EAA/WOA Member to Debut World’s Only Civilian-Flyable Harrier
October 1, 2008 — The general public will get its first look at the world’s only privately owned, civilian-flyable Harrier jump jet on Saturday, October 11, when former Marine pilot and EAA/Warbirds of America member Art Nalls brings his Sea Harrier F/A2 to the Culpeper Airport (CRJ) Air Fest in Virginia.
Nalls, who spent most of his military career flying the American AV-8A and AB-8B Harriers, purchased the airplane from Britain’s Royal Navy in 2005 and has spent the last three years getting it back into flying shape. Long-time friends, Christian Vlahos and Rich Gill, both aircraft mechanics with inspection authority, helped, as did volunteers recruited from the Marine’s largest Harrier base, Cherry Point, North Carolina. Nalls credits this whole team with the success of the project.
Nalls also solicited the help of his Marine Corps friends, most notably retired Major General Joe Anderson, also a longtime EAA and WOA member. Anderson and Nalls have known each other for 25 years and flew AV-8A Harriers in the famous Ace of Spades Squadron, VMA-231. Anderson, now the Deputy Director for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and head of the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., will also be the next civilian to pilot Nalls’ Harrier. During Nalls’ Harrier flights Anderson serves as Landing Signal Officer. He is also expected to fly his Aero L-39 Albatross to the Culpeper Air Fest next week.
The airplane made its first flight on November 10, 2007, (appropriately the Marine Corps 232nd birthday) “with few squawks,” Nalls notes. However, a flight the next day revealed a total hydraulic failure, requiring an emergency landing that resulted in a collapsed nose landing gear with the Harrier coming to rest on its nose and right wing tip. (See video of the emergency landing.) After diagnosing the problem, repairs to the system were made and the Harrier took to the skies again on September 21, 2008, performing four successful takeoffs landings.
With all the FAA-required hours and landings complete, Nalls will go for his type-rating check ride scheduled for October 4. Assuming Nalls passes it (after all, he has more than 1,400 Harrier hours!), he will become the first person to be issued a Powered Lift pilot certificate.
The Culpeper Air Fest runs from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., featuring model airplanes, helicopters, jets the Flying Circus from Bealeton, warbirds and, finally Nalls’ Harriers flight.
The event is free. For more information on the event, see the listing on the EAA Calendar of Events. Nalls plans to use the airplane on the air show circuit.