Harriers Leave ARK ROYAL For The Last Time on Tyneside
At the river of her birth, ARK ROYAL says farewell...
Off the east coast of England, two GR9s – the apogee of an idea born five decades ago – roar past HMS Ark Royal, having lifted off from her deck for the very last time, hence the large number of 'goofers' watching.
In a matter of weeks, they will fly no more and their launchpad will sail no more.
The jump jets spent five days aboard the nation’s flagship as she paid a farewell visit to the Tyne, the river of her birth a generation ago.
Four GR9s – the bomber variant of the Harrier – flew aboard Ark as she made for Tyneside from Glen Mallan on the west coast of Scotland.
Two of the jets, from 800 Naval Air Squadron and the RAF’s 1(F) Sqn, received special paint jobs to mark their passing; like the aircraft carrier, the Harriers are being axed in the wake of October’s defence review.
Both are British icons. No warship name carries more weight in the public eye than Ark Royal, no modern aircraft embodies the best of British ingenuity and engineering than the Harrier.
And so some 10,000 people took advantage of a last chance to see both in the UK, visiting the carrier at her berth in North Shields; Ark was built three miles upstream at the Swan Hunter yard in Wallsend.
While on the Tyne, the ship’s company were treated to an official reception in Newcastle, 100 free tickets to watch the Sunderland-Everton Premiership football clash (a cracking 2-2 draw by all accounts), more hospitality courtesy of the Falcons rugby club, and the odd drink or two in local hostelries...
Thousands of people braved foul conditions on the Tyne to bid farewell to Ark Royal, lining both sides of the river in the fading light of a November afternoon.
The jets departed Ark shortly after she departed Tyneside – but they’re due to make a reappearance over Portsmouth next Friday when the flagship makes her final entry into Portsmouth (passing Round Tower around 9.30am).
Before then the very final ‘run ashore’ beckons for the carrier is Hamburg. Ark will be berthed at the Überseebrücke, on the edge of the great port’s city centre, from around 4pm (local time) tomorrow until November 30.
Picture: PO(Photo) Ray Jones, HMS Ark Royal