A. R. Ae. S.

First published 1950 by Forbes Robertson Ltd.

© Geoffrey Dorman 1950

Cover image courtesy of Paul Slater

Editor's notes

This book was published in 1950, less than a half century after the Wright brothers' first powered flight. Between those dates the pace of aircraft development was astonishingly rapid, partly accelerated by the military demands of two world wars, the latest jet aircraft a sharp contrast in design and performance to the flimsy Wright Flyer of 1903. Experimental aircraft had already broken the sound barrier.

Included in this illustrious group of men (no women in those days devoid of gender equality!) is John Moore-Brabazon. Author Mr Dorman notes that although 'Brab' was not technically a test pilot he merits inclusion as the achiever, in 1909, of the first authenticated powered flight in England by a British subject. Indeed his pilot's certificate number was 1.

The group also includes record breakers: Group Captain Edward Donaldson set a new world air speed record of 616 m.p.h. in September, 1946 flying a Gloster Meteor Mk. 4. Roland Beaumont and John Derry were the first British pilots to exceed the speed of sound (in the USA and in the UK respectively).
After this book was published Neville Duke in September 1953 set a new record of 728 m.p.h. flying a Hawker Hunter. In March 1956 Peter Twiss again broke the record, raising it to 1,132 mph in the Fairey Delta 2 research aircraft.

John Lancaster was the first pilot to eject from a British aircraft during an in-flight emergency by deployment of the Martin-Baker ejection seat. He eventually lived to the age of 100 years.

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In his book "Jet flight", John Grierson, who was one of the Gloster team of pilots who tested the very first jet aircraft, wrote this of a test flight by Michael Daunt on 5th March, 1943. It gives a good insight into test flying.

"Quite a lot had happened
a successful take-off had been made, an out-of-balance nose-wheel detected, serious unpleasant directional instability had been encountered and experimented with in an effort to trace its origin, a safe landing had been effected and a fault had been detected in the undercarriage shock absorption. All this was obtained as the result of a flight with a duration of just three and a half minutes! This is real test flying, when the pilot notes everything that is happening and is able to render a story, not only coherent but constructive, on landing."


To all keen airminded boys and young men
especially those of the West London Aviation Clubhoping that they too, like these test pilots, will have sufficient keenness to press on regardless and so attain their objective of becoming pilots.G.D.       


MY OBJECT in writing this book is to put on record something about the men of Britain who have tested the British aeroplanes immediately after the World War of 1939-45. This has been the period of greatest change and progress since the start of aviation nearly 50 years ago, for it has seen the beginning of practical jet-propelled aircraft
fighters, bombers, and airliners.

Possibly aeroplanes such as the Comet tested by John Cunningham and the Swift tested by Mike Lithgow, will, in the not very distant future, be looked on by a new generation as "funny old sub-sonic crates with those old-fashioned wings"! Some of my subjects in this book can remember testing biplanes which, in their day, were considered as being "super" just as were the Comet and Swift in 1950.

This book has been possible only by close co-operation between the test pilots and me. I have often extracted the information with great difficulty at first. Some test pilots are about as easy to pin down to a date as quicksilver! Once they realised what I was trying to do, they have one and all been most co-operative.

The older ones were the easiest. They have lived and learned, and long ago they learned that publicity, though few of them like it, is a necessary evil which cannot be avoided!

The opening gambit of about two thirds of the pilots, when I first told them what I wanted, was "Well, there is nothing very exciting or out of the ordinary about my life". I got to know this by heart!

In every case the younger ones were the most difficult, and for entirely praiseworthy reasons. Apart from the fact that they did not want to be accused by their fellows of "line-shooting", they felt that they had been flying for such a short time compared with Mutt Summers, Harald Penrose, or R. T. Shephard, who have been testing since the 1920s, that they could not possibly have had experiences which would interest anyone. It was only when I persuaded some of them to talk informally over a glass of something or to try and put a few notes on paper, that they realised that even they, babes as they were by comparison, had lived interesting lives.

As to being accused by their fellows of "line-shooting”, I was able to assure them that they would "all be in the dog-house together".       

All pilots of whom I have written are now my very good friends, and I have flown with most of them. Some of the older ones I have known for years; I am extremely proud now to number the younger ones among my new friends
good types, but in spite of this, I still talk to all test pilots with a certain amount of awe and respect, for as one of the most ham-handed of pilots, I have a real and tremendous admiration for their knowledge and skill.

The "gang" of whom I write cover a wide range, and represent a real cross-
section of life. One, who is now over 50, was a pilot in the R.F.C. in 1916; he still flies 600 m.p.h. jet fighters. Another was a boy cadet in the Air Training Corps during the last war.

There was one in whom I took a special feeling of pride. Some years ago he was a telegraph boy. I formed a flying club for those boys, and to get on easy terms with them, I had myself fitted out with telegraph boy’s uniform. The biggest boy was told to give me his uniform, which formed a bond of friendship between us which existed till his death in June, 1950. When an aircraft manufacturer offered to teach one of my telegraph boys to fly, I chose the one whose uniform I had inherited. On such irrelevant trivialities careers turn, for before that Jeep Cable had no thoughts of flying. He became chief helicopter test pilot to the Ministry of Supply.

Another of these pilots was a London policeman in the blitz. He transferred to the Fleet Air Arm because he found a "copper's" uniform too hot in summer!

All were boys of great determination, and their success in getting into flying, often against great odds, should be examples to boys reaching their adolescence. Many of them were Fighter Boys who helped to save the world in the Battle of Britain, or Bomber Boys who helped to pulverise Germany. Most of them have taken part in events which stirred the world at the time.

It has been interesting to find what caused them to take an initial interest in flying, and how pioneers such as Sir Alan Cobham, who toured Britain with an "air circus" brought flying at first hand to many boys who are now test pilots.

I have included the first of them all, J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon, who is now Lord Brabazon of Tara, who has written an introduction to this book. When he first flew in 1908, every flight was a test flight!

Some of these have appeared serially, in dehydrated form, in the Air Reserve Gazette, Wings (S. Africa), Canadian Aviation, and White's Aviation in New Zealand.

I would like to give full credit to John Yoxall of Flight, for giving me the idea. Some years ago he wrote a rather similar series in Flight of which he is the art editor. I thought they were some of the most interesting aviation articles I had ever read. I was extremely disappointed when John concluded his series. As I was most anxious to go on reading about the current series of test pilots, the only solution seemed to be to write them myself. And this I have now done with John Yoxall’s blessing.

To the victims, the test pilots themselves, my thanks for being so patient with me.


30 Redburn Street, Chelsea, London, S.W.3. 1st November, 1950.       


Click on the blue dots to access the various chapters directly


  Introduction by the Rt. Hon. Lord Brabazon of Tara, P.C., M.C., F.R.Ae.S.
  J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon, now the Rt. Hon. Lord Brabazon of Tara, P.C., M.C., F.R.Ae.S.; the first of them all

  R. P. Beamont, D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Bar, D.F.C. (U.S.A.), A.R.Ae.S., English Electric Co. Ltd.

 T. W. Brooke-Smith, A.R.Ae.S., Short Bros. & Harland Ltd.

 G. R. Bryce, Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd.  

 F. J. Cable, A.F.C., Chief Rotary Wing Test Pilot, Ministry of Supply

 Leslie R. Colquhoun, G.M., D.F.C., D.F.M., Supermarine Division, Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. 

 R. M. Crosley, D.S.C., Short Bros. & Harland Ltd.

 J. Cunningham, D.S.O. and two Bars, D.F.C. and Bar, de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd.   

 John Derry, D.F.C., de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd.

 Group Captain E. M. Donaldson, D.S.O., A.F.C. and Bar, R.A.F. High-Speed Flight   

 Neville Duke, D.S.O., D.F.C. and two Bars, A.F.C., M.C.(Czech)     

 George Errington, A.F.R.Ae.S., Airspeed Ltd. 

 E. Franklin, D.F.C., A.F.C., Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd.    

 A. E. Gunn, Boulton Paul Aircraft Ltd.  

 H. G. Hazelden, D.F.C., Handley Page Ltd. 

 Wing Commander J. A. Kent, D.F.C. and Bar. A.F.C., A.R.Ae.S., Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough

 J. O. Lancaster, D.F.C., Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd.

 P. G. Lawrence, M.B.E., A.R.Ae.S., Blackburn & General Aircraft Ltd.

 M. J . Lithgow, Supermarine Division, Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd.

 G. E. Lowdell, A.F.M., Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd.

 H. A. Marsh, A.F.C., A.F.R.Ae.S., Cierva Autogiro Co. Ltd.

 J. H. Orrell, A.R.Ae.S., A. V. Roe & Co. Ltd.

 A. J. Pegg, M.B.E., Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd.

 Harald Penrose, O.B.E., F.R.Ae.S., Westland Aircraft Ltd.

 R. L. Porteous, Auster Aircraft Ltd.

 W. B. Price-Owen, A.R.Ae.S., Armstrong-Siddeley Motors Ltd.

 H. A. Purvis, D.F.C., A.F.C. and Bar, Civil Aircraft Test Section, Ministry of Supply

 Michael Randrup, D. Napier & Son Ltd.

 R. T. Shepherd, O.B.E., Rolls-Royce Ltd.

 R. G. Slade, Fairey Aviation Co. Ltd.

 J. B. Starky, D.S.O., D.F.C., Armstrong-Siddeley Motors Ltd.

 J. Summers, O.B.E., Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd.

 L. P. Twiss, D.S.C. and Bar, Fairey Aviation Co. Ltd.

 G. A. V. Tyson, Saunders-Roe Ltd.

 T. S. Wade, D.F.C., A.F.C., Hawker Aircraft Co. Ltd.

 Air Commodore Allen Wheeler, O.B.E., Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough

 List of Abbreviations


The chapters have deliberately not been numbered, so that no one can be alleged unlucky
or luckythirteen. For it will not be known whether to start numbering from the introduction, or from Moore-Brabazon or Beamont!


WE ARE taught to-day that travel by aeroplane is entirely safe. I would not for a moment dispute such instruction, but I reserve to myself my own opinion on the subject, based as it is on a good deal of inside knowledge, and will keep it to myself.

No one, however, will dispute that new types are subject, shall we say, to "growing pains". The intensity of these pains vary a good deal, from slight aches to veritable spasms of agony.

Test pilots have the duty imposed on them of taking, for the first time, into the air, the hopes and confidences of the designer. Of all people I think the test pilot will agree that aeronautics is still not an exact science!

Faced with a dazzling collection of dials, imposed upon a five manual organ, with controls all in new positions, the first take off of a new type must be what the French so well describe as a moment emotional.

When your back is to the wall, many people are capable of very brave actions. I count them as nothing to the bravery of the man who deliberately steps into a new machine and for the first time unsticks to prove it works.

These are tremendous people that Geoffrey Dorman writes about. It is fit and proper that those who do these great jobs should be appreciated, revered and known, and it is for that reason I commend, to all who are interested in the development and perils of air, this admirable book. 



The first of them all; now the Rt. Hon.

I START this book on the current series of British Test Pilots with J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon very properly; for though he is now Lord Brabazon of Tara, and so is no longer current as Moore-Brabazon nor as a test pilot, he is, as I write this in 1950, happily as active as ever in all other ways, and may he long remain so. He is one of the most beloved, of many of the beloved pioneers who seem to be about as deathless physically as they will always be in aeronautical history.

Brab, as he is affectionately called by so many, was never quite a test pilot, in the sense that phrase is used to-day, but when he began flying in 1908, and during all his active life as a pilot, every flight was indeed a test flight.

At the opening of the Twentieth Century, well-off young men found outlets for their exuberant energy and youthful high spirits in motoring and ballooning. One such young man was John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon, who was an undergraduate at Cambridge with another young man in similar circumstances, the Hon. C. S. Rolls, who later founded what is now the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, and Rolls-Royce Ltd. Charlie Rolls was Brab's closest friend and between them they owned a balloon which they named Venus.

On one occasion when the pair of them had been ballooning, returning to College late, Brab explained to his tutor that he had been ballooning and had been unable to get his train back to Cambridge. His tutor, probably a bit sceptical, said that was the most extraordinary excuse ever given to him for lateness!

Brab began motor-racing in 1903 and drove a big 120 h.p. Mors in a race on the sea front at Brighton, and in many races on the Continent, winning the Circuit of the Ardennes in 1907. He was at once attracted by the first aeroplanes of the Wright Brothers, Santos Dumont, Farman, Blériot, and other pioneers. He went to France in the latter part of 1908 and bought a big biplane, which even then looked a bit clumsy, called a Voisin, made by two French brothers, and he had learned to make short flights on it by the end of 1908.       

The first picture on the first page of the first issue of Flight, January, 1909, shows Moore-Brabazon flying his Voisin in France at Issy-les-Moulineaux in Paris.

Early in 1909 he brought this Voisin to England and erected it at Shellbeach in the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, where the Aero Club of the United Kingdom (not Royal till 1910) had made a flying-ground with a club-house
the first flying club in Britain! He had named his Voisin Bird of Passage and he began making short hops with it. On 2nd May, 1909, he made quite a short flight of half a mile—a bit more than a hop—which was recognised by the Royal Aero Club many years later, after careful investigation of many claims, as being the first real authenticated flight by a British subject in Great Britain.

I vividly remember reading each week in Flight and the Aero (the predecessor of the Aeroplane) of the flights made each week in the Isle of Sheppey by young Moore-Brabazon. Even then he had the impish sense of fun, which has developed so pleasantly, and is such a joy at any gathering at which Brab speaks. There was a current phrase of those days, "Pigs might fly", to suggest the fantastically impossible. Brab very soon debunked that. He obtained a pig in a crate, and strapped it on the leading edge of a biplane beside him with a notice on the crate, "I am the first pig to fly", and he took it tor a short flight!

Being anxious to start British aviation, he ordered a machine designed by Short Bros. Ltd. with a 50 h.p. Green motor. It was very different from the Short Solents which have been taking 39 passengers and six crew so comfortably and spaciously through Central Africa, or the 1950 Shorts which Brookie Brooke-Smith and Mike Crosley test. On it he won a prize of £1,000 offered by the Daily Mail for the first circular flight of one mile by a British subject on a British-built aeroplane with a British motor.

On that aeroplane he also won the first British Michelin cup with a flight at Eastchurch of 19 miles. Though this was officially the 1909 Cup, he made the flight on 1st March, 1910, as the prize was not offered till 1st April, 1909, and was current for a year. As was usually the case then, when performance increased measurably from day to day, the winner made the flight in the last month of the competition!

He continued flying until the middle of 1910, and when the Royal Aero Club began issuing F.A.I. Aviators' Certificates, Brab was awarded No. 1 and Charlie Rolls got No. 2. When Charlie Rolls was the first British aviator to be killed, in July, 1910, in an aviation meeting at Bournemouth, Brab retired from active flying as a protest against what he described as the encouragement of dangerous circus tricks at flying meetings.

During the 1914 war he joined the Royal Flying Corps and was in charge of the development of aerial photography from the beginning, ending that war as a Lieut-Colonel.

After that war he entered Parliament as Conservative M.P. for Rochester, the home of Short Bros. Ltd., and in 1923 was made Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport. When in that office he acquired for himself the very appropriate car registration number "FLY 1".

He was made Minister of Transport in Churchill's Government of 1940 and at the height of the Battle of Britain he was made Minister of Aircraft Production in succession to Lord Beaverbrook. About that time he was raised to the Peerage.

While he was Minister of Aircraft Production he said, in a speech at a private dinner, that he thought it would be of immense value to us that the Russians and Germans would now be fighting one another, which would enable us to receive less attention from Germany. That speech was viewed with grave displeasure by the Communists in this country. Mr. Tanner raised the matter at the Trades Union Congress, and Brab was forced to resign from the Govemment!

He is President of the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom and President of the Royal Institution, Past President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and Past President of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

He gives his name to the Bristol Brabazon airliner which was first tested in September, 1949, by Bill Pegg, as recounted in the chapter on Pegg. In the first place the project was named "Brabazon I" as it was the first and largest of a number of airliners which were recommended by the Brabazon Committee presided over by Lord Brabazon, which was set up in 1943 to examine the needs of British Civil Aviation when the war of 1939-45 ended. Three or four years ago, the Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd., who were building the "Brabazon I" decided to give it the type name of "Brabazon" in honour of a greatly respected and loved British pioneer aviator. Brab is indeed the prototype British test pilot.       


D.S.O. & BAR, D.F.C. & BAR, D.F.C. (U.S.A.), A.R.Ae.S.


WING COMMANDER ROLAND PROSPER BEAMONT, D.S.O. (and bar), D.F.C. (and bar), D.F.C. (U.S.A.), A.R.Ae.S., became Chief Test Pilot to the English Electric Co. Ltd. in May, 1947. In May, 1948, when on a visit to the United States to fly an experimental aircraft, he flew the North American P 86 Research fighter at a Mach Number of 1.005 and thereby became the first British pilot to exceed the speed of sound.

I am not quoting Beamont when I say it was only that well-known "caginess" and silly secrecy complex from which our Ministry of Supply so severely suffers, which prevented the British public hearing at the time of this feat by a young British pilot. For this was three months earlier than when John Derry, in the DH 108, was the first to exceed the speed of sound in the United Kingdom.

Beamont, who is known to his friends as "Bee", was born at Chichester in Sussex on 10th August, 1920.

He became interested in aviation at a very early age, because of the nearness of the R.A.F. station at Tangmere to his home. "I spent a large proportion of my early life rubber-necking on the boundary of Tangmere, worshipping my heroes who flew Armstrong Whitworth Siskins, and later, Hawker Furies," he told me.

After going to school at Eastbourne College, he made strenuous efforts to get into the R.A.F., and as soon as he reached the age of 18 he began to train for a Short Service Commission in the latter part of 1938. Early in 1939 he learned to fly at the Reserve School, operated by de Havillands at White Waltham, on Tiger Moths. When war came in September, 1939, he was at No. 13 Flying Training School at Drem and continued his flying on Hawker Hart biplanes, after which he was posted, "fully trained" and wearing his Wings, to No. 11 Group Fighter Pool at St. Athan where he graduated on Hawker Hurricanes. It is noteworthy that from the days of Drem, and right through his operational period, he flew mainly on the designs of Sidney Camm, the famous Hawker designer.

Bee entered the Battle of Britain at the age of 20, and is very typical of the keen-type Fighter Boys, who went full of enthusiasm and seemingly tireless into that great battle above the English countryside. How very young they all seemed, and how "flat out" they were. Even before the Battle of Britain began Bee had seen service with No. 87 Squadron in Hurricanes in France and Belgium during the Battle of France. When that battle was lost, he returned to England and was first stationed with his squadron near Exeter.

His first combat with the enemy occurred during the retreat on Dunkirk when, to use his own words, "I was a highly experienced (and highly ignorant) Hurricane pilot with 180 hours total flying experience". He went on to tell me how he found himself cut off from his formation somewhere south of Brussels, apparently entirely surrounded by Me. 110s.

"The latter all behaved in a most hostile manner," he said, "and as I had never been in close combat before, I was too petrified to do anything more than attempt to disappear in the usual manner in ever decreasing circles! But eventually one Me. 110 blocked my view for an appreciable period and got both his motors stopped for his foolishness. However, the air in my immediate vicinity continued to be so full of tracer that I did the only possible thing and aileron-turned straight down to ground level.

"Reaching this strategic position in one piece, I straightened out in the rough direction of home, apparently over the top of a whole series of flak posts. Then, to add insult to injury, horizontal tracer quite close to the cockpit indicated that I was not only being shot at from the ground, but on looking round I found a large and corpulent Dornier, sitting some 200 yards behind, insolently potting away at me with his front gun.

"This pilot, by the way, was as capable as I was incapable, and when turning round under his tail I found I had run out of ammunition, and thereupon attempted to break off the engagement, he did not return the compliment and it took me some highly energetic minutes to get away from him. None of this was very glorious, and it was all rather frightening.”

I am sure that all readers will agree with 20-year-old Bee that this was a frightening experience for a mere boy in his first battle for life, but even if he thinks it was not very glorious, it showed he had that discretion which is the better part of valour. If he had carried on the fight against unequal odds, no doubt he would have died gallantly for his country. As it was he lived for his country to destroy eight enemy aircraft in the air, and many on the ground; to destroy 35 locomotives and trains; and 32 V.1. flying bombs or doodlebugs; and become one of Britain's leading test pilots.

In August, 1940, he was mentioned in despatches for his work over the Dunkirk area.

He served with No. 79 Squadron as flight commander flying Hurricanes from 1941 to 1942 on the night defence of London, escorting bombers over occupied territory, and offensive sweeps, during which tour of duty he was awarded his first D.F.C.

In 1942 he took command of No. 609 Squadron equipped with the new Typhoons, during which command he introduced to Typhoons the new art of train-busting by day and by night. This art consisted of dislocating the German supply by shooting up trains with cannon fire, causing chaos and crippling shortage of rolling-stock. In three months his squadron destroyed 100 trains, of which Bee’s personal score was 25.

In 1944 he formed the first Wing equipped with the new Tempests at Dungeness, and later operated from Brussels and Volkel. He and his Wing operated over the Normandy beach heads from D Day, 6th June. Bee himself shot down the first enemy to fall to a Tempest two days after D Day. That was a Me. 109.

He and his Wing went into action from 16th June, 1944, against the doodlebugs during which the Wing destroyed 640 of which he scored 32.

He led his Wing to Holland in September, 1944, and went into action over the forward areas and Germany itself. An unlucky incident when low straffing over Germany put an end, for a time, to his useful career. On 13th October, 1944, he was captured and spent the remaining few months of the war as a prisoner.

During his very hectic war career, the hazards of combat were not, by themselves, sufficient fun for young Bee. So all "rest" periods from operations were spent in learning the art of test flying. Being highly experienced with Hawker aircraft in combat, he got himself posted to the firm for a spell. From December, 1941, to July, 1942, he tested production Hurricanes and Typhoons. Then he had a further 14 months as No. 2 experimental test pilot to George Bulman. Before he returned to operations in March, 1944, he shared the development test flying of the Tempest with Bill Humble.

In January, 1943, he was awarded a bar to his D.F.C. for his train-busting, and in May the same year he won his first D.S.O. In July, 1944, he was given a bar to his D.S.O. for dealing with doodlebugs, and in March, 1946, came his United States D.F.C.

On repatriation at the end of the war, he was posted to command the Air Fighting Development Squadron at the Central Fighter Establishment.

He then spent a time as experimental test pilot with Gloster Aircraft, and with Eric Greenwood did much of the development flying with the Meteor 4, preparatory to the successful attack on the world speed record in 1945. He reached a true speed of 632 m.p.h. on test. He then had a period with the de Havilland Aircraft Co. as military demonstration pilot. I well remember the wonderful show he made at the first post-war Society of British Aircraft Constructors' Air Show at Radlett in September, 1946, with a Vampire.

His flying of the Vampire first brought him into contact with the English Electric Co., as this firm built all the first production Vampires when de Havillands were too busy with Mosquito production to build this later design of theirs.

The English Electric Co. had previously "dabbled" with their own designs, having built an ultra-light plane, the Wren, in 1923 and one or two not very successful flying-boats.

Their experience with the Vampire and Halifax provided a good background for setting up their own design department, and in 1949 they produced the Canberra, the first British jet bomber to the design of W. E. Petter who had previously designed the Westland Whirlwind, Welkin, and Lysander. Bee made all the prototype tests and caused something of a sensation by his handling of it at the 1949 Air Show at Farnborough. The hard-bitten spectators gasped with surprise as he threw it about as though it were a small fighter. There was an emotioning moment too, on that first day, when after a roll, bits were seen to fall from the aircraft. But the "bits" were loose rags and bits of cloth, which fell from the bomb-bay whose doors he had opened to slow up.

In all he has flown close on 2,800 hours on 98 different types, including 10 different jet types. He has made over 1,700 test flights. His operational hours against the enemy totalled 650, all of which is a surprisingly high total for one who looks so young.       




SINCE March, 1948, Thomas William Brooke-Smith, A.R.Ae.S., has been Chief Test Pilot to Short Bros. & Harland Ltd., succeeding John Lankester Parker who filled that post for the record time of 29 years, and Geoffrey Tyson.

Tom Brooke-Smith was born in Lincolnshire on 14th August, 1913, when Parker had already begun testing for Short Bros. He was quite a small boy when his attention was first turned to aviation problems.

"Rudimentary steps were with a cat. Little beast that I was, I could not resist projecting it through my nursery window and seeing it land the right way up, regardless of the attitude when launched," he told me. "Those experiments were carried a stage further a year or so later. On sunny afternoons, and when the gardener wasn't about, I tried my hand at parachuting off a 10 ft. wall on to an asparagus bed with the aid of my father's best umbrella!"

Both those incidents show that "Brookie" began his early enquiries into the aerodynamical future in an exceedingly practical manner, both as regards undercarts and life-saving devices.

His first real contact with an aeroplane came in about 1926 when he was about eight years old. An Avro 504k was giving joyrides from a small field near his home, and he remembers how much he was impressed by the pilot with his leather flying-coat, helmet, and goggles.

"I was also most impressed," he said, "with the strong smell of castor oil, and from then on this smell had only one meaning for me
aeroplanes. This, of course, was the start of it all, and some few years later, at school, when I was about twelve years old, I was asked if I had given any thought to a future career. 'Yes,' I said, 'aviation'."

He was educated at Bedford, a school which produced many names now famous in aviation such as Claude Grahame-White and R. J. (Spitfire) Mitchell. Cardington, near Bedford, was then the home of the airships R 100 and R 101 which the Bedfordians referred to as "ours". Brookie watched the take off of the 101 on its disastrous start for India when it crashed in France killing most of its crew. He recalls that the ship behaved with sullen obstinacy when ascending from the mast, and many who saw her, shook their heads to one another. "I never went much on airships after that," he said!

After leaving Bedford College he entered the College of Aeronautical Engineering in 1934. Many of his friends have heard a story that he ran away from school to learn to fly, after watching aeroplanes at the R.A.F. base at Henlow, but that is quite untrue.

After completing his course at the College of Aeronautical Engineering, he joined the Brooklands School of flying under Duncan Davis. "The day I passed through 'Shell-Way', the road into the famous Brooklands Track, en route for my first lesson, will stay in my memory so long as I live," he told me recently.

He flew solo for the first time on the day following his seventeenth birthday, his age having disqualified him for doing so any earlier. That is, of course, the greatest milestone in any aviator's career, and of course Brookie was thoroughly thrilled by it. It was not many days before he made the necessary flying tests for his Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificate and his Pilot’s "A" Licence.

"It was here at Brooklands," he told me, "watching people like Mutt Summers and Jeffery Quill of Vickers, Hindmarsh and Dick Renell of Hawkers, in action, that I made up my mind then and there, that I would, at all costs, ultimately become a test pilot myself."

A few weeks after gaining his "A" Licence he became a private owner, a very proud private owner, of a red and silver Puss Moth. With that aeroplane he had what he describes as "a good many escapades, more than a few near misses, and a lot of fun".

When flying about England he preferred to use fields rather than aerodromes, and a lift in the baker's cart as far as the village from a neighbouring meadow was a frequent occurrence on his week-end visits to his father in Lincolnshire.

During the next two years, which separated him from the qualifying age for a Pilot's "B " Licence, he thought he would like to get some practical experience of everyday running and maintenance of aeroplanes.

He joined Continental Airways Ltd., a well-known air line firm at Croydon. He was taken on as a labourer, and worked six days out of seven, with a night shift every other week. His pay packet contained twenty-five shillings weekly, and he set out to live on that.       

After deducting Health Insurance Contribution, that left nothing except just enough for board and lodging.

At first he had little to do but clean cowlings in a paraffin bath. The only times he came into contact with aeroplanes would be after a bumpy trip when malaise de l'air had wrought its usual distressing results in the cabin, which Brookie had to clear up. But he says that in spite of all that "naturally I enjoyed it"!

Soon after his nineteenth birthday he got his "B" Licence and he took a job with a small joy-riding and charter firm. Almost his first job was to take a middle-aged couple to France. He was completely green as regards Customs formalities, but put on an outward show of confidence.

"The flight went off well," he said, "and on taking leave of my customers a piece of paper was pressed into my hand. It was a five pound note, and more than my week's wages; and it was the first time I had ever been tipped in my life."

He had another regular customer, always beautifully dressed, whom he flew to Le Touquet about twice a week to play roulette. This passenger practiced with his own wheel in the air. Brookie thought he was probably a wealthy stockbroker, but ultimately discovered that he was a curate!

When war came on 3rd September, 1939, he was with the Hon. Mrs. Victor Bruce's Air Dispatch Ltd. and operated much in France in the very hard winter of that year. He told me that the Air Registration Board would have shown severe displeasure if they had known of his use of a paraffin stove in the cabin to keep from freezing!

Then came the opportunity to fly many varied types of aircraft during a period with Air Transport Auxiliary, which ferried Service aircraft from factories to squadrons.

In 1942 he joined Short Bros. as a junior test pilot. Lankester Parker was then Chief Test Pilot. He started with Stirling bombers and Sunderland flying-boats from the production line. He can justly claim more than a modest share in flight testing many of those famous aircraft as well as Sandringhams, Hythes, Plymouths, Bermudas and Solents.

At the beginning of 1947, he "went back to school", for a course at the Empire Test Pilots' School from which he graduated the same year, and when Geoffrey Tyson left the firm, Brookie was appointed Chief Test Pilot. Since then his has been the main responsibility for testing the Sealand Amphibian, Sturgeon 2, and the latest type of Mark 4 Solents delivered to Tasman Airways.

He has logged 4,500 hours flying on 120 different types which include fighters, bombers, airliners, seaplanes, sailplanes, amphibians, jets
and of course flying-boats.

Brookie told me that his narrowest escape from the obituary column was in a motorcar! He went to sleep at the wheel and ended half way up a railway embankment!

