Surbiton air cadets to lose iconic Harrier jet over health and safety fears

To be removed: The squadron's beloved Harrier

To be removed: The squadron's beloved Harrier

First published in News
Last updated
Surrey Comet: Photograph of the Author by , Senior reporter - 020 8722 6313

A Harrier jump jet that has stood at Surbiton air cadet headquarters since 2005 is to be removed over health and safety fears.

The RAF says the iconic jet, which is believed to have seen action in the Falklands War, is too old and the service plans to recycle its parts.

Surrey Comet:

The squadron celebrates its 70th anniversary in front of the Harrier, 2011

Elaine Chapman, treasurer at 1034 Surbiton squadron, said: "This is devastating news for the staff and cadets of the squadron.

"The airframe has a significant history including active service in the Falklands War and training many, many apprentices at RAF Cosford.

"[The Harrier] has been an amazing addition to the squadron as both a gate guardian and a teaching aid for the cadets.

"It will have a huge impact on the motivation and morale of the cadets who are very proud to be her custodians."

Former Surbiton cadet James Manning, 24, who now lives in Aberdeenshire and even uses the jet's tail number as his Twitter handle, said: "I was down there when she was delivered.

"Once you start hacking apart an airframe it instantly loses its character.

"People don't get a sense of scale of the aircraft and all the fine nuances that make up that particular aircraft.

"It would just be a crime. I would have it in my garden - I wouldn't want to see it broken up.

"It has been a part of me since it turned up."

Having the Harrier on site had brought in "loads" of new recruits, he added.

Another cadet, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "We as cadets are very proud of it and feel it is very much part of our squadron.

"All of the cadets, including myself, are very upset about the decision."

The GR3 model Harrier made history nine years ago, as the only jet built in Kingston's Hawker factory in the 1970s to return to the borough.

When it arrived home in 2005 - in fully working order - it was lifted by crane from its transport truck and lowered into 1034 Squadron's grounds.

Surrey Comet:

The Harrier's arrival. Photo courtesy of Vicki Harris

The plane flew in regular service from 1976 to 1990, and served in every squadron of the RAF.

A similar aircraft, restored by its owner to "like-new" condition over 1,000 man-hours, recently sold at a private auction for more than £100,000.

An RAF spokeswoman said: "Sadly the Harrier outside 1034 Surbiton Squadron has become a health and safety hazard due to its age and rapidly deteriorating condition.

"With this and the safety of our cadets in mind, it is no longer possible to keep the aircraft in its current location.

"The squadron and the volunteers have looked after the aircraft very well, however, unfortunately because of its age, it’s time to remove it."

A replacement vehicle for the squadron may or may not be found, the spokeswoman added.

Surrey Comet:

The Harrier being winched into place. Photo courtesy of Vicki Harris

Tolworth and Hook Rise councillor Vicki Harris said: "I think that's a terrible bit of news. That's been very valuable for all those kids.

"So what if it's a bit old? People still love seeing Spitfires. It would be a great loss if it has to go."

Comments (6)

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9:02am Tue 29 Jul 14

bystander tolworth says...

For goodness sake leave it where it is - if its supposed to be unsafe how safe would the spare parts be????? It belongs in Kingston, it was built in Kingston and it should stay in Kingston. Hands off RAF!!!!
For goodness sake leave it where it is - if its supposed to be unsafe how safe would the spare parts be????? It belongs in Kingston, it was built in Kingston and it should stay in Kingston. Hands off RAF!!!! bystander tolworth
  • Score: 5

1:31pm Tue 29 Jul 14

OJJ_UK says...

I have been part of the squadron now for almost 5 years, i think that it is a great shame that the powers that be are taking this from us. It is an integral part of our squadron and our passion and commitment to it is evident! BAE have been down on many occasions and i have greatly enjoyed peering into the vast, previously unseen spaces within the Harrier and learning all about its history and heritage. One of our civilian comittee members even has a connection to the plane, his father was one of the test pilots! Hopefully its not too late to change the minds of few so that others can enjoy this for many years to come!
I have been part of the squadron now for almost 5 years, i think that it is a great shame that the powers that be are taking this from us. It is an integral part of our squadron and our passion and commitment to it is evident! BAE have been down on many occasions and i have greatly enjoyed peering into the vast, previously unseen spaces within the Harrier and learning all about its history and heritage. One of our civilian comittee members even has a connection to the plane, his father was one of the test pilots! Hopefully its not too late to change the minds of few so that others can enjoy this for many years to come! OJJ_UK
  • Score: 7

3:26pm Tue 29 Jul 14

Imigrante says...

Here we go again.... too much "health and safety".............
Here we go again.... too much "health and safety"............. Imigrante
  • Score: 5

7:10pm Tue 29 Jul 14

Antonius says...

A great shame, but any aircraft left outside, needs a lot of money spent on it.
On a regular basis too.
A great shame, but any aircraft left outside, needs a lot of money spent on it. On a regular basis too. Antonius
  • Score: -5

7:22pm Wed 30 Jul 14

mpellatt says...

So.... on the basis that a risk assessment was carried out by the RAF:

i) Was this shared with the cadet squadron's command ?
ii) What were the specific unacceptable H&S risks that came out of the assessment ?
iii) Did any discussion over mitigation measures take place, that could have brought the risks to an acceptable level ?

Somehow, I think we all know the answers to these questions.....
So.... on the basis that a risk assessment was carried out by the RAF: i) Was this shared with the cadet squadron's command ? ii) What were the specific unacceptable H&S risks that came out of the assessment ? iii) Did any discussion over mitigation measures take place, that could have brought the risks to an acceptable level ? Somehow, I think we all know the answers to these questions..... mpellatt
  • Score: 5

7:32pm Fri 1 Aug 14

brom321 says...

another option would be to donate it to Brooklands museum then we could all enjoy it ?
another option would be to donate it to Brooklands museum then we could all enjoy it ? brom321
  • Score: 6

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