World’s Only Civilian Harrier Debuts at Virginia Air Show
Art Nalls makes a pass over Culpeper Regional Airport.
The Sea Harrier hovers at 100 ft AGL.
Nalls grins widely following the flight.
October 15, 2008 — The world’s first - and only - civilian-owned Harrier jump jet made a flawless debut performance on Saturday, October 11, at the 9th annual Culpeper Air Fest in Virginia. Art Nalls, EAA and Warbirds of America member, acquired the Sea Harrier FA/2 from Britain’s Royal Navy in 2005 and has spent the last three years getting it back into flying shape. His 12-minute demonstration flight closed the air show and included several high-speed passes (one clocked at 537-kts) and the Harrier’s trademark hovering exhibition at about 100 feet AGL.
A retired Marine Lt. Col pilot with more than 1,400 hours flying the Harrier AV8-A and B models, Nalls said the first public flight went about as planned. “Considering that was the third time I’ve done it in 16 years, I was pretty pleased with it,” he said.
So what does it feel like to be the only person in the world to own and fly such a magnificent aircraft? Nalls explained that following the handful of flights made in the aircraft prior to the air show had him grinning from ear to ear. After landing at Culpeper, however, that grin turned to laughter.
“Uncontrollable laughter,” he said. “I even woke up in the middle of the night that night laughing. My wife said, ‘Will you quit that laughing and go to sleep!’ And I’m still laughing.” Nalls’ crew, responsible for getting the airplane into flying shape, felt like crying for joy, he said.
Thanks in large part to the Harrier, Air Fest drew more than 4,000 people, the most ever in its nine years according to Culpeper Regional Airport (CRJ) officials. “The airport was extremely pleased with the event,” Nalls noted. “They have never had crowds that big.” A Marine stationed at Pensacola, Florida, even drove 14 hours to see Nalls fly.
Compared to the Harriers he flew in the military, Nalls feels his FA/2 flies better than the A-model. “The A was more of a manual airplane – you had to fly it,” he said, equating it to driving a stick shift, whereas the B model was like an automatic.
He described his airplane as extremely responsive, extremely nimble, and an absolute pleasure to fly. It is a thirsty bird, though, consuming fuel at the rate of a gallon every two seconds while hovering.
Nalls is actively seeking sponsorships so he can perform at other events, including EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. “I would love to come to Oshkosh next year,” he said. “We guarantee you zero air speed at 100 feet ... and zero concession sales when the Harrier is flying.”
As those who’ve seen a Harrier fly can attest to that; everything and everyone literally stops, and all eyes look skyward.
See a video of the Harrier’s flight at Culpeper Air Fest at www.airshowbuzz.com/videos/view.php?v=a412fa65