Posted on May 9, 2019
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!”
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.
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.”