On Easter Saturday Air Vice-Marshal Graham Williams officially opened the Museum’s ‘Harriers and the 69 Air Race’ exhibition. Graham was the RAF Harrier test pilot who flew the Museum’s Harrier XV744 (then configured as a GR1) from New York to London in the Daily Mail sponsored 1969 air race across the Atlantic. He wasn’t originally chosen to be involved as another test pilot, Squadron Leader Mike Adams, who had been testing the Harrier with Hawker Siddeley, was to fly the London to New York attempt.
In February 1969, three months before the start of the race, Mike had an accident at Dunsfold aerodrome whilst taxiing a Harrier when the nose wheel sheared off and he badly damaged his back. He was out of the race and Graham was selected, even though he had only ten hours experience on type, to join Squadron Leader Tom Lecky-Thompson as the RAF Harrier team pilots. Tom took over as lead pilot to fly the London to New York flight and Graham was to fly the opposite way.
Both attempts were very successful with Tom achieving the shortest time from the top of the Post Office Tower in London to the top of the Empire State Building in New York. These three pilots had never met together since the race 50 years ago. They therefore had much to say to each other when they were official guests at the exhibition’s opening event.
The opening event was a great success with the cockpits of XV744 and our Wessex helicopter open to the public. The exhibition, originally planned to close on the 12 May, will now remain open until the end of July.
Photos: David Burleigh