As a bit of historic aviation nut, I’m a regular reader of the historic aviation magazine, Aeroplane Monthly. (The only magazine, to my knowledge, that can claim to have interviewed both Bruce Dickinson and Norman Tebbit. But not at the same time.)
This blog isn’t the place to discuss the economic, military or political reasons for the Harrier’s withdrawal. But it makes me a little bit sad to know it won’t be flying anymore – the Harrier’s always been one of my favourite jets.
Part of the reason of I like it is a little bit of jingoistic pride in supposedly past-it Britain being able to invent something that no other country was able to emulate. (Well, except for the Soviet Yak-38, but it was rubbish.)
But mostly I like it for simple aesthetic reasons. Even though it is a thing that had as its ultimate purpose destruction, I find it hugely visually appealing. It isn’t like any other plane – its enormous air intakes, bulbous cockpit and high wings make it seem like something out of a mechanical Greek myth or a piece of bizarre modern sculpture.
And then there’s how it flies. I remember seeing one at an air show years ago, standing there fascinated, and thinking, “It shouldn’t be able to do that.“
The Harrier defies all of our expectations as to what a fixed wing plane can do – it can go straight up, go backwards and go straight down again. And it seems rather sad that we can give up on it so easily.
So maybe one day, I’ll get round to buying and building that Airfix Harrier kit I keep on looking at…
1. It’s still being used by the US Marines, India, Italy, Spain and Thailand though.