Should it later prove to be worthwhile, I may well write something on the defence industrial policy ‘refresh’ which is due to be announced later this morning in Farnborough by the Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson. However, if I do then it will probably have to wait until tomorrow due to time constraints. In the meantime and because they tell me that we are heading into a more relaxed period ahead of the holiday break, I thought that I might take the opportunity of reminding you of some fascinating events that occurred 50 years ago.
However, for no particular reason, the first event that I wish to recall happened in 1997 rather than 1967. Time flies but this year marked the 20th anniversary of the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht Britannia, a vessel that is now a tourist attraction moored in the Port of Leith, Edinburgh. This is well worth visiting if you are up in that neck of the woods.
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the rolling out of Concorde 001 in Toulouse, France, an aircraft that is now preserved in the French Air Museum, Le Bourget near Paris and it was with this in mind that last evening I glanced back through Michael J.H Taylor’s excellent ‘Aerospace Chronology’ to be reminded of some of the many other notable defence and aerospace related events that had taken place 50 years ago in 1967.
On April 9th 1967 the first Boeing 737-100 twin jet took to the air for its maiden flight and a month later, so did the first Fokker F-28 ‘Fellowship’, in this case from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Much advanced today, the Boeing 737 family of aircraft not only carries the record of being the world’s best-selling commercial aircraft still in production but with bulging order books the present day 737MAX looks set to remain in production for a few more decades yet. Sadly the last flight of a Fokker F-28 Fellowship by its stalwart airline customers, the Dutch based KLM airline, took place on the 28th October this year.
The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod prototype that had been developed from the de-Havilland Comet 4 airliner for use by the Royal Air Force on maritime reconnaissance work made its maiden flight on May 23rd.
On the very same day in 1967, a Hawker Siddeley Trident passenger aircraft operated by British European Airways completed a week long cycle of 34 hours under automatic flight control – this including no fewer than 27 automatic landings. I remember the coverage of this as if it were yesterday and the bottom line was that this was another fascinating example of British design and technology leadership. During the previous November, the same Trident aircraft, G-ARPB fitted which was fitted with the Smiths Industries Autoland system had successfully completed three test landings at London Heathrow Airport during conditions of 150ft visibility and when all other landings had been cancelled due to fog.
On March 18th in an attempt to reduce crude oil spillage from the crippled Torrey Canyon super-tanker, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy aircraft bombed the ship until it sank.
Monarch Airlines which as you will know ceased trading was created fifty years ago on June 7th.
I note that in July of 1967, concern having been expressed in the UK over the relatively new phenomenon of sonic booms, that the Minster of State for Technology announced that a series of random flights would be made all over the country by Royal Air Force English Electric Lightning jets to gauge public opinion. Imagine that today!
On September 8th 1967 the first flight of the prototype Westland built Sea King Helicopter (XV370) took place from the dockside at Avonmouth and on November 18th that year, the first flight of the Dassault built Mirage G variable-geometry swing-wing fast jet took place at Istres in France. Very sadly during May 1967, the Dassault Mirage F1 prototype was destroyed in an accident near Marseilles, killing the company’s chief test pilot.
On November 8th 1967 the Royal Air Force used no fewer than 50 transport aircraft in order to withdraw British troops from Aden.
The world’s first radar equipped antisubmarine helicopter, a Westland Wessex HAS3 entered service with 814 Squadron of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm.
On December 28th the first production Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR1 (XV738 made its maiden flight from Dunsfold in Surrey.
In April 1967 the merger took place in the US of the Douglas Aircraft Company and that of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. Thirty years later Boeing acquired McDonnel Douglas.
Finally, towards the end of 1967 a start was made in dismantling the hugely successful Royal Air Force V Bomber force following a decision that the nuclear deterrent capability – Polaris missiles would in future be deployed on Royal Navy submarines.
1967 witnessed a number of serious air accidents with major loss of life crashes including a TWA Convair 880 and a Lake Central Convair CV-580 in separate incidents, a Fokker F-27 Friendship, McDonnell Douglas DC9, a South African Airways Vickers Viscount 818 (following the Captain suffering a heart attack) a Canadair C4 Argonaut, a Piedmont Airlines Boeing 727, Sud Aviation Caravelle, a Mohawk Airlines BAC1-11 together with a Cyprus Airlines de-Havilland Comet C4 airliner.
The above list of events are just a few of the many that occurred during 1967 and my apologies if I have missed anything else that was deserving of mention.
CHW (London – 20th December 2017)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785