We have now acquired a two-seat Harrier trainer. This is also a very rare aircraft. Only 46 of the first-generation Harrier trainers were ever built. None are flying today. This is the only one in private hands that is anywhere near capable of flight, and we are working on it to get it in the air.
The airplane was received virtually complete, with spares. Since it’s last official position was as a spare-donor for an important flight test project, numerous items were scavenged from the airplane, but nothing that we didn’t already have or could not get. The cockpits are pristine, missing only the pyro for the ejection seats and one cockpit instrument.
This will allow us to SAFELY transition our two newest pilots to this generation of Harrier. The front cockpit is virtually identical to the single-seat Sea Harrier, as this was the Sea Harrier trainer. Besides that, we will have the capability to offer flight instruction to a very select group of potential pilots. We’ll post more on that later as the details and requirements become known.
I fully expect that we’ll start systems checks (hydraulic, electrical, fuel, etc) very soon, with the potential to taxi and do the ground checks necessary for first flight. We won’t fly until the ejection seats are resolved and a new weight and balance for the final flight configuration.
I expect we can fly before the end of 2015, but I must be careful with predictions! Remember we originally predicted it would only be 2 weeks to fly the Sea Harrier!
UPDATE December 2016
On the 18th of December, we started the Pegasus engine for the first time in over 10 years. The first starts were delayed because of Gas Turbine Starter (GTS) issues, which required us to remove the starter from the TMk 8, to retrieve our FA.2 single-seater from Florence, SC. We had to piece together parts of broken GTS’s of different models to get what we hoped would be a working GTS. We had no way to test it, other than install it on the TMk 8 and give it a try. That sounds simple enough, but that’s a 5 hour job.
We tried multiple times in an auxiliary mode to test the GTS, without success. So with nothing to lose, we tried a ‘normal’ engine start to windmill the engine. Miraculously, the GTS fired right up and started to turn the Pegasus. We motored the engine for a few seconds to ensure that oil pressure was sufficient, then we attempted a start. Our Jet Pipe Temperature gage proved faulty, so we aborted several starts, rather than risk an overtemp. We can’t tell by the SOUND of the engine if it’s over the temperature limits, as good as we are. Plus, we have some spare gages. So with a new gage in place, we tried another start.
The Pegasus started normally, with just of bit of smoke due to preservation oil in the engine, but other than that, it ran perfectly. All in all, we started the main engine multiple times and ran it to 40% rpm and deflected the nozzles to 40 degrees.
Although my prediction of flying in 2015 proved overly optimistic (as usual) I fully expect we can fly in 2017. There is still much to be done, but so far, no show stoppers. This aircraft WILL FLY!
p.s. notice I stated ‘aircraft’ vice ‘airplane.’ The FAA considers the Harriers to “powered lift” category of aircraft, distinctly different from ‘airplane’ or ‘rotorcraft.’ It’s a whole new ball game!