on 21 July 2014
My life-long and enthusiastic involvement with ‘Hawker’ makes very keen that the history of the company and its fine aircraft should be accurately portrayed in books, especially those by well known authors. Consequently I looked forward to reading what promised to be, according to the ’blurb’ on the cover, a eulogy for the Harrier.
I found “Harrier” a frustrating work, a marred eulogy, I‘m afraid. There is much that is of great interest, especially the political and operational aspects of the story, but the book’s validity is diminished by the fact that on the historical and technical sides it contains many errors and misconceptions which I will point out below..
Page 12, para 2 - “…Hawker P.1127, the world’s first successful vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) aircraft.” Not even a Hawker enthusiast like me would claim that. Helicopters had been doing it for years and there had been several fixed wing machines that had successfuly accomplished VTOL and hovering flight. The P.1127 was the first successful jet V/STOL aircraft designed to fighter standards. All the others had been experimental or research aircraft. Anyway, on page 23, para 3, the author actually says that the first reliable VTOL aircraft were the rigid airships.
Page 32, para 2 - “spinning downwards”. I can’t visualise propellers spinning downwards. Does the author mean tilting downwards?
Page 33, para 2 - the AV-8B is certainly not in interceptor.
Page 40, para 1 - the correct designations are XFY-1 and XFV-1.
Page 41, para 1 - the XFV-1 was known as the Pogo, not Pogo Stick.
Page 44, para 3 - the SC-1 made its first flight at the A&AEE Boscombe Down then later moved to RAE Bedford. (Wikepedia is incorrect).
Page 47, para 1 - Wibault proposed a turboprop engine driving four centrifugal compressors mechanically.
Page 47, para 1 - it was not Hawker that sorted out the complexities of Wibault’s proposal, but Gordon Lewis under Stanley Hooker at Bristol Engines. Ralph Hooper under Sydney Camm of Hawker devised the aeroplane to utilise it.
Page 66, para 1 and page 69, para 2 - The rink in Kingston that Sopwith bought was a roller skating rink, chosen because it had an uninterrupted level, flat wooden floor, ideal for building aeroplanes. What use would all the freezing pipes have been? The fact (?) that Sopwith was a skilled ice skater is irrelevant.
Page 70, para1 - John Fozard played no part in the design of the Hawk. He was far too busy as Chief Designer Harrier.
Page 75, para 1 - John Fozard played only a small part in the conception of the P.1127 and he did not suggest counter-rotation of the high pressure and low pressure spools of the BE.53 - this was Ralph Hooper’s idea. John himself told me that the only significant contribution he had made was to suggest the use of vaned engine nozzles.
The front and rear nozzles were not connected by motorcycle chains. Each nozzle was driven by a motorcycle type chain from an air motor via gearboxes.
Page 76, para 2 - the thought of a Fiat G-91 conventional jet fighter taking off from European city streets is laughable unless you can find some that are 50 ft wide, and straight and unobstructed for half a mile or so!
Page 78, para 3 - there are several reasons for the P.1127’s shoulder wings, but protecting the fuselage from the hot blast of the exhaust is not one of them. How could a wing above the engine exhaust nozzles protect the fuselage which is beneath the wing?
Page 80, para 1 - reaction control nozzles is the correct term, not vents. A vent is not a nozzle, which projects a high speed jet of compressed air, but a simple opening allowing air to escape. The jets of air issuing from the nozzles do not pass over the ailerons, tailplane and rudder. It is the reaction (hence the name) of the aircraft to these jets that provided for aircraft control in the hover. To describe the thrust of the Pegasus as “nothing more than a column of hot air” somewhat understates reality.
Page 81, para 1 - Bill Bedford joined Hawker Aircraft Ltd in 1951 of which company he became Chief Test Pilot. HAL was part of Hawker Siddeley Aviation which had several Chief Test Pilots for its various companies.
Page 82, para 2 - the thrust of the exhaust is upwards, not downwards If it was it would press the aircraft onto the ground.
Page 83, para 2 - that the first hovering flights of the P.1127 were marginal was well known long before it was “revealed” in John Farley’s lecture in 2000. The author makes it sound as if this was some dark secret.
