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May 2017

My first involvement with 808 and Roy was from Chairman in 2013 saying he had a chap who was looking at maybe getting hold of a Harrier GR3 and he'd given him my name due to my experience and knowledge with them.

Cue a phonecall to Roy from me for a chat, which then turned into lots of phonecalls on numerous evenings chatting about all things Harrier and aviation! During the course of these chats I let Roy know exactly what he was going to be letting himself in for and how much time and money he might have to put into the aircraft. Luckily I didn't put him off!

808 came up for disposal and was bought along with another Harrier GR3 from the RN training school at HMS Sultan by another party (Ollie will know who as I can't remember who it was) Roy and I had chatted about me potentially going to look at 808 to judge what condition she was in and if she was viable to be a runner again. Circumstances conspired and I never got the chance to go and see her but I had told him what to look at/think about and he said he'd think about what to do.

Come the day 808 and her sister were being transported from Sultan, Roy made the decision to bite the bullet and buy her! And so off she went to Roys. Come Feb 2014, myself, Ollie, Kay (and others?) were invited over to see 808 and see what needed doing to bring her to life and to meet Roy, his son Julian and their family. Literally the first thing I did was go in the cockpit and remove the stop on the throttle so the engine would go above idle! 

We began the task of reconnecting the wing to the aircraft properly as the company that transported her had attached it all structurally, but not any fuel, hydraulic, mechanical connections etc. Lots for us to do! Fortunately I had a lot of RAF guys I could call on when my grey matter couldn't remember bits! It didn't take too long before we had her back together. Then we rooted through all the multiple boxes of 'bits' that had accompanied 808 and started to put panels back on and fit missing fasteners etc.

We were very pleased to find that 808 was extremely complete with only a few bits and pieces missing. There was only one gauge missing from the cockpit and I managed a swap with someone I knew to get one and refitted it to 808. Nearly all the avionics, radios etc were still fitted which was a great result! 

Roy had listened to my advice and bought an aircraft power set, towing arm and steps so we had the equipment she needed. We organised getting some batteries for 808 and with Russ and Francis to aid us with electrical wizardry - we got her to a state where we could wake her up! And so we did and were pleasantly surprised at how fairly straightforward it had been. 808 was a 'Good Un' and we knew we were onto a winner with her.

After a few visits to Roy's, we next came to thoughts of running the GTS  (Gas Turbine Starter - basically the APU) Initial inspections suggested we might be good to go with it, so after more work to check everything over carefully (oils, connections etc) we went for a start. And....... Nothing! Bugger. So some investigation needed! We checked the GTS over and concluded that it was partially seized and that the failed start had blown the very large fuses in the rear of the aircraft. Double bugger. Fixed were duly replaced and due to Roy's foresight - we were able to replace the seized GTS with a nice serviceable one that he had purchased as a spare! Top work Roy. We knew it was serviceable because Julian had made a special running stand and had bench tested the spare GTS! Top engineering!

GTS swapped and we were ready to go. Fingers crossed by all and Ollie went for it. Nervous wait as she spooled up and then suddenly - it lit! 808 was alive again and the only live Harrier GR3 in the world!

So - we had her back to life. But more needed! So we moved towards running her main engine again. During more visits, we had lots of checks to do to ensure it would be safe to attempt - oils, connections, inspections etc. Also, having a clean area to attempt a run was an issue so we had work to do to get a nice clean FOD-free area sorted.

We did all that and decided we would have a try at a dry spin - running the engine up using the GTS but without fuel or ignition on. This would enable us to see if she would run properly but wouldn't incur the risks of running the engine fully (FOD, jet blast, space, etc) So a dry spin was done! And that characteristic Harrier whine was finally heard! Great stuff. We were in business!

Finally, we came to the day when we were ready to run 808 properly. Fuel on, ignition on - properly alive! Roy had managed to purchase some fuel and had made a refueling rig (he's literally an engineering genius) and with a bit of trouble (ask Ollie....) We got fuel into 808 ready to turn it into noise and fumes.

So with Ollie in the cockpit and me supervising outside, the GTS was started and then the Pegasus span over, caught and lit. And the world had a fully running live Harrier GR3 again! She ran beautifully - everything as it should be - temps, pressures etc. Roy and Julian were over the moon! As were all of us I might add!

Since then we have continued working on 808 to maintain her and get more and more working on her. A laser was obtained to go back in her nose, pylons were found and fitted, underwing stores fitted to name but a few jobs. Ollie can tell you more and give you firm dates on jobs better than I can!

In time we moved to getting her out onto Roy's newly made grass runway and she got to stretch her legs. We have had a couple of days where we have had her trundling about looking just how she would have done back in service! Indeed Roy held a wings and wheels type event earlier this year which saw a hundred or so people come to see 808 put through her paces!


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