. The author of several books on the history of the area and an authority on Hawker aircraft and Dunsfold, Chris is currently engaged as archivist at Brooklands Museum specialising in Hawker and successor companies. Having spent twenty-one years working at Dunsfold, his knowledge allows him to shine a light onto aspects of the company and airfield not widely recognised. Given his family’s close links to the land upon which Dunsfold was subsequently built, Chris is well-placed to tell the story of this previously closed and secretive community.

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