Hucknall Aerodrome

Inventors push boundaries and regenerate the world to advance the way we live, and their contributions can help to change the course of history. One of the most influential inventions that pushed the advancement of technology in the air industry was created at Hucknall Aerodrome. The Flying Bedstead, known officially as the Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig (TMR), led to the development of the Harrier jump jet – an aircraft famously used during the Falklands War.

Early history
Hucknall Aerodrome opened in 1916 as a Royal Flying Corps Training School, and was operational during the First World War. It was closed by the Air Ministry and sold to a farmer called George Elkington in 1919. Bought back by the ministry in 1927, the aerodrome reopened as RAF Hucknall the following year and was the home to the new No.504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron. In 1935, Rolls-Royce began sharing the aerodrome with the RAF for engine development and to test flying facilities. An important historic moment was when English engineer, inventor, and RAF officer, Sir Frank Whittle, conducted the first flight of his jet engine from RAF Hucknall that had a flying test bed of a Vickers Wellington bomber.

The Flying Bedstead
A momentous occasion in 1953 at Hucknall Aerodrome was when the world’s first vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft took off on its first flight. The Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig, or Flying Bedstead, had Nene turbojet engines and was designed by English engineer Dr Alan Arnold Griffith. 

His pioneering work led to the Hawker P.1127 that was the aircraft created before the Hawker Harrier jet. The nickname of the Flying Bedstead came from how the aircraft resembled a four-poster bed.

Picture caption: The Flying Bedstead

Aircraft accident
In 1957 during trials, the second of the Flying Bedsteads was involved in a fatal crash. The XK426 was carrying out a tethered flight in a gantry when it fell to the ground, bounced back up, and fell back to the ground hitting the gantry structure and killing the pilot. Wing Commander Henry G.F. Larsen, who was piloting the aircraft for the first time, was pinned underneath and crushed. As a result, the first Flying Bedstead was grounded and donated to the Science Museum, in London.

Places to visit
The Hucknall Flight Test Museum is based at the Hucknall Wing Hangar facility. It is a Grade II listed industrial building, originally constructed in 1944, on the Hucknall airfield site. It offers guided group visits by prior arrangement to share the story of Hucknall’s unique and pioneering aviation heritage. To learn more visit the website.

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