He had two "near-misses" in the air. First he was flying an aircraft which was over-flapped and under-elevatored. His first landing was baulked. When he opened up for another circuit, the aircraft took a determined header for the water. "Handfuls of elevator made not the slightest difference; the flaps operated just quick enough to save my life," he says.

When flying a Hurricane, a nut, left behind by a careless fitter, stripped the glycol pump. Hot steaming atomised glycol came up into the cockpit and covered him from head to foot. Having no oxygen, he was forced to open the canopy to breathe and to see. That made matters worse by creating a 'forced draught'. The motor got the glycol internally and began coughing it out through the exhaust stubs on both sides.

This is Brookie's own account of what then happened: "Becoming blind, I realised I had to get out of the sky smartly, or else jump for it. I made for an expanse of grass, of which I managed to get occasional glimpses, and somehow arrived in one bit
hurriedly leaving the aircraft where it had rolled to a standstill. The place was an Elementary Flying Training School grass aerodrome, and it was swarming with Tiger Moths doing circuits and bumps. I leant on the tail plane and wondered how the hell I happened to roar in among such a swarming melée of Tigers without hitting one!"       



A SCOTSMAN born and bred, it is hardly surprising that Gabe Robb Bryce is known to all his friends as Jock; for his two Christian names are not those which would come easily or familiarly to a Sassenach!

Since the beginning of 1946 jock has been "right hand man" and assistant chief test pilot to Mutt Summers at Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd., at Wisley, Surrey.

Under the guidance of Mutt Summers, Jock was introduced to the arts and crafts of test-flying in the first Viking; he is the first to agree that he could not have learnt the gentle art from a better man than Mutt who has been test-flying Vickers aircraft since 1929.

Jock attributes his interest in aviation to a proximity to Prestwick in his youth. He was born in Scotland on 27th April, 1921, within easy range of Prestwick. Aviation was brought right into the Bryce family circle when his elder brother was on the first R.A.F.V.R. course at Prestwick in 1936. Quite naturally the fifteen year old Jock was thrilled with the thought of being a pilot himself one day, to emulate his brother, who was killed in April, 1941, flying a Bristol Blenheim 1 in action in Greece against a Me. 109.

Jock’s first close introduction to flying was as a greatly admiring spectator of the pupils of the R.A.F.V.R. flying de Havilland Moths and Hawker Harts.

As soon as he was old enough Jock joined the regular R.A.F. early in 1939, and was lucky enough to be stationed at Prestwick. He was fortunate enough to become aircrew at once, but was not satisfied because he was trained as a navigator and not a pilot. At that time the great importance of navigators had not been realised, especially by the young and impatient, all of whom wanted to be "drivers".

He continued with his navigator's course after war came in September, 1939, now more impatient than ever, and completed the course at No. 10 Bombing and Gunnery School at Warmwell. He was posted to a newly-formed Operational Training Unit in South Wales equipped with Boulton Paul Defiant 2-seat fighters, and eventually established for himself a position in a Special Duties Flight attached to Fighter Command.

Early in 1942 he transferred to Coastal Command and served as a navigator in Wellingtons, where one of his contemporaries as an air gunner was John Derry.

About the middle of 1942 the Air Officer Commanding Training Command was becoming somewhat worried about the personnel material available for pilot-training and so he selected 500 tour-of-duty-expired navigators, wireless operators, and air gunners to take a Pilot Course. Jock was one of the lucky ones to be selected, as also was John Derry.

It had become a very sore point with tour-expired semi-unemployed aircrew, who found it was impossible to remuster as pilots, to see many bank clerks, salesmen, insurance canvassers, journalists, which impatient air types always seem to regard as less suited than themselves for it, going to Canada or South Africa for the much sought-after pilots' course.

Jock was posted to Canada and completed his training as a pilot in 1943, in a somewhat dubious state of mind. He had by now a considerable sum of experience as a navigator, but a total of only 61 hours in the "1st Pilot" column. That was the condition in which Jock found himself when he reported for duty, wearing his coveted Wings, at No. 45 Atlantic Transport Group at Dorval, Montreal.

He at once began the job of ferrying aircraft across the Atlantic, from Gander to Prestwick. Atlantic flying had not really begun to be the routine job it is to-day, so it might seem rather a frightening first assignment for a new and very young pilot. Jock took it in his stride, and by 1945 he had become a seasoned old hand, having completed 32 crossings on Dakotas, Mitchells, Bostons, Liberators, and Lancasters.

He made his first trip as Captain in full charge after his flying time had increased to only 157 hours; he flew a Dakota from Montreal to French Morocco. There was one rather "dicey" occasion when he was taking a Boston from Gander in Newfoundland to North Africa. "I landed at the Azores with such a minute quantity of fuel left that the very thought still makes me wonder!" he told me. "Then there was that return Ferry Service on B.O.A.C. Liberators from Prestwick to Montreal direct in 17 hours. There were no seats, no heating, one sleeping bag between us, one box of rations, and a chromium plated piece of ironmongery on the passengers bulkhead neatly labelled 'Iced Water'. We had to use oxygen for 11 hours of the 17." Passengers in the comparatively luxurious airliners of to-day can just ring a bell for a steward or stewardess and complain that the cabin is too hot or too cold, or a well-cooked meal is not quite to their liking, in mid-Atlantic!

There was one incident, when ferrying a twin-motor aircraft from Prestwick to the South of England on a very dark night during the war, which might have ended much more unhappily. The night was more than usually dark when his port motor quit. He was still struggling along hoping to find a landing-ground, and had dropped to 2,000 ft., when the other motor also stopped. Jock had no option but to land straight ahead as best he could, which might well have been in the middle of a town, or he might have hit a hillside or a building at flying speed. He did all the necessary drill for a blind forced landing, and hoped for the best. He was lucky, for he landed comparatively safely in a wood.

He then was posted for a 12-month tour with No. 232 Squadron, the only Skymaster Squadron in the R.A.F., which opened up a new route for R.A.F. Transport Command from Ceylon to Sydney. In July, 1945, he flew the trans-Australian route from Perth to Sydney in 8 hours 50 minutes, establishing a new Australian record, unofficially. When the war ended he ferried the last R.A.F. Skymaster from Ceylon to the United States, which operation was organised by Air Commodore E. H. ("Mouse") Fielden, the Captain of the King's Flight. That contact resulted in Mouse appointing Jock as Captain of the 3rd aircraft of the Royal Flight.

This proved to be a short appointment. The flight was being equipped with Vickers Vikings, and Jock was thus brought into contact with Mutt Summers who was building up the post-war team of Vickers test pilots. Apart from Jock being a type whom most people would like on first sight, he had acquired a fine record and reputation. Mutt told me a couple of years ago that Jock was just the type for whom he had been looking. I do not think he has had any cause to revise his original estimate. Having learned the art of testing on the first Vikings, Jock flew with Mutt on the first flights of the Nene-Viking, Varsity, and Viscount. He has done over 500 hours flying in the Viscount, making the tests for the new International Civil Air Organisation standards before the normal Certificate of Airworthiness was granted.

He has also flown more than 80 hours in the Nene-Viking, which although it is regarded as just a flying test-bed, was in fact the first jet airliner to fly. The honour of being the first jet airliner designed as such from the start, goes, of course, to the de Havilland Comet.

The Nene-Viking has a magnificent ceiling. On at least one occasion in its very early life it was intercepted at nearly 40,000 ft. by a flight of Gloster Meteors. The maximum ceiling of a normal Viking is not more than 15,000 ft., so the R.A.F. pilots were extremely puzzled at meeting what they at first took to be a normal Viking up in the stratosphere. Closer inspection revealed unfamiliar engines in a familiar airframe and solved the puzzle for them!

Jock is a worthy follower in the slip-stream of the great men who have tested for Vickers, who include Harold Barnwell, Gordon Bell, Jack (later Sir John) Alcock, Stan Cockerell, Tommy Broom, Tiny Scholefield, and Mutt Summers. He has flown 4,500 hours on 54 different types. He was very largely responsible, with Mutt, for the quick way in which the Viscount, the world's first turboprop airliner, progressed from the unknown experimental to the reliable operational type which it soon became.       


A.F.C., A.R.Ae.S.


F. J. CABLE was one of those comparatively rare birds who only flew with rotary wings. He considered that fixed wing aircraft which stall, and therefore land, at a high rate of knots, are highly dangerous waggons. He had flown in fixed-wing aeroplanes as a passenger, but only when there was no heli-go-round going his way. He was known to a large circle of friends as "Jeep", which name was bestowed on him in 1933 when he first flew autogiros, and therefore before the days of the Jeep car. In the "Pop-eye" cartoons there was a curious animal called a Jeep which used to send messages called jeep-o-graphs with its tail, and Cable was alleged to do the same; whether he did this "by Cable" on the ground or in the air, I wouldn't know!

He had completed nearly 2,000 hours as a pilot, entirely on rotary wing aircraft, both autogiros and helicopters.

In this series of articles I ask each victim to tell me how he first came to be bitten by the aviation bug. But I have no need to ask Jeep that, as it was I who first supplied the bug!

'Way back in 1931, there were no youth organisations to help boys who were keen on flying, and there was no A.T.C., so I formed a flying club for telegraph boys of a cable company. To get on easy terms with the boys, I had myself made a cable messenger, and was fitted out with messenger's uniform. I was a fairly large size, and the question of fitting me with a uniform was something of a problem, so the biggest messenger was sent for and was told to take off his uniform which I donned. That messenger was No. 161 F. J. Cable of Stratford in east London, and the rapid exchange of clothing formed a bond of friendship between us, which endured.

I took the boys to aerodromes at week-ends and wangled free flights for them. I got certain companies to undertake to teach some of them to fly. Señor Don Juan de la Cierva, inventor of the autogiro, agreed to take one, so I selected Jeep. After he had learned to fly an autogiro, he showed such promise that he was taken on the strength of the Cierva Autogiro Co. Ltd.

He qualified for his Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificate on an Autogiro C 19 Mk 4 on 21st September, 1932. A few days later I was his first passenger when he was not yet seventeen; we were both in our telegraph-boy uniforms. When he reached the years of discretion we often wondered at my bravery or foolhardiness. Now I am getting much older and wiser, but I had complete confidence in the autogiro and in Jeep's sound common sense, which I now know was not misplaced.

At that time, he was the first pilot in this or any other country to qualify for his Aviators' Certificate on rotary wings, and he was certainly the youngest to fly an autogiro.

He gained his "A" and "C" Ground Engineers licences in June, 1936, at the Autogiro Co's works at Hanworth airfield, and his instructors' endorsement in April, 1939, and did such useful work for the rotary wing units of the R.A.F. after the outbreak of war that he was commissioned in the R.A.F. on lst January, 1941.

Right from the start of his air career, he served under Reggie Brie and Alan Marsh to both of whom he owed much of his success. He was regarded as No. 3 Helicopter pilot of Great Britain, and should rightly have been awarded R.Ae.C. Helicopter Certificate No. 3 if these had been issued in chronological order instead of in order of application.

He was the second Britisher to fly the Sikorsky helicopter, in 1943; and on 22nd January, 1944, he was the first in the United Kingdom to fly a Hoverfly, from ship to shore, which he did off M.V. Daghestan off Liverpool. Within a week he flew the machine from Speke to Hanworth, the first helicopter cross-country flight in this country.

After that he instructed the first batch of test pilots and instructors in Britain on helicopters. In the early days of the war he did valuable Radar work with autogiros for No. 60 Group. He reached the rank of Squadron Leader by the end of the war, and was awarded the A.F.C.

He considered that his narrowest escape was in 1945 when he was giving instruction on a Hoverfly to Squadron Leader "Pat" Hastings, A.F.C., A.F.M., a test pilot from Boscombe Down. Jeep told me, "Pat was flying the aircraft and the first I knew that something was wrong was when the stick started to hit my leg and we were still flying level. I took over and made to get back to the 'drome. We were about 1,000 ft. at the time, and over the houses which border the 'drome. At about 700 ft. the control fell apart with quite a bit of vibration to the aircraft, and we spun down almost vertically, and hit the barbed wire just on the edge of the 'drome. That undoubtedly cushioned the impact. The stick went through the seat I had been sitting on, but fortunately I had leapt out of it just before we hit, and was holding on to Pat's neck. Although the aircraft was finished, we were only slightly scratched."

As he knew that all Hoverflys would be grounded pending enquiry into the cause of the accident, he at once flew another machine before the ban could be imposed, so as to restore his rather shaken nerves.

Towards the end of the war he was appointed Officer Commanding the first Ministry of Aircraft Production Rotary Wing unit, formed at Hanworth, and later he moved with the Unit, now of the Ministry of Supply, to Beaulieu. When he was demobilised, he was appointed Chief Rotary Wing Test Pilot to the Ministry of Supply at Beaulieu, which post he held until his death. Soon after that posting, I had my second flight with him, in a Sikorsky S 51, which he was demonstrating at Harrods' Sports Ground near Hammersmith. I was particularly impressed by the difference between the raw 16-year-old sprog of 1932 and the experienced star helicopter pilot of 1947. He had less than 100 hours to do before completing his 2,000 hours. If he had completed that time, he would have been the first in the world among those who had only flown on rotary wings to log that coveted 2,000 hours.

Jeep was married with a family. Aviation, and particularly rotary wings, had got so deeply into his system that he never recovered from it. He should be an example to all boys and young men in all walks of life, as a man who, perhaps by luck, had a wonderful opportunity put in his way, which he seized with both hands and never let go. The road to failure is paved with lost opportunities. Moreover, Jeep, unlike so many others, never forgot what he thought he owed to those who helped him. I am proud to be one of those whom he did not forget. If he had not been made of the right stuff he could not have achieved his success.

I am sure he would have made good in any walk of life which he had chosen; and I am also sure he would not have got as much fun out of life as he did from heli-go-rounds. I was very proud to think that I was primarily responsible for launching a boy, such as he then was, on a career which brought him such success.

On 13th June, 1950, Jeep was flying, as second pilot, with Alan Marsh in the Cierva Air Horse near Southampton, when the machine crashed, due to some structural failure at about 400 ft., and both Jeep and Alan, with a flight engineer, were killed.

Having been primarily responsible for getting Jeep into aviation I feel I am in part responsible for his death, but I know that the past 20 years had brought him so very much happiness and interest, and so many staunch friends that I cannot feel blameworthy. In the loss of Jeep and Alan the world has suffered a very great loss for their combined knowledge and experience of helicopter flying is incalculable. When I think back less than 20 years, when I first met Jeep in his telegraph boy's uniform, it is indeed a romance, though a very sad one, that I can truthfully write of his death as so great a loss to the world. It will be long before I meet another friend so true. He will not be forgotten.             


G.M., D.F.C., D.F.M.


LESLIE ROBERT COLQUHOUN, G.M., D.F.C., D.F.M., is assistant test pilot, under Mike Lithgow, to the Supermarine Division of Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. He has his headquarters at Chilbolton aerodrome in Hampshire near which he lives with his wife and three daughters. Though Les looks a bit young to be the father of such a family he is, at the time of writing in August, 1950, just over 29 years old.

He was born at Hanwell, London, on 15th March (the Ides of March), 1921; but no one issued any stern warning to any dictators, though well they might!

He was educated at Drayton Manor Grammar School. He does not remember any special reason for taking up flying. When war broke out in 1939, he thought, as others have thought before him, that if he had to go into battle it would be much more comfortable to do so sitting down in a nice warm aeroplane than plodding on his flat feet !

Soon after he was nineteen he applied to join the R.A.F. as a pilot, and in due course was called before a selection committee. "I did not put up a very good show," he told me, "as I could not do their sums. I was no good at maths and told them so. At first they put me down as an air gunner. They then asked me a few commonsense questions which I answered, so they crossed out 'gunner' and put down 'wireless op'; after that they asked me a few questions about French Somaliland which I was able to answer as I had just read about it in the papers. The result was that they crossed out 'wireless op' and put me down as a pilot."

Like most sensible types, Les does not like having anything shot at him, be they shells, bullets, or questions. Questions particularly scare him stiff, and he recalls that selection board as one of the most frightening events of his career!

He is one of those people who is not scared easily in the air, but who is put into a state of nervous prostration when taking a test or sitting for an examination. He is an outstanding example of how wrong are the present Air Ministry authorities in placing such importance in exams, when selecting aircrew. If Les had to pass through the nonsense of present day A.T.C. Proficiency tests and what is thought to be necessary to get into the R.A.F. as aircrew, now that 'know-how' and keenness are not considered sufficient, he would very likely be among those turned down.

Soon after he joined the R.A.F. as an L.A.C. he passed through No. 18 Elementary Flying Training School at Fairoaks on Tiger Moths. This was the time of the Battle of Britain and naturally, like all boys, he wanted to become a fighter pilot. After qualifying for his Wings he was posted to No. 603 City of Edinburgh Squadron as a Sergeant-pilot in October, 1941. This squadron was then stationed at Hornchurch, and equipped with Spitfires. In November, 1941, Les went north with the squadron to Dyce, which became the civil airport of Aberdeen. In February, 1942, he went south to Benson near Oxford, which was the home of Photographic Reconnaissance Units (P.R.U.) equipped with Spitfires.

In April, 1942, he was one of a party detailed to fly some P.R.U. Spitfires to Cairo. They flew via Gibraltar and Malta.

They reached Malta just at the time when the Island was in a state of seige and was receiving the bombing attentions from the Luftwaffe several times daily. Les recalls making a wide circuit of the beleaguered island before landing, and thinking how lucky he was that he would soon be on his way again to safer places. When he landed at Luqa aerodrome he was told that he and his Spit would be remaining at Malta as a P.R.U. machine was badly needed. He thought this was shattering news at the time and quite a lot of sleep was lost that night which could not altogether be attributed to the unwelcome attentions of the Jerry bombers. However, no suitable excuse could be found to wriggle out of the situation so he stayed. Though he was there in the hottest days of the battle, he now considers himself to have been lucky to have been there in Malta's greatest days.

He flew a Spitfire 4, with no guns. It was used solely for reconnaissance and photography and relied on its speed for protection. Les does not admit to having any really dangerous moments or narrow squeaks, but he admits to two incidents which "upset me most". The first of these was on a flight over Sicily. His squadron had just received a consignment of chocolate, which was considered almost as valuable as gold. Les took a packet with him to eat during flight.

"I was flying over Cape Passero, the south eastern extremity of Sicily, and came down to 16,000 ft. to take off my oxygen mask to eat some chocolate before setting course for Malta. Suddenly I saw a shadow and just behind me, almost in formation, was an Me. 109. His guns must have jammed, or he was out of ammunition, or was a pupil on a training flight, for he did not fire at me, and of course I had no guns. I called up Luqa madly for help, but the 109 flew away and all ended well for me!"

That incident must have been extremely upsetting, for it seems fairly certain that the Me. 109 guns had jammed; a Hun on a training flight would not have been nosing around a Spit, nor would he have done so if his ammunition was running low. He obviously had evil intent!

In June, 1942, Les had the job of flying around Italian ports, including Naples, Taranto, Messina, Augusta, and Palermo, to find out the disposition of the Italian fleet. Late on the evening of 14th June that year, when the light had faded too much to take photographs, he saw a force of two cruisers and four destroyers steaming out from Palermo. About this time a British convoy was coming through the Med en route for Malta. The information Les brought back enabled the necessary action to be taken and one cruiser was subsequently damaged by a British submarine. For this valuable reconnaissance, after months of difficult and dangerous unarmed P.R.U. work, he received the D.F.M. Shortly after this, he was commissioned.

During his eight months in Malta he did an enormous amount of flying over enemy territory and sea; he logged over 500 hours in that time so thoroughly earned his promotion and decoration. He was in Malta most of the time of its worst peril from possible assault and during the worst of the bombing. He went back to the United Kingdom in December, 1942.

At the beginning of February, 1943 he was posted to the P.R.U. at Dyce again, but this time as an instructor, and he remained on that job until October, 1943. Then he was posted to No. 642 P.R.U. Squadron at Tunis, and in December of that year moved with his squadron to Italy and served with them at San Severo until October, 1944, when he returned once more to Dyce to serve as an instructor with No. 8 Operational Training Squadron. He moved with them to Haverford West and in February, 1945, when Jeffery Quill, Chief Test Pilot of the Supermarine Division of Vickers, wanted another test pilot, Les was sent to join him at High Post in Wiltshire as his qualifications and temperament were just what Quill wanted.

The signal that he had been selected and was to be posted to Supermarines was one of the big moments of his life and has shaped his destiny—so far as it has gone. He proved to be a good man on production test work, and he continued on this work as a flight lieutenant until April 1946, when he was demobilised.

"The only difference that made to me," said Les, "was I arrived one day for normal work in uniform, and the next day in civvies as a complete civilian on the test pilot staff of Supermarines."

Apart from his work in testing production machines, he had an interesting diversion when he went as second pilot on the delivery flight to Buenos Aires of the President's personal Viking. The route was via Iceland, Greenland, U.S.A., Nassau, Jamaica, Natal, and Rio.

Since the retirement of Jeffery Quill as Chief Test Pilot, Les has been second to Mike Lithgow who succeeded Quill. In that capacity he has flown the Swift, Attacker, and Seagull in their early prototype stages.

Rather more "upsetting" than the incident of the chocolates and the Me. 109 was an occurrence on 23rd May, 1950, for which he was awarded the George Medal. He was flying the first production Attacker making some experiments with the dive brakes. When he was making a fast run near Chilbolton aerodrome at 450 knots (about 520 m.p.h.) he heard a loud bang, and to his amazement he saw that the starboard wing tip, a section 3 feet 6 inches in span, had folded up and was standing vertical. His first thought was to use the ejection seat, and his hand moved to grasp the handle which jettisoned the cockpit cover to bale out, but after the initial temporary loss of control the aircraft still seemed the right way up so he decided to attempt to land it. Aileron control had gone because when the wings of an Attacker are folded, the ailerons are automatically locked in neutral. He found that by coarse use of the rudder it was possible both to keep the aircraft level and control it directionally in a limited way. He made a wide circuit and began the final run in at 230 knots.

"It was then that I realised the real difficulties, and that a very fast touch down speed would be necessary," he told me, "as at speeds below 230 knots (265 m.p.h.) the aircraft could not be kept lined up with the runway, nor could it be kept laterally level. I crossed the aerodrome boundary at this speed and touched down on the end of the runway at 200 knots (230 m.p.h.). By juggling with the elevator and brakes to keep the aircraft on the ground, I finally pulled up ten yards short of the end of the 1,800 yard runway, the only further damage being a burst port tyre which was due to the heat generated by the excessive braking required to stop the aircraft; for 200 knots is almost twice the normal touch down speed of the Attacker."

He landed the Attacker mainly intact so that the machine was examined for the cause of the failure and the defect was put right so that it could never happen again for the same reason.

By his pluck in remaining with his aircraft Les saved the country many thousands of pounds and no doubt prevented months of delay to Attacker production, pending further experiments.

The whole aircraft world was delighted to hear that the King had awarded him the George Medal for his pluck. A test pilot's work is always full of unknown hazards, and it has been said that is what they are paid for. As I have said in other cases, that may be so; but all test pilots are paid thoroughly inadequately, in my opinion, for the valuable work they do. Here is an example of how much money a good conscientious pilot can save his firm. That is my opinion entirely, and the thought has not been put into my mind by Les or any other test pilot.

The incident happened on the Tuesday of Whitsun week. The next day Les flew a Wellington and then the firm closed down for Whitsun. That break from flying gave him time to think and he had a slight reaction of nerves three days later, which was not helped by having to endure the natural suspense of becoming a father.

He has flown just over 3,000 hours on about 25 different types of aircraft.




LIEUT.-COMMANDER ROBERT MICHAEL CROSLEY, D.S.C. and Bar, has been assistant test pilot to Short Bros. & Harland Ltd. at Belfast since 1948. He was born at Liverpool on 24th February, 1920. "That was only because my mother happened to be there at the time, for we were a Hampshire family," he said. He went to school at Winchester, first at the Pilgrims' School and then at the famous public school founded by Edward VI. On leaving school Mike entered for the Navy but failed in 1937 so he joined the Metropolitan Police with the idea of a course at Hendon Police College in mind. He had just finished his training when war broke out in September, 1939.

During the early months of the war the weather was very hot and Mike found that a policeman's uniform was unpleasantly so. Therefore he made early application to join the R.A.F., and the Fleet Air Arm, as he felt he would be of more use as a pilot than as a policeman. Making a simultaneous application to the R.A.F. and the Navy caused quite a bit of muddle at the time, and did not get him any quicker out of the Police Force. He passed medical examinations and interviews for the R.A.F. and F.A.A. all over the place, and was eventually "poured into bell-bottoms" and began training as a cadet at Gosport in October, 1940.

"After so much blitzing as a 'copper' in the West End of London," he told me, "it was a welcome relief to be out of the police and into bell-bottoms. Thank goodness there was a shortage of pilots and not observers, but I was even keen to be an observer! My father had been against my joining the R.A.F. in peace-time, as it was a short service commission and had no future. In any case he asked me how I knew I could be good at flying, for he said it would get me nowhere being just mediocre. I was, of course, absolutely certain I would be a first-class pilot. After all I had never been either airsick or seasick, and could drive a car really dangerously at times!"

After Gosport he was posted to Luton where Shorts were operating the Elementary Flying Training School. He was initially trained on Magisters which were monoplanes, and liked to think this gave him a better chance of becoming a fighter boy than if he had gone to the other Naval Elementary Flying Training School at Elmdon which flew Tiger Moths. The pupils on Mike's course were quartered in some very draughty stables at Luton Hoo and everyone else caught 'flu or pneumonia, so he managed to progress quickly and went on an earlier course than his contemporaries, to Netheravon, flying on Hawker Harts and Fairey Battles.

"By this time we were, of course, real old hands," Mike told me, "having nearly 50 hours flying to our credit! There was one incident which I recall, during the time I was building up this 'colossal' total of hours. I had a friend who had contrived to fly solo at the same time as myself one fine sunny morning. We played around in and out of some lovely cumulus clouds and got lost. He made a perfect landing in a field near St. Albans and asked someone where he was, and flew back to Luton, and no one else was any the wiser. I, like an ass, nearly ran out of petrol before I really admitted to myself that I was lost. I selected a field for a forced landing, overshot completely, and landed in the next one, just missing a horse which did not even see the aircraft and completely ignored me. The only damage was that the railings on the far side of the field dug into the main plane leading edge. It was useful experience though."

After passing through his Secondary Flying Training School at Netheravon, Mike was allowed to shed his bell-bottoms and climb into sub-lieutenant's uniform for the first time. "I can never remember a happier moment than when I donned that new uniform for the first time, got into my very ramshackle M.G. car (of course it had to be an M.G.) and drove to Yeovil town to begin a course with an Operational Training Unit on Hawker Hurricanes."

After a delightful period of training there in the summer of 1941 he was appointed to the carrier, H.M.S. Eagle, which he joined on a very rainy night at Liverpool
his birthplace. No one could quite understand why he had come, for the Eagle carried no fighters. There were mainly Fairey Swordfish, and for some unaccountable reason, two American Brewster Buffaloes. Eventually two Hurricanes were taken on, and the Eagle left for the Mediterranean with the two Hurricanes, two Buffaloes, and eighteen Swordfish, carrying supplies to Malta. Mike and three other pilots were very proud to be the fighter defence of Force H until the Eagle was sunk by four torpedoes in October, 1942.

He then returned to England and joined H.M.S. Biter, a "Woolworth" carrier, and took part in the landings at Oran in North Africa for which he was awarded his first D.S.C.

From the warm Mediterranean, he was posted for a brief spell to Scapa with H.M.S. Dasher, looking after convoys to Russia. On one of those trips this carrier started to come unwelded and she eventually blew up, due to a petrol leak. He then left the bleak Northern waters and spent a lovely springtime on a little grass airfield in Somerset named Charlton Hosthurne. After training pilots for O.T.U. at Henstridge he had the luck to be appointed to the Pilot Gunnery Instructors' Course at Sutton Bridge, which was a great feather in any naval pilot's cap. Then he joined No. 3 Wing at Lee-on-Solent and flew about 25 sorties on Seafires over Normandy during the D-Day invasion of June, 1944. For this work he was mentioned in despatches.

Now came what Mike considers was his biggest chance. In August, 1944, as the youngest squadron commander of his time he was given command of No. 880 Squadron, equipped with Seafires in the Orkneys. Based in H.M.S. Furious he "had a few cracks at the Tirpitz", after which he left in H.M.S. Implacable for Japan in March, 1945. That ship, with two other carriers, formed the spearhead of the British attack on the Jap mainland until the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki put Japan out of the war. Mike was awarded an immediate bar to his D.S.C. here.

At the close of the war Mike volunteered for a Test Pilots Course. He had to wait a year for this, during which time he commanded a training squadron aboard his old ship H.M.S. Implacable, and helped to escort H.M.S. Vanguard to South Africa with their Majesties aboard. After this he passed a course at the Empire Test Pilots' School at Boscombe Down.

Mike told me that his main purpose in becoming a test pilot was his curiosity, in wartime, to find out more about an aircraft, and particularly why some of them deck-landed easily, and why some did not. "The course showed me just how little I really did know about aircraft, and was worth its weight in gold to me," he said.

About that time, 1948, Mike married and had to make a difficult decision—"whether to stay in the Service and be married to the Service, or become a Mr. and stay married to my wife! I chose the latter, and when Shorts' offered to employ me, I was glad to accept as their No. 2 test pilot".

His final summing up of his position had some very sound sense. As I am sure his opinion will be of use to those who come after him in test flying, I quote Mike verbatim. He told me, "I think that test flying is a constructive job in flying, and not destructive, like so much squadron flying in the Navy can be. I should like Service aircraft, which are required to deck-land, to be made easier to do so. I feel that getting to the job early, as you do when you are a firm's test pilot, gives a better chance of bringing this off. During my year at Boscombe Down, I realised it was then too late to do anything about it, whereas a word in the designer's ear at an aircraft factory, would probably have the desired effect, by getting it in early."

