In 1988 British Aerospace (BAe) Test Pilot Keith Hartley conducting the ‘cockpit habitability trial’ in his open-top Tornado XZ630.The test pilot Keith Hartley flew at 500 knots in a Panavia Tornado aircraft with the canopy off, testing the emergency escape procedures of the jet
This example Shows of the lengths Aviation industry go to test the safety of the planes we build for the RAF.”
According to the Book “Tornado GR1: An Operational History” The Author By Michael John W Napier. The Tornado GR1 enjoyed a relatively good safety record by the standards of the day
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. https://t.co/ueE5RDQt0Y #RAF100 pic.twitter.com/jcgL1OUIKL
— BAE Systems (@BAESystemsplc) June 20, 2018
one recurring theme, however, was that of Mid-air collisions and there was at least one involving a Tornado GR1 in each of the years from 1985 to 1989. Only one of these was between a member of the same formation ( An attempted to join up into night close formation in 1986) and the fact that the rest were Random occurrences is a reflection on the intensity of Low-Level flying particularly in the UK but also on the continent at the period. In 1985, a Tornado GR1 (ZA408) OF 45 Squadron from TWCU collided with Jaguar GR.1 (XZ393), from 54 Squadron at RAF Coltishall, off the coast near Sheringham, Norfolk(Both crews ejected Successfully).
Pilot Keith Hartley Flying Panavia Tornado with the canopy off at 500 knots
Two years later, A Tornado from 20 Squadron collided with Jaguar GR.1A (XZ116) from 41 Squadron near Keswick in the Lake District; Sadly the Jaguar pilot (Flt Lt A.S. Mannheim) was killed. In 1988, two Tornado crews (Fly Lt J.N.S Watts and Lt U.sayer (GAF) from TTTE and Flt Lt C.D. Oliver and Flt. A.D. Cook from 617 squadrons) were killed in an almost head-on Collision near Appleby, North Yorkshire while simultaneously and separately using the UK night LFS for auto-TF flying. As a result of this accident, a more proscriptive flow system and a slot system ( whereby units had exclusive use of the LFA during their allocated time) were introduced into the night LFS. The only Mid-air collision int the continental LFS was during the Mineval at Bruggen in January 1989; Flt Lt M.P. Smith and Flt Lt A.G. Grieve from 14 squadrons were killed when their when their Tornado hit an AlphaJet of the GAF over northern Germany
So to address the concerns about the habitability of the front cockpit without a canopy in the event of an ejection from the rear cockpit BAe test pilot Keith carried out trails of the “open-top tourer” version in July 1988
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.
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