THE New Year has got off to a flying start at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford with the Hawker-Siddeley Kestrel FGA.1 going on public display. This jet aircraft was built to evaluate the jump jet concept during the 1960s and visitors are now able to view it within the Museum's Test Flight collection.
The Kestrel, serial number XS695, is one of only nine built by Hawker-Siddeley and its main role was to evaluate vertical take-off in near service conditions. Fitted with a single Bristol Siddeley Pegasus engine and single seat cockpit, the success of the Kestrel came little more than a year before its successor, the Harrier, made its first flight. The Harrier served successfully with the Royal Air Force until 2011.
During the 1950s, Hawker had been privately developing a vertical take-off aircraft under the code of P.1127. The success of this private venture, and the subsequent service interest, led to an announcement in 1962 that a 'Tripartite Evaluation Squadron' (TES), also known as the Kestrel Squadron would be formed. The Kestrel was a developed version of the P.1127 and nine of the type were ordered for use by the TES during its operations in 1965.
The TES was based at RAF West Raynham and included pilots and ground crew from the UK, USA and West Germany. They used nearby abandoned airfields for testing the aircraft on semi-prepared runways and on grass.
The Kestrel made its maiden flight in February 1965 at Dunsfold. During 1966 the aircraft was used for training and even appeared at the Hanover and Farnborough Air Shows. In 1972 it was allocated to the Royal Navy Engineering College at Manadon, Devon, and later used for apprentice training and to simulate aircraft handling and flight deck procedures.
After being transported by road to the RAF Museum Cosford in November 2001, the Kestrel remained in storage until late 2012 when it was moved into the museum's award winning Michael Beetham Conservation Centre.
Nick Sturgess, Alex Henshaw Curator at RAF Museum Cosford said: "We are delighted to finally have the Kestrel out on public display after its extensive restoration."
The Museum is open daily from 10am and admission is free. For more information visit www.rafmuseum.org or call 01902 376200.
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