Though Mike is young—he looks even younger than he is
and comparatively inexperienced, he certainly has the right ideas.

In the comparatively short time since Mike first became a pilot
ten years at the time of writing this—he has amassed 1,750 hours flying and has flown 55 entirely different types of aircraft.

When I asked him what he considers was his narrowest squeak he replied, "I haven't had a squeak squeaky enough to be squeaked about. But you must come sailing with our Shorts' Sailing Club next time you visit us.”

That seems to suggest that there are far greater dangers to be had in the pursuit of sailing, if one considers the danger of a ducking from a sailing yacht comparably dangerous to going over the side of a carrier when not deck-landing in the approved manner.

Sailing is Mike's main hobby these days, and when I last visited him and Brookie at Belfast, I heard mysterious talk of "new types" which I gathered were of the sailing, and not of the flying variety.




GROUP CAPTAIN JOHN CUNNINGHAM, D.S.O (two bars), D.F.C. (one bar), first became known to the general public during the war as the result of his conspicuous success as a night fighter pilot. Since the war ended, he has achieved new fame as a civilian test pilot. In 1949 he again came very prominently into the public eye when he made the first test flights with the "Comet", the first jet-propelled airliner in the world, designed primarily as such. In October of that year, he astounded an unbelieving air line community by flying the Comet from London to Tripoli, more than 1,500 miles, in three hours, and after a short stay, flying back again in about the same time.

He was born on 27th May, 1912, at Addington, near Croydon, and was educated at Whitgift School. While he was there, the school moved from the centre of Croydon to new buildings less than a mile from Croydon Airport. From his home he was within easy reach of Kenley and Biggin Hill aerodromes, and airliners in the Croydon circuit passed low over his school. From a very early age he was surrounded by flying, so it is not surprising that he was bitten by the aviation bug when he was only a little boy.

When he left Whitgift in 1935, he chose to enter aviation as a profession, and he joined the de Havilland Aeronautical Technical School at Hatfield. At the same time, he joined No. 604 (Auxiliary Air Force) Squadron (not then "Royal") at Hendon, and there he learned to fly. Like so many pilots of that period, he did his first solo on an Avro 504N, and later graduated on to Hawker "Demons".

When he finished his course at the Technical School, he joined the Light Aircraft Development Department of de Havilland's and afterwards started as a test pilot under Geoffrey de Havilland, who was killed in 1946. One of John's first jobs was test work on the "Moth Minor" with "Gipsy Minor" motor. When he was flying that docile and innocuous aeroplane he had one of those narrow escapes that are a part of the life of every test pilot. He went up on spinning tests, accompanied by Geoffrey, in an aircraft which had a battery for its navigation lights installed behind the rear cockpit. The centre of gravity was thereby moved further aft, and when they went into a deliberate spin at 8,000 ft., the aircraft settled down to a stable spin from which they could not recover. Geoffrey gave the order to bale out, so John jumped when they had reached a height of about 3,000 ft. He saw the Moth Minor slowly spinning down past him, with Geoffrey still getting out, and he, John, and the Moth Minor all arrived at the ground at about the same time, the two pilots undamaged. This aircraft (whose series number was DH 94) was one of the first personal aircraft to be fitted with navigation lights, and a modification to raise the tailplane was subsequently introduced before night-flying could be permitted with the battery stowed in the rear of the fuselage.

John continued as assistant test pilot until war came. Then he joined his squadron for active service, and remained with No. 604 Squadron until 1942, flying Blenheims during the Battle of Britain.

When the night blitz began in the autumn of 1940, he began to make his mark as a night-fighter, flying Beaufighters, and was nick-named "Cat's-eyes" by the lay Press, a title of which he took a dim view!

He was one of the first to fly Beaufighters on active service, and among the first to try airborne radar for night-fighting. He flew Beaufighters with conspicuous success for two years, and then spent six months in a Fighter Command H.Q., before transferring to "Mosquitos". He was the first R.A.F. pilot to fly a Mosquito.

During his Service career, he shot down and destroyed 19 enemy aeroplanes by night, and one by day, and well earned his three D.S.O's and two D.F.C's. He was described on one of his citations as "a relentless fighter pilot".

When the war ended in 1945 he returned to de HavilIand’s and was appointed Chief Test Pilot to the Engine Company. At the same time he rejoined the A.A.F. and reformed No. 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron, of what soon became the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, as Commanding Officer, a post which he had to relinquish owing to pressure of work with his test flying.

In October, 1946, after Geoffrey de Havilland was killed while approaching the speed of sound in the DH 108, John was appointed Chief Pilot of the de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd. He carried on with test flying on this aircraft, where Geoffrey had left off. Much of that test flying was instrumental in determining the final shape of the Comet.

At the S.B.A.C. Air Show at Radlett in 1947, John gave a polished display on the DH 108. Just previously he had impressed everyone by his handling of the "Vampire" at the Lympne air race meeting. In the High Speed Race, he clocked the fastest time, and set up a world speed record for 100 km. closed circuit at 496 m.p.h.

After that he concentrated on altitude research, leaving most of the speed research on the 108 to John Derry, who joined him in the latter part of 1947. During a test flight in a special Vampire with extended wings, powered by a "Ghost" instead of a "Goblin", for high altitude research in the development of the motor for the Comet, he had an alarming experience when a fire-warning light came on at great height. Fortunately it was a false alarm for the light was caused by a short circuit.

On another routine flight he reached a level within two or three hundred feet of the world height record for aeroplanes, so it was decided to make an official attempt to break it. As every pound in weight removed represented a gain in height of two feet, even the paint was taken off. The pilot himself wore no special equipment. On 23rd March, 1948, he reached a height of 59,446 ft., which remained unbeaten in October, 1950. [Note 1].

At the Farnborough Air Show of 1948, which had been opened to the public for the first time, he delighted a huge crowd by his handling of the DH 108, on which a few days earlier John Derry had exceeded the speed of sound for the first time in Britain. The next day, owing to continuous and heavy rain, there was almost no flying. So as not to disappoint the huge crowd which had gathered, he again gave a magnificent display at a speed near that of sound.

In July, 1949, came the Comet. On the 24th, in the early morning, he took it on its first taxi-ing tests, and then did a few straight hops to get accustomed to the controls. After a few adjustments, he took it out again in the evening and flew for over half an hour, reaching 10,000 ft. Within a month he had flown it at its designed speed of over 500 m.p.h. and had reached 40,000 ft. Then came the sensational flight to North Africa in three hours, which was followed by many hours of research and test flying. In March, 1950, John broke point to point speed records in the Comet between London and Rome, and London and Copenhagen, carrying twenty passengers and a crew of six. In April he flew from London to Cairo with a load equivalent to 34 passengers, luggage and full crew in 5 hours 2 minutes, and then on to Nairobi in 5 hours 3 minutes. There, and at Khartoum, he put the Comet successfully through its tropicalisation tests only ten months after its first flight.

At the Farnborough Air Show in 1949, John again stole the show by his demonstration of the Comet.

This was the first jet airliner in the world, and this was John Cunningham flying it
superbly as ever.




JOHN DERRY, the first pilot to fly faster than sound in the United Kingdom, is like many of the great test pilots of the past, who were rather shy and retiring, especially in their younger days, and dislikes having to talk about himself. Since 1947 he has been building up a great reputation as a test pilot with the de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd., chiefly because of the extreme accuracy of his flying, and because he has very exact knowledge of what he is doing, and of what he intends to do.

This reputation reached international level on 12th April, 1948, when he raised the 100 km. closed circuit speed record to 605.23 m.p.h. in the DH 108. Five months later he flew into the sonic region during an experimental flight in the same aeroplane.

He was born in Cairo on 5th December, 1921. His parents soon brought him to England, and for some time he lived at Haslemere in Surrey, not far from Farnborough. When quite a young boy he began to take an interest in the aeroplanes which flew from Farnborough and passed over his home, and as soon as he was old enough he made his way to Farnborough and went as near to the Royal Aircraft Establishment as he was allowed, to watch the flying.

He had his first flight when he was only seven years old in a Klemm light monoplane at Croydon, where he had been taken by his parents.

He was educated at Charterhouse School, not very far from his home at Haslemere, and nearer still to Farnborough, and here he was infected even more with the aviation bug. Spending his early life near this breeding ground of test pilots, it is not surprising that it was test flying which attracted him most.

He was still at school when war broke out in 1939, and he immediately tried to join the R.A.F. as a pilot. He found there would be a long wait if he were to join direct as a pilot—so he enlisted as a wireless operator and air gunner and served with a Hudson squadron of Coastal Command.       

Curiously enough, he considers he had his narrowest escape when on this duty, rather than in the many hazards in which a test pilot finds himself.

A Hudson, in which he was flying, got in an uncontrollable (flat) spin. The crew were given orders to bale out, and all duly left with the exception of the captain and Derry. The latter could not go because one of the crew accidently pulled his parachute from its case so it was useless. Fortunately the captain regained control and landed safely.

He was commissioned as gunnery leader in the summer of 1942, and in 1943 he gained his desire and began training as a pilot in Canada. Soon after he had been awarded his Wings he was attached to Air Transport Auxiliary as second pilot to gain air experience. He stayed there until October, 1944, when he was posted to a rocket-firing Typhoon squadron where he became first a flight commander and then Commanding Officer of No. 182 Squadron. While serving with Typhoons he was awarded the D.F.C.

He continued with the R.A.F. until the end of 1946 flying Tempests. Before he was demobilised as a Squadron Leader he met Jeffery Quill, then senior test pilot for the Supermarine Division of Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd., who was looking for a competent production and experimental test pilot. So John Derry took the job, his first step as a civilian pilot. In that capacity he flew the Seafire in the Air Show at Radlett in 1947. On the Sunday of the display, the occasion of the Royal Aeronautical Society Garden Party, he created a mild sensation which was news to him when I mentioned it.

All the exhibition aircraft took part in a fly-past at the end of which all of them made a steep dive across the airfield. The Seafire made a clean dive, rather steeper than most, and pulled up again steeply. A few seconds after he passed, I heard what sounded like another machine following him; but nothing was in sight. The noise came on down, and a number of coats and mackintoshes were picked up by a whirlwind and were deposited some yards away. Apparently this was caused by the passage of the Seafire at high speed making wing-tip vortices, the filling in of which caused the noise and rush of air.

During his stay with Vickers-Armstrongs he flew the Attacker, which aeroplane he later deprived of the 100 km. record in the DH 108.

In October, 1947, he joined the test pilot staff of Group Captain John Cunningham, D.S.O., D.F.C., at the de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd., at Hatfield, where the name of John Derry soon became well known for his superb flying of Vampires and the DH 108.

His 100 km. closed circuit speed record, as already mentioned, was made in the April after joining de Havillands. That has remained unbeaten for a very long time. A year after he made the record, John Derry told me that if another aeroplane were to beat it by only a few miles per hour, he thought the speed could have been raised still higher with the 108. But that remarkable aeroplane remained the fastest timed British aeroplane for over four years after it first flew.

He achieved further fame on 6th September, 1948, when he flew the same aeroplane into the sonic region. For some weeks he had been flying at ever increasing Mach numbers (which are percentages of the speed of sound) rising from 0.91 to 0.95. On the day in question he went up with the intention of flying still faster, and if possible to exceed a Mach number of 1. He did so in a shallow dive, and the pointer of the machmeter passed the figure 1. The meter was not calibrate beyond that point, but John Derry thinks he reached about 1.03 or 1.04 which at sea level and normal temperature would be the equivalent of over 700 m.p.h.

He told me that he used dive-recovery brakes to ease off the speed because the pull of gravity is greater than the urge of the motor, and merely turning off power would not slow the aeroplane sufficiently. When in the sonic region, lack of control was the principal characteristic noted. He thinks that it would be safer to be able to enter the trans-sonic region in a climb, if enough motor power was available, for then the speed can be checked more quickly by turning off the power and allowing gravity to act as a brake.

He continued experiments with the DH 108 for several months, in the sonic regions.

John Derry is a quiet cheerful young man, and is typical of great test pilots of the past. He has a slow pleasant smile and fair hair brushed back showing signs of receding from the forehead. His office, next to that of John Cunningham, at Hatfield, is typical of one who is more at home in a cockpit than in an earthly office. His table-top is completely covered with maps; shelves are filled with parachutes, log-books, cockpit writing-pads and like articles of his profession.

His flying has shown that John Derry is a born pilot, but in addition to having a natural flair for the air, much of his success has been due to his great care with detail work, both in the air and on the ground. A genius has been said to be a person with an infinite capacity for taking pains. John Derry has that hallmark of genius.

For his feat in being the first pilot in Britain to enter the sonic region he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club which has been described as "the Aero Club's V.C.". In the half century of the Club's existence only 25 Gold Medals had then been awarded. The recipients include Wilbur and Orville Wright, Blériot, Rolls, Grahame-White, Cody, Alcock and Brown, Ross and Keith Smith, and Geoffrey de Havilland, who was killed when flying the DH 108 at near-sonic speeds. In such a courageous company, John Derry has been assessed by his contemporaries to stand as an equal.

He was also awarded the Segrave Trophy for 1948 for his winning of the 100 km. speed record. This Trophy goes to the driver of the motor-car, motor-boat, or aeroplane which in the opinion of a committee of those controlling these three sports, has given the most outstanding demonstration of the possibilities of transport by land, water, or air. In winning this trophy John Derry is ranked with such pioneers as Kingsford Smith, Hinkler, Sir Malcolm Campbell, and Geoffrey de Havilland.

Only two or three days before the Air Show of 1949 John made the prototype test of the de Havilland Venom, which he rolled on its very first flight. When he gave a polished and accurate demonstration with the Venom at the Air Show no one would have suspected he had only first flown it two or three days earlier.

He had hoped to fly the Venom in the S.B.A.C. jet air race of 1950 but motor trouble deprived him of breaking his own 100 km. speed record. He flew the slower Vampire, however, into second place.

These awards came to John Derry when he was only 29 and right at the threshold of his career. We may well ask "Quo Vadis?"



D.S.O., A.F.C. & BAR


WHEN Group Captain E. M. Donaldson, D.S.O., A.F.C. (and bar), was made Commandant of the Air Training Corps in October, 1949, the cadets of that Corps considered themselves extremely fortunate. For the name of Teddy Donaldson ranked high in aviation; a year or so previously, he had been awarded the Britannia Trophy by the Royal Aero Club for the most meritorious performance in the air in 1946 when he raised the world speed record to 616 m.p.h. under extremely unfavourable conditions.

Though he has spent all his adult life in the R.A.F., he comes rightly into this series of test pilots because he was the officer appointed to take charge of the development test flying programme of the Gloster Meteor jet aircraft of the High Speed Flight, R.A.F., which was formed in the summer of 1946 for the purpose of flying at high Mach numbers, and, incidentally, in raising the world speed record which was already held by a Meteor at 606 m.p.h. That year's work involved some 65 hours test flying at high Mach numbers for the purpose of determining the behaviour of the aeroplane and the strength of the structure under exceptional conditions of high-speed flight.

As every flight in those experimental aircraft was of only about 15 minutes duration, more than 200 sorties were made. As a result of the work of Teddy Donaldson and his team of pilots, a number of modifications were recommended, and what was learned thereby was built into the Meteor 4, which soon after became the standard fighter of the R.A.F. and of many other powers of Western Union.

Teddy was born in 1912 in the Federated Malay States where his father was a judge. He lived there until he was six when he came to England to go to school.

When he was on holiday at Selsey, in Sussex, the neighbourhood was visited by an ancient Avro 504k "stick-and-string" biplane in which joy-rides were being given at 5/- per head [Note 2]. Teddy was at once "sold on flying" and he saved up his pocket money for weeks until he had the necessary five bob.

"When the Avro was airbome," he told me, "I found I was scared stiff and hated it. I kept my head down well within the cockpit and saw absolutely nothing!"

However, he said that he would not admit to his family or his friends how scared he had been; he told them how very much he had enjoyed it. "In fact I shot them all a colossal line," he said, "for I was an obstinate type, even then, and intended to have my own way!"

He told me he had been mechanically-minded, even as a kid, and was dead keen on flying as a pilot one day. But not for another six years did he get his second flight.

He entered the R.A.F. in 1931 and soon learned to fly. He was posted to No. 3 Squadron, which was one of the original squadrons of the R.F.C. when it was first formed in 1912. This was a fighter squadron, so he began his career as a fighter boy, and remained with that squadron for four years, from 1932-36.

He also began to excite notice, not only for his superb flying. but also for his shooting. He won the Brooke-Popham Air Firing Trophy two years in succession. He was chosen to lead the flight aerobatic demonstrations at the R.A.F. Display at Hendon, with Bristol Bulldogs in 1935, and in Hawker Furies in 1937. His Fury flight also created a sensation at the International Rally at Zurich in 1937, although it was not allowed by the Air Ministry to compete in the flight aerobatic class.

When war broke out in 1939 he was with a fighter squadron flying Hurricanes. It was then that he had what he considers his narrowest escape. This is what he told me about it.

"I had been shooting a good line to the newer pilots in the squadron, telling them that the German pilots were really not so hot; it was just their numbers which made them dangerous. I said that I looked forward to the day when I could meet one of them alone. I'd show him!

"That day, on 30th June, 1940, soon after Dunkirk, and before the Battle of Britain had begun, I got separated from my squadron and was flying alone in a Hurricane just over the coast of France when I saw a lone Jerry in a Me. 109. He closed and started a dogfight. But things did not go quite as I had planned. No matter what I did, he went one better, and after two or three minutes my main problem was how I was to get out of this alive.

"Soon I was on fire, and the Hun, thinking I had 'had it', flew away. I fell into the sea about six miles off the French coast, took to my dinghy, and waited for the worst or the best." Presently a launch hove in sight, which Teddy feared was a German. But it proved to be manned by a Briton, who said he nearly always spent his holiday along the French coast in a launch, and he did not intend any ruddy Jerries to stop his fun!

"He looked just that type," said Teddy, "but I rather think he was engaged on much more serious business." He landed Teddy in England all right. Another member of that squadron baled out within six miles of the Kent coast and was picked up by a German craft and spent the next five years in a prison camp.

Teddy, unhurt, was in action again the same evening. "I had a fine party at the end of that day's work," he told me. He was awarded the D.S.O. for his courage and fine leadership when leading No. 151 Squadron in action over Dunkirk.

He continued as a fighter pilot for some time, after which he became Chief Instructor in No. 5 Elementary Flying Training Squadron, and then went to the United States to help organise gunnery schools. In recognition of the work he did there, he was awarded the U.S. Army Air Forces Command pilots' Wings and the appropriate scroll, an honour of which he is justly proud, which had been given to only one other non-American.

After a period at the Empire Central Flying School in 1944 he was given command of the first permanent base for jet fighters to be established in the United Kingdom, at Colerne.

His biggest opportunity came in 1946 when he was selected to command the R.A.F. High Speed flight, formed to test-fly the latest Meteors, and ultimately to break the world speed record. For this, he was based at Tangmere, in Sussex, with his picked band of pilots, who included Bill Waterton, later Chief Test Pilot to Glosters, and Neville Duke, who was to break point-to-point speed records when test pilot for Hawkers.

It is comparatively recent history how he and his boys waited through the coldest summer on record for some warmer weather to give a chance of reaching a really high speed of about 630 m.p.h. The temperature did not get within 15 degrees of the normal for that time of the year. Each extra degree of heat would have added another mile per hour of speed. He waited through July and August. At last, on 7th September, 1946, he "had a crack at it". Those who saw his flight will not easily forget the curious effect of the combination of speed and humidity of the air which resulted in the Meteor—and Teddy—almost disappearing from sight in what looked like a semi-opaque cocoon. But he established a new world record of 616 m.p.h. for which he was awarded the Britannia Trophy given annually to the British pilot who performs the most meritorious flight of the year.

It is sometimes overlooked that during the course of these runs he twice topped the speed of 1,000 km.p.h., the first time that speed had ever been officially measured. On a number of other trial runs the 1,000 km.p.h. was reached. This was two years before any other aeroplane approached that milestone of speed.


D.S.O., D.F.C. & 2 BARS, A.F.C., M.C. (CZECH)


SQUADRON LEADER NEVILLE FREDERICK DUKE, D.S.O., D.F.C. (2 bars), A.F.C., Czech Military Cross, has been assistant test pilot to Wimpy Wade with Hawker Aircraft Ltd. at Langley in Buckinghamshire since July, 1948. This was not his first connection with Hawkers for he was attached to the firm from the R.A.F. for the whole of 1945 for production testing.

Neville was born at Tonbridge in Kent on 11th January, 1922, and was educated there at the well-known Judd's School. There are two famous schools at Tonbridge. There is Tonbridge Grammar School of Edward VI, and Judd's. Both are of the same foundation. The two schools have produced many well known aviation types. When Neville was at Judd's, a contemporary, though older pupil, was "Hazel" Hazelden, who became Chief Test Pilot to Handley Page Ltd. in 1947.

A long line of famous test pilots from the earliest days came from Tonbridge, starting with E. V. B. Fisher, who was killed in May, 1912, and Gordon Bell, who was killed testing a Vickers aeroplane in 1918. Neville's Chief Test Pilot at Hawkers, Wimpy Wade, was also at school at Tonbridge.

From my own experience there I know that Tonbridge air is full of aviation bugs. In the days before 1914, among those bitten there was the present Lord Douglas. We were infected by seeing aeroplanes flying from Eastchurch to Brooklands, following that straight railway through Kent, Army airships of the period, and the French Clement-Bayard airship which flew from Paris to London in 1910.

Later types such as Hazel and Neville were intrigued by airliners of the "middle ages" passing low over Tonbridge en route from Croydon to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. For in those days of unreliable motors, all airliners flew from Croydon to Folkestone, Lympne, or Dover, passing over or near Tonbridge, and crossing the Channel at its narrowest part.

Neville spent much time in those days cycling to airfields such as Biggin Hill, where he was to be stationed with No. 92 Squadron in 1941, West Malling, which then was a small grass airfield with only one hangar and a clubhouse, and to Penshurst for many visits by Sir Alan Cobham's air circus. Several of the current brood of test pilots owed their first flight to Sir Alan; Neville first flew with Sir Alan's circus in an Avro 504k, when he (Neville) was aged 10. Like so many boys of the period, most of his pocket money went on joy-rides in aeroplanes, and so he could claim that he is one of those who, possibly only in a small way, were among those who first provided capital which enabled Sir Alan to begin experiments with flight-refuelling!

The war of 1939-45 was the chance Neville had been waiting for, ever since he can remember, to fulfil his ambition to learn to fly. At the earliest possible moment, on his eighteenth birthday in January, 1940, he joined the R.A.F. After the usual period with Initial Training Wing he was posted to No. 13 Elementary Flying Training School at White Waltham, operated by de Havillands, and learned to fly Tiger Moths. From there he progressed to No. 5 Flying Training Schools at Sealand and Ternhill where he flew Miles Masters, and thence to No. 58 Operational Training Unit at Grangemouth to fly Spitfires.

His training complete, and proudly wearing the coveted Wings—that biggest moment in the life of every pilot—he was then posted to No. 92 Squadron at Biggin Hill in March, 1941, which aerodrome was still showing its scars won honourably in the forefront of the Battle of Britain a few months earlier. What a thrill this was for Neville, who only a few years earlier, had, as a small boy, watched the men whom he regarded as "wizard-heroes" flying the biplane fighters of the period, as he cycled along past the Saltbox after having pushed up Westerham Hill!

At last, here he was, one of them himself, flying Spitfire 5s over occupied France in offensive sweeps. He is extremely reticent about this period, but his D.S.O., D.F.C. three times, A.F.C. and Czech Military Cross tell their own tales.

In November, 1941, he was transferred to the Middle East where he joined No. 112 Squadron flying American Tomahawks and Kittyhawks over the Western Desert until May, 1942. This was followed by a period as instructor at No. 1 Middle East Fighter School in Egypt from May to October, 1942. Then back to operations, with his old original Squadron No. 92 which had come east from Biggin Hill to the Western Desert, with which Neville again served from November, 1942, to June, 1943, flying Spitfires and being promoted flight-commander.

With some difficulty I extracted this admission from the somewhat reluctant Neville on his experiences here and later.

"I suppose being shot down comes under the heading of a narrow squeak," he told me. "This has happened to me three times. Twice when on Tomahawks, by Me 109s over the Western Desert; on one occasion I was walking home across the Desert and I was picked up and given a lift by a Lysander. Later on I was shot down in a Spitfire 8 by ground fire in Italy. I baled out, but to my regret and annoyance I fell into Lake Bracciano which was behind the Hun lines. Italian partisans looked after me for a time, and enabled me to return to our side of the war." That latter occurrence happened in 1944.

Before that, while still in Egypt he went as Chief Instructor to No. 73 Operational Training Unit at Abu Sueir from June, 1943, to February, 1944.

By this time, much of the war had moved north, from Africa to Italy, and Duke was posted to No. 145 Squadron there which he commanded from March to November, 1944, flying Spitfire 8s.

After completing three operational tours he was posted back to England where he made his first contact with Hawkers, and gained his first experience of test flying. He was posted to Langley for production testing of Typhoons and Tempests, where he began to learn the art of test flying under the great George Bulman and Philip Lucas. Profiting by his own experience, and on advice from older and more experienced test pilots he applied for a course with the Empire Test Pilots' School to which he went at Cranfield in January, 1946. He must have been an outstanding pupil here for he was picked by Teddy Donaldson, with Bill Waterton, for the new High Speed Flight which was being formed ostensibly to develop the Meteor 4, but mainly to raise the world speed record which had, at the end of 1945, been raised by Willie Wilson and his High Speed Flight to 606 m.p.h.

In the summer of 1946 Teddy Donaldson established his High Speed Flight at Tangmere. Neville says that what now stands out in his mind chiefly is the amount of practice he put in. "I went up and down the measured 3 km. course over the sea at Littlehampton some 180 to 200 times in practice runs," he said. "But it was all in vain as it happened. We had a long spell of unusually cold weather, even for an English summer, so conditions were never suitably warm enough to give a good chance of raising the record to the figure which we knew was possible."

I have recounted in the chapter on Teddy Donaldson how eventually he managed to raise the record to 616 m.p.h.

After the High Speed Flight, Neville was posted to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down in March, 1947, as a squadron leader on test flying duties until June, 1948. Then the test flying at Hawkers was so increasing, with Tempests and Furys for the Navy, and the jet-fighters, P 1040 and its later derivatives, that Bill Humble invited Neville to join him and Wimpy Wade as assistant test pilot in July, 1948.

He soon began to show his form and his flying of Hawker aircraft at the Society of British Aircraft Constructors' Air Shows at Farnborough excited comment, even among such a galaxy of stars who perform there annually. In the National Air Races at Elmdon, Birmingham, he won the Kemsley Trophy handicap for jet and piston-motor aircraft, and shared the de Havilland Trophy for the fastest lap of the course during the meeting. In the same year, he set up new point-to-point speed records between London and Rome, and London and Karachi, the latter in May, 1948, in the course of a delivery flight with a Fury aircraft to the Royal Pakistan Air Force, and London-Cairo in 1950 in delivering a Fury to the Egyptian Air Force.

He is the owner of a Hawker Tom-Tit biplane and his display of slow aerobatics in this have been a popular feature at air displays throughout Britain.

He has flown over 3,080 hours on 71 types of aircraft; 1,150 hours of this was amassed on test flying by the middle of 1950.

He went through a deck-landing course with the Royal Navy on Fairey Fireflies in January, 1949. During the war he shot down 28 enemy aircraft.




To George Errington, Chief Test Pilot for Airspeed Ltd., who is the man who has done nearly all the flight testing of the "Ambassador", test flying is merely putting into practice the results of much painstaking aeronautical engineering.

"The reason for my entering aviation," he told me, "was, without question, the high standard of engineering associated with it, and being a qualified engineer (whatever that means!) I decided to specialise in that branch. Flying was, curiously enough, incidental, and another approach to the general idea. I found that the aerodynamic conundrums connected with flying were so interesting, that I seem to have kept to this side of the job longer than originally intended."

George was born in 1904, and so he is, with Mutt Summers, Harald Penrose and Shepherd, one of the veterans among present day top test pilots. He was first bitten by the aviation bug when he was ten years old.

"My first association was with someone else's home-made glider," he said, "in 1914 as a small and tiresome boy I 'helped' to launch this glider from a hill near Bath, and so far as I remember, its glidepath resembled that of a tombstone thrown from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

"I seemed to take little part in aeronautics for some years after that, other than an occasional flight with any intrepid airman, until I decided to change from heavy to light engineering and began in a somewhat Spartan manner by hiring myself as a 'chippy' to A. V. Roe & Co., where I helped to build the last 504 ever to be made; and circa 1930/31 flew it in company with the most excellent Sammy Brown, who was then Chief Test Pilot; Tommy Tomkins was Avro's 'other pilot'; two nicer blokes one could hardly meet."

According to George, his life in aviation could best be described as "humdrum", but I am sure most of us will not agree. He took his first Ground Engineers' Licence in 1931, and by 1934 he had five of those licences. He considers that his greatest stroke of luck was the "permanent loan" of an Avro "Avian" in 1932 which he kept in a Dutch barn in Shropshire. With that aeroplane he operated from fields all over the country. Later, he became an approved inspector to the Comper Aircraft Co. at Hooton, where he flew the first Comper "Swift", the prelude to many hours happy association with that aeroplane. In 1934 he built for himself a "Swift" from the crashed remains of another "Swift", which included a complete rebuild of the motor. That machine is still flying, and is now owned and flown at Christchurch by Ron Clear, George's assistant test pilot.

In 1935 he became "development" test pilot to Airspeed Ltd., and in 1939, Chief Test Pilot, so he has been on his present job nigh on 15 years.

