I guess I was one of the lucky ones who managed to go on and do just what I planned after our apprenticeship. When I had my final interview with Mr Peggs I explained I intended to join the RAF as a pilot, rather than go to Cranfield as he hoped. He became extremely boot and announced that would be a waste of the time spent on me. I tried to explain that I had to work too hard to keep up with the rest of you, especially in maths and I could not carry on like that all my life. I therefore intended to use what I had learned at RAE
to try and become a middleman between aircrew and engineers, namely a test pilot.
There were snags on the way of course, not least Duncan Sandy's white paper of '57 which resulted in me being sent on a ground tour straight after passing Hunter OCU
. That was sorted by nipping into the office of the day fighter poster and sticking my name on a few of his forms while he was out playing sport. The subsequent Hunter
tour in Germany saw me married to Pat. Then it was off to Central Flying School to learn how to teach followed by instructing on Jet Provosts at Cranwell. During that tour I got the slot I had been chasing and was sent to do the ETPS
course, back at Farnborough in 1963.
the staff could not decide who had done best, another bloke or me. They chose to give him the trophy and me the top job that we had both wanted. He was a good-looking chap but the day we got our postings he reminded me of one R D Peggs. So off I went to be a test pilot on Aero Flight, no longer in C shed but enjoying a new home at Bedford. The first boffin I met when I walked in there was Ralph Maltby who had been my apprentice master in the 13x9 and spinning tunnels eight years earlier. "I know you" he said, "Take that hat off and let me think".
During 64 they sent me to Dunsfold to collect XP831, the first P1127, which they wanted to compare with the SC1. Luck again - being in the right place at the right time. They were interesting times as the engine had a one hour life when running with the nozzles down, after which it had to come out and be stripped down at Bristol. Since that overhaul charge was £60,000 the boffins were looking at an engine cost of £1,000 per minute in the hover, so, if you sat there for 30 seconds and had nothing to say for yourself they got quite excited.
That experience set me up to join HSA
at Dunsfold in 1967 as a civvy test pilot. By 1971 I noticed Pat preferred another guy. Later his wife, Adèle, and I seemed to have things in common so we got married in 1982. Since then we have been struggling to support four adult dependent children, two of hers and two of Pat's. I retired as Harrier Chief Test Pilot when I became 50 and managed the site for the next five years. Then I was sent to Kingston to look at new business opportunities for two years before the bulldozers came in and I was made redundant (ie refused to go to Warton). The last ten years I have been self-employed, helping out with assorted flight test programmes, plus a bit of teaching students various the realities of flight test.
Short biography details:
The lecturer did his engineering training as an apprentice at the Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough before joining the RAF for pilot training in 1955.
After flying Hunters
with 4 Squadron
, based in Germany, he was a flying instructor at the RAF College Cranwell before joining the Empire Test Pilot's School course in 1963. Following a distinguished pass from ETPS
he became a test pilot on the RAE
Aerodynamics Research Flight at Bedford. During this tour he flew all the UK research aircraft then flying.
project pilot on the P1127 prototype in 1964, he started what was to become 19 years of Harrier programme test flying moving from the RAE
to join Dunsfold from where he retired as Chief Test Pilot. As the Harrier programme progressed, he became increasingly involved in overseas ventures especially with the US and various navies, particularly enjoying 1982 when he managed 2 hours gliding in an AV-8B Harrier not noted for its soaring performance.
John Farley and John Fozard celebrating the first Sea Harrier Ski Jump take-off at SBAC Show 1978
has flown over 80 different aircraft types, both fixed and rotary wing. In 1990 he became the first western test pilot invited by the Russians to fly the Mig-29 and more recently participated with Lockheed as a JSF
Red Team member.
He retired from test piloting in 1999 but continues to consult on flight test programmes.
John Farley doing the first Ski Jump take-off in the Sea Harrier at SBAC Show Farnborough 1978.
Clive Handy, Chairman, 3(F) Squadron Association tells us of John
I had an interesting visitor at my lunch table at work yesterday. John Farley
had been invited to Farnborough by the site Facilities Manager because old YMCA hostel opposite the Holiday Inn Farnborough, where he lived during his RAE Apprenticeship, is being demolished. John
is now 74 but still fit and sprightly.
For those of you don't know who the hell I'm talking about, John
was the Chief Test Pilot for Hawker Siddeley and was heavily involved in Harrier development flying in the 60's, 70's and 80's. He
is not flying these days, but is writing a book of his experiences which he
hopes will be published by the end of the year. The last chapter alone is 34,000 words which is like a book on its own; should be a good read. He
had some interesting comments about various matters aviation. I didn't know that the 'big wing' Harrier which we call the current GR7/9 series was first mooted in the early 70's when McDonald Douglas were asked by the USMC to double the payload/range of the original Harrier. In fact the RAF could also have had the bigger engine long before it was installed in the GR7 2 years ago, but for some reason the RAF didn't buy it - unlike the USMC (maybe it was money!).
Anyway he also mentioned the story of two MacAir pilots sent over to Dunsfold in 1970 to learn to fly the Harrier. After training them for six weeks in Harrier two seater G-VTOL (now in the Weybridge museum) he was not happy to send them solo so they lost patience and went home. Incidentally, the training was a private venture between Hawkers and MacAir not a government deal. After they left he told his masters that he felt they needed more training before being launched in the single seater. A while later one of them was tasked to fly an original USMC Harrier from Cherry Point to St Louis where it was to be modified with the new 'big wing'. He was therefore fireproof when the guy asked to ferry the aircraft had a taxying accident at an intermediate re-fuelling stop with the only other aircraft on the airfield at the time!