Visitors to this year’s Scampton Airshow will undoubtedly be drawn towards the impressive array of classic jets on static display. In fact, it is one line up that’d be virtually impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world. The Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter , Blackburn Buccaneer, McDonnell Douglas Phantom F-4F and Hawker Hunters belong to Hawker Hunter Aviation (HHA), which has been based here at the airfield since 2000.
The company owns, operates and maintains a remarkable fleet of fast jets for the purpose of undertaking aerial work on behalf of defence contractors and government agencies. Even those that are not currently airworthy are either in inhibited storage or kept in ground running condition, and could be returned to the skies should a requirement arise.
Today, HHA has no fewer than 14 Hunters on its books – ten of these famous British designed aircraft are Rolls-Royce Avon 200-powered single-seat Mk.58s which once served with the Swiss Air Force. Three Avon 122-powered twin-seat Hunter T.7/T.8 trainer variants and one GA.11 are in storage.
The Russian-built Su-22 M4 Fitter is a former East German Air Force machine (but is marked up for the airshow in its post reunification German markings as ‘98+14’). Both it and Buccaneer S.2B XX885 undergo regular maintenance and ground runs. In addition to these, HHA now also has an ex-Luftwaffe F-4F Phantom, (once again coded in its original German markings as 37+89 for the show) on display this weekend – it’s currently being used as a ground instructional airframe.
“RAF Scampton is the ideal home for us, and we’re pleased to be supporting the airshow here,” says HHA’s Managing Director Mat Potulski. “We’re looking forward to the weekend as it’s a relatively rare opportunity for us to show some of our aircraft to the public. We’ll be pulling out the Sukhoi, the Buccaneer, the Phantom and at least one of the Hunters. Some of our aircrew and engineers will be on hand to talk to visitors about the aircraft and some of the things we as a company do. “Airshow audiences are very diverse but on the whole enthusiastic; we’re looking forward to chatting with them. Personally I always find it fun engaging with the younger generation and generating that spark of interest, which may lead to a love for engineering and aviation. Hence we’re delighted to be supporting this event – not just because it’s at our home base but because it’s raising money for a wonderful cause, the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust.”
HHA fulfils two vital roles. It works with defence contractors on aerial trials support and it also provides aircraft for threat simulation, thereby aiding and assisting military training. As a consequence, and somewhat unusually, HHA operates its aircraft on the UK military register rather than in the civil ‘permit to fly’ category. The reason is that air navigation orders state that civilian-registered aircraft of military design origin cannot be used for commercial activities. Their use is effectively limited to film work and airshows, and their flight envelope is heavily restricted. Operating on the military register exempts HHA from such restrictions and also means that the company’s activities are regulated and audited by the Military Aviation Authority (MAA), thereby enabling seamless integration with Ministry of Defence (MoD) assets and providing assurance that the HHA’s Safety Management Systems, procedures and training are aligned with those found within the RAF.
“The question we’re often asked is how can we provide credible training or trials effects with ‘legacy’ aircraft such as Hunters [a type that entered service in the 1950s] when the world is seeing the likes of F-35s and F-22s entering service,” says Mat. “To answer that, you have to look at what the aircraft can actually deliver in a prescribed adversary training role, and its performance as a pure ‘air vehicle’, plus of course its sustainability and spares support going forward from here.
“Our former Swiss Air Force Hunter Mk.58s offer a basic platform with superlative subsonic performance. It goes higher, faster and further than a Hawk whilst also having multiple hardpoints for carrying additional stores. It’s like a Hawk on steroids. Supportability is good as evidenced by over 30,000 Hunter flying hours accrued in the last ten years by US-based operators on contract to the US Navy.
“Part of the original aircraft selection process which led HHA’s purchase of the Hunter MK.58s was identifying a ‘clockwork’ aircraft with mechanical rather than fly-bywire flying controls. This greatly eases the integration of the modern threat emulation and pod mounted electronic warfare systems we carry versus the cost of doing so in a more modern fly-by-wire aircraft, where emissions from the ‘kit’ could potentially cause interference with the primary flight control systems.”
Why carry Electronic Warfare (EW) kit? “Threat emulation and EW equipment simulate the radar emissions of enemy aircraft and by carrying this type of equipment we can simulate being a totally different aircraft type”. HHA performing this role helps the military train to respond to any real threats whilst saving their own aircraft from expensive flying hours and fatigue. “While the Hunter is an older design, our aircraft are a bit like ‘Triggers broom’.
Nominally the same broom – but 30 different heads and ten different handles. Ours have been continuously updated and are currently going through a modification process where they are being equipped with glass cockpits, electric start and further threat emulation equipment. There’s plenty of life left in them, with our fleet leader having clocked up just over 3,000hrs while the youngest has around 1,000hrs total time. Compare that with many of the Hawk T.1s flying, which have between 7,000-9,000hrs on the clock.”
