Local Harrier pilot to be featured in new series

California, MD- A piece of history sits in a hangar at the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport and later this morning it will be featured on the jumbo-tron in the middle of Times Square in New York City.

We’re talking about the Sea Harrier, known as the “SHAR”. It’s the only privately-owned, flyable Harrier in the world. Art Nalls, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, owns this piece of history. His Harrier is one of only 76 ever built and it’s the oldest surviving SHAR.

Nalls, owner of Nalls Aviation, just finished his tenth season performing at airshows around the country. He and his aircraft are the feature of a new series from AARP Studios called “Badass Pilot”. The nine-part series features Nalls as he and his crew travel the country performing at airshows. “Badass Pilot” is featured exclusively on AARP Studios’ YouTube channel and the first episode will air in the heart of the Big Apple Tuesday morning, Nov. 14. sat down and talked with Nalls before the show debuts. Nalls retired from the Marine Corps in 1998 after 22 years of service. After getting into real estate and development, Nalls said he realized his heart was still in the cockpit and he started investigating flying at airshows.

“I went to an airshow and thought ‘with my qualifications, I could do this.’” Nalls started performing at airshows in 2002 with his Czech Aero L-39C “Albatros”.

“I read an article in 2005 about the Royal Navy planning to surplus their Sea Harriers and I thought maybe I could get my hands on one. Most people thought I was crazy!” Nalls joked. He said he looked to make the purchase for business reasons because he knew the Harrier would be a popular performer at airshows. “I knew the demand exceeded the supply.”

In November of 2007, Nalls was the first non-military pilot to successfully fly a Harrier and he took off from right here at the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport. During the second flight, Nalls experienced a hydraulic failure which forced him to make an emergency landing at NAS Patuxent River.

The first time he flew his Harrier was at an airshow in Culpeper, VA. The show had the largest audience ever with more than 4,000 spectators. “People came from as far south as Florida and as far north of Maine just to see the Harrier,” Nalls recalled.
Nalls Aviation is also in possession of the world’s smallest flyable jet, the BD-5J. The tiny aircraft weighs just 358 pounds and is currently being upgraded with an electrical system, avionics, and a smoke system so it can also fly at airshows. The aircraft holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the smallest jet.

Nalls also purchased a two-seat Harrier, one of only 46 ever made, and it’s used for flight training and will eventually perform at airshows. It is the only civilian owned, flyable, two-seat Harrier trainer in the world.

Nalls is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a native of Fairfax, VA. He has a distinguished career in the Marine Corps and has flown 75 different types of aircraft and performed more than 400 launches from an aircraft carrier. Nalls was also a test pilot here at NAS Patuxent River.

In April of 1983, Nalls was flying a Harrier during a test flight when the aircraft lost power near Richmond. Nalls managed to safely land the unpowered Harrier on a civilian airport runway. It was the first time an engine-out landing had been performed in a Harrier. The standard emergency procedure in that situation called for an ejection. Nalls opted to glide the Harrier to the airport and performed a deadstick landing and stopped just 50 feet short of the end of the runway. Nalls was awarded the Air Medal for the first-of-a-kind Harrier landing.

Nalls said his success relies heavily on his team of volunteers, “It’s a bunch of good ole boys from St. Mary’s County who just want to be a part of the team.” Nalls Aviation has recently added two new pilots to the team, both female, both with experience flying the Harrier in combat.

Jenna Dolan, a 1996 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was the first woman to fly the AV-8B Harrier in combat. She still serves in the Marine Corps Reserves. Monica “Moose” Marusceac, joined the United States Marines after she was working at the World Trade Center during the September 11th attacks. She was the second female pilot of the AV-8B Harrier to deploy into combat.

Nalls said in the series, “Badass Pilots”, you can expect to see a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to fly these unique aircraft. “You’ll see how much work went into putting this aircraft together. People have no idea what it takes to put together an aircraft of this magnitude, that is this unique, and when things break we have to get parts from museums or dealers overseas.”

Click here to learn more about Nalls Aviation.

Contact Joy Shrum at

Click here to see a preview of the series.

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