Some TSR2 Memories
1962 Having failed to join the RAF as a pilot (eye-sight) I decided that 'if I could not fly fast-jets, then I would like to design and build them.' So I went for interview down the road at Warton to become a student apprentice. The interview went well and I answered all the questions satisfactorily, but when asked if I had any questions to ask the company (salary, holidays, prospects etc), all I could think of was 'when will TSR2 fly?'
1964 Part of my student apprenticeship included some shop-floor experience at the Strand Road and Samlesbury sites. It was quite a 'rude-awakening' for someone from Kirkham Grammar School and I reluctantly had to learn how to swear, whilst 'helping' the skilled fitters make some of the smaller parts of Canberras, Lightnings and TSR2s. I was surprised at how the 'piece-work pay incentive system' was allowed to operate in those days. The fitters were able to 'save-up' large numbers of 'work tickets' and then submit them for payment at Christmas or Holiday times. Meantime, the progress and cost-accounting system was not fully aware of whether jobs had been done or not. It was no wonder that politicians were able to mis-quote the likely costs of TSR2 since even the company did not know all the facts!
1965 I was living in Preston, under the Warton flightpath, and the TSR2 prototype flew over several times and seemed very noisy, even compared to Lightnings. Further shop-floor experiences during my student apprenticeship followed, one example was helping to assemble TSR2 wings at Samlesbury, but then a few weeks later all of us apprentices were sent to Filton or Stevenage whilst the aircraft were destroyed and many of the people were sacked.
1966 The model aircraft club at Warton was able to acquire a substantial stock of balsa wood that had been purchased by the company to fill between the inner and outer skins of the TSR2 intakes. As a member of the club I bought some of this wood and it went into making a semi-scale flying model of TSR2. I hope to make another and better model of TSR2 one day, but this time with full radio control.
1968 I was working in the future projects office at Warton and was soon helping to size and design the MRCA / Tornado together with former wartime enemies from Germany and Italy - a unique opportunity enabled by the cancellation of TSR2. Some of my BAC colleagues on the MRCA team had worked on TSR2 for many years and one had been in the flight test team based at Boscombe Down for the early flying. When the fuselage of the second prototype XR220 fell off a lorry, he was the one who had to 'make the telephone call' to Freddie Page and tell him the news. He remembered passing the 'good news' and expecting an angry reaction, only nothing came down the line for several minutes, so he eventually hung up. He long believed that somewhere in Warton there was an office with a telephone handset still swinging.
1970s till today I regularly visit aircraft museums and see the remaining two TSR2 aircraft at Duxford and Cosford, and am always amazed just how big they are relative to the more recent Jaguar, Tornado and Typhoon.
More recently During a visit to Russia I was strolling across a deserted Red Square at Midnight in Moscow (!) and was struck by the chilling thought that this spot would have been a prime target for TSR2 squadrons if the Cold War had turned Hot.
George Seyfang 24 February 2017