In 1936 he flew a "Military Envoy", from which the "Oxford" was derived, to Pretoria for the S.A.A.F. While in S. Africa he borrowed a "Puss Moth" to inspect the remains of the "Envoy" which crashed during the London-Jo'burg race. Having completed 2,300 miles of his journey, he had to make a forced landing near the top of a mountain in Tanganyika. He was mistaken for Jehovah by a rather obsolete native tribe there, which complimentary error, he regrets to tell me, has not been repeated since!

In 1937 he flew an "Envoy" from Portsmouth to China, and averaged 163 m.p.h. to Hong Kong. "This was quite hard work," he said, "as I had no radio, and all navigation had to be dead reckoning; and each evening I checked over the motors myself, and usually took off about dawn every day. Worst of all I had to fly right through the south west monsoon
of ill repute!

"In Kwangsi Province, when I was asked to take the family of eight of the military chief of staff for a flight, I had a somewhat tricky incident. I was taking off from a grass 'runway(?)' on which the grass was about two feet high, when a wheel hit a concrete block, and a tyre burst. The situation looked a little tiresome; but we just managed to get down without further incident. It was just chance that the whole undercart was not knocked off, and the family of eight and myself 'bumped off'!" 

In company with Geoffrey Tyson, he performed the first flight-refuelling night trials on 24th February, 1940. George flew an A.W.23 and was refuelled by Tyson from a "Harrow". Conditions were "complete blackout" (by request); they contacted each other by the newly developed harpoon system "after fiddling around in the dark to find each other". All went according to plan, and they established the practicability of the method.       

On 2nd August, 1940, he flew the DH 98, the prototype "Mosquito", and he straightway expressed his humble opinion to DH, father and son, that this must be the best aeroplane in the world. In 1943 he was on loan to de Havillands for development and flight-testing of "Mosquitos", mostly high altitude work to 40,000 ft. (plus) which he found particularly interesting. Later that year, he went on "loan agreement" to Vickers-Supermarine and had what he considers was the great privilege of assisting Jeffery Quill, flight-testing the latest marks of Spitfires, so that he was testing both of our fastest and highest fighters and bombers of that period of the war.

An item which stands out in his memory was when the jettisoned undercart of a "Horsa" did an "all-time high bounce record" when he was being towed by a "Halifax"; the bouncing undercart incidentally knocked much of the rear fuselage off the "Horsa"! They got up quite a speed with much of the rear end of the "Horsa" missing.

"I still do not know why it stayed on at all," he said; "though my observer and I could not see the damage until after we landed, I remarked to him that the 'Horsa' seemed to be snaking a lot. The snaking resulted from there being only a limited amount of structure to hold the rear end on at all!"

In 1947 he went to America and was privileged to be able to perform some handling trials on what he considers was the world's best commercial aeroplane, the "Constellation" (which has always looked to me as if it owed the inspiration for its fuselage design to the "Albatross", which latter was designed by Arthur Hagg, "Ambassador's" creator). Since that time the major part of his work has been flight-testing the "Ambassador".

His nearest "squeak", which he prefers to call "the biggest departure from the humdrum", occurred when doing spinning trials with an "Oxford" in 1939. This is how he described it to me:

"With a full load, and centre of gravity extended aft, and following on a week's spinning trials during which I spun a total distance of 82,000 ft.—quite a twizzle—the time came when the aeroplane decided to continue to spin and failed to recognise the fact that I was trying to check it. Eventually I resorted to the anti-spin parachute, the first time (I think) this new device had been used in 'anger'. After some aerodynamic hesitancy, this brought us out of one difficulty, but started us off on an unforeseen diversion. The chute yanked the tail up so that the 'Oxford' was diving vertically, which was in order, but failed to release as specified in the Tailchute manual.

"We sorted that one out and found ourselves in cloud, with plenty on the clock, a great noise from the whirling 'paddles', and in a vertical position. I was now only partly engrossed in driving as I was trying to get out and walk. Then the parachute pulled clear, breaking a tail-plane fitting en route. So I returned to the controls and we came out of cloud in one mighty swipe, just missing the top of a hill near Cullompton, Devon."

He had another "bit of a thing" which he similarly describes as a slight departure from the humdrum. Flying a "Spit" at comparatively low level, the motor seized up as an oil-pipe had come adrift. He was heading towards the Needles and nicely out to sea. He remembered a new airstrip under construction at Holmsley South, so he climbed the "Spit" on its excess speed, and made a guess at the location of the still brand new runway.

By blowing the wheels down on emergency gear, at the very last moment, and leaving the flaps up, he was just able to make contact with the extreme end of the runway, going downwind, and there was hardly a yard to spare.

He heard, with great interest, that a combat pilot in a "Hurricane" tried a similar thing the next day, but caught his wheels in some wire and was killed. "I remember reading about that with particular interest," humdrum George Errington told me!


D.F.C., A.F.C.


SQUADRON LEADER ERIC FRANKLIN, D.F.C., A.F.C., known to his friends as "Franky", has been Chief Test Pilot to Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd. since Charlie ("Toc-H") Turner-Hughes gave up that post in April, 1947, to concentrate his energies on farm tractors.

Franky can give no exact moment when he was first bitten by the aviation bug. He can distinctly remember, when he was a small boy in shorts, having a tremendous urge to be an engine-driver! He simply brought that urge up to date, and became an aeroplane driver instead.

He was born in Coventry on 7th February, 1920, and can remember seeing the early Armstrong-Whitworth aeroplanes of the inter-war period, from the days of a funny looking biplane named the "Wolf" which was all excrescences. He can well remember the early appearance of the Atalanta in the early 1930s. This was one of the very first of British airliner monoplanes with four motors, built for Imperial Airways Empire services.

Brought up in the aeronautical neighbourhood of Coventry, it is not surprising that when he reached the age of seventeen, he decided to become an aviation apprentice with Armstrong Whitworth's. This was in 1937 when the "Ensign", the first of the modern type of airliner was being built at Baginton for Imperial Airways.

In the two remaining years before the outbreak of war, Franky was enabled to get a good grounding in the elementary science of aerodynamics and construction, which has been invaluable to him in his later career as a test pilot.

While he was still an apprentice, he followed his original urge to be a driver of something with an engine to it, and learned to fly, under the Civil Air Guard scheme, with Leamington Aero Club on Moths. He qualified for his R.Ae.C. Certificate and his "A" Licence in 1938. In April, 1939, he joined the R.A.F.V.R. and continued his flying training on faster and more powerful aeroplanes.       

As a sergeant pilot he was called up in September, 1939, when the R.A.F.V.R. was mobilised. He went through the usual training courses, first with Initial Training Wing, then with a Flying Training School at Sealand. When he had successfully completed those courses, he was posted to an Operational Training Unit first at Abingdon and then at Kinloss, having been commissioned as a pilot officer when he passed out of his F.T.S.

In August of 1940 he was a fully-fledged bomber pilot and was posted to Bomber Command with No. 78 Squadron which was equipped with Whitleys, which were being produced by Armstrong Whitworth's when he was with the firm. This was one of the earliest heavy bombers of the war, and is well remembered by its characteristic "sit" with its tail very high, while flying. This squadron was stationed at Dishforth in Yorkshire. With them he raided targets in Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and France. After a tour of duty with this squadron, he was posted to No. 35 Squadron which was being formed at Linton-on-Ouse with the first Halifaxes.

He made many raids on German towns in the Ruhr, and on Hamburg and Berlin. After completing a half of this second operational tour, he was awarded the D.F.C. He was then promoted flight lieutenant in July, 1941, and was closely concerned with the formation of the first Halifax Conversion Units with which he spent twelve months as an instructor and was promoted acting squadron leader, and awarded the A.F.C. in 1942 for his work there.

All that time he found a great urge to try his hand at test piloting.

"I managed to get myself into test work," he told me, "and in September I was seconded to Handley Page Ltd. as a very junior and ignorant Halifax production test pilot, so my current ambition at this time was achieved."

After a spell of that work, he made such a good impression that he achieved the next aim of all would-be test pilots and was posted to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down where he was attached to "B" Squadron.

After some months of test flying of heavy bombers, he returned to Bomber Command for his second tour of operations as a flight commander with his old Squadron, No. 35, who were now with the Pathfinder Force. Since his previous tour, three things had happened. Much bigger and better bombs had come into service; far greater accuracy in bombing technique had been achieved; Franky had become a far more experienced pilot.

For some months he settled down to regular heavy raids deep into Germany.

Quite naturally, he had his moments of great fright and danger in these raids, which were so greatly instrumental in the final downfall of Germany. Germany was by no means down by then, and the natives were extremely hostile towards our raiding forces. The most I have been able to extract from Franky in regard to any narrow squeaks in his bombing and test work is a rather grudging:
"Narrow squeaks? I'd rather not say. They were generally finger trouble, anyway."

At the and of 1943, after completion of that further tour of duty with Bomber Command, he returned to the A. & A.E.E. and settled down to an unbroken spell of test flying. While with that unit, he had a most interesting job involving a lengthy series of flight tests with a Lancaster. He made these tests, first in the United Kingdom, and then in extremes of temperature in Khartoum and Montreal, the object of which was to obtain information of the effect of tropical and arctic conditions on aircraft performance.

With that object, and after the basic tests had been completed he flew to Khartoum, via Algiers and Cairo in October, 1943, and there, in the Sudan heat, he carried out a further test programme. This was the first Lancaster to he seen at Khartoum, and it formed a very strange contrast with an elderly Vickers "Wellesley", of the type which set up a world distance record by flying from Egypt to Australia just before the war, and with a real museum piece, a Vickers "Victoria" troop-carrier biplane of 1925 vintage. Within a very short time of the arrival of Franky and the Lanc, these two old trusty aircraft beat a not very hasty retreat back to the Canal Zone, whence they had come. Whether this strategic withdrawal was cause and effect, Franky wouldn’t know!

After satisfactory tropical tests, Franky and the Lanc flew back to England just before Christmas, 1943. Early in 1944, he flew to Montreal, via Prestwick and Gander where he and the Lanc successfully weathered the extreme cold of a Canadian winter.

These were the first occasions, he thinks, when the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment aircraft and crew were sent abroad for pure test flying, and he was the pioneer of what has now become an established practice.

After this series of flight tests he completed a second course with the Empire Test Pilots' School at Boscombe Down.

In April, 1945, when the war was all but over, Franky obtained a special release to rejoin his old firm to assist "Toc-H" (Turner-Hughes) with experimental flying. In April, 1947, he was appointed Senior Test Pilot, and was promoted to his present position of Chief Test Pilot in January, 1948.

He has logged 2,750 hours on 55 different types of aircraft, and he has made the first flights on two prototypes. The first of those was the AW 52, which was a jet-propelled flying wing with a wing-span as big as a Lancaster, powered by two Rolls-Royce "Nene" turbo jets, each of which delivered 5,000 lbs. of static thrust.

Franky, very justly, said he regarded this as something rather special in the way of aeroplanes in which to make the first prototype flight of one's life. The second prototype was also something rather special. This was the Apollo, which was the first turboprop aeroplane made by Armstrong-Whitworth's and the second turboprop airliner in the whole world.



THIS series of current British Test Pilots covers a wide range of age and experience. At one end is the doyen of them all, Capt. R. T. Shepherd of Rolls-Royce Ltd., who was an R.F.C. pilot of the 1914-18 war. My present subject is Alexander Ewen (Ben) Gunn, Chief Test Pilot of Boulton Paul Aircraft, who was a cadet in the Air Defence Cadet Corps early in 1939, and transferred with his Squadron, to the A.T.C. when it was formed in February, 1941. He was born on 24th June, 1923, so is now a kid of 27! As test pilots of to-day go, 27 is quite a kid age!

Readers of "Treasure Island" will have no difficulty in understanding why Alexander Ewen Gunn has always been called "Ben"! Adventure was always in his soul. He was first bitten by the aviation bug when he was a boy of 10. He used to spend his summer holidays at Castletown, near John O' Groat's, the most northerly point of the British Isles. He would gaze up at the massive cliffs of Dunnett Head from a small fishing-boat, and long to be able to look down on them from above. Surely many aviation types were first lured into the air for the same reason that they wanted to change the worm's eye view for that of the bird's.

As with many of the present generation of test pilots, it was Sir Alan Cobham who first enabled him to fulfil his ambition.

When Sir Alan toured Britain in the late 1920s and early '30s it was for his oft declared reason that he wished to make the youth of Britain airminded. How well he succeeded!

Ben is an extremely likeable young Scottish type, who will, I am sure, go a long way in aviation on his pleasant personality. He is rather what I have hoped and believed, during the past ten years, a keen air cadet would become. He is the first major test pilot who began his training with the A.D.C.C. and A.T.C., and should serve as an example to all cadets. What he has achieved should be possible for any of them, if they give to their flying what Ben would surely call "the full treatment"!        

Ben was educated at Whitehill School in Glasgow, where he was captain of the rugger and swimming teams.

When he made his first passenger's flight with Cobham's air circus, he drove to Thurso in a horse drawn farm cart.

"This was the first time, and probably the last, when I was taken to and from an aeroplane in a horse-drawn vehicle," he told me.

That flight started him off on a direct course for an aviation career, and he determined as soon as he reached the ground, that a flying future was the thing for him. At school he studied art. He was torn off several strips by his art teacher because aircraft always crept into his drawings somewhere.

Soon after the Air League of the British Empire launched the Air Defence Cadet Corps at the end of 1938 No. 122 Squadron was formed in Glasgow. Naturally the "air mad" Ben was one of the very first to join, and he gained rapid promotion to corporal, sergeant, and flight sergeant. When the A.T.C. came into being at the beginning of 1941, to form what the Air Minister of that time (another Scot, Sir Archibald Sinclair) announced would be "the Royal road to the Royal Air Force", several more squadrons were formed in Glasgow. Ben, who by then was an experienced cadet N.C.O., was transferred to No. 1710 Squadron as senior flight sergeant.

When he reached the ripe old age of 17½, he took a half-day off from school, and joined the R.A.F. as a pilot under training in the latter part of 1941. He went through the usual Initial Training Wing and Elementary Flying Training School training, and was awarded his Wings at the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell, in 1943.

After training on Spitfires with an O.T.U., he was posted to No. 501 Fighter Squadron at the end of 1943 and flew Spitfire 5bs. For some months he did "Jim Crow" work, patrolling the Pas de Calais area, and was over the Channel at dawn on "D" Day, 6th June, 1944. He told me how impressed he was at the sight of the great armada of ships on that historic morn.

Very soon after that he transferred to No. 274 Squadron and flew Tempest 5s, when his immediate job was shooting down doodle-bugs, those pestilential flying-bombs. When that menace had been successfully combated, he went with No. 274 Squadron to join 2nd Tactical Air Force in 83 Group, where his principal job was low level straffing.

He proved to have such good "hands" that soon after VE Day he was posted to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down, where he was given the duty of intensive test flying of the Tempest 2. There and then Ben decided that test flying was the job for him. Owing to his tremendous youthful enthusiasm, coupled with proven ability as a pilot, he was picked for test work with "A" Fighter Test Squadron at Boscombe Down, where he did armament, performance, and handling trials.

As a result of his work with that unit, he was posted to the Empire Test Pilots' School at Farnborough, in which he had graduated by the end of 1948. He then returned to Boscombe Down to continue with "A" Fighter Test Squadron.

While he was on that work, there came that unfortunate accident to a Balliol which resulted in the deaths of Lindsay Neale and Peter Tisshaw, who were then Boulton Paul's test pilots, while they were performing high velocity dives with that trainer at speeds near 500 m.p.h.

So that test flying with the Balliol should not cease, at the loss of both of their test pilots in one accident, the firm applied to the Ministry of Supply for the loan of a pilot, and in February of 1949, Ben Gunn was loaned. Soon after this, the firm found that he had the necessary qualifications, and he was offered the post of test pilot to the firm. So he resigned his commission in the R.A.F. and joined Boulton Paul. In 1950 he was made Chief Test Pilot.

Now in 1950 Ben is still "only a laddie" with only seven years total flying, he has already flown 73 different types, with 1,550 flying hours. Out of that total, 950 hours have been test flying.

When I asked him what he considered was his narrowest escape from disaster, he would not have it that he had ever been very close to writing himself off completely, but he admits to "a moment when I was most worried". That was in 1948 when he was stationed at Boscombe Down, and had been loaned to the de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd., to demonstrate Vampires in Switzerland. Being an insatiable air enthusiast, flying Vampires was not nearly enough for Ben, so he managed to get the loan of a Me 108, a pre-war German air touring 4-seater known as the "Taifun". He was wandering about in that aeroplane over the tops of Alps, and thought he would like a close-up look at the Jungfrau. Though the word means "young lady" this is one of the highest mountains in Switzerland surrounded by terrain which is very unfriendly to aeroplanes wishing to land. When flying at 13,000 ft., the motor stopped.

Ben told me: "The rugged nature of the ground rather frightened me, so I steered, in the glide, for the nearest lake, as I preferred the idea of freezing in cold water to a rock in the back, but luckily, Interlaken Airport appeared on my port side, and I made a dead-stick landing there. Not very exciting, was it, but there it is and it is the best I can do."

Towards the end of October, 1950, Ben told me he was looking forward to "giving the full treatment" to the new Boulton Paul delta-shaped tailless high-speed research monoplane built for the Ministry of Supply which had just made its first flight at Boscombe Down with Squadron Leader R. H. Smyth, Ministry of Supply test pilot, at the controls. I told Ben to be very careful as I was not sure it it was quite a safe machine for kids!! I expect Ben to give me "full treatment" for writing that!

Ben agrees that he owes much to his early training with the A.T.C. "I admit I have been very lucky," he told me, "just being in the right place at the right time." To which I will add, "and being a thoroughly keen type with a likeable personality"!




HADLEY GEORGE HAZELDEN, D.F.C., known to his friends as Hazel, has been test flying for Handley Page Ltd. since early in 1947, and has been Chief Test Pilot since July of that year. He had the main responsibility of conducting the prototype tests of the Hastings, which did such fine service with the R.A.F. on the Berlin Airlift, and the Hermes airliner for B.O.A.C., which is the first of the post-war airliners to go into service, and which was designed from the start to be an airliner.

Hazel traces his infection with the aviation bug to the fact that he was born, and lived his early life, at Sevenoaks. This town was then on the direct route between London and Paris, and early airliners of those days often flew over, or very close to Sevenoaks. He was born there on 7th June, 1915; so from the age of five, he would have seen the Handley Page 0/400 and other airliners of the early days flying on the route from Croydon.

He was first consciously thrilled with aviation, and seriously bitten by the "bug", when Amy Johnson made her now historic flight from England to Australia, solo, in a Moth. As a boy of 15 at the Judd School at Tonbridge, Hazel was thrilled to think that a young girl, only a typist, could fly half round the world all by herself, across hundreds of miles of sea, forest, and desert. He longed to be able to do the same. When he himself, in 1948, flew to Australia, on a proving flight, with the Handley Page prototype Hastings, with its high cruising speed and four motors, he naturally saw the route in a very different light to what it must have appeared to those early pioneers. As Hazel said: "Amy Johnson and the rest, who flew the route on one motor, at about 90 m.p.h., without radio and with inaccurate Met gen, certainly had what it takes!"

From that time onwards, he made determined, and at first quite unsuccessful attempts to get into aviation, and many years passed before his persistence was finally rewarded.

At various times between 1934 and 1936 he applied to the R.A.F. for a short service commission, but to his very great disappointment these applications were all refused. Then in 1939, his persistence was at last rewarded, and he joined the R.A.F.V.R. as a sergeant-pilot under training. In May and June of that year, he underwent his ab initio training at Sywell in Tiger Moths. That was a real milestone in his career, as it was the start of his days as a pilot, the fulfilment of a life-long ambition, the inevitable result of sufficient determination, and the refusal to take "No" for an answer.

In August of the same year, he was transferred to the R.A.F.V.R. school at Redhill, where he learned to fly Hawker "Hart" day-bombers (with single Rolls-Royce motors) and the "Audax" which was the army co-operation version of the same aeroplane. This was fitted with a hook for picking up messages from the ground; a cockney "erk", who was asked what was the difference between a Hart and an Audax, replied that the latter was "only an 'art with an 'ook"! Between the time that Hazel left school and the start of the war, he worked as a clerk in the Standard Life Insurance Co. Ltd., but all the time he was longing to exchange his office for the cockpit of an aeroplane. Like so many young men of the period, his chance came with the war.

He continued his V.R. training, with more intensity and with still higher hope, during the early months of the war. In January, 1940, he had his first experience with multi-motor aircraft, when he was sent to Grantham to fly Avro "Ansons", and after six months with those docile machines, he made his first contact with Handley Page aircraft, when in June he was promoted to an Operational Training Unit to fly Hampdens. After only two months there he went to Finningly for crew training with the same aircraft.

In September, 1940, he was posted to No. 44 Squadron of Bomber Command and began operations, still with Hampdens. His first sorties were against German invasion barges lying in the Channel Ports. He saw these barges in huge quantities and duly helped to bomb them, so that they were never able to start on Hitler's dearest wish
the invasion of Britain.

He continued with this squadron until April, 1941, but with ever changing targets. Among his targets was Hitler's Chancellery in Berlin. "We were probably not very successful," he told me, "for the ground was covered with cloud, and this was long before the days of accurate bombing devices." During this period he not only won the D.F.C. but also his commission.

After this tour of duty, he was posted back to Cottesmore as an instructor on Hampdens, on which work he stayed until October, 1941. Then he returned to Finningly for a conversion course to Avro "Manchesters", which aircraft was the predecessor of the Lancaster. The Manchester was powered by two Rolls-Royce "Vultures". This was a motor which was two "Goshawks" placed crankcase to crankcase, so that the frontal view of the cylinders formed an "X". This motor was intended to power the Hawker "Tornado" as well as the Manchester. In the high-pressure conditions existing during Lord Beaverbrook's tenure of the Ministry of Aircraft Production during the Battle of Britain, Rolls-Royce were not allowed sufficient time to develop the Vulture fully before putting it into production. As a result, it was never reliable, and so two potentially good aeroplanes were ruined.

Nevertheless Hazel went on operations against Germany with Manchesters from December, 1941. On one such raid, he had what he described to me as "one of those things"! One of his Vultures decided to catch fire when he was over the North Sea on the way home from a raid on which there had been "a bit of trouble with enemy fighters". In attempting to feather the duff motor in the dark, Hazel pressed the wrong button and feathered the good motor, which left the ship in rather an awkward predicament. "Fortunately my second pilot was not so dim," he told me, "and he feathered the duff motor, and to our intense relief, the fire went out. The good one was unfeathered all right, and we limped back to England on one motor. When over land we made a forced landing in Norfolk. A member of the Local Defence Volunteers (which was the first name for the Home Guard) came out to us in bare feet, and, thinking we were Germans, put us under arrest. If we had been Germans, we could easily have overcome him. Fortunately, after a bit of a pow-wow, he decided we were British, and he took us to find a telephone. After reporting by 'phone to base, we were duly collected."

The Manchester was soon replaced by the Lancaster, and Hazel duly continued "ops" on these until July, 1942. During this period he took part in the thousand bomber raids on Cologne, Essen, and Bremen in May and June, 1942, and was awarded a bar to his D.F.C.

In July, 1942, he returned to instruction and became Assistant Chief Instructor at Oakley in September of that year.

In June, 1943, he began his career as a test pilot when he went on No. 1 Course at the Empire Test Pilots' School at Boscombe Down, and in March, 1944, he was posted to the Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron of which he took command in September, 1945. In December, 1945, he was made Officer Commanding the Civil Aircraft Test Section at Boscombe Down in which capacity he served until April, 1947. He was awarded the King's Commendation for his work with this Unit.

He left the R.A.F. in April, 1947, as a squadron leader, and joined Handley Page Ltd. as a test pilot, and after three months he was appointed Chief Test Pilot.

Apart from the incident with the Manchester over the North Sea, Hazel considers that his most shaking incident was when he was testing a new type of spring-tab for the Hermes in October, 1948. Tail-buffetting which had nothing to do with the inherent design of the aeroplane, was set up, and the tail plane began to disintegrate. He managed to land all right, but was horrified when he examined the tail, to see how very nearly it had completely broken. "We discovered from this incident that these particular spring-tabs were not so good," he told me, "so we had to think again before evolving the completely successful type fitted to-day.”

In August, 1949, he tested the prototype Hermes 5 with Bristol "Theseus" turboprops, the most powerful turboprop airliner then to fly.

He has considerable experience of flying overseas. Apart from the Hastings flight to Australia, he was in charge of a test expedition to Mauripur with a Lancaster at overload of 72,000 lbs., intended for use with the Tiger Force against Japan. He has flown Liberators to Khartoum with technicians for tropical tests there with Tempests and Meteors, and flew to Nairobi with a Tudor on tropical trials for B.O.A.C.

Hazel is a big man, and on first contact one gets the impression that he is a bit slow in thought and action. I soon realised, however, that this impression was due to a complete lack of impulsiveness and to the fact that he does nothing without careful thought—a most valuable attribute in a test pilot. He is quick enough once his mind is made up.

He is one of those fortunate people who has such complete control over his mind, that he can, at will, drop off to sleep in a chair for five minutes, and wake up fully refreshed at exactly the time he intends.



D.F.C., A.F.C., A.R.Ae.S.


WING COMMANDER JOHN ALEXANDER KENT, D.F.C. (and bar), A.F.C., who at the beginning of 1950 was Chief Test Pilot to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, is a Canadian by birth, and is therefore in direct succession to the famous line of R.A.F. pilots from Canada. In 1950 he was sent on a special mission to the United States for special research flying.

Johnny Kent was born in Winnipeg on 23rd June, 1914. As he flew the 25 h.p. Deperdussin monoplane of 1910 vintage at the R.Ae.S. Garden Party at White Waltham in the summer of 1949, he has flown an aeroplane which flew before he was born! As he has flown the latest jet-propelled craft, such as the DH 108 and the Hawker 1052, he has a wide range of experience.

His earliest recollection of an aeroplane is of a Bristol "Fighter" which was being used for joy-riding at $5 for five minutes in River Park, Winnipeg.

"I was mad keen to have a ride in it," he told me, "but my mother refused to allow me to go within 100 yards of this demon machine. That was, I think, the beginning of my interest in flying and aircraft, and being somewhat one-track minded, I still retain it! I did not fly, even as a passenger, until I was allowed a trip as a birthday treat when I was fifteen."

He said that birthday flight "started the rot", and he began to build an aeroplane of his own, intending to power it with a motor-bike engine and teach himself to fly.

"Fortunately for my subsequent career," he told me over a can of beer in the original R.F.C. Officers' Mess at Farnborough in 1950, "the local Civil Aviation Inspector gave a flat refusal to my request to fly it, and looking back I cannot help feeling he was so right. My knowledge of construction left much to be desired!"

However, it convinced his father that young Johnny was genuinely interested in aircraft, and that this was not just a passing fancy, so he was allowed to learn to fly at Winnipeg Flying Club instead of taking a degree at the University. He qualified as a pilot when he was just 17, and was the youngest qualified pilot in Canada at the time.

He spent the next two years piling up flying time to qualify for a Commercial Pilots' Licence for which the minimum age was 19. Having obtained that licence he did some charter work and instruction in Canada. This was just after the great financial depression, and it was very expensive to put in enough flying time to obtain a post with the larger airways companies.

Then he saw an advertisement for Short Service Commissions in the R.A.F. for which he applied. He was accepted and told to proceed to England forthwith. "This I did at the expense of my long-suffering father," he said. He entered the R.A.F. in March, 1935, and was posted to Sealand.

After completing his flying training course, he was posted to No. 19 Squadron early in 1936 flying the latest and fastest fighters which were biplanes, Gloster "Gauntlets". After 10 months with 19 Squadron he had the good fortune to be posted to the Royal Aircraft Establishment which began his career as a test pilot. His original idea in joining the R.A.F. had been to gain sufficient experience to get an airline pilots' job in Canada, but this posting gave new ideas and he started to think of a permanent commission.

One of his first jobs with the R.A.E. was one that might have cured less keen types than Johnny of test flying. This was to fly aeroplanes into the cables of barrage balloons, which balloons were hoped to defend towns and factories, etc., from low flying enemy aircraft. Most deliberate collisions took place at about 7,000 ft. at speeds ranging from 150 to 330 m.p.h. The aircraft used were Fairey P4/34 (later the "Fulmar"), Battle, Wellesley, and Wellington. He did this work for about two years during which he collided with cables over 300 times, 170 of which were with large diameter mooring type cables.

Rather naturally he had his narrowest escape while engaged on that work. "Various degrees of damage were sustained by the aircraft," he said. "Early in the war, after a test collision, I returned to Exeter with some 500 feet of cable still tangled in my wing. As I approached to land, one end of the cable became entangled with high tension wires near the aerodrome. I felt a tremendous jerk and the aircraft spun through 45 degrees and the wing was pulled down at an alarming angle. I instinctively opened the throttle and gave full opposite control, and the aircraft literally fell on to the ground in a level position, the cable fortunately was pulled clear of the high tension wires. This sometimes, even now, causes me to break out into a cold sweat when I think of it! And I was very nearly arrested for putting a large part of South Devon into darkness, and only the kindly intervention of Professor G. T. R. Hill, who was in charge of the experiments, prevented me from languishing in the local gaol! But even that would have been better than the local mortuary!"

For his hazardous work of flying into the cables, and also in the face of providence, he was awarded the A.F.C. He was also successful in passing his specialisation examination for a permanent commission.

When war came in September, 1939, Johnny moved the Balloon Barrage Flight from Farnborough to Exeter where he remained until early 1940. After establishing a high nuisance value for himself by constantly badgering his commanding officer to put him on operations against the enemy, the authorities, to get a bit of peace for themselves, posted him to the Photographic Development Unit at Heston for operational flying. He flew Spitfires at heights up to 37,000 ft., taking photographs of enemy objectives as far distant as Bremen. After a short spell with that unit he was posted to France for photographic work of a more tactical nature and of shorter duration flights.

He was in France during the retreat and on one occasion had the unpleasant experience of taking off in a Tiger Moth from an airfield which was being bombed. He finally left France, just before the final collapse, in a Spit in which the cameras had been replaced by guns.