In recent years, a couple of ex-German F-4F Phantoms have also joined HHA’s line up, one of which will be on static display this weekend. Like the Hunters, they’re not flyby- wire, but they’re extremely fast and can carry a huge variety of equipment.
“The Phantoms will enable us to undertake various tasking that involve supersonic flight,” says Mat. “There’s one F-4F that is about to commence overhaul in Germany, and the other is here at Scampton, which we currently use as a ground procedures trainer. They will eventually fly on the UK military register with the one currently still in Germany having had the registration ZK848 allocated to it. The acquisition process has taken a long time, because it has meant dealing with ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] and included working with the US Department of Defence, the German MoD and the MoD here in Britain – so a lot of people generating a lot of paperwork have been involved in the process.
“It’s a supersonic fighter jet with modern systems fitted within, so getting them ready was always going to be a complex affair, and one that we are determined to do correctly and get right. Remember that the aircraft itself is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the infrastructure and certification processes that have to be established to operate the type. All of our activity is audited and endorsed by the MAA, and with that relationship in place we are able to make this work.”
Both the Buccaneer and the Sukhoi could also be reactivated if a contractual requirement arose. So far there hasn’t been one, but both of these remarkable Cold War survivors are regularly ground run to ensure their condition doesn’t deteriorate. They’ll be on show to visitors this weekend, and should they ever fly again, Scampton is the perfect base.
Mat: “When you operate aircraft like ours you really need a long runway, air traffic control that is familiar with fast jets, appropriately trained crash rescue and a myriad of other things that pertain to military air ops – and that’s exactly what we’ve got here at RAF Scampton. It’s the ideal home for us, and we really hope the airshow will raise the airfield’s profile. We’d like this important and historic base to remain open and active for many years to come.”
As part of the demonstration of ASDOT ( Air Support Defence Operational Training) capability, an HHA military registered MK 58 Hunter equipped with a demo version of IAI’s RAIDS pod system deployed to participate in the Royal International Air Tattoo held at Fairford. HHA is planning to utilise IAI’s training backbone, including RAIDS and RAIDS Next Generation (RAIDS NG) in order to provide LVC training under the ASDOT programme.
It is estimated that over 150,000 visitors attended the event and the 4 strong HHA team were inundated with questions pertaining to the Hunter, RAIDS and what we were doing in the 21st century with a 20th century jet?
The answer was a simple one and is a combination of three elements:
– Hunter MK58 aircraft which exhibits superlative subsonic performance, low through life cost and ongoing supportability.
– HHA’s unique suite of regulatory approvals permitting operation on the UK military register and seamless integration with our MoD and NATO allies.
– Access to the latest ECM, targeting and LVC training & simulation pods upscales the capability envelope of the HHA service provision.
In short, HHA’s combination of agile contractor-owned but MoD-regulated fast jets provides resource benefit and assurance of training delivery standards
For part of July 2016, HHA aircraft operated from multiple locations (Scampton, Boscombe Down, Yeovilton and Fairford) supporting MoD tasked radar trials.
HHA aircraft once again detached to Boscombe Down by augmenting QinetiQ assets, just like the April 2016 exercise, in the provision of fast jet services. This is HHA’s 2nd such exercise with QinetiQ in 2016.
HHA is the first MoD contractor company to feature in the RAF’s “Air Clues” Flight Safety Magazine. The article can be found in issue 19, pages 6-9, which is available to view on the web at the url below:
HHA aircraft and personnel deploy to Boscombe Down to augment QinetiQ platforms for various trials work, achieving a 100% sortie success rate.
It is with deep regret that I write to inform you of the death of Louis McQuade ( RAF S/ Ldr retired), HHA’s former Head of Flying. Louis died unexpectedly yesterday, 26th September 2015 from a suspected heart attack whilst out jogging.
He was one of life’s greats – a wonderful friend and colleague, loyal, honourable, tenacious with great wit and unwavering generosity.
Louis was a consummate fighter pilot with an unquenchable passion for aviation. After leaving the RAF (where he flew Hawk, F4, F18 and F3), he joined Cathay Pacific flying the Boeing 747-400 and 777, but continued his involvement with fast jets initially through OFMC and then HHA. His contribution to HHA, especially in the early years, was immense and many will remember him from the numerous displays he gave in the Hunter. Behind the public scenes, he was instrumental in managing HHA’s initial transition to flight ops on the military register, which, given his aversion to paperwork, was a challenge he nevertheless accepted. More recently, his advice with regard to operations involving HHA’s latest platform was measured and full of infectious enthusiasm.
It is somewhat ironic that he died on the same calendar day as his great friend, Mark Hanna, and I’m sure that there will be many a yarn told as they meet at the Pearly Gates!
Our thoughts are with his wife Penny and children Louis Jr, Phil and Meg. Also heartfelt condolences to Pat, his mother, and his brothers and sisters.
Further details pertaining to funeral arrangements will be published in due course.
