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Halloween Jump Jet for Helicopter Museum

An experimental Harrier Jump-Jet used by Rolls-Royce in the 1980s to test a modified engine for a potential supersonic version, has become the first fixed-wing aeroplane to join the vertical flight collection at The Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare.

Previously with the BAC Collection and Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust at Kemble in Gloucestershire, the Harrier is being moved by road today and will temporarily be stored until it can be re-assembled to go on permanent display at the Weston attraction.

The aircraft uses a much modified airframe with the nose and tail of one Harrier (XV798) and the wing of another (XW264), married to a specially-built centre section to house a vectored-thrust Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine modified with plenum chamber burning (PCB). A form of reheat, whereby fuel is mixed with unburnt oxygen in the engine exhaust to provide a ramjet effect, PCB can double the engine thrust but also results in much higher exhaust temperatures.

It was realised that this could cause damage to the fuselage underside and the ground surfaces below the aircraft, and so trials were carried out at the Ministry of Defence Proof & Experimental Establishment at Shoeburyness, Essex from 1983, with the Harrier slung from a gantry to test the effects of PCB under controlled conditions. The Harrier is still fitted with the framework used to attach it to the gantry for the tests.

Chairman of THM Trustees Elfan ap Rees said “Although the proposed supersonic Harrier was never built, the data and lessons learned from this research later found their way into development of the modern-day Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter, now on order to replace the Harrier in the Royal Navy. The PCB testbed is therefore an important piece of local aviation heritage and the Trustees have agreed that this fact, coupled with its vertical flight link, makes it well worthy of continued preservation.

Embargoed until 5am Wednesday 31st October.

(The aircraft is expected to arrive circa 12 noon 31st October. Contact the Museum after 10am in the morning for confirmation of a photo opportunity).

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