Mentioning the name John Farley evokes memories of a time when the UK’s aerospace industry was able to produce a succession of jet fighters – albeit sometimes of variable quality.
As our obituary piece details, Farley was inspired to join the Royal Air Force and subsequently become a test pilot when, as a child, he saw a Graf Zeppelin pass gracefully – and probably menacingly – over Hastings.
Through a career that would put almost 100 types in his log book, including the Fairey Delta 2, Avro Vulcan and even Concorde, it was at the controls of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier that he was most at home.
Farley’s famous plot – although never enacted – to save the in-development Jump Jet from the threat of cancellation by hovering above the Thames to “push in a couple of stained glass windows” in the Houses of Parliament highlighted his unshakeable belief in the unique technology as well as his great flying prowess. The latter was clear from his “rocket climb” technique: ruled too dangerous for service pilots to attempt.
History shows that the Harrier became a huge operational asset to the UK – particularly in its Sea Harrier guise during the Falklands War of 1982.
As the nation moves on from the closed Jump Jet era to operating Lockheed Martin’s F-35B, its pilots will benefit greatly from the lessons passed on by pioneers like Farley: a true Harrier hero.