It’s been seven years since former US Marine Corps aviator Art Nalls took center stage on the US air show circuit in his very own Sea Harrier FA2 fighter jet. He was the first and is so far only person in the world to privately own and operate a Harrier jump jet; a type still in service with several air arms around the world, including the US Marine Corps. Nalls has flown the former Royal Navy fighter more than a hundred times since getting her airworthy again, and has taken the jet to a number of air shows on the US east coast, as well as to AirVenture Oshkosh. During that time, many people have approached him wishing to fly in the aircraft, but given that it only has a single seat and requires significant training to control, this has so far proven impractical. However, that is set to change very soon. Nalls’ company, Nalls Aviation, has recently acquired an immaculately maintained Harrier T8 two seat trainer in the United Kingdom. This will be the first civilian-owned and operated Harrier trainer. Once it is fully certified in the United States, Nalls will be offering flight training in this unique aircraft, as well as air show performances.
“We’ve been working on this acquisition for nearly three years,” Art Nalls said in a recent interview. “The two-seat Harrier front cockpit is nearly identical to the Sea Harrier we already have flying and have flown successfully for seven air show seasons,” he added. “This not only represents a doubling of flyable aircraft in the civilian world, but paves the way for transitioning pilots to a civilian Harrier. The two, current civilian Harrier pilots are both Certified Flight Instructors in Powered Lift and have thousands of hours of flight time and test pilot experience between them. There are also a ton of pilots, who can get a Harrier type rating by virtue of their military training and experience. That means we could see more Harriers flying in the future.”
Nalls also stated that, “Our next civilian pilot will be awarded HER type rating very soon. That’s right…it will be a woman pilot. She has nearly 1,000 hours of Harrier flight time, combat experience and was a Weapons and Tactics Instructor. She is also a lieutenant colonel in the Marine reserves.”
The aircraft is a Harrier T8, serial ZD993, which served in both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. It is presently wearing a very attractive all-gloss black paint scheme from its days with the Royal Navy’s 899 Squadron, based at the home of British naval aviation, RNAS Yeovilton. Rather oddly, there is a Harrier T.4 in the USA marked up identically to ZD993 (and even carrying her serial number on the tail). This is actually XZ145, a former RAF example refurbished from a hulk in recent years, and now on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California (on loan from the Western Museum of Flight).
Nalls’ machine is still in the UK though. Interestingly, his new Harrier is in such fine condition that Nalls actually considered ferry-flying her across the Atlantic. However, common sense prevailed, and his team will disassemble the aircraft and ship her by sea. It will be a few months before this happens, and then of course there will be additional months required to get the aircraft ready for flight in the USA, but there’s a very good chance we will see this beautiful aircraft on the US air show circuit sometime in 2015. It will certainly be a highly desirable visitor at air shows, and for a select lucky few, a chance to get actual flight experience in this remarkable aircraft type.