On 27th September 1964 prototype aircraft XR219, a British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2, took to the skies above Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, England. Almost four years earlier, a British Government contract had been awarded jointly to the aircraft manufacturers Electric Aviation Ltd and Vickers-Armstrong (Aircraft) Ltd - both later amalgamated to become part of the British Aircraft Corporation - for the manufacture of a Tactical Strike and Reconnaissance aircraft. After four years of technical development the aircraft was destined to serve with the Royal Air Force as the force's frontline multi-purpose strike aircraft. She was expected to represent a major asset in the United Kingdom's Cold War nuclear deterrent and her design lead meant she was one of the most technically advanced aeroplanes ever conceived.
The technical complexities of the project and the ground-breaking design of the airframe and her flight systems would prove a formidable challenge for the British Aircraft Corporation and her sub-contractors. The four year development programme for the design and manufacture of the TSR-2 and subsequent test programme encountered significant political interference from British Government. However the TSR-2 represented a significant advance for the industry and she had the potential to become a world-class aeroplane.
As XR219 became airborne, under the control of pilot Roland Beamont and navigator Donald Bowen, a significant milestone in the TSR-2 project was reached. However, within weeks a change of government in the United Kingdom marked the beginning of the end for the TSR-2. Seven months later, a swift and decisive end to the project was announced. Deemed too expensive and too late into production, the death of the TSR-2 represented a severe blow to the British aviation industry and a significant undermining of the Royal Air Force's capabilities for many years.
Over forty years later, the British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2 remains a subject which invokes great interest. Her story is one of endeavour and ingenuity, but also one of lost opportunities and political sabotage.