From August to October, 1940, he served with the famous Polish Squadron, No. 303, at Northolt, during which time he was awarded the D.F.C. and the Virtuti Militari, which latter is the Polish equivalent of the V.C.

He was then posted to command No. 92 Squadron first at Biggin Hill and then at Manston, and was one of the few pilots who fought throughout the whole of the Battle of Britain, and was most fortunate in having his aircraft hit on only one occasion. He also took part in combatting the final efforts of the Luftwaffe with the high-flying fighter-bomber raids. Early in 1941 he took part in the first offensive sweeps over enemy-occupied territory.

From March to June, 1941, Johnny was Wing Commander (Flying) at a Fighter Operational Training Unit at Heston, and then returned to Northolt as Wing Leader of the Polish Wing, and from August to October, he took over the Kenley Wing, during which tour he shot down six more enemy aircraft and took part in further offensive sweeps and escorted bomber raids. For that work he was awarded a bar to his D.F.C.

After a further tour with an O.T.U., he was sent to Canada and the U.S.A. for a lecture tour to flying-schools and squadrons, to give them an idea of what operations were really like.

"After six months in my native Continent, I found it was necessary for my health to return to a nice quiet war," he told me, "for a bit of a rest." He was given command of a fighter station where two Czech Squadrons were based and later in the year was detailed to fly a Wellington to the Middle East. "That story will hardly bear telling," he said, "for the Captain (myself) had never previously flown a twin-motor aircraft at night, and the second pilot had never flown a twin at all! Needless to say the remainder of the crew were kept in complete ignorance of that fact until after we had arrived safely at Cairo."

That was just before the Battle of Alamein, and Johnny was given command of a fighter sector at Benghazi for some nine months and then returned to Cairo on the Staff. In that capacity he went as A.O.C.'s representative to supervise airborne operations from Palestine for the unsuccessful attempted invasion of the Dodecanese Islands. He had an interesting experience when flying back from Cos along the south coast of Turkey by night. He could see what seemed to be numerous towns on fire, with their streets outlined in flames. He imagined this was German retaliation for our invasion, but later he found that what he had seen were cracks in the earth's surface in a volcanic region and the glow from the fires below made it appear as though streets were lit up by flames, though there were no towns there.

He returned to the United Kingdom early in 1944 and until the war ended he was Commanding Officer of an advanced training unit. He passed the Staff College when the war ended, and was then posted to the Air Staff of the British Air Force of Occupation in Germany for a year and then served as Personal Staff Officer to the C.-in-C. and Military Governor, Marshal of the R.A.F., Sir Sholto (now Lord) Douglas.

Johnny could never be really happy in a staff or office job, so that it was with gladness that when he returned to England he was posted as Chief Test Pilot to his old "home", the R.A.E. at Farnborough. By way of relaxation from flying the latest and secret aircraft, he flies ancient aeroplanes of forty years ago, which his then Commanding Officer, Group Capt. Allen Wheeler, maintained for the Shuttleworth Trust. These aircraft, whose top speed is about 40 m.p.h., make a nice change from modern aircraft, some of which will not stay in the air at less than 140 m.p.h.

In his comparatively short flying life he has flown for well over 3,000 hours on 165 different types ranging from those of 1910 to the present day jets. He is extremely popular with everyone, particularly his fellow pilots.       




JOHN OLIVER LANCASTER, D.F.C., somewhat naturally known to his friends, because of his initials as "Joe", has been one of Franky Franklin's band of test pilots with Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd. since January, 1949.

He is a tall, dark, cheerful young man and one very soon learns that he is something of a rebel at heart! Like so many forceful young men of action he is somewhat intolerant of many brands of incompetent authority, especially the modern bureaucratic breeds. The fact that he is one of the major British test pilots, proves that he has grown out of the early impatience of youth.

He was born at Penrith, Cumberland, on 4th February, 1919, and was educated at Scarborough High School. His original ambition was to enter ship-building, but in his adolescent days, great events were occurring in aviation, to which his interest shifted. After exploring the possibilities, he decided that Armstrong-Whitworths offered the most exciting possibilities. In those days the A.W. Atalanta monoplanes were making their mark on the Empire routes in Africa and Australia, and Charlie (Toc-H) Turner-Hughes was performing emotioning feats in the air with a neat fast fighter biplane, the A.W. "Scimitar", so it is not surprising to find young Joe anxious to join such a firm. He began a five years apprenticeship in October, 1935. This was, in fact, two years before his present Chief, Franky Franklin, joined the same firm as an apprentice.

In 1937 he joined the R.A.F.V.R. and learned to fly on Tiger Moths at Sywell, and then went on to Avro Cadets and Hawker Harts at Ansty.

"One fine Sunday morning, on 10th April, 1938," he told me, "I was doing some low aerobatics in a fit of over exuberance. Unfortunately I followed the exhibition with a forced landing through a choked motor. Two days later I was 'drummed out'. I put up a barrage of appeals to all quarters; but though I received sympathy, there was no forgiveness, and I was turned down for all other branches of the V.R."

There was an amusing sequel to this two years later. After the outbreak of war, Joe had managed to overcome the "sales resistance" of the Air Ministry and was on an Elementary Flying Training School course at Desford. At the very first lecture he attended, the instructor read from the "black book" a series of awful examples of how not to fly, and cases of pupils who had put up "Imperial blacks". Joe's own case was, quite unwittingly, among those featured. "I became a hero on the spot—to the other pupils," he said.

As the Air Ministry would have nothing to do with him, Joe registered with the first batch of pre-war conscripts and was called up for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in September, 1939. Meanwhile he had been making an absolute pest of himself to the local recruiting ofiicer by his determined efforts to join the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, and also still badgering the Air Ministry to take this "black sheep" back into the R.A.F. fold. He was literally saved by the last post
for in the last post before he was due to leave to join his regiment there came a letter from their Lordships of the Admiralty calling him for deferred service with the Navy.

Even before he could pull on his bell-bottoms the Air Ministry relented in January, 1940, and he was sent to Desford Elementary Flying Training School where the incident described took place. He asked to be trained as a fighter boy and began training on Miles Masters at Sealand. As he was one of the few on that course who had done night-flying, he became a bomber-boy, a fact which has greatly influenced his later career. He went to an Operational Training Unit at Lossiemouth and began his career as a "heavy".

In 1941 he completed a tour of operations on Wellington lc bombers with No. 40 Squadron at Alconbury, after which he became an O.T.U. instructor at Wellesbourne and Wymeswold. From Wellesbourne he took part in the first two 1,000-bomber raids.

In May, 1943, he completed a second operational tour with No. 12 Squadron on Lancaster ls at Wickenby. He was awarded a D.F.C. at the end of the second tour, "for managing to survive," he said. He then skilfully evaded a further posting to an O.T.U. For some time he had been firing a barrage of applications to be posted to test flying, and in November, 1943, these bore fruit and he was posted to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down. In 1945 he passed through No. 3 Course at the Empire Test Pilots’ School, and in January, 1946, his Service career ended in demobilisation.

His career as a civil test pilot began with Boulton Paul Aircraft under Lindsay Neale.

Then he joined Saunders-Roe Ltd. for a while as assistant to Geoffrey Tyson, flying the A1 jet single-seat fighter flying-boat. On two days of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors’ Air Show at Farnborough, in 1948, he flew as "stand-in" for Geoffrey, and many will remember the fine show he made with the little boat at the Battle of Britain Air Display at Beaulieu that year.

In January, 1949, he transferred to his original firm, Armstrong-Whitworth’s where he seems to be a more or less permanent feature of the Baginton landscape.

His most interesting experience in test flying occurred soon after he rejoined that firm. He was testing the big all-jet Flying Wing and had to abandon ship, making the first parachute escape "in anger" using the Martin-Baker Ejector Seat in this country, and, so far as he knows, anywhere else.

Even under severe mental and physical stress, he did not quite lose the test pilot's analytical mind. He explained that longitudinal oscillation set in at about 400 m.p.h. in disturbed air. An effort to damp this out was made by bracing the stick. Both engines were running normally and power was immediately reduced. The oscillations, however, increased and became so violent that he was unable to see and came very close to losing consciousness.

He recalls thinking of the safety pin in the emergency release handle, but does not remember actually withdrawing it, and he has no recollections of moving his feet on to the seat rests before operating the ejection mechanism.

His last impression of the oscillations were that they were "rather more than somewhat"! Laterally and directionally the behaviour was normal. The time between the onset of the oscillations and abandoning the aircraft was about a quarter of a minute.

He told me that having pulled the blind which starts the ejection sequence, he reappeared from behind it to find himself inclined forward at about 45 degrees with the seat perfectly stable. On releasing the seat harness he fell clear with no difficulty and pulled the rip-cord. As the parachute filled, at an estimated height of 2,000 ft. he recalled seeing the seat fall past him, not so very far away. "The parachute used was the smallest I have ever seen, specially when viewed looking up from below," he told me!

On approaching the ground, considerable drift became evident, the surface wind being about 15 knots. In his efforts to turn himself to face the direction of drift he started a swing, and landed, swinging with the drift, through a hedge, full length on his side some 15 feet from a canal. Apart from what Joe calls "normal bruises", his injuries included a chipped bone in his right shoulder, which was probably due to the heavy landing of the 205 lbs. of solid Joe, and a compression fracture of the first lumbar vertebra; the latter was attributed to ejection with the legs unsupported.

The flying-wing landed rather more the worse for wear than did Joe, who was really extremely lucky to have escaped with nothing worse; for it is difficult to imagine anything more night-marish than being completely out of control in a jet-propelled unorthodox flying-wing bucking like a broncho in a Wild West Show at over 400 m.p.h. And this was Joe's first occasion to use a parachute!

He left the R.A.F. as a flight lieutenant. He has flown over 2,300 hours on 68 different types, British, American, and German, not including variants. A short while in his company is exhilarating, interesting and extremely pleasant and entertaining!       


M.B.E., A.R.Ae.S.


PETER GODFREY LAWRENCE, M.B.E., A.R.Ae.S., has been testing for the Blackburn Aircraft Co. Ltd., since July, 1945. In March, 1948, he was appointed Chief Test Pilot, and at that time was the youngest Chief Test Pilot in the country. When Blackburns amalgamated with General Aircraft Company and became the Blackburn and General Aircraft Co. Ltd., he gave way as Chief Test Pilot to "Timber" Wood of General Aircraft, who is a pilot of very long experience.

Known to his friends as "P.G.", Peter was born in Leeds on 30th December, 1920, and so is a true Yorkshireman flying for this Yorkshire pioneer firm, which was founded by Robert Blackburn, who built his first aeroplane in 1910. "I have always been interested in aeroplanes," Peter told me; "I progressed in my youth from paper gliders up to large model aircraft with miniature diesel motors."

When he left school he at once followed his aviation urge and joined Handley Page Ltd. as an aircraft apprentice at Cricklewood in 1937. His ambition from the very beginning had been to fly as a pilot. Before the outbreak of war in 1939 he applied to join what was then the Fleet Air Arm of the R.N. After a period of naval training at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich as a midshipman, and at Gosport, and with a training period in a cruiser, he was sent to Elmdon near Birmingham where he had his first experience of flying in Tiger Moths.

The war had by now started so his training was speeded up a bit and he went to Peterborough where he underwent advanced training on Hawker Harts, Hinds, and Audaxes.

After this he began the serious business of learning to fly in the naval fashion and went to Abbottsinch for a conversion course on Fairey Swordfish. At this time he first came into contact with the products of the firm for which he was later to become test pilot when he also flew Blackburn Sharks, those rather curious looking old angular biplanes. He was initiated into the gentle art of deck landing on a dummy deck marked on the airfield at Arbroath.

By 1940 he was considered sufficiently trained to go on operational flying against the enemy and was posted to No. 819 Squadron which flew Fairey Swordfish, the good old "Stringbags", from H.M.S. Illustrious. He served in that ship from the United Kingdom to Alexandria and saw much service in the Mediterranean. At the end of 1940 he was transferred to H.M.S. Eagle which carried No. 824 Squadron and saw service in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and South Atlantic, which consisted of strikes against enemy shipping, Naval vessels, and submarines. The bulk of their work was against submarines.

The squadron also took part in a number of bombing raids against coastal targets, and P.G. was in the first raid to be made on Tripoli. The squadron also operated from land bases in the Western Desert at the end of 1940 and the beginning of 1941, during which period they were doing continuous anti-submarine work along the North African coast. He continued to serve in H.M.S. Eagle until she was sunk in the Mediterranean in 1942. Following this he served for a short period in H.M.S. Argus in the Mediterranean until August, 1942, when he returned to the United Kingdom. Then began the start of his career as a test pilot when he was appointed to No. 778 (Service Trials Unit) Squadron, based at Arbroath. Here his job was testing the efficacy
or otherwiseof various aircraft for landing on carriers. During this time Peter made 440 landings on eight different types of aircraft on twenty-five assorted carriers, and the main job of the squadron was to assess the operational value of the aircraft and carriers. He continued on that job until the end of 1944. On the advent of the single-seat torpedo bomber he was posted to the Tactic Trial Unit at Lee-on-Solent for testing this new type, which was being evolved to supersede the Fairey Swordfish and Barracuda, which, until then, had been the standard torpedo-dropping aircraft.

In 1945, when only 25 years old, P.G. had his big chance when he was appointed, while still a serving ofiicer of the Royal Navy, to Blackburn Aircraft Ltd., as Experimental and Deputy Chief Test Pilot. After a six months' probationary period, he obtained a "Class B release", which was an extra early demobilisation for the specific job of test pilot with Blackburns, and he joined the company as a complete civilian.

As he was proving highly satisfactory to the company, they arranged for him to have a course at the Empire Test Pilots' School at Farnborough, and he passed through No. 5 Course in March, 1947.       

Later he was awarded the M.B.E. for his work in the deck-landing trials with the Firebrand 4.

His superb handling of the Firebrand came to the notice of a wider public for the first time at the Society of British Aircraft Constructors' Air Show at Radlett in 1946. I still have a vivid recollection of the enormous Firebrand 4, powered by its 2,500 h.p. Bristol Centaurus, with a huge torpedo slung below it, being aerobatted by P.G. at a very low level, and performing with the agility of a small aircraft. In succeeding years he has improved even on that polished display.

He specially remembers one incident which was rather more shaking than most. This was when he was investigating aileron flutter with an experimental Firebrand. At a certain definite speed this aileron flutter would set in and would die out when a further 30 knots was reached. "This phenomenon seemed to become greater with the increase in height," he said. "I was exploring these symptoms, and up to 20,000 ft. although the oscillations were getting progressively worse, they stopped after the aircraft had reached a certain speed. However, at 25,000 ft. the flutter began but would not stop, and in fact the phenomenon got steadily worse, and the wing-tips were moving through about 3 ft.! This caused the metal covering of the wings and fuselage to crack, and also the windscreen and the side panel of the cockpit.

"Being rather afraid that something might drop off," went on P.G. coolly, "I prepared to bale out, to do which I reduced speed. When I had reduced speed to under 100 knots the flutter suddenly stopped and I was able to bring the machine back to Brough for a thorough investigation. It took quite a long time to come down from 20,000 ft. at a speed of 100 knots!"

Test pilots such as P.G. quite honestly think very little of such a thing which, to anyone firmly on the ground, sounds a most shattering experience. By coolly sticking to his aircraft, when it might have completely broken up at any moment, instead of baling out to almost certain safety, P.G. saved his firm many thousands of pounds, and shortened the development trials of that mark of Firebrand by at least a year. It sounds easy enough to say that is what test pilots are paid to do, maybe it is
but most of them are paid wholly inadequately in my opinion. Pluck of the sort that all test pilots must have is beyond price!

Peter also made prototype spinning trials of the Prentice when that trainer was being built by Blackburns under licence for Percivals. On the first spinning test, as the machine would not recover after 15 turns, he had to use the anti-spin parachute.

When testing the prototype Firebrand, he had further spin troubles. He had initiated a spin to port, from which the Firebrand did not recover normally after three turns. P.G. tried all normal procedure to stop the spin. He counted up to 12 turns and then lost count. The spin had been started at 22,000 ft. Finally he had to use the tail parachute for recovery and came out at just under 5,000 ft. Watchers on the ground had counted 22 turns!

Although he became a civilian after demobilisation P.G. told me in 1950 that he still has plenty of opportunities for landing on aircraft carriers of the R.N., and he invariably takes part in trials of new naval aircraft built by Blackburns. Quite understandably, though now a staid married man, he gets a real kick in being back in the naval atmosphere.

In 1949 he won the Air League Challenge Cup at the National Air Races at Elmdon, by flying a Firebrand 5 in this race for the fastest piston-engined aircraft at 304 m.p.h. In June, 1950, he defended the Challenge Cup without success. He is a keen addict to air racing and never loses an opportunity to race in Proctors, Messengers, Mosscraft, and the old Blackburn B2 trainer. "Occasionally I manage to get a place, which is most satisfying," he told me.

Since 1945 he has done the prototype tests and research flying on most Blackburn aircraft including the YA 1, YA 7 with Rolls-Royce Griffon, the similarly powered YB 1, and the YA 7, and YA 8 with twin-Mamba turboprops. He has flown 2,600 hours in 70 types of aircraft, and is fully qualified on aircraft with one, two or more motors and on jets, too. He has flown flying-boats and amphibians, and has been approved as a Grade 2 Test Pilot by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (G.A.P.A.N.), is an Associate of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and a member of the Royal Aero Club. His main escape from flying is his home in the Yorkshire village of South Cave, and golf. "I am keen on golf, but not much good," he said. Though thirty years old in 1950, he does not look more than about twenty or so.       



LIEUT-COMMANDER MICHAEL JOHN LITHGOW has been Senior Experimental Test Pilot to the Supermarine Division of Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. since the beginning of 1946 when he was released from the Royal Navy, in which he was Lieut.-Commander, to take up this appointment.

The Supermarine Division of Vickers was originally the Supermarine Aviation Works Ltd., which was one of the pioneer aircraft companies of Great Britain and of the world. Particularly was the firm a pioneer of flying-boats. In 1930 the firm was bought by Vickers Ltd., who wished to absorb the firm's great experience in building sea-going aircraft. Though Supermarine Aviation Works Ltd. was absorbed by Vickers, it has by no means lost its identity and Mike Lithgow is, strictly speaking, Chief Test Pilot for Supermarines in direct succession to Henri Biard, Jeffery Quill, and other famous men. The firm has its works and test airfield at Chilbolton near Winchester where it concentrates on fighters for the Navy and amphibious—or more correctly "tribious"
flying-boats for air-sea rescue work. Mike may often be seen flipping off from Chilbolton on a Seagull and putting it down on Southampton Water at the B.O.A.C. flying-boat base at Hythe. The Supermarine Division types of both aircraft and personnel all show a definite tendency towards web feet; and Mike certainly does!

He traces his infection by the aviation bug to heredity, for his father, Colonel E. G. R. Lithgow, R.A.M.C., was the first "flying doctor" in the R.F.C. At the end of 1912 Captain Lithgow (as he then was), was attached to one of the very first courses at the Central Flying School at Upavon. Contemporary pupils on the course included those who later became Marshal of the R.A.F. Sir John Salmond, Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill, Air Vice-Marshal Reggie Marix who was the first to drop a bomb on Germany in the 1914 War, Colonel R. Smith-Barry who invented the Gosport method of flying instruction, and E. L. Gerrard, R.M.L.I., who was one of the first four Naval aviators.

Captain Lithgow qualified for his Aviators' Certificate, No. 414, on 29th January, 1913, on a Short biplane and then graduated on to a Maurice Farman "Longhorn", so he was one of the true pioneers of British aviation as his very early numbered pilots certificate shows. When Mike was born seven years later in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, on 30th August, 1920, it is not surprising that he was born with flying in his blood. The infection probably dates from earlier still for Colonel Lithgow was born in 1883 at Farnborough, that cradle of British aviation and present home of the R.A.E. since its inception at the opening of the century, so really Mike had little choice in his destiny!

He was educated at Cheltenham College but tells me he did not distinguish himself there in any way. He rowed for the School, was in the Second Rugger XV, and was head of his house. To be head of one's house at such a school as Cheltenham does need a great deal of personality and an inborn sense of leadership, both of which Mike must have had then, and certainly has now to the full. He did not seriously distinguish himself scholastically though he was well up to average, passing his school certificate.

When he was nineteen Mike joined what was then the Fleet Air Arm in January, 1939, as a midshipman (A). He did his early training at the Elementary Flying Training School at Gravesend on Tiger Moths. He was then transferred to an Advanced Flying Training School at Netheravon where he graduated on North American Harvards and Fairey Battles.

When his training was completed he was posted to No. 820 (Torpedo-Bomber-Reconnaisance) Squadron in which he flew on operations on Fairey Swordfish and Albacores. He spent three years with this squadron, one year of which he was with the famous aircraft carrier, Ark Royal, and a second year with Formidable.

When serving with the latter ship, he had what he considers was his narrowest shave, which was an unpremeditated ditching in the South Atlantic.

He was making a practice night attack with dummy torpedoes on the Formidable on a pitch dark night in heavy rain, with the nearest land, St. Helena, 800 miles distant. He was unable to locate the ship; so when his fuel was exhausted, he had to ditch in the sea. Not until the rest of the squadron had "landed on", was the absence of Mike and his crew noticed. By that time the Formidable had proceeded 50 miles on her way. The Captain thereupon turned the ship round on its course to search. Looking for a small object such as an Albacore in the dark with no certain idea if or where it had come down sounds a tough assignment. Mike and his crew were floating in their "Mae Wests" (pneumatic life jackets) as the Albacore had sunk quite early in the proceedings. Later I asked him it he were not rather scared of sharks. He replied that he did not see any sharks, which, as the night was pitch dark, is not surprising!

Five or six hours after Mike had come down in water, the ship passed near to them in its search and those on board heard their shouts and they were rescued.

"When one considers that the distance from the ship to us was about 200 yards, and the diameter of the ship's turning circle was several times that, I think we could count ourselves extremely fortunate, especially as the dinghies had gone down with the aircraft," Mike told me when I saw him at Chilbolton in the summer of 1950.

After that episode, which was in 1942, he came back to the United Kingdom to fly experimental aircraft, which was the start of his career as a test pilot. In February, 1944, he went through the Empire Test Pilots' School at Boscombe Down with No. 2 Course. After passing out he went to the United States Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River as naval test pilot to the British Air Commission during which time he tested and demonstrated many British and American naval fighters, and then he returned to Britain at the end of 1945.

Early in 1946 he joined Supermarines as assistant test pilot to Jeffery Quill, and when the latter gave up active test flying to join the sales side, Mike succeeded him as Chief Test Pilot.

He first came before the public notice when he competed, flying a Seafang, which was the naval version of the Spiteful, in the High Speed Handicap Race at Lympne in August, 1946. This was the first post-war air race meeting of any consequence. At the second S.B.A.C. Air Show after the end of the war, held at the Handley Page airfield at Radlett, Mike put up a memorable demonstration in the jet Attacker with which Jeffery Quill had so astounded the aeronautical community at the 1946 show. Flying with the Gloster Meteor, de Havilland 108 and Vampire, the Attacker, in Mike's hands, certainly looked the fastest thing in the air we had ever seen, and in February of 1948 he proved its speed by breaking the world 100 km. speed record for a closed circuit by reaching a speed of 564.88 m.p.h. He flew the prototype No. TS 409 complete with guns, and not in any way boosted or stripped for racing. Weather conditions were not good and poor visibility prevented him from reaching higher speed.

At the Air Show at Farnborough in 1948 he gave the first demonstration of the Seagull amphibian. But it was at the Air Show of 1949 that he really came prominently before the public notice by his high speed flying of the beautifully streamlined Supermarine "Swift" which was officially called only by its type number, 510. Of the many very fast jet fighters at the Farnborough show of that year, which included the de Havilland Venom, Hawker 1052, and Gloster Meteor with the most powerful Avon jet motors, the beautiful Swift with its swept-back tail plane and fin, as well as main plane, impressed us all with its colossal speed and wonderful manoeuvrability as Mike screeched over the enclosure. It seemed difficult to believe there could be a human being in it, and especially a perfectly normal type like Mike with whom I had been having a drink not long before.

When I last visited Mike at Chilbolton in May, 1950, and had a very pleasant flight with him in a Spitfire Trainer on a lovely sunny morning over Southampton Water, he was hinting darkly at still more speed from the Swift by the installation of a more powerful jet, so by the time you read this Mike may have done something even more startling. At the 1949 show he was believed to have flown the Swift at 675 m.p.h. for a short burst of speed, which was in excess of the world speed record.

He made the prototype tests of three Supermarine aircraft, the Seagull, Swift and 535. In May, 1950, he flew the Attacker from the United Kingdom to the Middle East, and the last time our paths crossed, he was filling the Egyptian Air Force officers with amazement by his handling of the Attacker at Almaza aerodrorne at Cairo. He had flown 3,000 hours by June, 1950, of which 2,750 were done on multiplace single-motor craft and over 1,500 on single-seat fighters.

He won the S.B.A.C. Challenge Cup race in 1950 in an Attacker at 533 m.p.h., making his fastest lap at 573 m.p.h.

With Mike at Chilbolton is a strong team of assistant test pilots. His right hand man there is Les Colquhoun. Guy Morgan is chief of the production testing under Mike, and his No. 2 is Peter Robarts who flew the Spit Trainer in the King's Cup Race of 1950. The organisation was strengthened in 1950 by the addition of Dave Morgan, a Navy pilot of much experience. This team is kept busy testing Seafires, Attackers and the prototype Swift and 535.

I found a day in the company of some of these lads most exhilarating and refreshing.       




GEORGE EDWARD LOWDELL, A.F.M., is one of the oldest and most experienced of test pilots. He was born in London on 4th December, 1901, two years before the first aeroplane flew. He has been testing for Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. since the latter part of 1941 and has flown the Viscount, Nene-Viking, Varsity, and Windsor, among later types.

His first interest in the air was aroused while watching balloon races passing over North London where he was at school in about 1912. During the 1914-18 war he was intensely interested in the work of the Royal Flying Corps, which he decided to join after he had seen two aeroplanes, which he believes were German, flying over Chatham, in 1917, where he was doing spare time air raid duty as a boy scout. In November, 1917, he joined the R.F.C. as a boy mechanic.

He was sent to Farnborough, which was then the headquarters of the R.F.C. in the United Kingdom and then to Halton for training. He began his technical training at the Central Flying School early in 1918. There he had his first flight in a Mono Avro. He had stood longingly on the tarmac every morning for a week, before the first parade watching instructors take up machines, as was the form in those days, to see if the air was smooth enough for instruction. He was too shy to make a direct request for a flight. But one morning a flight commander, who had noted his keenness called to George and said, "Would you like a flight, Sonny?" George did not need asking twice.

"This was definitely a thrill for me," George told me. "The pilot did loops and stall turns and generally threw it about. After landing, I was amazed to hear him tell his mechanic that a cylinder was missing. I had a look at the engine but they all seemed to be there all right, for I did not realise at the time that he had meant that a plug was misfiring!"

On 1st April, 1918, the day that the R.F.C. was merged with the Royal Naval Air Service into the R.A.F., he was promoted to Boy Corporal and posted to Eastchurch, and just before the Armistice on 11th November, 1918, he was recommended for a cadetship. When the war ended, he was very disappointed as it seemed that his chance of becoming a pilot had faded.

Being in the regular R.A.F. he was posted to No. 8 Aircraft Park at Lympne in 1919 and then remustered to men's service as an L.A.C. He was then posted to No. 24 Squadron at Kenley, and became fitter to flight Lieutenant J. Robb, who later became Air Chief Marshal Sir James Robb, who recommended George for a pilot's course when the new scheme for N.C.O. pilots was introduced in 1922.

George completed a pilot's course in 1923 at No. 1 Flying Training School at Netheravon, and then went to the Central Flying School at Upavon for an instructors course through which he passed out as Category A 2. He was posted to No. 2 F.T.S. at Duxford as instructor at the end of 1924. Here the first pupil whom he allowed to go solo was Mutt Summers, who became Chief Test Pilot for Vickers-Armstrongs, and was therefore George's chief when he became a test pilot with that firm in 1941.

George moved with No. 2 F.T.S. to Digby in 1925, when it came under the command of Wing Commander A. Tedder, who was later to become Lord Tedder and head of the R.A.F. In 1926 George was regraded A 1 at the C.F.S. which was the highest distinction for a pilot of those days, and in the King's Birthday honours of 1927 he was awarded the A.F.M.

In September, 1927, he was posted to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment which was then at Martlesham Heath and gained his first experience as a test pilot. As he could not get his fill of flying even here, he joined the newly formed Suffolk Aero Club at Hadleigh and acted as honorary instructor in his spare time at week-ends and on his free Wednesday afternoons. The Suffolk Club was equipped with the new side-by-side Blackburn Bluebirds. That brought him into contact with the Blackburn Aeroplane Co. for whom he raced and demonstrated the Bluebird, and a delightful aerobatic biplane powered by a radial Lynx motor called the Lincock. It was the Lyncock which first brought him before the public notice, for it was not long before his Lyncock demonstrations were a feature at every aviation meeting in the U.K.

Meanwhile he was also shining in the athletic field in the R.A.F. whom he represented at hockey, in the quarter mile and was 440 yds. hurdle champion.

In 1930 he joined the Brooklands School of Flying under Captain Duncan Davis at the time when that school was being regarded as the civilian equivalent of the C.F.S. for its high standard of training.

When the school's chief instructor, Ted Jones, was killed, George succeeded him in 1931 and carried on a great tradition until 1933 when he joined Wolseley Aero Engines, which had been formed as part of the Nuffield Organisation by Miles Thomas (later Sir Miles Thomas, chairman of B.O.A.C.). George flew Hawker Tom-tits with Wolseley motors for Lord Nuffield in the King's Cup races of the period. In 1934 he was flying third in a heat and was approaching Hatfield from the direction of Dunstable, down wind at a height of about 100 ft., when the motor suddenly cut. He managed to land safely across wind uphill in a stubble field about 2 miles from Hatfield.

