7-Year-Old Buys Harrier on eBay
“Ultimate business promotional tool, garden feature, gate guardian, or museum aircraft,” proclaimed the eBay listing for XW269, a first-generation training version of the VTOL fighter aircraft.
The front flight deck is about 80 percent complete, including a Martin Baker Mk.9 Ejection seat. The rear flight deck is fairly empty but has the shell of an ejection seat. The front flight deck was used for “Night Bird Trials” with many Harrier GR.5 (and other Mk. Harrier) avionics, including a Harrier GR.5 moving map display.
February 10, 2011 — In December we reported the final retirement of the Harrier from active service in the British Royal Air Force. Now the retired jets are in great demand as former Royal Air Force mechanic Chris Wilson has done a brisk business selling the surplus jets. So far he has sold seven Sea Harriers, which is the second generation of the VTOL aircraft. A rare first-generation tandem-seat version (T2) used mostly in training was put up for sale recently by Wilson on eBay for $113,000 when a 7-year-old in London hit the “Buy It Now” button.
The child’s father soon realized the “purchase” and quickly phoned Wilson, who owns Jet Art Aviation, with apologies and regrets that he would not be purchasing the aircraft. The offering was soon changed to an auction to prevent further inadvertent purchases. As of press time the bids were up to $151,295.
Wilson spent 12 months restoring the external portion of the aircraft to museum static display standards. The airframe was fitted with an early T2 specification nose and three-tone camouflage paint scheme that is unique to the early Harriers. The aircraft is also fitted with weapons pods including Aden cannon pods on the belly. No engine is supplied but a Pegasus engine can be acquired if requested by the buyer. The interior is mostly complete including the unique front flight deck, which has both original instrumentation plus late-model avionics from the GR.5 models due to its status as a test aircraft.
In the early 19070s each frontline Harrier squadron was issued a T2 trainer variant for training and evaluation purposes. XW269 first entered service in 1971 and participated in weapons systems evaluation. It was eventually upgraded to the T4 standard and tested Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) systems for the “Night Bird” AV-8/GR.5. The aircraft also served with RAF Squadron 4 in Germany as a training aircraft for NATO during the cold war. Its final flight was in 1997.
The ‘Pepsi Points’ Harrier Case
The purchase by the young aircraft enthusiast brings back memories of the mid-1990s when Pepsi ran a promotion involving “Pepsi Points.” Purchases of Pepsi products earned points toward many desirable items in a “Pepsi Stuff” catalog. One commercial used in the promotion suggested that a Harrier could be had for the right amount of points. The offer of a Harrier by Pepsi may have been Madison Avenue hyperbole, but John Leonard tested that theory in 1996 by using the contest rules to attempt to collect on the Harrier prize. Leonard sued for breach of contract and fraud but eventually lost in 1999.