27th Sept 2015
Following the tragic accident involving the “Canfield Hunter Ltd” owned Hunter T7 G-BXFI at Shoreham on Saturday 22nd August 2015, HHA staff have received numerous requests to comment on the crash. We understand that the AAIB investigation has commenced. Until the facts from this AAIB investigation are known it would be inappropriate to make any comment concerning this matter.
The HHA fleet of aircraft, which is used for various Aerial Support activities on behalf of the Defence Community, is operated on the UK Military register. The Military Type Airworthiness Authority has not imposed any restrictions on the normal operation of military registered Hunter Mk58 aircraft, which are exempt from the CAA temporary grounding order affecting civil registered Hunter aircraft. HHA’s Safety Management, Maintenance and Operating procedures are compliant with Military Aviation Authority regulations and mirror those found within the rest of the MoD aviation community.
The MK 58 Hunter is a substantially different design from the type involved in the recent tragic accident at Shoreham which did not involve either HHA aircraft or crew.”
Our thoughts are with all those and their families directly affected by this tragic event.
On the 23rd October, HHA Test Pilot Dave Southwood completed his 1000th Hunter flight hour in a flight from Boscombe Down to RAF Scampton. To commemorate the occasion, HHA’s Head of Flying Simon Hargreaves presented Dave with a special photo and the customary bottle of champagne!
HHA aircraft Return to base RAF Scampton and commence routine maintenance.
HHA aircraft deploy to Boscombe Down in support of an ETPS project.
HHA complete modification & certification of the Trials Platform Aircraft for the Ceptor Missile Trials.
HHA aircraft deployed to Newquay in support of further Sea Trials taskings for BAE Omani Vessels.
HHA has commenced the modification of one of its Hunter aircraft to incorporate a glass cockpit centred around a military version of the Garmin G600 system. The overall upgrade will be evaluated during the course of the year, with a final cockpit version to be rolled out across the fleet upon completion of the evaluation trials.
HHA engineering deployed to Brazil for the first time, having been tasked to Inspect and Repair as Necessary Embraer’s Hunter T72, used for chase purposes. After four weeks and many late nights (working) the engineering team returned to RAF Scampton having undertaken a multitude of additional engineering rectification tasks.
HHA has completed another detachment to Boscombe Down on behalf of the Empire Test Pilot School. Once again the tasking exhibited 100% serviceability achieving all course objective on time and within Budget.
HHA is pleased to announce the appointment of Commander Simon Hargreaves, OBE, as Operations Director. His wealth of both operational and test piloting experience together with extensive commercial knowledge further enhances HHA’s capability in the sector.
HHA has developed and approved a non invasive ultrasound based secondary fuel flow measuring system for aerial use. The system, which utilizes off the shelf technology and equipment originally designed for use in adverse conditions in the oil industry, had previously not been used in a Fast Jet aerial application. This new application is non aircraft specific and can be configured for any flow rates with a variety of display settings & formats. An extensive Test Flying program has provided information on reliability and accuracy and HHA can design, fit and certify similar installations to most aircraft types.
HHA aircraft recently completed another successful Boscombe Down detachment, principally in support of the ETPS. Once again HHA aircraft generated a 100% sortie success rate.
Two and a half years ago HHA had been awarded the contract to meet all the fast jet requirements for the development of the PAAMS Radar System ( Principal Anti Air Missile System) of the new Type 45 class of Royal Navy Destroyers. Achieving a 99% sortie success rate to date, the client recently commented:-
“Issues identified during the development of PAAMS(S) have resulted in the rescheduling of a large number of activities during its ongoing trials programme. The flexibility offered by HHA, and its ability to react to short notice requests has been of significant benefit in the progress made to date.
HHA has proven to be a very professional and reliable source of aerial targets throughout the PAAMS(S) programme fully justifying the choice made 2 years ago over other available competitors.
HHA has completed in excess of 500 incident free sorties achieving 99% serviceability. In the course of all flight operations, not a single sortie has been lost due to technical unserviceability.
HHA has acquired the former RAF Marham Rolls Royce Avon Engine Test facility and relocated this to its RAF Scampton site, thereby enabling all RR Avon engines to be tested prior to installation.
HHA is awarded UK Ministry of Defence Avp67 Approval to operate its aircraft on Ministry of Defence taskings. HHA is the first and only civilian fast jet operator in the UK to have achieved this major accolade, which acts as an endorsement to the high maintenance and operating standards prevalent within the company.
HHA was today granted approval by the Civil Aviation Authority Management Committee to operate their BAe Buccaneer Aircraft (G-HHAA / XX885) on the UK civil register.
This is the culmination of almost five years worth of effort and in excess of 3250 commercially paid man hours of design verification work, excluding all the actual engineering work on the airframe itself! As such it will be the first Complex category aircraft to fly in UK airspace and is a testament to the excellence of the HHA engineering and operational team. Major overhaul work and lifed component replacement on the aircraft will commence shortly, with a first flight currently envisaged for 2006.
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