Cold War Era

Here’s why BAe Test Pilot Keith Hartley flew this Tornado with the canopy off

BAe Test Pilot Keith Hartley conducted the ‘cockpit habitability trial’ in his open top Tornado XZ630

Taken in 1988 the unique photos in this post feature British Aerospace (BAe) Test Pilot Keith Hartley conducting the ‘cockpit habitability trial’ in his open top Tornado XZ630.

As BAE Systems explained on Twitter:

“In 1988, our test pilot Keith Hartley flew at 500 knots in a Tornado aircraft with the canopy off, testing the emergency escape procedures of the jet; just one example of the lengths we go to test the safety of the planes we build for the RAF.”

The Panavia Tornado XZ630 was the first British pre-production aircraft which flew on Mar. 14, 1977 and participated in weapons release trials at the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down.

Noteworthy Pre-production Tornados incorporated a number of refinements over earlier prototypes that would be incorporated onto production aircraft.

Former Lightning and Tornado F3 pilot Ian Black said that “While the first ten aircraft could be considered true prototypes, the first real Tornado for the RAF flew in March 1977 (XZ630) and it was quickly assigned to the A&AEE at RAF Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.”

After a successful career as a trials aircraft, Panavia Tornado XZ630 was retired to ground duties and has been the Gate Guardian at RAF Halton’s Recruit Training Squadron Parade Square since 2004. It was refurbished to resemble a GR4 from 31 Squadron, currently based at RAF Marham, and known as the ‘Goldstars’. The refurbishment was carried out by Serco contractors.

Photo credit: Kate Yates, BAe Heritage Centre

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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