Page 85, para 2 - the first transition from VTO into conventional flight was on 12 Sept 1961.
Page 86, para 2 - Bill Bedford lost control of XP836 because a front engine nozzle broke away; nothing to do with the intake.
Page 87, para 1 - XP831 crashed at Paris on 16 June 1963, was repaired and flew again on 13 October 1964. In February 1965 it was delivered to RAE Bedford where it continued to carry out research flying. On retirement it went to the Science Museum.
Page 87, para 3 - The last P.1127 was XP984, not XP976.(The 6 were - XP 831, 836, 972, 976, 980, 984)
Page 88, para 2 - the VJ-101 was not the first VTOL aircraft to break the sound barrier. P.1127 XP972 did this on 22 May 1962.
Page 89 para 1 - VJ-101 X-1 did not roll uncontrollably whilst attempting a VTO; it was making a conventional runway take-off. The roll autostabiliser had been incorrectly wired.
Page 89, para 2 - the VAK-191’s R-R/MAN RB193 was a vectored thrust engine with four nozzles just like the Pegasus and was used for V/STOL as well as conventional flight.
Page 101, para 2 - the TES Kestrels did not carry practice bombs and the nose camera was for reconnaissance, not for recording purposes.
After the trials the Kestrels were not sold to the US military at knockdown prices. The intergovernmental agreement was that each participating nation should have three Kestrels on squadron disbandment. Germany elected to give their three to the US in exchange for further trials information, and the other two (one was lost) remained in the UK. So it was not a portent of what was to follow later with the RAF Harriers.
The XV-6A Harriers did not prove to be immediately popular with the USMC. Only the USAF, the USN and the US Army were involved in the KES and in the US Tri-Service trials an America. The USMC involvement was much later culminating in the Colonels’ visit to the Farnborough, which is described.
Page 103, para 2 - downward thrust again!
Page 104, para 1 - the term ‘vectored manoeuvring’ was never used. VIFF is correct and stands for vectoring in forward flight, hence ‘viffing’.
Page 106, para 1 - the engine did not decide to pack up. There was an engine surge which can happen when manoeuvring at high altitude and results in a rapidly rising jet pipe temperature. The engine failed because the pilot failed to notice the rising JPT so did not close the throttle and the turbine burnt out. The pilot ejected because he misjudged his engine-out approach to Boscombe although the incident had taken place within easy gliding range.
Page 120, para 3 - to say that the P.1127 had been developed in part by NASA seriously overstates the NASA involvement. The small but valuable contribution made by NASA was to carry out hovering and transition model tests for Hawker.
Page 122, para 2 - the Harrier’s central “fitting” or pylon carried a bomb or the recce pod. The twin 30 mm Aden gun pods were mounted separately each side on the fuselage.
Page 123, para 2 - the miniature detonating cord which breaks up the canopy is not “wound through” it but is stuck on the inside of the canopy.
5th photo page - the Yak-38 was not “based in part on the P.1154”. The concept is basically different with lift engines.
Page 149, para - Ascension island is singular.
Page 151, para 1 - what was demonstrated over land was that it was possible for the pilot to manoeuvre the Harrier into the correct position for a hook up, nothing else.
Page 153, para 2 - the Sea Harrier fin was the same size as the GR3 fin. The reaction control valves gave higher thrust than the GR3.
1st colour photo page - this ski-jump, built by the Royal Engineers from medium girder bridge components as labelled, is at Farnborough for the air show. The adjustable RAE Bedford ramp was quite different in form.
Page 173, para 2 - the Harrier is a fixed-wing jet. Does the author mean non-V/STOL?
Page 175, para 2 - the fact that the Harrier had a high wing is not relevant to its turning performance. Does the author mean high wing loading?
Page 183, para 2 - the FRS 2 did not have a new wing, nor did it have a new surveillance camera.
Page 184, para 1 - the FRS 2 carried 4 AIM-120 missiles, 2 in place of the under fuselage gun pods and 2 underwing.
Page 185, para 2 - the Indian Sea Harriers were FRS Mk 51s.
Page 187, para 2 - downward thrust again.
Page 188, para 2 - the second generation Harrier is not the Mk2 (which was the RAF 2-seater) but the Harrier II. This error occurs many times subsequently.
