Friday, May 04, 2007

Sqn Ldr James.G 'Jimmy' Harrison 1918-2007

Jimmy Harrison was born in Portsmouth into a family with a naval background but, growing up in Middlesex, transferred his affections to the RAF as a result of watching the aircraft at Northolt Airport. He left Southall county school at 16 to join the RAF at Halton, Buckinghamshire, as an aircraftman fitter.
When the second world war began he was accepted for pilot training in Canada and was so exceptional that he was retained there as a pilot instructor until 1944. He finally succeeded in getting posted back to England, to an operational De Havilland Mosquito squadron, 605 County of Warwick, on specialised "night interdiction" missions following the D-day landings.
When the war ended Harrison, by now a squadron leader and commanding officer of his squadron, volunteered for No 8 course at Farnborough's prestigious Empire Test Pilots' School, graduating with distinction. Test flying the new swept-wing, tailless and experimental delta jets at that time - with simulators and computers yet to be developed - was hazardous, and 10 of the 28 pilots on his course were killed during the testing programmes. Then came Avro.
The Vulcan was not Harrison's only success. During his career, he flew 7,800 hours on 93 different types of aircraft, including 13 different prototypes. He ensured that the Hawker Siddeley 748 short-range turboprop airliner and the Nimrod maritime and military reconnaissance aircraft were, in the end, very safe planes. The Nimrod was developed from the world's first jet airliner, the De Havilland Comet. After retiring from test flying in 1969, Harrison was appointed product support manager until finally retiring to Chinley in Derbyshire in 1983.
A popular but professional man, Harrison was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air twice, once while in the RAF, and again at Avro. He was also awarded the Air Force Cross in 1952 for his work at Farnborough, and the OBE in 1968 for his key roles with the Vulcan, the Nimrod and the Hawker Siddeley 748.