In 1935, when the R.A.F. expansion scheme began, he was appointed chief instructor to the Reid and Sigrist civil training school at Desford where he did all the prototype testing for that firm's twin-motor trainer, which he demonstrated at the R.Ae.S. Garden Party of 1939. One day when he was testing this machine he was making a level speed trial when tail flutter developed. He throttled back and lowered flaps which stopped the flutter; by keeping the speed low he stopped further flutter and landed safely.

He was awarded the Master Flying Instructors Diploma by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (G.A.P.A.N.) in May, 1939, and he continued as chief instructor with Reid and Sigrist until after the outbreak of war in September, 1939. He was then appointed Wing Commander to command the R.A.F. Station at Desford. Late in 1941 he joined Vickers-Armstrongs as test pilot mostly on production work at Weybridge, Eastleigh, Castle Bromwich and Blackpool, flying Spitfires and Wimpys (Wellingtons) until the end of the war. One day in February, 1942, he flight-tested and passed 21 new Spitfire 5s in one day.

Each Spit was climbed to the rated height of 16,000 to 17,000 ft. and was then dived at approximately 460 m.p.h. With reflights for rigging and sundry adjustments, which included repeat dives at 460 m.p.h., he completed at least 50 such dives that day; and he was then 41 years old!

On another occasion he was diving a Spit there at 440 m.p.h. at 10,000 ft. when a jettison belly tank became disconnected at the front. The aircraft pitched forward and went past the vertical, until the tank was wrenched off damaging the tail plane and elevator. However, such little things did not worry an old stager like George and he landed safely.

He had an amusing incident in his early days as an instructor which could have had an unhappy ending but did not. He was showing a pupil what action to take if the motor of a Bristol fighter cut just after take-off. He had intended to cut the throttle at 200 ft., which is a most awkward height for such a thing to happen. As he was putting over the patter, preparatory to cutting the throttle at that height, the motor suddenly quit on its own account at 150 ft. So practice became a necessity, and they ended in a cornfield straight ahead, ran gently into a hedge and tipped on to the nose with no serious damage. When at Digby he did about 900 hours on Mono Avros during which he had many forced landings mostly due to cylinders blowing off.

When the war ended in 1945 George was based first at Weybridge and then at nearby Wisley. He assisted in the prototype trials of the Vikings and in training air crews for Vikings from all over the world. In 1948, 1949 and 1950 he assisted with the prototype trials of the Vickers Viscount, the world's first turboprop airliner. He also spent three months in the British West Indies training B.W.I. Airways captains in flying the Viking.

As chief instructor on the first course at Desford he had one pupil, a bad lad, very handsome, but inattentive. He passed moderately badly and George recorded in his report "lacks ability to coordinate controls . . . tended to hold off too high when landing . . . Judgment of height, speed, and distance could be improved with practice . . ." About eighteen months later the pupil returned, "bounced" some dud cheques, and played havoc with the hearts of the local dames. Later he was hanged for murder. His name was Neville Heath!

Another well-known but much more reputable pupil, who habitually wore a green shirt but with no political significance, was Leslie Charteris, who achieved fame as author of the Saint series of books and films.

By 1950 George had flown 8,500 hours on 150 different types and still carries on though nearing 50 years of age. He is surely another example that what is required for a test pilot is mature experience rather than flaming youth.       


A.F.C., A.F.R.Ae.S.


FOR nearly twenty years, Harry Alan Marsh, A.F.C., A.R.Ae.S., was identified with rotary wings, and was widely known as one of the leading British Helicopter pilots. So it is with some surprise that I learned that out of a total of 6,400 hours flown, 2,400 hours had been spent in aircraft with fixed wings! His flying went right back to the beginning of "middle ages" of flying; among types flown he numbered the Sopwith "Snipe" and DH 9, both of which were warplanes of the 1914-18 war!

By the time the 1939-45 war broke out, Alan Marsh had achieved international fame as a pilot of Autogiros, and at the time of the declaration of war, he was in the United States of America testing an American prototype Autogiro, built to the designs of the Pitcairn Autogiro Co. He was at once recalled to the R.A.F. He was given a short refresher course on fixed wing aircraft, and was then posted to the Experimental Flying Staff of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. "Here I flew anything that came along," he told me, "from Spitfires to Wellingtons. I played about with 36 different types in the first six months. It was all good clean fun, and useful experience."

Alan told me that it would be untrue that he always had a hankering for aircraft. He remembered the pioneer days of flying. He had a special hankering for something to do with automobiles, for his elder brother was one of the first apprentices in the motor car industry in 1900.

Alan was born in a small village in Dorsetshire on 29th January, 1901, so he was second, in age, only to R. T. Shepherd of Rolls-Royce, and was senior by three years to such veterans as Mutt Summers and Harald Penrose.

When he was 14, he became an apprentice in a motor-car repair shop. Both his father and his brother, who had been serving as soldiers in France in the 1914 war, transferred during 1918 to the newly formed Royal Air Force. That really began Alan's interest in flying.

"It gave me the idea," he said, "that it was high time that I did something useful, so in July, 1918, four months before the Armistice, I was accepted by the R.A.F. as a 3rd Class Air Mechanic. I joined only for the duration of the war first, but as I was still under 18 at the time of the Armistice, I decided to sign on for four years; the inducement was a sum of £50 and three months leave!"

He regarded this as a very lucky break as it not only gave him a chance to do a thorough course in aero engine maintenance, but more important still it enabled him to start his flying career.

He had been promoted corporal early in 1921 and volunteered for a flying course for N.C.Os. He was temporarily rejected on medical grounds, but the R.A.F. medicos soon put him right by carrying out a scraping operation on the back of his nose. Without this "decoking" his high-flying qualities might have been impaired!

He began his flying training in November, 1922, and after 12 months was passed out as a "fully qualified Sergeant Pilot with a total flying-time of 48 hours on Avro 504k, Bristol Fighters, and Snipes." He gained the first Special Distinction Pass to be awarded under the scheme just inaugurated for training N.C.Os. and pilot officers. He and another N.C.O. were the first N.C.Os. to be trained as fighter pilots.

After a tour of duty in Irak he came back to the United Kingdom in 1926 and flew Siskins. His squadron was detailed to make high altitude tests. These aircraft had open cockpits, and Alan said that oxygen supply and heated clothing often failed. He remembered it was quite fun trying aerobatics at 25,000 ft., which was near the Siskin's ceiling. He was selected to do individual aerobatics in 1927 at the R.A.F. Air Display and during the dress rehearsal he "nearly caused it" by recovering from a spin only about 150 feet above the control tent because he had omitted to set his altimeter correctly.

In 1928 he went through an instructors' course at the Central Flying School, and was made a Staff Instructor with a category A 1, which was then the highest goal a pilot could attain.

In 1930 he left the R.A.F. as a flight sergeant, when one of the periodic economy campaigns was raging. He received the "generous" gratuity of £11 10s., representing £1 for each year of service! He was commisioned in the R.A.F.O. in 1936.

He then joined the Hampshire Aero Club as an instructor, and there he met Se
ñor Don Juan de la Cierva, who had been in England for five years developing his Autogiro. The first autogiros were built on Avro 504k fuselages. The Avro test establishment was then at Hamble on Southampton Water, and the Hampshire Club used that airfield. Cierva was a member of the Club and flew Moths. This was Alan's luckiest break for it had the greatest effect on his subsequent career.

Of these early Autogiros, Alan said, "I was definitely attracted by these peculiar contrivances. I use the words 'peculiar contrivances' deliberately, and they certainly were!"

Once he went to collect a C 19 Autogiro and took a friend for the ride back. On arrival back at Hamble during the lunch hour, in a strong wind, there was no one about to hold on after landing and they were blown over. Alan's pal said, "What do we do now?" Alan told him to undo his belt, which he did and promptly fell out; Alan did likewise!

"This was the first of eight or nine mishaps with rotary wing aircraft," he told me. "But I must say in self-defence, that most of them were with very experimental contraptions!"

He left the Hampshire Club at the end of 1931, when it was hit by the economic depression, and after a short while with a North Country flying club, Cierva invited him to join the staff of the Cierva Autogiro Co. which had established a flying school at Hanworth, near where London Airport has now been established.

"That fixed me properly," he told me, "and I have been sold on 'rotary wing nonsense' ever since."

This was where I first encountered Alan. I was taking telegraph boys, for whom I had formed a club, to fly at Hanworth each week, and Cierva, Brie, and Marsh often took the boys for flights. One of them was "Jeep" Cable, with whom I have already dealt in this series, and Alan taught him to fly an autogiro when Jeep was a boy not yet seventeen. Jeep was his second pupil; the first was Mr. J. A. McMullin who was 69!

From 1933 onwards, Alan assisted Cierva with experimental flying on the first machine which depended for its control on tilting the angle of the whole rotor, instead of by normal elevators and rudder, and he made the first public flights on the "jumping Giro" which was a "near helicopter", an autogiro which got direct lift by temporarily over-revving the rotor. He did much test flying for G. and J. Weir on their early small autogiros as Cierva was too big to be comfortable in those small aircraft. Alan did the major part of rotary wing experimental flying after Cierva was killed in 1936 in a DC 2 which crashed when taking off from Croydon in a fog. That work he continued until the outbreak of war.

In 1935 he had one of those narrow squeaks which come to most honest test pilots during their careers. He was testing an Autogiro on floats at Felixtowe. He began diving trials with motor off at 5,500 ft. and attained a speed of 95 m.p.h. Suddenly the machine looped.

"I had very little to say in the matter," he told me, "and I thought my number was up. Luckily for me the thing righted itself by rolling right way up after falling 3,000 ft. and I made the water in one piece. Thinking anything might happen I had switched the motor off for the final 2,000 ft. The phenomenon had been seen by a number of chaps, who, like me, thought that was that!"

After his return to fixed-wing machines at the start of the war, the R.A.F. discovered uses for Autogiros and a unit was formed, which piled up over 7,000 hours under his command. He did a course on Sikorsky helicopters when some were delivered in Britain for the Ministry of Aircraft Production. He was awarded an A.F.C. and was mentioned in despatches for his rotary wing work.

The Cierva Company had gone into retirement early in the war but began again in 1944 and was given a contract by the Ministry of Aircraft Production to build the W 9 Helicopter. Alan was allowed to make the first test of this, which used the engine cooling air and exhaust of the motor, through a large diameter pipe, to counter the torque of the rotor. This caused it to be named the "Flying Drainpipe". It flew, but not with much success, and the drainpipe idea was abandoned.

During 1947 Alan did the first ten hours of test flying with the Bristol 171 helicopter.

On 8th December, 1948, came his greatest (in all senses) moment when he took that amazing piece of ironmongery, the "Air Horse ", into the air. He told me soon afterwards, that its only trouble was that it flew better backwards than forward. I thought it was extremely clever of him to know which was the front and which the back! He continued experiments with these creations which, at the end of 1949 became the biggest helicopter in the world, designed to carry 24 passengers. About this time, he had also been testing the Skeeter, a 100 h.p. 2-seater which may, in time, bring rotary wing flight within reach of private owners.

There are very few men in the world to-day who have done as much as has Alan Marsh to bring slow safe flying to the world. This is not as spectacular as high-speed flying, and so its adherents have never really had their due, but the importance of their work will be very far reaching.

It was therefore a very great shock to the whole helicopter world when, on 13th June, 1950, Alan was killed at Southampton in the Air Horse, with Jeep Cable and flight engineer J. Unsworth. The previous day Jeep had come to Southampton to take over the Air Horse on behalf of the Ministry of Supply. Jeep had completed two hours flying under Alan's instruction and seemed to be getting on well. On the morning of 13th June they took off and had flown several circuits of the airfield when the machine disintegrated and all three were killed.

Alan's death was a very great loss because of his vast accumulated experience. In January, 1950, I flew in the Air Horse with him around the Southampton area and was impressed with its apparent safety and solidity, and with Alan's sure handling and supreme confidence.

He was the Chairman of the Helicopter Association of Great Britain of which he was indeed the moving spirit and dominant personality. If the Association continues, as Alan intended it should, as a very live and potent force in the world of rotary wings, then his work will be fittingly carried on, and his name will ever live.




JOSEPH HAROLD ORRELL, A.R.Ae.S., known as Jimmy, is one of the vintage British test pilots, having been born at Liverpool on 9th December, 1903, five days before the Wright Bros' first aeroplane flight. Like another Joseph, who is also a test pilot, "Mutt" Summers, his early R.A.F. comrades would not call him Joe so he became Jimmy from the moment he came into the world of flying.

In 1947, when Bill Thorne, the former Avro Chief Test Pilot was killed when testing a Tudor, Jimmy was appointed in his place. This proved a very sound choice.

During the 1914-18 war Jimmy was at school near the R.A.F. training station at Sealand, which was then called Shotwick. He was fascinated by the antics of Avro 504ks and to this environment he attributes his interest in aviation in general and in Avros in particular.

"By 1919, when I was just over 15, I could read and write," he told me. "This enabled me to alter my birth certificate so as to be of age to join the R.A.F. as a boy mechanic in April of that year. I still have that obviously altered document!

He went to a technical school at Aintree before entering the R.A.F. and he received his further education from the R.A.F. Boys' Training Scheme, and later to the Advanced Educational Scheme in that Service.

He became a draughtsman under training; as that was a Group I trade, it very fortunately fitted in with his selection for a sergeant-pilot course later.

"In 1925, when I was at Cranwell, I survived the necessary interviews," he said, "and was selected. I then failed the medical board purely on excitement and a large lunch! I returned to Cranwell with a story that I was to be re-examined in three months, which was successful that time. I had learned wisdom and had no lunch before climbing that hill to the medical board at Hampstead."

He was posted to Sealand where he had first fallen for flying, but now he was on the inside as a pupil under training, not just a schoolboy looking longingly over the fence. There at No. 5 Flying Training School he learned to fly on Avros with the 100 h.p. Monosoupape Gnome, so affectionately remembered by many pioneers as the Mono-Avro. He graduated to Sopwith Snipes, single-seaters with the 210 h.p. Bentley Rotary BR 2. The gyroscopic force of this big motor made it difficult to turn against the torque, and too easy to turn with it! In 1925 he joined his first Service squadron, No. 25, at Hawkinge in Kent, where he flew Gloster Grebes, single seaters with 385 h.p. Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguars, powerful fighters of their day. Later on the squadron was equipped with Armstrong-Whitworth Siskins, also powered by Jaguars. "I got 'Siskin nose', a common complaint, caused by hitting the ground in the wrong attitude," he told me.

He then went to the Central Flying School where he successfully passed the Instructors' Course, which was about the highest grade any pilot in the world could then attain. This was almost the equivalent of passing the course at the Empire Test Pilots' School in later years. The wheel then turned full circle again, and he found himself back at Sealand as an Instructor in 1929.

In 1931 he left the R.A.F. and threw in his lot with civil aviation. He instructed at flying clubs, and did joyriding and charter work until 1933 when he joined John Sword’s Midland and Scottish Air Ferries, flying de Havilland Dragons to pioneer the airline and ambulance services to the Western Isles.

Near the end of 1934 came the turning point of his career when he joined A. V. Roe & Co. "First of all," Jimmy told me, "I went back to the drawing board, but that did not last long, for I was sent to Woodford aerodrome to test and deliver Avro aeroplanes." During that time he added his ground engineers' licence to his pilots' licence.

In 1935 Imperial Airways Ltd., forefathers of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., were expanding their European and Empire services and invited about twenty pilots to join them. Jimmy was one of those selected. He was asked if he had a ground engineers licence. Thinking this would be a good thing he admitted that he had. He found it was not so good for he was sent to Brindisi as station engineer "for ten days only" until a regular man could be found. He was there for three months.

He agitated to get going on the job of pilot for which he had been engaged, and was brought back to Croydon and put on the European routes flying DH 86, the two Avros, "Ava" and "Avalon", which were the prototypes of the Anson, and the Boulton Paul "Britomart". The latter was a fastish biplane with two 450 h.p. Bristol Jupiter motors. When one motor stopped, it had a tendency to cartwheel and dive in. On one occasion Jimmy was due to take a Britomart to Paris. Another pilot asked him to change over jobs as this pilot wanted to go. The Britomart disappeared without a trace over the English Channel. On another occasion Jimmy changed jobs with a pilot who wanted to fly a DH 86 to Cologne. On that occasion all four motors stopped on the aeroplane which Jimmy should have been flying, and an unpleasant time was had by all inmates of the DH 86. Jimmy evidently had a tame joss who looked after his interests, and who still seems to be earning his keep.

He was then transferred to the Short Empire "C" class flying boats on the Australia and South Africa routes, after which he was stationed in Egypt to fly the Handley Page "Hannibal" class on the routes to India and Cape Town. He returned to Croydon and flew the Heracles types on European routes, and also the Ensigns and Albatross when they came into service in the summer of 1939, three months before war broke out. He continued to fly for Imperials after the war broke out, being based on Bristol with them. After the French collapse in June, 1940, he had a variety of jobs including ferrying, and testing Mohawks and Tomahawks. He was then posted to that exceedingly unpopular route which Imperial Airways, who became B.O.A.C. in April, 1940, were operating over enemy-occupied Norway, flying Hudsons. He operated that route until early in 1942 when his contract with B.O.A.C. ended.

In March, 1942, he rejoined A. V. Roe & Co. as a test pilot, and in 1943 was sent for a course at the Empire Test Pilots' School at Boscombe Down, which he passed to the satisfaction of all. After that he worked very closely with Bill Thorne, Chief Avro Test Pilot, in the development of the Lancastrian, Lincoln, and Tudor series. When Bill was killed, Jimmy took over and he made the prototype tests of the Tudor 8, Athena, and Shackleton.

In July, 1949, he was sent to Canada to make prototype tests of the Jetliner which was pioneered by the Canadian branch of A. V. Roe & Co.

Of this experience he told me: "This was a very nice assignment which I much enjoyed. It was good to see the enthusiasm in this factory and the keen spirit to get on with the job."

The Jetliner proved very satisfactory on taxi-ing trials and first flight. The second flight was not so satisfactory in one sense, for the undercart failed to lower itself. However that proved one very satisfactory point, that on a jet aeroplane a belly-landing can be made with very little damage especially if the nose-wheel is down. The jet tail-pipes and nacelles acted as good ski-ing points and the nose-wheel prevented the motors from damage on contact with the ground. The engine-nacelles, specially designed for belly-landing proved their worth.

Jimmy considers this incident was not only the high light of his career, but his nearest escape from bad accident, if one accepts the near misses when someone else took his place on flights with Imperial Airways which ended in disaster.

On this later occasion the undercart failed to lower on the second flight of an exceedingly novel prototype, before he could have begun to get used to its flying qualities. He suddenly found himself without undercarriage, flaps and aileron assister because of loss of hydraulic fluid when trying to remedy the undercart.

"With the thought of four million dollars worth of beautiful aircraft in my hands, it was a heartbreak to think it had to be badly damaged, and I wondered what would be the resultant publicity of such an accident. I am glad to say that all went well and the small amount of damage was well publicised, stressing the safety points," he said.

"After several passes at the aerodrome, to scheme out the best conditions, my main concern was the nose-wheel. If I could keep rolling straight all would be well, but if one nacelle dug in, it might tear off this item. My final judgment of touch-down was about 300 yards out, due to ground cushioning effect which caused the aircraft to float further than I expected
with the absence of flaps, the thing insisted on keeping on flying!"

The machine was repaired and flying again in five weeks proving that no major repair was needed.

On 1st September, 1950, Jimmy made the first test flight with the Avro "Ashton", a four-jet research airliner developed from the Tudor 8. Almost immediately afterwards he flew it from Woodford in Cheshire to Boscombe Down, a distance of over 150 miles. The Ashton was the third large four-motor jet airliner prototype which Jimmy tested inside two years, a record to date, and the fifth prototype in the same period.

In 1950 Jimmy told me he was "47 years young", had been flying for 24 years and intended to go on flying for a further 24. He has flown on 80 different types.




WHEN Bill Pegg, M.B.E., took the Bristol Brabazon 130-ton airliner into the air for the first time, on 4th September, 1949, he was unable to describe to me just how he felt. He said that everything went better and far easier than he had hoped in his most optimistic mood. Yet he had told me beforehand that he was optimistic and did not experience any pre-flight qualms. Perhaps the only disturbing thought that passed through his mind was that he was a bit worried that he might put up a bad show and damage the Brab in a cross-wind landing, or through some unforeseeable cause.

Rather as every new pilot before his first solo has said, "It is not about hurting myself that I worry, it is the machine," so did Bill’s thought dwell rather on the possibility of damaging several million pounds worth of aeroplane and setting back seven years' work.

On Saturday, 3rd September, 1949, he had done some fast taxi-ing at Filton, during which he had found that the critical speed was 65 knots. In the taxi-ing tests the nose wheel had come off at 65 knots, and it would, he thought, be simplest to take off at that speed, make a circuit and then land at the start of the runway, rather than have to slow up from 65 knots when over half way along; and the latter part of the runway has a slight down slope, and 130 tons of Brab takes quite a bit of stopping.

On Sunday morning, 4th September, he had made up his mind that if all had gone well when he reached a speed of 65 knots he would take off for a full flight. There was a slight cross-wind which he thought would increase during the morning, and which might continue to blow for days.

So when the Brab was doing her 65 knots, Bill took her gently off, made a circuit and landed. In the air she proved to be easy to handle, and the landing was quite straightforward. Thereafter she lost most of the "mystery of the unknown" for Bill and became just another aeroplane!

Most people find it hard to sum up their feelings on the great occasions of their lives. Taking the Brab into the air for the first time was undoubtedly a great occasion for Bill, but even a year later, after flying it in all weathers, he still had no outstanding memory of just how he felt.

His name is not "Bill"; it is Arthur John, but he is known to all his friends as "Bill". When I asked Cyril Uwins, whom he succeeded as Chief Test Pilot to Bristols, why he was called Bill, Cyril replied: he answers to the name better than anything else. When he was christened, his people did not realise he was a 'BILL' with no 'Arthur' or 'John' in his makeup"!

Like Geoffrey Tyson, who will take another big 'un, the Saunders-Roe 140-ton Dollar Princess on its maiden flight, Bill Pegg had reached the mature age of 43 when he took the Brab for its first flight. He was born on 5th June, 1906, in Guernsey in the Channel Islands. By 1950 he had flown 4,900 hours on over 100 different types of aeroplane. For nearly 30 years of his life, till the day he took the Brab off, he had been flying. For a test pilot who has charge of several million pounds worth of aeroplane on its first flight, long experience is more important than flaming youth. Bill has grown older and wiser flying aeroplanes.

He was first bitten by the aviation bug when he was a kid of eight at school in Malta, where his father was stationed in the Army.

A seaplane alighted in Sliema Bay close to where Bill was bathing. Though it was an old "stick-and-string" biplane, it fired Bill's enthusiasm, and he swam out to have a closer look. With envy in his young heart, he watched for two hours as the crew clambered about trying to coax a sulky motor back to life. When they got it going again and it took off over the blue Mediterranean, he vowed then and there that he would become a pilot.

From then onwards he had that type of one-track mind which is common among the best aviation types, and he talked, thought, and dreamed flying. Every aviation journal on which he could lay his hands, he read from cover to cover.

The disease caught from the bite of the aviation bug was as incurable in Bill as it is in most normal aviation types.

He knew just where he wanted to go in life, so when he was 15½ he joined the R.A.F. as a boy apprentice. He had not very long to wait for his "baptism of the air"; when he was at Cranwell he had his first flight, in a Vickers Vimy, the pilot of which was a young officer who later became Air Marshal Sir Leslie Hollinghurst, K.C.B., K.B.E., D.F.C.

After that, he got into the air whenever he could, and three years later he was posted to a Vimy squadron as a fitter.

"After about three months of scraping carbon from cylinders in a workshop I finally managed to worm myself into a flight-mechanic's job," he told me. "That is to say, I sat beside the pilot and tried to take an intelligent interest in the motors."

On the very first trip as a flight-mechanic, the Vimy was flying over Tiptree in Essex when one of the motors began to make queer noises. Bill said that his pilot looked at him as though he, Bill, should at once be able to do the necessary things to put the motor right.

"I hadn't a clue," said Bill to me many years later, "and when some very odd things began to happen to the other motor as well, the pilot didn't waste any more time looking at me. He made a forced landing."

By 1925 Bill had begun to learn, in the hard school of experience, a great deal that has been most valuable to him throughout his flying life. That basic training had much to do with his rise as a test pilot and was partly the cause of his selection in 1949 to be entrusted with the world's most expensive aeroplane. In 1925 he was accepted for training as an N.C.O. pilot.

In those days there were no Initial Training Wings, Elementary Flying Training Schools, Operational Training Squadrons nor any of the more modern organisations which make a pilot's training almost an exact science. Pupils were taught to fly in those good old days in the spare time of squadron pilots. It was very often a real case of the blind leading the blind—and "blind flying" of later years had hardly been thought of seriously.

For his flying training, Bill was posted to Henlow, where he found life was exciting with never a dull moment. For example, his first night flight was marked by a motor failure, as the result of which he went through a fence.

It was with considerable regret on his part, that he was posted to the Central Flying School to become an instructor. The C.F.S. in those days was the Mecca of all pilots, rather as the Empire Test Pilots' School became in later days, but this they often did not discover until they had learned what a wonderful experience it was. After passing out by the C.F.S., he had a period at Sealand as an instructor, after which he went back to the C.F.S. to become an instructor of instructors.

As the result of "exceptionable ability" he was awarded a permanent commission in 1931 and was posted to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham, where all British aircraft, both civil and Service, were tested.

Like all young pilots, he had his "haywire" moments. One day he flew very low over a village in which some of his friends lived, and treated them to a display of aerobatics. During one of his dives, his passenger accidentally closed the petrol cock. Bill knew at once what had happened; but there was no "intercom" telephone from pilot to passenger, so the passenger could not hear Bill's shouts telling him to turn on the petrol again. So Bill landed beside the village in a large field. Later he took off again and flew back to base. There the Chief flying Instructor "tore a large and painful strip" off him, for the C.F.I. had been flying 5,000 ft. above him and had seen all.

Later Bill had cause to wish that C.F.Is. and other lesser breeds of pilot were always as observant. For when he was testing a biplane at Martlesham, the aircraft began to break during a dive, and a spin developed. Only later did he realise that one set of wings had actually broken away. All he thought about was that somehow he must bale out. He was wearing leather gloves of the kind which have a mitten flap to enclose the fingers. He needed to have the fingers free to pull the rip cord of the parachute. Quite calmly he debated in his mind while falling through space, whether to try to unfasten the flap or get his glove right off. Eventually he pulled the glove off, opened the chute, and found himself floating to earth, surrounded by falling debris of the aeroplane, most of which he dodged successfully.

After landing all right he waited for the rescue party which he felt sure would arrive, as the break-up had been well in sight of the aerodrome, but as no one came, he borrowed a bicycle and cycled back, only to find that the incident had escaped all notice!

He remained at Martlesham as a test pilot until 1935, when he met Cyril Uwins, who was then Chief Test Pilot to the Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd. When Cyril offered him the post of assistant test pilot to Bristol, Bill resigned his commission and began at once to handle the bulk of Bristol development flying on new types.

When Cyril Uwins gave up test flying to join the Bristol Board of Directors, Bill succeeded him as Chief Test Pilot in February, 1947, and the first new prototype which he had to test was the Brab. Before flying the Brab he went to the United States where he flew the B 36 which was then the biggest practical aeroplane in the world with a wing span of 230 ft., similar to that of the Brab. Bill has great confidence in the future of the Brab as a money making airliner which he thinks will set a new standard of comfort in travel.


O.B.E., F.R.Ae.S.


HARALD PENROSE, O.B.E., F.R.Ae.S., has been, since 1931, Chief Test Pilot to Westland Aircraft Ltd., then a branch of Petters Ltd., called Westland Aircraft Works when he joined it in 1925. He has had longer continuous test flying with one firm, than has any other active test pilot; and as Chief Test Pilot he is second only in length of service to Mutt Summers of Vickers; they were both born in 1904.

That must have been a very airminded year in which to have been born. There was something definitely "in the air", for a fortnight earlier, on 17th December, 1903, the Wright Bros. had just made the first aeroplane flight in the world. And both Harald and Mutt have told me that there was nothing particular which made them airminded. They were born that way.

As a kid, Harald was lucky in having a reverend grandfather who pandered to his aeronautical tastes by making kites and hot air balloons for him, and assisted with his first air lift by getting him airborne in the cramped and tiny basket which that great pioneer, S. F. Cody, sent into the air on a string of man-lifting kites. As I also had my first air experience in the basket on the "string" of Cody's kites, I can testify as to what fun it was—and how extremely dicey, but small boys of those days couldn't care less!

Harald then turned his attention to building flying model aeroplanes, starting with biplanes, the type mostly flown in Britain then. He was converted to monoplanes when he saw the Frenchman, Henri Salmet, who had been hired by the Daily Mail to make a tour of Britain to stir up interest in flying. Salmet, with his Blériot monoplane, visited Reading, near where Harald lived, and flew from a field next to that in which the Handley Page (Reading) Ltd. factory has been built by Fred Miles. The sight of the Blériot monoplane caused him to become a zealot for monoplanes and had a considerable effect on his future life; for when he joined Westlands in 1925, that was the only British firm who were building monoplanes.

He was educated at Reading School. "I was only converted to mathematics," he told me, "when I joined London University for a four years' engineering course. I had hoped to join de Havillands, but they had then just taken on their second apprentice, and said that the future was so uncertain that they dare not have any more for the time being. The lucky bloke they had just taken on was R. E. Bishop, who is now, in 1950, their Chief Designer."

