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Name: Gordon Jefferson
Transcript: 9 - Tropical trials of the Hunter

Gordon here relates how he was sent out to the Middle East on three occasions to conduct tropical trials on the Hunter.

It was important to test new aircraft in extreme conditions and so tropical trials  (and arctic trials) were necessary if the company wished to sell aircraft to foreign governments and share in the lucrative overseas market.

And you were involved in tropical trials.

Tropical trials yes.

Can you tell me about how that came about?

Well yes, the situation was I was at Dunsfold  as a sort of liaison man and the Ministry wanted somebody to - apart from the chap that was actually responsible from the point of view of the engineering maintenance of the airplane. They wanted somebody to represent design interests, if you like to put it that way. And so they used to send a feller from the works support department and a chap from design. And I was the chap from design. And we went to Aden, we went to Khartoum, we went to Bahrain over a period of three or four years.

So the purpose of doing the tropical trials was to test the aircraft in hot conditions presumably?

Yes it was, a hot soak and things like that. And of course the aeroplane, the cockpit gets so hot and the tropical equipment in the seat got so hot, the poor old pilot burnt his bottom. We had a tent which we put over, which made all the difference. So the aeroplanes would be in line with these tents over them 'cause we never came to the point where we had to do that. Presumably if we sold Hunters to various nations that had that kind of conditions these were the ancillary equipment which could be provided. So we tested all that and we tested the temperature of everything on the airplane after a hot soak. And of course, at altitude it's very much colder there than it is here - right at high altitude it's a reverse situation, hot on the ground very cold at altitude. Whereas here, it is temperate on the ground and not that cold, by comparison, when you get to high altitude. It is bloody cold mind you but it's not as cold as it is in the tropics.

So you have to adapt these aircraft for much greater extremes of heat.

Yes you do. In order to sell them to people in places like Saudi Arabia they have to be capable of operating under conditions which would be far greater temperature wise and the results of the high temperature. The sort of thing it would do is, it used to affect the glue that held the rubber bags that the fuel was in together. And sometimes you had to change the fuel tanks because the joints had melted. Now of course, fuel tanks don't have bags in them. They did in those days there was a bag.

So the Hunter subsequently sold pretty much all over the world, didn't it?

Yes it did.

It certainly sold to India and Pakistan and places like that. So presumably this was a successful


Stage of testing.

Yes. It was essential testing to be able to prove the airplane was capable of operating under those extreme conditions. There were other guys doing exactly the same in Canada. I wasn't involved in that. But we had - what's the opposite to tropical? arctic- arctic testing. And that was done at a Canadian facility somewhere, I can't remember the name of the place now. But the poor devils were absolutely frozen stiff.

But now of course, or subsequently there was a facility at Boscombe Down where they could get the temperature really down low which is like putting an aeroplane in a big refrigerator. But that was a thing I had nothing to do with.