1964, Brooklands Aircraft Factory, On long term display
The first un-tethered hovering flight of the P.1127 V/STOL aircraft was made by A W 'Bill' Bedford in XP831 at Dunsfold, Surrey on 19/11/1960. Two prototypes and four development aircraft were built, but only three of these now survive. An improved version, the Kestrel, first flew on 07/03/1964 with Bill Bedford, and the first production Harrier, XV738, was first flown by Duncan Simpson on 28/12/1967. Nine Kestrels served with the Tripartite Evaluation Squadron in 1965 and 1 Squadron, RAF, received its first Harrier on 01/04/1969. The UK's Harrier Force was finally disbanded in 2012, although later variants are still operational in other countries today.
Built in 1963 by Hawker Siddeley Aviation at Kingston and Dunsfold, this sixth and last P.1127 became the first to feature a swept (Kestrel) wing. The first flight was made from Dunsfold by Bill Bedford on 13/02/64, with a Pegasus 5 engine, as the prototype Kestrel. On 19/03/65, with Hugh Merewether as pilot, the engine failed in a high speed dive at 28,000ft causing a fire. After a dramatic landing at RAF Thorney Island, Merewether received an OBE for gallantry. XP984 flew again on 15/10/1965 and was loaned that December to the Tripartite Evaluation Squadron for demonstrations in Germany. On 25/03/1966 Bill Bedford made XP984’s first flight with the new ‘03/1’ (Harrier) wing. Sea trials on HMS Bulwark followed from 18-20/06/1966.