Harald first flew as a passenger when he was fourteen years old in an Avro 504k piloted by Mr. (now Sir) Alan Cobham who was touring, giving five-bob flights. Thereafter Harald spent all his spare pocket money on joy flights and odd spots of flying tuition.

After completing his engineering course at London, he joined the aerodynamics department of Handley Page Ltd. at Cricklewood. He left in 1925 and joined Westland Aircraft Works where, after a period "on the bench" he joined Geoffrey Hill who was working at Westlands on the tailless "Pterodactyl". Young men of to-day, and especially A.T.C. cadets, should note that many famous test pilots have got where they are because they did not despise to start as ground staff, and to spend many years at such work before they ever flew.

After twelve months with Hill, Harald was appointed manager of the newly formed Westland Civil Aviation Department. The firm had built, in 1919, a successful single-motor 4-passenger airliner called the "Limousine", and in 1924 they made two light aeroplanes, the " Wood Pigeon" and the "Widgeon". The former was a bit heavy; we said at the time that there was "too much wood and not enough pigeon"! But the "Widgeon" was one of the most successful of ultra lights of those days, or of any day so far.

This new department was formed to demonstrate, popularise, and sell the Widgeon, and Harald, who had by then learned to fly, demonstrated the Widgeon at flying meetings all over the country. The firm thought the time was ripe to produce another airliner, so in 1929 came the "Wessex", an eight-seat monoplane powered by three "Genet" motors.

Harald brought the Wessex to Hanworth Air Park in 1929 to demonstrate it and give flights to interested persons. A few days earlier I had watched him give a very skilful display of crazy flying with a Widgeon at a flying meeting, so when I saw him at Hanworth, and he invited me to accompany him in the front seat of the Wessex, I wondered if he would do crazy flying on that. He did nothing of the sort, however, and showed off the Wessex well; the grass was very wet after heavy rain and I still remember the very long slide, with brakes full on, after we had landed!

His crazy flying on a Widgeon became a feature of British flying meetings until war came in 1939. When peace came again, he appeared with one of the last of all Widgeons and astounded the new generation of war-taught pilots, who had never seen real crazy flying on a suitable aeroplane.

On the resignation of Louis Paget, Harald was appointed Chief Test Pilot in 1931, and since that date he has tested all Westland prototypes to the present day; and now he flies "heli-go-rounds", too.

In 1933 he tested developments of the "Wallace" which were used by the Marquess of Clydesdale (who became Duke of Hamilton) for the Houston Everest expedition which flew, for the first time, over the summit of Mount Everest. The tests necessitated a climb of 35,000 ft. which was very nearly the world height record of the time.

In October, 1938, he tested a prototype, which was to set a new standard in single-seat fighters, for it was powered by two motors. This eventually became the "Whirlwind". It was, in its prototype days, so very much faster than anything else, that it became known locally at Yeovil as the "Crikey", after a famous Shell advertisement current at the time, which depicted a labourer seeing something very fast go past him, turning his head rapidly and saying, "Crikey, that's Shell that was!"

He had his narrowest escape from writing himself off when he was flying a high-wing monoplane, the PV 7, which was intended to replace the Wallace. While the PV 7 was undergoing extended trials for the R.A.F. at what was then the experimental station at Martlesham Heath, Harald was flying it solo, making a series of dives under overload conditions. When thus loaded, and travelling in turbulent conditions, the port outrigger strut failed under the unexpectedly severe download. That began the collapse of the wing structure which broke away and sliced off the tail unit en passant. So Harald "got out and walked" with his parachute. This was one of the first recorded escapes from an enclosed cockpit of a military or civil aeroplane. He squeezed through one of the small side doors and landed unhurt.

He flew autogiros when Westlands first turned their attention to rotary wings in 1934, and when in 1946 the firm acquired the licence to build Sikorsky helicopters, Harald became proficient on "heli-go-rounds" too.

In 1947 he tested the "Wyvern" with the 3,000 h.p. Rolls-Royce "Eagle" which was the largest single-motored single-seater then built; and in 1949 he tested a similar aeroplane powered by a 3,500 hp. Armstrong-Siddeley "Python" turboprop motor. He made the initial flights and did much of the development flying on both.

In 1950 he holds the 20th oldest current "B" licence; and when he was made a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, he was the youngest to reach that status. He has flown 4,500 hours on 150 types, which include tail-less types, seaplanes, very many types of landplane to Lancaster size, autogiros, helicopters, and gliders.

He has grown into a patriarchal figure at his job. His saddest moment was when his favourite and only surviving Widgeon was crashed and burned beyond repair in 1948, having escaped alone when being started up with no one in it! After the last war Harald went to many flying meetings giving "crazy flying" exhibitions on this Widgeon which was a light aeroplane of about 1930 vintage. He was starting it up one day by himself with no one in the pilot's seat by hand swinging the propeller. The throttle had been set too open and the motor started with a roar and before he could gain the seat the plane had got away. It took off and crashed in flames.



RANALD LOGAN PORTEOUS has been Chief Test Pilot and Sales Representative to Auster Aircraft Ltd. since 1948. Here he is a very round peg in a very round hole. Since the war Austers have done more than any other British firm to produce aeroplanes suitable for Clubs and private owners, and right from the start of his flying career, Ranald has been devoted to the conception of economical flying.

He was born in Edinburgh on the 25th March, 1916. He can give me no specific reason for his initial interest in aviation. "I don't know when or why I was bitten by the aviation bug," he told me. "Further more I can't understand how anyone can be otherwise. The gateway to the sky is open to us all, and the whole conception of flying is so magnificent that the wonder is that more people do not press through it!"

I think that sums up Ranald very well; it is the voice of undimmed enthusiasm.

After being educated at Canford School, he continued at the de Havilland Technical School, where he learned to fly in 1934. He became editor of the School's own paper, the "Pylon".

At that time the main work of de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd. was building and selling in large numbers, personal aeroplanes such as the Gipsy Moth, Puss Moth, and Leopard Moth, so it is easy to see how he acquired his predilection for light aircraft in the private owner class.

While studying aircraft design at Hatfield, his predilection for light aircraft found an outlet in the Chilton project which was being developed there by Andrew Dalrymple and Reggie Ward.

His studies were rather abruptly interrupted in 1936 when the Anzani motor of a Luton "Buzzard" stopped once too often and deposited Ranald into a tree with a fractured spine and other rather painful disabilities.

That incident did not damp his enthusiasm for low-power aircraft, but it increased his regard for reliable motors, twin ignition systems, and what he calls "other modern luxuries"!

He considers that was the incident which made him most nearly "the late Ranald Porteous"!

"In 1937 I made the first flights with the incredible little Chilton monoplane, whose modified Ford 'ten' motor resembled a supercharged Shavemaster. I think these Chilton episodes gave me more pure pleasure than anything aeronautical I have done, before or since," he told me.

In the latter part of 1937 he joined the Reserve of Air Force Officers, first with No. 8 F.T.S., and later with No. 75 Bomber Squadron, at Montrose and Driffield respectively. It was rather typical of Air Ministry methods of those days—they have since become more human—to post a light aeroplane enthusiast to heavy bombers. One can almost hear the pundits of the period clicking their teeth and saying, "That'll larn him!".

With these units in turn he flew Hawker Harts, and the big (for those times) Handley Page "Harrow", known later to the troops as the "Sparrow".

"Being fundamentally a private owner," he told me, "I could never quite get accustomed to the idea of such vast quantities of H.M.'s petrol being expended to fly me around the same sky as I had known in the little Chilton and other small aeroplanes."

After Ranald had left the DH Technical School he had a short spell of charter flying, and aerobatic displays and racing with the Chilton. In 1938 he joined Phillips & Powis, which later became Miles Aircraft Ltd., at Reading, as a flying instructor and junior test pilot, and he was there when war broke out in September, 1939.

After eighteen months of instructing with an E.F.T.S. in the United Kingdom, he went to Rhodesia in 1941 and remained in the Rhodesian Air Training Group until 1945, and finally became President of the Central Examination Board.

"I had been in Rhodesia less than a week when there occurred one of those incidents, which might be worth mentioning as outstanding during these years of hard and humdrum work," he told me when I pressed him to tell me any of those narrow squeaks which befall most pilots at some time in their careers. "I was flying low in a Harvard with a pupil. Suddenly there was a 'woof', and we were enveloped in hot oil and smoke. I slammed my undercarriage down and landed on a bald-looking patch of 'bundu'. My pupil said, 'That was a fine landing, sir'! I didn't disagree. Ten seconds later, I saw in the long grass literally dozens of rocks and anthills which my wheels had missed by inches."

Another incident which might have proved painful was as follows: "One dark night the undercarriage legs of my Harvard jammed, one up and the other down. All my most violent efforts to dislodge them failed. 'This,' I said to my pupil, 'will have to be an Oozlum landing'. We went down the flare path on one wheel, and, sure enough went round and round in ever decreasing circles. The result was satisfactory if not traditional."

On another occasion he was flying a stripped Gloster "Gauntlet" without armour, guns or radio, for early morning weather ascents. Naturally its climb in that condition was phenomenal. His C.O. sent for him later in the morning and said that the (brand new) flying control officer at a neighbouring station had reported Ranald for dangerous flying. The allegation was that he had pulled an Avro "Tutor", a low power trainer, straight off the ground in a dangerously steep climb. "It wouldn't have been the Gauntlet?" asked the C.O. Ranald replied that it would!

When the war ended in 1945 he went on charter flying again for a short while, but with much more experience of flying, than when he tried that work in 1938 as a fledgling. He flew an Airspeed "Consul", which was a civilian version of the famous "Oxford", from the United Kingdom to South Africa in four days, which those who know that route will judge to have been a pretty fair effort.

In 1947 he was made Chief Flying Instructor to the Derby Aero Club, and also worked as the Club Secretary.

In August that year he flew the Chilton with a Train motor in the Lympne Flying and Race Meeting during which he took the International 100 km. closed circuit record for its class.

Since joining Auster Aircraft he has been instrumental in helping the firm, by his test flying, sales knowledge, and experience of flying conditions on the African Continent, to produce really practical types such as the "Autocar", which is a four-seater that is selling in 1950 for only £200 more than the equivalent three-seater sold before the war.

During 1949 he flew Auster aeroplanes in races and air displays. With the "Arrow" he took second place in the race for the Goodyear Trophy. At the 1949 Farnborough Air Show, he gave a most polished display with the Autocrat. After watching the jet aircraft rushing through the sky at over 600 m.p.h., Ranald ambled round the sky at touring speed and showed us all how pleasantly peaceful flying can still be, with a few mild aerobatics thrown in.

He has flown well over 5,000 hours on 100 different types of aircraft.

His own, not very serious description of himself is: "I am a charming man with old-fashioned habits, a tendency to write verse and to sing in other people's drawing-rooms!"

That habit of "singing in other people's drawing-rooms" should not be allowed to rest there, for it is a typical British understatement. For Ranald has a voice which is well above average amateur standard, and his singing is in much demand from his friends. He has a very cunning method of retaliation. Among his toys he has a recording gramophone on which he records the singing, reciting, or normal conversations of his friends, which at later suitable opportunities he uses against them; for there is something of the Gestapo in Ranald! But he does not always fulfil his threats, as I know full well. For many months now—it is even running into years—he has threatened to take me for a ride in his latest Auster. First it was to be an Autocrat, then an Autocar, and now the Aiglet. No doubt soon it will be the Airhog or Airship—but still I fear it will remain a threat rather than a promise!




SQUADRON LEADER WALDO PRICE-OWEN, A.R.Ae.S., Chief Test Pilot to Armstrong-Siddeley Motors Ltd., was the first pilot to fly a single-motor aeroplane with a turboprop. This was in 1948 when he first took the Balliol trainer into the air fitted with the Armstrong-Siddeley Mamba.

He is a cheerful young man, rather reminiscent in some ways of John Cunningham. He is known to his friends either as "Waldo" or "P.O." A day spent in his company is a pleasant and stimulating experience, especially if it includes a flight with him. I was extremely fortunate in visiting him on a nice fine sunny day, and was able to have a short flight with him in the prototype Mamba-Balliol.

Waldo was born at Betton Abbotts near Shrewsbury on 28th February, 1916, a good vintage year which produced a number of first rate test pilots. He can give me no specific reason why his thoughts turned towards aviation as a career, but like many youths who grew up at that time, he must have been attracted by the adventure of flying as manifested by the many pioneer flights such as those of Bert Hinkler, Dick Bentley, Kingsford Smith, Amy Johnson, Jim Mollison and others. These pioneers were blazing trails across the world when Waldo was at the most impressionable age, between 10 and 20. There were many events in Great Britain such as the R.A.F. Displays, King's Cup races round Britain, races from the United Kingdom to Australia and South Africa which must have quickened the interest of any youth with a lively imagination and an innate sense of adventure.

It is not surprising that as soon as he was old enough, he began to search for a way to learn to fly. In 1937 he enlisted in the R.A.F. and was posted to Ansty for an ab initio course on Avro Cadets. Ansty is only a few miles from Bitteswell, where Waldo was stationed when he was made Chief Test Pilot for Armstrong-Siddeleys. It was taken over by his firm as an additional testing ground. As soon as he had completed his ab initio training, which took him only two months, he was commissioned and was posted to Egypt to undergo his Service training at Abu-Sueir. He was awarded his Wings in February, 1938, after flying on Hawker Hart biplanes and their derivatives.

He was then posted to No. 8 (Bomber) Squadron at Aden, who were equipped with Vickers Vincents, which were big single-motor 2-seat biplanes with 650 h.p. Bristol Pegasus. While with that squadron he was on operations against insurgent tribes in Yemen and Hadhramaut in the south-west corner of Arabia.

He remained on that work until May, 1939, when he returned to Egypt and was posted first to No. 33 (Fighter) Squadron and then to No. 112 (Fighter) Squadron which were equipped with Gloster Gladiator biplanes. He was stationed with the latter squadron at Helwan when war was declared on 3rd September, 1939.

Quite early in the war he had what he describes as a "rather disturbing incident". He was flying a Gladiator over the desert with his squadron and had a battle with Italian aircraft. His elevator control was shot away so he baled out. A fellow pilot named Worcester flew low to see if Waldo was all right, and was about to land nearby to put into practice a drill they had discussed among themselves for a rescue in such an emergency. Waldo had landed unhurt, but as the surrounding desert was covered in camel-thorn scrub which might have punctured the tyres of Worcester's Gladiator, Waldo waved him off. He was duly posted in the casualty list as "missing but safe". He had, however, strained his back during his landing and waited in much discomfort for a considerable time until some Worthy Oriental Gentlemen arrived on the scene, armed with rifles, with which, to Waldo’s considerable dismay, they began to fiddle while pointing them at him, under the impression that he was an enemy Italian. Waldo, feeling rather more than somewhat scared, succeeded in persuading them he was British. They then ordered arms and saluted and escorted him back to base. He was sent to Palestine for a rest, after which, in November, 1940, he joined No. 80 Squadron to take part in the war in Greece, where he remained until April, 1941.

He went next to Takoradi in the Gold Coast and was made Convoy Leader, ferrying new aeroplanes across Equatorial Africa to Cairo. Some of these were American aircraft, so when shortly after this he was sent to Port Sudan, he was able to begin his career as a test pilot, and was made Chief Test Pilot of the station that assembled American aircraft which arrived by sea. Waldo was one of the few pilots who had flown American aeroplanes, and he sold himself sufficiently well to get the job!

After three months he was sent to Eastleigh in Kenya, as Chief Test Pilot of the station, to test Mohawks and other American aeroplanes for the South African Air Force. Here he had some rather narrow escapes on account of the unreliability of American motors of those days with which these aircraft were fitted. On no less than six occasions motors cut out over very inhospitable country for forced landings. He makes light of these incidents, but it is quite obvious that it was only very considerable skill that enabled him to get back to the runway undamaged each time. According to all the rules of airmanship he should have been killed or injured at least once, for he disregarded the cardinal rule of flying—which is, that one must never turn back if a motor cuts before sufficient height has been gained
and got away with it!

Continuing with his newly gained reputation as a test pilot of American aircraft, he was then sent to Kasfareet, near the Great Bitter Lakes in Egypt, where he remained from February to September, 1942, testing Kittyhawks, Baltimores and Bostons in readiness for the Battle of Alamein. Here it will be noted he was getting his earliest experience of multi-motor aircraft.

On lst March, 1942, he was promoted squadron leader. His tour of duty overseas having expired, he returned to the United Kingdom, and in October he did a refresher course helping to instruct at No. 61 Operational Training Unit at Rednal, Shropshire, equipped with Spitfires, where he remained until February, 1943. After this he joined No. 118 (Fighter) Squadron at Coltishall until May, 1943.

He was not done with the Mediterranean area entirely, for he went to No. 216 Group Middle East to take charge of ferrying operations for Hurricanes for Russia, which assembled at Gibraltar from June to August, 1943. Until February, 1944, he was Officer Commanding No. 9 Group Communications Flight and personal pilot to the Air Officer Commanding the Group.

Then came the real turning point in his career when he went in for test flying in a big way. From March, 1944, to January, 1945, he went through No. 2 course at the Empire Test Pilots' School at Boscombe Down, on which course were many who since have become well-known test pilots. During that time he was attached to the Fairey Aviation Co. Ltd., whose test airfield was at Heathrow which has since been absorbed into London Airport, of which it made the south-east corner. He did one month there, mainly flying production Fireflies. He says he learned much that has been of value since on that work.

From January to March, 1945, he was attached to Westland Aircraft at Yeovil testing Seafires and Welkins under that doyen of test pilots, Harald Penrose.

At his own urgent request he was then posted to the Aircraft and Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down and was engaged on experimental flying on single-motor and on light and medium twin-motor aircraft as a result of which he was awarded the King's Commendation and was given command of a Flight in "A" Squadron. During this time he did a deck landing course on H.M.S. Premier in September, 1945.

This was his last appointment with the R.A.F. and in August, 1947, he joined Armstrong-Siddeleys as Chief Test Pilot at Bitteswell, near Rugby.

He has flown over 1,800 hours on more than 82 different types, which include the Python-Wyvern, biggest single-motor aeroplane in the world. He has also flown the Lancaster with the experimental Sapphire jet, the most powerful motor of its day. He does not intend to carry on test flying to a ripe old age, but would like to go on the business side, in which he should do well, for buyers always feel they can take the word of a test pilot, past or present.


D.F.C., A.F.C. & BAR


GROUP CAPTAIN HARRY ALEXANDER PURVIS, D.F.C., A.F.C. and bar, who was also mentioned in despatches, has been Chief Test Pilot to the Civil Aircraft Test Section of the Ministry of Supply at Boscombe Down since the end of 1946. He was nicknamed "Bruin" when he was with No. 23 Squadron. The name has its points for he has a rather gruff exterior which, however, conceals a heart of gold!

He is of Scottish birth and parentage, having been born near St. Andrews, Fife, on 2lst October, 1905. He traces his original interest in flying to the fact that during the war of 1914-18 his parents had a house in Gloucestershire near Rendcombe airfield. During his school holidays he spent much of his time watching the flying, and hanging around in the hope of a flight. His boyish keenness and persistency were eventually rewarded when an R.F.C. pilot could resist his starry enthusiastic eyes no longer and took him for a flight in a BE2e biplane.

From that moment the infection from the bite of the aviation bug spread and he was determined to become a pilot, and from then on he only worked to that end. After wangling for himself two more flights in Avro 504ks, he joined the R.A.F. as a Cranwell cadet in 1924.

There he learned to fly on Mono-Avros and graduated on to Bristol Fighters, DH 9a, and Sopwith Snipes. The latter were single-seat biplane fighters with "big" 220 h.p. Bentley Rotary (BR 2) motors.

He passed out and was awarded his Wings in July, 1926, and won the Groves Memorial Flying Prize. He was then posted to No. 23 (F) Squadron at Henlow under the command of the famous Canadian, Squadron Leader Raymond Collishaw. This squadron was just re-equipping from Snipes to Gloster Gamecocks.

In 1927 the squadron moved to Kenley and was taken over by Squadron Leader Jones-Williams, the ever-to-be-remembered "John Willy" who lost his life, when he was flying the first of the two Fairey-Napier long range monoplanes, by colliding with the Atlas Mountains in North Africa, in attempting to fly non-stop from Cranwell to Cape Town.

Bruin was selected in 1929 after a competition within his own squadron, and then in competition with pilots from all squadrons of Fighter Command, to give the individual aerobatics display at the R.A.F. Display at Hendon for the year. Almost all of those selected each year, have subsequently made their mark in aviation.

At the end of 1929 Bruin was selected to undergo a course at the Central Flying School and had as instructor, Flight Lieutenant R. L. ("Batchy") Atcherley, who in 1950 was in command of the Pakistan Air Force, and as Chief Flying Instructor, Squadron Leader James Robb, who was Air Chief Marshal Sir James Robb in 1950.

After successfully passing through the Central Flying School, Bruin was posted to Leuchars in his native Scotland where he taught officers of the R.N. to fly for the Fleet Air Arm. Here he took part in the first ever dual instruction for deck landing using Avro 504N biplanes. Other aircraft used subsequently for this purpose were Fairey 3f, Blackburn "Blackburn", Fairey Flycatcher, and dual-control Armstrong-Whitworth Siskins. In 1932 came his first chance of test flying, when he was posted to the Torpedo Development Flight at Gosport to fly Hawker Horsleys and Blackburn Darts and Ripons. Bruin says that this was not real test flying as known to-day, but was a step on the right road.

This contact with the sailors had made him somewhat salty and web-footed so he was selected to form No. 409 Flight of the Fleet Air Arm at Devonport where he joined the carrier H.M.S. Glorious. The flight was equipped with Hawker Nimrods and Ospreys, which were the naval versions of the biplane Fury and Hart. He and his flight sailed for Malta where they were merged into No. 802 Squadron under the command of Lieut.-Commander Abel Smith, R.N. After a period of service, which was mainly training
for the world was still in a fairly restful state of peace—he returned to Devonport in the Glorious in April, 1934, and went, on disembarkation, to Upavon. This was followed by a period of training at Gosport with the Fleet Air Arm in deck-landing, instrumentation (which is the bureaucratic word for blind flying with the use of instruments), and other forms of flying special to web-footed folk.

In July, 1936, he was posted to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and began test flying in earnest. While he was there he was chosen to fly a special Spitfire which had been prepared for an attempt on the world speed record which was held by an Italian seaplane. Before Bruin could make the attempt, the record had been beaten by a special German Me 109. It was thought that, although the Spit could raise that record, the Me 109 could be "hotted up" still more and beat any record which the Spit could make, so the attempt was abandoned. That special Spit was later flown by Air Commodore (later Air Marshal) John Boothman from Benson, Oxfordshire, on photographic reconnaissances over Germany, and was for long John's special pride and joy with its highly polished exterior to give it extra speed.

When, in 1939, Lord Nuffield sponsored the building of a special racer designed by A. E. Hagg of de Havillands and Airspeeds, built by the Heston Aircraft Co. Ltd., and powered by an early experimental Napier-Halford Sabre, Bruin was chosen to fly it. He told me he was not exactly "selected"; rather he organised himself into the job of flying it, as he had been the pilot who was to have flown the Spit, but the outbreak of war put a stop to that attempt.

In the early months of the war, shipping was seriously menaced by the laying of magnetic mines around the coasts of, and approaches to Britain. This was Hitler's first "secret weapon" about which the Fuehrer had boasted there could be no answer.

There was very soon a most effective answer which was a large airborn electrical coil transmitting electrical impulses which exploded the mines. The coil was carried in a huge metal ring about 2 feet wide that completely encircled the Wellington on which it was carried, from wing-tip to wing-tip and nose to tail. This was known as D.W.I.
detonation without impact. Those who remember these oddities flying in January and succeeding months of 1940 thought that they must be very ungainly brutes to fly; but Bruin assures me that he remembers no adverse flying characteristics.

These aircraft were flown over the sea lanes, and places where the presence of magnetic mines was suspected, about ten feet above the surface. In the very earliest flights, luck was with us, and two mines were exploded in one flight. Owing to the speed of the aircraft, and some slight delay action by the mine, the aircraft was past the danger area before the explosion could do any harm. Bruin tells me there was "nothing to it" and the accelerometer carried to measure blast waves only gave a very small reading. He thought it all very interesting and rather fun. Like the balloon cable-busting experiments described in the chapter on Johnny Kent, I can only say that for those that like that sort of thing, this mine-bursting would be just the sort of thing they would like!

Hitler's "unbeatable" secret weapon was soon rendered null and void by a method of electrical wiring of all ships, known as "degaussing" which enabled metal hulls to pass harmlessly over the mines.

After completing his term at Farnborough, Bruin was posted to command a Hudson squadron with Coastal Command at his old station at Leuchars from May, 1940. Then, in April, 1941, he went to the United States with a British Air Mission to test and evaluate American aircraft. The head of the Mission was Group Captain P. W. S. ("George") Bulman, famous for many years as Chief Test Pilot to Hawkers. Others in the Mission were Leonard Snaith, who had been a member of the victorious Schneider Trophy team in 1931, and who in 1950 commands the E.T.P.S. at Farnborough, and Sam MacKenna. Bruin first went to the Navy Dept. in Washington for a short spell and then to the Lockheed factory in Burbank, California, where he flew the Ventura (a development of the Hudson), and the twin-tail-boom P 38 Lightning.

He returned to the United Kingdom in April, 1942, to take command of the Performance Testing Squadron of the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down, where he remained until April, 1945, when he took command of a unit at Netheravon and then at Great Dunmow. After the war ended he commanded R.A.F. stations at Dum Dum (Calcutta) and Poonah. After Poonah he retired from the R.A.F. and took up his present appointment, a civil one, as Chief Test Pilot to the Civil Aircraft Section at Boscombe Down. In that capacity he did much of the test work with the unfortunate Tudors, and successful aircraft such as the Marathon, Ambassador, Viking, Viscount, and Hermes. In July, 1950, he told me he was greatly looking forward to having the de Havilland Comet to test.

He has flown over 7,000 hours on over 200 types. He is known to his friends as a thoroughly good type. He is regarded as a great asset—and by some as a menace!
at any party at which real air types foregather. He says he cannot remember any narrow escapes or near misses of the kind most test pilots encounter.



MICHAEL RANDRUP has been Chief Test Pilot, since 1946, to the famous old pioneer firm of D. Napier and Son Ltd., who were one of the earliest firms in the United Kingdom to make motor-cars, and first turned their attention to building aero motors during the war of 1914-18.

Mike, who is a giant of a man nearly 6 ft. 2 ins. and broad in proportion, was born in Moscow, on 20th April, 1913. As he is careful to point out that was long before the days of the Iron Curtain, when Russia was an Imperialist country under the Czars. His parents were both Danish. When the Bolshevist revolution broke out in 1917 and Mike was a child of four, his parents left Russia and settled in the United Kingdom, where he was educated at the famous King's School, Canterbury.

His first contact with flying was on holiday in Blackpool in 1931, and he had a ten shilling joy-ride by night in an Avro 504k to see the illuminations of the sea front of that famous holiday town. The "aerodrome" was a small field on the outskirts of the town and the "flare path" consisted of two petrol flares in cans.

"My lasting impression was of complete security," Mike told me, "in the pilot and the aeroplane; I have never had such complete confidence in any aeroplane or pilot, including myself, since then!" His real interest in aviation began soon after that, when he became a farm pupil in Hampshire with another youth who became Group Captain Hoare and who was to have a most distinguished war career. Together, they watched aeroplanes from surrounding aerodromes continually flying overhead and they felt that flying would be more to their liking than shifting dung about or driving earth-bound farm tractors.

They both decided to try and join the R.A.F. Hoare was accepted but Mike, being a Dane, was not eligible. Being a lad of considerable determination he would not let a little thing like that stand in the way of his objective. He decided to go in for civil aviation, and by way of a start he took the eminently sensible course of joining the College of Aeronautical Engineering at Chelsea.

About the same time, he joined the Kent Flying Club at Bekesbourne near Canterbury where the chief instructor was Flight Lieutenant J. H. Barringer, well known as "J.H." to all his pupils. After a while J.H. sent Mike solo on a Miles Hawk and he landed it intact. Encouraged by that circumstance, Mike bought a part share in a Gipsy-Moth on which he was able to get in several hundred hours at a reasonable cost and qualify for his "B" commercial pilot's licence. He gained considerable and useful experience touring Europe for his holidays and he says that the old Moth was extremely lucky not to be "written off".

He had passed through the College by 1939 and then assisted in forming a small air charter firm, but those activities were stopped by the outbreak of war in September, 1939.

The outbreak of war changed the attitude of the Air Ministry towards foreigners, especially when Denmark was attacked and overrun by Germany. He was commissioned in the R.A.F.V.R. in 1940 at a time when qualified and experienced pilots were highly prized objects. After a brief course at a Special Flying Instructors' School (S.F.I.S.), he was put straight on to the job of instructor in flying.

Owing to the crass stupidity and total lack of human understanding which was so prevalent in the Air Ministry at the start of the war
and which is beginning to manifest itself again in its mad craze for examinations and swotting in preference to commonsense, keenness, and "know-how"—Mike was not given the right to wear Wings, not having been through the necessary courses and passed the "Air House's" exams. As would have been expected by intelligent beings, the psychological effect on pupils at being taught by a "wingless wonder" was bad. When his pupils attributed their bad flying by being taught by a type without Wings, Mike was instructed to wear Wings forthwith!

Two years in Training Command included a year in Southern Rhodesia where he had an opportunity to see quite a different sort of farming to that which he had studied in England. He thought that Rhodesia was a grand country and had serious thoughts of returning after the war to try his hand at tobacco growing, but a man who has been finally and irrevocably bitten by the aviation bug does not often recover; and the fact that Mike is now test flying and not growing tobacco shows that his bite was incurable!

He returned to the United Kingdom, went through various sections of Training Command, and was appointed to an Operational Training Unit as an instructor. Then an effort was made to form a squadron entirely composed of Danes. This was No. 234 Squadron, which in 1942 was equipped with Spitfire 5s and was based in Cornwall, engaged in sweeps and patrols along the West Coast of France.

