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The Experimental Aircraft Programme, the EAP, was the technology demonstrator which ‘gave birth’ to the technology behind our Typhoon jet.

Our involvement

Video footage of the Experime...

Built by ourselves in the 1980s, it was the most advanced fighter aircraft ever built, and brought together technologies never seen before to make it an aircraft which was ahead of its time. It began life in May 1983, when our predecessor company - British Aerospace signed a contract with the British Government for its development. The programme was for a one-off research aircraft to test pioneering technology aimed at creating an advanced fighter aircraft

It was an unstable aircraft from first flight which made it more agile, there were no rods connecting the control sticks to the flight control systems and the wings were made out of carbon fibre. Today, these things are all common place but back then this was the cutting edge, it had never been done before.

Dave Ward

A member of the BAE Systems Flight Test Operations team involved in the programme, said the team involved in the EAP were building “an aircraft for the future.”

A piece of aviation history

Public debut, Farnborough, September 1986. Public debut, Farnborough, September 1986.

In April 1986, the EAP was rolled out by our predecessor company British Aerospace, at Warton, Lancashire, with employees lining the site’s runway to watch a piece of aviation history being made.

It was on August 8, 1986, when test pilot Dave Eagles, our then executive director of flight operations, took it to 30,000 feet and reached Mach 1.1, faster than the speed of sound.

Just three weeks later, it was wowing the crowds at the Farnborough Air Show. Following months of testing, it reached Mach 2.0 as the trial programme continued, including further trials which meant it could fly at more than 35 degrees, exceptional even by today’s standards.

The specialist departments would do their calculations and make sure everything we were doing as safe as it could be, and then we would go out and push the boundaries of what we knew.

Dave Ward

Top speed of Mach 2.0

Experimental Aircraft Programme in-flight. Experimental Aircraft Programme in-flight. Copyright: Geoffrey Lee

Following its debut at Farnborough, the EAP underwent an initial flight test programme covering 50 flights and then into a wider programme of testing.

This saw it attain a top speed of Mach 2.0 and was used for flight testing a variety of technologies for Typhoon , including electromagnetic compatibility tests, validation of flight-control systems and avionics and radar signature investigations at the BAe Warton radar cross-section range.

100 flights in 10 months

A celebration for the 100th EAP flight at Paris. Dave Ward 4th from the left. A celebration for the 100th EAP flight at Paris. Dave Ward 4th from the left.

In June 1987, the EAP performed its 100th flight at the Paris Air Show, meaning it had undertaken 100 flights in 10 months – a good effort for an experimental aircraft.

Then, in May 1991, it performed the 259th and final test sortie, taking the aircraft to a total of 195.21 flying hours, during which it had reached speeds in excess of Mach 2.0 and angles of attack of over 35 degrees in controlled flight.

It was later stored at Warton before being transported to the Department of Aeronautical, Automotive Engineering and Transport Studies at Loughborough University, Leicestershire, where it was used for undergraduate students to carry out design appreciation exercises.

We worked all hours, we could be in until midnight and then back in at 6.30am, it was hard work but it was satisfying. You knew you were at the start of something really special, what we created was the forefather of the next generation of flight.

Dave Ward

Want to see the EAP?

The EAP at its new home at the RAF Museum in Cosford, Shropshire. The EAP at its new home at the RAF Museum in Cosford, Shropshire.

The airframe of the EAP arrived at the RAF Museum in Cosford, Shropshire in 2012 following its departure from Loughborough University.

In February 2014, we officially donated the airframe to the museum to form the centrepiece of a new exhibition featuring the ground-breaking achievements of the aircraft. It sits alongside previously unseen video footage, interactive kiosks and images. Members of the public can visit the museum’s test flight hangar to view the exhibition which has been funded by us.