Page 189, Para 1 - the US Marines were Harrier enthusiasts but they were not involved until well after the Harrier had flow.
Page 191, para 2 - sideslip vanes (what the author calls wind vanes) in front of the windscreen were fitted to the Kestrels and all Harriers, including Rosburg’s. His accident spurred the development of rudder pedal shakers, a yaw auto stabiliser and a HUD side force indicator, all aimed at preventing the pilot getting the aircraft into V/STOL sideslip, the cause of the accident.
Page 198, para 2 - the AV-8As were fully built at Dunsfold and test flown before having the wings and tails removed for the C-141 flight to the USA - hardly “kit form”.
Page 199, para 2 - it wasn’t that the Pegasus “had a fan blade 2.75” too big”, it was that the overall engine width was too great.
There were several versions of the AV-16 proposed and it was only the supersonic AV-16S that had plenum chamber burning. The basic subsonic version was the prime variant for the USMC, RAF and RN. The AV-16S was submitted to tempt the USN.
Page 200, para 1 - the RAF Harrier IIs (GRMk5s) were not built in St Louis and “shipped back across the Atlantic”. Wings and front fuselages were built at St Louis, centre/rear fuselages were built in the UK and these were shipped across the Atlantic for final assembly in St Louis as AV-8Bs for the USMC and at Dunsfold as GRMk5s for the RAF.
Page 202, para 2 - the correct designation was Lambert Field, St Louis.
Page 203, para 2 - the night attack Harriers had infra red systems and night vision goggles, not radar.
Page 205, para 2 - which “both versions” does the author mean? The list of countries he gives were all tackled by Hawker Siddeley/British Aerospace. The US marketing effort only came in with the Harrier II.
Page 253, para 2 - John Fozard had no involvement in the Hawk until he was marketing director.
Page 255, para 2 - the P.1216 forward nozzles were not “each side of the fuselage’s centre of gravity“. The three nozzles were arranged so that their combined centre of thrust was close to the aircraft’s centre of gravity.
The 1216 would not have been “a project too far for British Aerospace”. It was well within the capabilities of BAe Kingston (Hawker) but was killed off by BAe Warton who considered that the politics involved might upset the Eurofighter project.
Page 257, para 1 - the main engine of the Yak-41 had a vectorable nozzle for V/STOL as well as conventional flight.
Page 258, para 2 - the Hawk IS a simple etc, still selling in the 21st century.
John Fozard did not lead the Hawk design team. See also para 3 and page 259 para 1.
Page 259, para 1. - the Goshawk was not manufactured by McDonnel Douglas; more than half of it was manufactured in the UK by BAe and shipped to McDD for assembly.
Page 267, para 1 - Pegasus turbines fired up? Do you mean the Pegasus engines restarted? The turbines are the rotating bladed discs aft of the combustion chamber which drive the fan and compressor.
Page 268, para 1 - “the costs of running the a Harrier cannot be underestimated“. Oh yes they can; but they can’t be overestimated. This a common English language error nowadays - think about it.
So, a book by an enthusiastic author with a lot of good stuff in it but marred by factual errors and lack of technical understanding. Next time he should use a better researcher!
on 2 August 2014
A fairly entertaining read for its generalised review of how the Harrier fitted within the UK context during its career, but not much use if you're looking for a technical history of this aeroplane, as the title 'Harrier' might suggest.
It does frequently take off (no pun intended!) at frustrating tangents from the main subject, but once you're used to this, it's quite interesting.
The author does tend to repeat himself, and is rather fixated about the Spitfire - virtually to the exclusion of any other 1940's era aircraft that would be more comparable to the Harrier role (eg Typhoon, Tempest, Martlet, ..?) - perhaps the author is new to the subject?
There are also a number of technical errors which points to a misunderstanding as to how the aircraft functions, best summarised by another reviewer here - 'Chris'. For example, I too was mystified as to how the Harrier could be controlled in the hover by the exhaust gases 'passing over the control surfaces', or how a shoulder mounted wing could protect the fuselage from exhaust.
Nonetheless it does provide some illuminating political, economic & social context for this aircraft - and others, notably the BAe Hawk - as well as interesting discussion about its development, just don't expect much about the Harrier!