Aircraft

Record-Breaking Harrier Restored And Reunited With Race-Winning Pilot

Tom Lecky Thompson flew the jet from London to New York in 1969.

The pilot who won the Transatlantic Air Race in 1969 has been reunited with his now-restored Harrier.

Tom Lecky Thompson got from London to New York in 6 hours, 11 minutes and 57 seconds, 50 years ago.

The record-breaking XV741 then became disused and was brought back to life by the company Jet Art Aviation.

After seven years of hard restoration work, the aircraft is now on display at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey.

Mr Lecky Thompson was overjoyed to be reunited with his "long lost friend":

"I wish it had been like this on the actual air race day, because we'd have gone even faster!"

Mr Lecky Thompson inspects his "long lost friend".
Mr Lecky Thompson inspects his "long lost friend".

In 1969, the Daily Mail put on a race from the GPO tower to the Empire State Building, or vice versa, to commemorate the transatlantic flight in 1919 by Alcock and Brown.

The Harrier and Mr Lecky Thompson took off from a disused coalfield outside St Pancras and made it to the empire state building in six hours, 11 minutes and 57 seconds.

During the flight, she was refuelled 11 times by an air tanker fleet. 

However, in more recent times the aircraft became disused and in need of a total restoration.

Watch: Chris Wilson, managing director at Jet Art Aviation, decided to take on the challenge of returning the jet to its former glory.

On the 50th anniversary of the race, the former pilot also caught up with Alan Merriman - his commander in the 1960s, who remembers his flying ambition well.

"He never seemed to get frightened by anything at all, which was a good sign, but I thought to myself, perhaps there's something a bit peculiar."

Mr Lecky Thompson said a football accident, which resulted in his knee being put in plaster in his youth, prompted Mr Merriman to ask him to make a choice between flying or sport:

"I chose flying."

The official time card from the race.
The official time card from the race.

To move the aircraft into its new home in Surrey last month required a great deal of preparation and care.

The Harrier was dismantled and successfully carried by two lorries to the Brooklands Museum.

It now sits alongside the iconic Vickers Vimy which crossed the Atlantic for the first time in 1919.

Harrier being lifted off the lorry at the museum.
The Harrier being lifted off the lorry at the museum.

Famous for its ability to do both conventional and vertical takeoffs and landings, the Harrier was a versatile, single-seat aircraft. We included it in our series on the RAF's top 10 planes of all time: