Trans-Atlantic anniversary for Tangmere

News April 2019

Harrier GR3 XV744 is now displayed at Tangmere.

“Graham Williams made second-quickest time on the west-to-east leg in Harrier XV744, with which he will be reunited on 20 April”

An exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Daily Mail-sponsored 1969 Trans- Atlantic Air Race will be opened at the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum on 20 April by test pilots and race participants Tom Lecky- Thompson and Graham Williams. The Harrier flown by Williams on the west-to-east leg, GR3 XV744 — which in 1969 was a Harrier GR1 — is preserved at the museum.

On 4 May 1969, Lecky- Thompson made the quickest east-to-west time in the London-New York leg of the race, getting under way in a lift at the top of the Post Office Tower before riding pillion on a motorcycle to a coal yard adjacent to St Pancras station where Harrier XV741 was waiting. The brand-new V/STOL fighter was refuelled four times by No 57 Squadron Handley Page Victors during the crossing, which was completed when XV741 alighted onto a specially built platform on a pier off 25th Street East in New York’s Bristol Basin. Lecky-Thompson then rode on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle — ridden by an off-duty member of the New York Police Department — before completing the trip to the top of the Empire State Building by lift in an elapsed time of six hours 11 minutes 57 seconds.

The shortest time on the New York-London section went to Lt Cdr Peter Goddard, the back-seater in Royal Navy McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG1 XT859, his journey being completed when a Royal Navy Wessex delivered him into central London. He reached the top of the capital’s thennew, emblematic landmark in five hours 11 minutes. Graham Williams — who was to retire as an air vice marshal — made second-quickest time on the west-to-east leg in Harrier XV744, with which he will be reunited at Tangmere on 20 April. The exhibition will be open from 20 April until 12 May. Aeroplane will celebrate the Trans-Atlantic Air Race in our July edition.

In the museum’s main hall, the Westland Lysander replica, built for the 2016 Brad Pitt feature film Allied, is now displayed in a tableau depicting a spy pick-up in France. The highly realistic Lysander — built by Gateguards UK at Newquay Airport, Cornwall — went on display at Tangmere in June 2018, and represents the special duties ‘Lizzies’ flown by No 161 Squadron from Tangmere on spy pick-up missions during the war.