"It was while I was on one of these patrols that I got my one and only shot at an enemy. He was a F.W. 190 and I missed him completely!" he told me.

Towards the end of 1942 he had his first experience of test flying on Spitfire production work under Eric Greenwood, who made an attempt on the world speed record in a Meteor in 1945, and then became Chief Test Pilot to Gloster Aircraft Co. Ltd., and later that firm's sales manager. Mike could not have asked for a better initiation into the mysteries of test flying than from Eric. For this work Mike was attached to Air Service Training Ltd. at Hamble. He stayed on that highly interesting and valuable work until 1944 when he was posted to the Royal Aircraft Establishment (R.A.E.) at Farnborough. After a considerable period spent on more advanced test work he was given command of the Engine Research and Development flight in 1945. He substantive rank was then flight lieutenant, but he was made an acting squadron leader.

"My flying career has been mainly uneventful," Mike told me when I asked him for his worst moment. As a notable Brains-truster would say: "It all depends what you mean by 'uneventful'!"

Mike admitted that he has met with a few incidents of power failure and forced landings when engaged on engine test work.

"Usually events happen quickly, but this was not so once when I was doing level test runs on a Spit at 40,000 feet," he said. "On changing 'engine conditions', smoke was seen to come from the motor, and a glance at the instruments indicated that something was seriously wrong. I promptly cut off the fuel and started the long descent. Weather was perfect, base was in sight, and even the radio was working, which latter usually chooses moments of trouble to go out of action! The Controller cleared the runways, and fire engines and ambulances were ordered to stand by. Everything on the ground seemed to have come to a standstill waiting for me. Meanwhile my glide from that great height seemed endless and my gliding circuits went on and on; never has time passed so slowly.

"After a while Control asked me to report my height every ten thousand feet—and normal flying was resumed. By the time I was on my last circuit I felt a nervous wreck, but nevertheless I just managed to get the Spit down on the two-mile runway. My relief at making this successful landing was, however, shortlived. I was told within thirty minutes that the motor had been examined, run on the ground, and found to be in perfect order! That was undoubtedly my worst moment!"

The cause of the apparent failure was "coring" of the oil, when a hard core forms in the oil cooler from the great cold up in the stratosphere.

Mike had become extremely interested in engines and engine test work, so when Napiers offered him the post of Chief Test Pilot of their experimental flying test establishment at Luton, he accepted at once and was released from the R.A.F. for that work in March, 1946.

Since then he has been engaged in testing the Sabre piston motor and the Naiad turboprop. The latter he has demonstrated in a Lincoln at the Air Shows at Farnborough in 1948 and 1949. He expects in the near future to be testing further new engines now being projected at Napiers.

He has flown for 3,500 hours on 80 different types of aircraft.




CAPTAIN RONALD THOMAS SHEPHERD, O.B.E., Chief Test Pilot for Rolls-Royce Ltd., was the doyen of all test pilots in 1950, a real vintage type. He served in the R.F.C. in the 1914-18 war but that is no real clue to his age. He wangled himself in as a boy entrant by representing himself as much older than he really was
and boy entrants could enrol at 16. Whatever his score in years he is a young man in all other respects. Indeed, anyone who can fly aircraft such as the Avon-powered Meteor must indeed be young!

When quite a kid, "Shep" was determined to get into the R.F.C. before the war ended, and he was able to persuade the authorities to conform to his wishes just as he is now able to make any aeroplane do whatever he wishes.

He was born in Kensington at the end of the last century, not many years before the Wrights' first flight. When he was a boy his family moved to Balham in South London. He could not remember quite how or when he was seized with the fascination of flying. Possibly he had the determination to fly in his system when he made his first landing on this planet.

"When I was a kid I used to go to Hendon whenever I could before 1914," he told me. Hendon aerodrome was right in the country in those far off days; the many aerodrome advertisements told people, "Go by tube to Golders Green, and thence by motor bus". That sounded simple, but it was in fact quite a pilgrimage, and Shep recalled how one was taken by a No. 13 bus from Golders Green station where the tube ended, to the little country village of Hendon. Here, the aviation pilgrims wended their way down a country lane, now lost in a welter of houses and arterial roads, under a bridge carrying the Midland Railway, and then past the corrugated iron fence surrounding the aerodrome, to the main gates. This took half an hour from the bus stop.

We recalled Horatio Barber flying his Valkyries and Viking; the Caudrons, Blériots, Farmans; and the highlight which was Claude Grahame-White in his Nieuport speed monoplane which thrilled us with its great speed of a mile a minute
60 m.p.h.! Shep, who flies regularly at over 600 m.p.h. in 1950 has added a nought to Grahame-White’s "terrific speed"!

When he was old enough, Shep was apprenticed to the gun department of Vickers Ltd. and worked at Vickers House in Westminster. When he learned that the firm had an aviation department, he gravitated towards that. In 1916 he joined the Hon. Artillery Company as a very youthful volunteer, and at the tail end of 1917 he wangled himself into the R.F.C. He had his first flight in a Maurice Farman "Longhorn", that good old "mechanical cow" on which so many "early types" learned to fly. He did his flying training on an Avro 504K, was posted to No. 102 Squadron at Marham, Norfolk, equipped with FE2bs, and went to France with them under Major Wylie, son of the famous artist.

Near the end of the war, he was posted back to Home Establishment to No. 37 Squadron which was engaged in night operations against Zeppelin airships. The word "Zeppelin" probably means nothing whatever to most readers to-day, but how very real to Shep and his contemporaries were these ghostly gas-bags gleaming in the searchlights. Though the bombs which they dropped on London were few and small by comparison with those of the later war, the people of the City developed a hatred for the occasional visits of these ships.

When the war ended in 1918, Shep left the Service, but returned to it after 18 months; and in 1921 he was granted a short-service commission in the R.A.F. He went to Aboukir in Egypt to join No. 56 Squadron, which had been made famous in the war by the deeds of Albert Ball, Jimmy McCudden, Billy Bishop, Arthur Rhys-Davids, and others. The squadron then had Sopwith Snipes, but in 1950 had Gloster Meteors powered by Rolls-Royce jets which were flight-developed by Shep and his team.

After taking part in a special flying mission to Turkey, he came home to Biggin Hill with No. 25 Squadron and flew in the R.A.F. Display in 1926. That year he had his closest squeak. He was in a formation of Gloster Grebes, flying over Salisbury Plain when the leader saw a Bristol Fighter make a forced landing, and went down to see if the pilot was all right. Shep, following the leader, struck some rising ground with his undercart, at flying speed, and turned the Grebe over three times. He escaped with cuts, bruises, and a shaking.

On leaving the Service, he qualified for his "B" Licence, and is one of the few early test pilots to have kept it current ever since. He was placed on the Reserve and was made Chief Flying Instructor to Phillips and Powis Ltd. (from which Miles Aircraft Ltd. later developed). After six months he left to join National Flying Services Ltd., a concern of much promise, but of short life, formed in 1929 at Hanworth to run flying clubs all over the United Kingdom. He was sent to Tollerton to control the Nottingham Flying Club branch of N.F.S.

In October, 1931, he took a step which was to mark a most important milestone in his career, for he made his first flight, as a freelance pilot, for Rolls-Royce, testing a Fairey IIIf with a Kestrel motor. He continued test-flying on a part time basis for R.R. until 1934 when the firm started its own Test Flying Establishment at Hucknall, some way from the factory at Derby. Shep was appointed Chief Test Pilot, a post he has held ever since. He made all the prototype tests with the R.R. Buzzard, Merlin, Goshawk, Vulture, Griffon, and others. He has done much development flying with jet aeroplanes. Many people will remember his superb demonstration with the Nene-Lancastrian, the first partially jet-propelled airliner many of us had seen, at the Radlett Air Show in 1946. At the Air Show at Farnborough in 1949, many more will remember his polished flying of the Meteor, with Derwent gas turbines fitted with "after-burning", which was being seen in public for the first time. He climbed straight up into a cloud through which he bored a clean hole so that spectators could see blue sky and the points of light from the after-burning from his twin jet pipes.

Shep does not resemble in the least the test pilot of the films nor of popular conception. He is of small build, tough, cheerful, with a lively sense of humour. He looks what he is—a man with an important job of work to do, who likes doing it, and who does it superbly well.

He has logged over 8,000 hours on 77 different types. He has under him a most competent team of test pilots, who between them had logged nearly 30,000 hours by 1950. They are: John H. Heyworth, 6 ft. 4 in. tall, with 8,000 hours on 80 types; his younger brother Alex J. Heyworth, 4,200 hours on 35 types; Wing Commander McDowell, D.S.O., A.F.C., D.S.M., with 5,700 hours, who commanded the first Allied jet squadron to go into action in the war, and H. C. Rogers, 3,000 hours a bomber pilot and Shep's latest acquisition. These and other members of the flight and ground crew all refer to Shep as "Chief"—a term not easily earned. It indicates something of the respect and affection which they have for his judgment, advice, experience, and character.

After a very good lunch, with much interesting talk in the Mess at Hucknall, Shep turned to me and said, "I'm going to take you for a ride in a Tudor. Is that O.K.?" Being taken for a ride can have a sinister meaning, but a Tudor, or anything else, flown by Shep was O.K. by me! We took off from Hucknall in a Tudor 2, in which R.R. were conducting experiments in sound reduction of Merlins. We flew round nearby Nottingham, and then, in bright sunshine at 170 knots at 6,500 ft. to the Wash. We flew back over Cranwell, still a grass airfield, and landed at Hucknall with scarcely a jar.



GROUP CAPTAIN RICHARD GORDON SLADE, holder of the American Silver Star, has been Chief Test Pilot for the Fairey Aviation Co. Ltd. since 1946. He joined the firm when Heston was their flying test ground. When that was engulfed into the gigantic circuit of London Airport and became a gravel pit, he moved with the flying section to White Waltham.

When Heston was neutralised by London Airport, it was the second time that the Fairey Aviation Co’s test airfield had been swallowed by L.A.P., for the London Airport, which should be properly called Heathrow if the Ministry of Civil Aviation were not so silly as to think London needs only one airport, grew from the small grass airfield on the Great West Road near the village of Heathrow, which Fairey's had established as their test airfield in 1930.

Gordon was born in London on 10th September, 1912, and was educated at Dulwich College. He had no very strong ideas on a career when he was a boy, but as he was very keen on mathematics, it was decided he should become an actuary. He very soon tired of office life, however, and as he had always hankered after Service life and tradition he joined the R.A.F. in 1933. He told me he was attracted by the idea of individualism which was a pilot's life in those times. That was before the days of large aircrews which grew up during the war. Single combat seemed likely to be the lot of a pilot in the R.A.F. in the event of war. He also liked the idea of "Join the R.A.F. and see the world", as the recruiting posters of those days read.

He had an early opportunity of seeing some of the world outside the United Kingdom, for when he joined the R.A.F. in 1933 with a commission, he was sent to Egypt to learn to fly on Avro 504Ns and Armstrong-Whitworth Atlases.

After completing his flying training with the famous No. 4 Flying Training School at Abu Sucir in the Nile Delta, where he first put up his Wings, he was posted to No. 30 Squadron, first at Mosul and then at Habbaniyeh. The latter is known as Dhibban or the Place of Flies, and it lives up to its name in no uncertain manner!

His squadron was equipped with Westland Wapitis and Hawker Hardys. Those were the best days of flying, Gordon told me, when they could land in tiny awkward fields high in the mountains and fly through narrow twisting gorges. One of the best known gorges was the Rowanduz Gorge, which was very steep and narrow, in which there was no room to turn back. "Many of our passengers found the thrill of it was sometimes too exciting," Gordon told me, "as there was always a chance of meeting another squadron coming the other way!"

With this unit he covered every sort of training including bombing, photography and fighting tactics. He rose from an acting pilot officer to flight commander before being posted back to the United Kingdom in 1937.

It was then that he began his career as a test pilot, for he was posted to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment which then operated from the heather at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk. In these times one regards a test pilot as real vintage if he served with the A. & A.E.E. in the good old days of Martlesham.

His first job in test flying was finding out in practical flying the exact performance of aircraft, as these did not always conform to the makers' figures!

Many will remember the parties in the mess at Martlesham. In their day they set a standard of what a really good party should be. The annual dinner to the contractors, at which the great ones of the aircraft industry were entertained
not always too gently—was an affair of such a kind that an invitation to it was highly sought. As Bar Officer at Martlesham, and later as Mess Secretary at Boscombe, Gordon was partly responsible for the success of that and other parties. He helped to transport the spirit of Martlesham to Boscombe Down—literally!

The A. & A.E.E. was transferred to Boscombe Down on the outbreak of war, partly because of its extreme vulnerability so near the East Coast, and partly as a newer and bigger aerodrome had to be found for the bigger and faster aircraft which were coming into service. Gordon remained a test pilot at Boscombe until the summer of 1941. He was in "C" Flight the whole time and ended his time there in command of that flight.

"All sorts of odd aircraft came to us for test," said Gordon, "including naval kinds. I was eventually rewarded by being made responsible for the Mosquito prototype, both the bomber and the photographic reconnaisance unit type. We were typehunters in those days, and flew everything, large and small, which came our way."

Gordon, having been trained in his early days for warlike purposes, was not content to remain a test pilot. He applied to be put on operations, and in September, 1941, he was promoted Wing Commander and went on a night fighter course that autumn at Church Fenton. From there he was attached to No. 604 Squadron at Middle Wallop where he was taught the art of night-fighting by John Cunningham, then at the top of his form.

Gordon was then posted to Debden Sector to form, at Castle Camps, the first night-fighter squadron to be equipped with Mosquitos. When he got there he found a half-built aerodrome with very inadequate accommodation and heating, and few normal amenities. This was a winter of considerable cold and snow, and aircraft came from the factories very slowly.

He managed to get his squadron operational in time to combat the German Baedeker raids on Norwich, Canterbury, Bath, and other similar towns. The Mosquito Mk. 5, with air interceptor Radar, was not as good as had been hoped, mainly because this Radar was still experimental and rather unreliable, and the squadron did not get the success at first for which he had hoped. He himself scored his first victory over a Hun raider two months after getting operational, over Framlingham. This was the first victory officially credited to the squadron, for all the other successes had been credited as "probables only"; most of the combats were over the sea, so it was not easy to get confirmation, especially at night.

"Business got worse and worse and in January, 1943, I was sent on rest," he told me.

Like many other test pilots, Gordon will not admit to any really narrow squeaks, but he admits to one occasion when he felt a bit worried. Returning from a night patrol in a "Mossy", the light of a half-moon persuaded him to attempt a landing at a base under some very low stratus cloud. "At 250 ft. with undercarriage and flaps down, and half a circuit to go, I suddenly noticed the starboard radiator temperature passing 135 degrees. This was in the days of frequent internal coolant leaks. Then Control told me that there was a tire tender in the middle of the one and only runway, laying flares," he recalled. "I just managed to 'stretch it out' on the port motor until they cleared the obstruction. Of course, in the morning, they found the motor was all right. It was a flame from a broken gasket playing on the capilliary tube!"

There was another incident which he found was "a bit uncomfortable". He had taken off alone in a certain twin-motor aeroplane which was known to be a handful on one motor. At 800 ft. the revs of each motor in turn started fluctuating terribly, and he suspected some odd airscrew trouble. There were three airfields within a mile or two, but the aircraft was sinking like a brick, and he could not turn into any of them, "an infuriatingly impotent feeling". He remembers going up a sloping ploughed field at a rate of knots thinking what a fool he would look if there were a nice solid farmhouse over the brow. Except for 11 gallons, all the petrol had been turned off, out of his reach, at the tanks!

His period of rest in 1943 began with taking over the Handling Squadron at the Empire Central Flying School at Hullavington, to write pilots' notes on new types of aircraft. He felt this was a bit out of the war, but gave him some very interesting flying experience. He visited innumerable units all over the United Kingdom, and he managed to "break into the flying-boat union" and flew anything from the small Kingfisher float seaplanes to the big 4-motor Short Sunderlands and the only Martin Mariner which ever came to Britain.

In February, 1944, he was posted to No. 100 Group in Norfolk, to Little Snoring, to command No. 169 Squadron which was operating Mosquitos with A1 Mk. IV and other Radar in support of our bombers over Germany. In April he was promoted Group Captain to open up Swannington and welcome his old squadron, No. 157, together with No. 85 Squadron. His brief was to prepare for an all-out attack on German night-fighters with Mk. 10 A1 Mosquitos.

"The chaps took to this very well," he told me, "and by the end of the year we were claiming 30 Huns per month. In all, between D Day and VE Day the two squadrons got over 100 confirmed."

In the middle of that useful work, the squadron was ordered, a bit unwillingly, to the job of chasing doodle-bugs. They were a bit unwilling because this particular brand of Mosquito, equipped with special radar, was not suitable for doodle-bug hunting, and was rather wasted when it could have been doing much more useful work.

"That 'Bomber Support' work was really intensely interesting. We knew the details and intention of every flying operation for the night; and the schemes the crews thought out to deceive, stalk, and catch the crafty Huns were unending in variety," Gordon told me. "There was nothing the chaps could not do. One pair who shot down four Huns over the Ruhr on a Friday night, ran the complete church service on Sunday. The padre was delighted with the attendance!

"Then, after all the worries of Victory celebrations, which a station commander has to shoulder, I was transferred to the occupational forces on the Continent," he said. He commanded first No. 148 Wing at Twente in 84 Group, and when that was disbanded, No. 138 Wing at Cambrai, both of which were equipped with Mosquitos. From that station, the Wing worked very hard preparing their permanent quarters at Wahn near Cologne, only to be told, a week before moving in, that the Wing was to be disbanded and another would reap the fruit of their labours!

Fairey’s by then were looking for a Chief Test Pilot to replace Dixon, who was being rested from flying, and they asked Gordon to take on the job. "So," said Gordon, "I reached for my bowler hat and flew over to Fairey’s." Since then he has been Chief Test Pilot for the firm mainly working on developments of the Firefly. He has collected a useful team of test pilots who include Peter Twiss and Jimmy Matthews, with Davis Masters and Geoffrey Alington at Ringway. His first Fairey prototype was the GR 17 naval anti-submarine job with double Mamba turboprop.

He is not fond of the limelight so is not as well known to the aviation public as he should be, but he has flown Fairey aircraft at all S.B.A.C. Air Shows since the war, and came in third in the Folkestone Trophy race at Lympne in 1946. That race was won by his Number 2, Peter Twiss, who told me that was because Gordon put him to fly the better and faster aircraft.   


D.S.O., D.F.C.


SQUADRON LEADER JAMES BAYNTUN STARKY, D.S.O., D.F.C., is a New Zealander. He first came to this country as a pilot in the Royal New Zealand Air Force during the war. When the war ended he went home again to New Zealand, but came back here again "temporarily" for the Victory Parade in London in the summer of 1946 as a member of the New Zealand contingent.

On his second visit here, being desperately keen to carry on flying the latest types of aircraft, he joined the R.A.F. and was posted to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe. In August, 1948, Waldo Price-Owen wanted an assistant test pilot to help to cope with aircraft to be fitted with the new turboprop and turbojet Armstrong-Siddeley motors, so he invited Jim Starky to join him. The result is that Jim is now a permanent—or as permanent as anything can be in this ever-changing world—resident in the United Kingdom, and at Bitteswell aerodrome in particular, testing for Armstrong-Siddeley Motors Ltd.

Jim was born at Gisborne in New Zealand on the 10th November, 1916. His attention was first focused on flying by the great flights of that celebrated Australian pilot, "Smithy", who became famous as Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.

Before Jim was twenty, he was further thrilled by the exploits of a fellow New Zealander, Miss Jean Batten, who in 1936 flew a Percival "Gull" from England to New Zealand in 11 days.

There was not very much aviation in New Zealand in those days, so it was not until the outbreak of war, when his country immediately aligned herself with the Mother Country, that Jim’s chance came. He joined the R.N.Z.A.F. as soon as he possibly could as a student-pilot with the rank of L.A.C. He learned to fly on Tiger Moths at Taieri; and then graduated on Oxfords at Wigram.

In 1941, with the rank of sergeant pilot he first came to the United Kingdom, and was posted to an Operational Training Unit at Lossiemouth in Scotland, where he learned to fly Wellingtons. When his course there was completed, he was posted to No. 149 Squadron at Mildenhall, which aerodrome he had first heard of as some far away place where the MacRobertson £10,000 air race from England to Australia started in 1934. As a New Zealander, he very naturally has high ambitions to fly in one of his firm's aircraft in the England to New Zealand Air Race in 1953. An entry from a New Zealand test pilot would be very acceptable to the organisers, and such a winner would, of course, be immensely popular with the people of New Zealand!

He completed the first half of his operational tour from Mildenhall, during which he made many raids on Germany and on German occupied parts of Europe.

Late in 1941 he was posted to the Middle East and flew to Cairo in a Wimpy, by way of Gibraltar and Malta.

Altogether Jim considers that there have been at least three occasions on which he might very well have been killed, and so he lives on considerable portions of borrowed time. The first of these occurred in Egypt. He had taken off from the airstrip at Fayum Road, Cairo, in a Wimpy by night with a full bomb load. "It was an extremely dark night, and just after we were airborne both motors cut. I couldn’t see a thing. I had to get down where I could, which was on a part of the desert covered with boulders and there was an almighty crash. Two of the crew were killed and the rest were injured. It was subsequently found that the cause of the motor failure was water in the petrol."

During this tour of operations Jim was mentioned in despatches. He returned to the United Kingdom by boat from Lagos and was posted to the Maintenance Unit of No. 41 Group as test pilot.

In December, 1942, he was commissioned as a pilot officer. He then joined No. 115 Squadron which were equipped with Lancaster 2s with Bristol Hercules motors. With that squadron he made raids on the Ruhr towns and on Mannheim, and was awarded both the D.S.O. and D.F.C. With this squadron came two further incidents, the successful outcome of which caused two more quotas of borrowed time!

The first occasion was when bombing a target in the Ruhr he collided with another Lancaster. This collision knocked five feet off one wing. The other Lanc hit his bomb-bay and set his plane on fire. He does not know what happened to the other Lanc. His crew managed to put the fire out, and he was able to fly back to base, his machine being, rather naturally, somewhat difiicult to control. When he landed back at base, he and his crew as well as the waiting ground crew were surprised to see five feet of wing missing.

On yet another occasion during a raid on Germany, Jim's Lancaster was attacked, head-on, by a Ju 88 fighter, some of whose shots hit the dinghy release gear. The dinghy flew out of its pack, left the aircraft, and wrapped itself round the elevators. This caused very considerable interference with fore and aft control, and the aircraft became almost unmanageable for a time.

Then the dinghy was blown away by the slip-stream, but it succeeded in taking one half of the elevator with it. "We managed to get back to base," Jim said, "more or less in one piece (of what was left of us), in a hell of a mess, and sadly demoralised!"

In March, 1944, he was posted to the Empire Test Pilots' School at Boscombe Down, where he served under Group Captain "Sam" McKenna. In January, 1945, he was transferred to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment testing heavy bombers. There he was appointed flight commander of No. 2 Flight of "B" Squadron. While on test work he met Group Captain "Bruin" Purvis, whom he still considers to be one of the best of all modern test pilots in this country.

He stayed with the A. & A.E.E. until early in 1946, when he was repatriated to New Zealand, but as recounted at the beginning, he was able to come back to the United Kingdom for the Victory Parade. He had never been a member of the R.A.F., having remained all through the war with the R.N.Z.A.F.

As his heart was in test flying, he applied for an extended Service commission in the R.A.F. which was granted. He was posted back to the A. & A.E.E. with which he served for the next two years.

Since he has been with Armstrong-Siddeley, he has been assisting Price-Owen with testing, among other aircraft, the Boulton Paul Balliol with Mamba turboprops, and the comparatively recent experimental Dakota with Mambas.

Of his duties at the E.T.P.S. and the A. & A.E.E., all Jim will say is: "At the E.T.P.S. I was just a pupil, and one of the less intelligent ones, I've no doubt! At A. & A.E.E. I can think of little I did apart from the usual test grind. We did the final trials and drop of 'Ten Ton Tess' the 22,000 lbs. bomb."

Since he joined Armstrong-Siddeley Motors Ltd., he has been occupied entirely with prop-jets, and has done most of the development flying with the Python, which was at that time, the most powerful aero motor in the world.




JOSEPH SUMMERS, O.B.E.—he is better known to a wide circle of friends by his nickname of "Mutt"—completed 21 years as Chief Test Pilot to Vickers in 1950. He has flown for more than 5,000 hours on 360 different types. He has made 43 first flights on prototypes.

He can give no reason for his first taking an interest in aviation, but seems to think that it was quite natural that he should. "What else was there that I should take a chief interest in," he asked me with a disarming smile! The aviation bug which bit him came upon him quite by chance. There must have been many of them about just then looking for such succulent morsels, for the first brood had been hatched by the Wright Brothers, who made the first flight in December, 1903, just before Mutt was born.

He joined the R.A.F. with a short service commission in the early 1920s, and it was not long before his outstanding ability as a pilot resulted in a posting to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment, which was then at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk. Mutt was the first of the present brood of test pilots to serve with the A. & A.E.E. which moved during the war to Boscombe Down. It was at Martlesham that he acquired the name "Mutt", which, he says, was as common as "Smith" at that station, and was no doubt derived from the current strip newspaper cartoon comedians "Mutt and Jeff".

At the end of 1925 he went to "A" Flight which was responsible for testing single-seat fighters. A member of the same flight was Flight Lieutenant (afterwards Air Marshal Sir) Ralph Sorley.

He remained with the A. & A.E.E. until he was appointed Chief Test Pilot to Vickers Aviation Ltd., in succession to that great fellow and test pilot "Tiny" Scholefield, who was killed by the breaking of a wooden airscrew while he was testing the Vickers "Vanguard", a twin-motored airliner which Imperial Airways had been using on the London-Paris route.

In 1930 Vickers Ltd. acquired the Supermarine Aviation Works, and so Mutt became Chief Test Pilot, for a time, to both firms. The great increase in the extent and importance of test flying can be seen by the fact that both concerns now employ several test pilots each. In the course of his twenty years as Vickers' Chief Test Pilot he has made 43 first flights on prototypes, his latest being the turbojet Viscount airliner. When he flew me in the turboprop Viscount in 1949 I noted that his touch was as sure as ever, and his presence in the cockpit just as cheerful and reassuring as it had always been.

He has not come through all these years of test-flying, and four more years with the R.A.F., without disturbing incidents. Test pilots have, of necessity, to put their aeroplanes to maximum stresses; sometimes even until they part asunder. His earliest experience of "dicing with death" was when he was testing the first dual-control version of the Gloster Grebe, which was normally a single-seater. He spun to within 150 ft. of the "deck" in a flat spin and then came out almost completely stalled with full motor going, and was lucky to recover flying speed. Not even test pilots, in the R.A.F. or in civil life in Britain, had parachutes in those days.

His next adventure occurred when he was doing a terminal velocity dive on a Hawker Hawfinch. As he reached terminal velocity, part of the fuselage collapsed under extreme air pressure. The anchorage for his Sutton Harness, which was in the tail, pulled him backwards and nearly broke his neck. Luckily his neck is as tough as other parts, so he reached the ground unhurt.

Later, when trying the Bristol Bulldog prototype for spinning, he spun down from 10,000 ft. to 2,000 ft. As the Bulldog would still not stop spinning, Mutt decided to abandon ship. Releasing his harness he climbed out on to the centre-section, preparatory to baling out. This changed the position of the centre of gravity and counteracted the spin, and the Bulldog went into a straight dive. He was able to flatten out by pushing the stick back with his foot. Then he clambered hack into the cockpit and landed safely. This was his last adventure with the R.A.F.

Early in his career with Vickers he had a stroke of luck which saved him from serious hurt. He was flying the experimental Vickers Vireo and was trying a dive at terminal velocity. He had his head in the cockpit watching the instruments when the main windscreen collapsed. Instead of hitting him full in the face, as it must have done if he had been looking ahead, it only caught him a glancing blow on the top of his head, and he was able to land safely. [Note 3].

When flying the experimental M.130 on diving tests the tail collapsed, after which the whole aeroplane disintegrated. He and his flight engineer, John Radcliffe, baled out safely.
[Note 4]. Radcliffe later became Chief Flight Engineer on the Brabazon test flying programme.

Mutt considers his narrowest escape of all was in 1945 when testing a Warwick. He had a structural failure at 3,000 ft. which gave him full rudder, when he was flying over the middle of St. George's Hill at Weybridge. There was no alternative but to crash land, which he found he could do by banking, putting on full top motor and sideslipping to the ground, the rate of descent being nearly 2,000 ft. per minute. An avenue of trees cushioned the impact and the wreck toppled into a ploughed field where it soon took fire.

"After the noise was over," he told me, "and we had come to rest, small flames began to come from the air intakes of both motors. The flight engineer who was with me, named Green, was senseless, concussed by the fall. Luckily for him there were some farm labourers working near where we fell. They just had time to get into the fuselage and pull him out before the whole aeroplane went up in flames."

Apart from the very valuable work which Mutt did during the war in testing the vast Vickers output of aeroplanes, he was closely concerned with testing the special mines with which Guy Gibson and his squadron breached the Mohne Dam. In Gibson's classic book Enemy Coast Ahead a character who is thinly camouflaged under the name of "Mutt" meets Gibson in great secrecy at a wayside station and takes him to see a "boffin" described as "Jeff" in whom it is easy to recognise the famous Vickers boffin, inventor of the geodetic method of construction, B. N. Wallis.

Mutt was working closely with Wallis in the development of a mine suitable both to be dropped from a bomber and to have the desired destructive effect. In the presence of Guy Gibson he dropped several of the prototype mines experimentally on the water. They broke on impact with heart-breaking frequency. A great deal of credit must go to Mutt for his patient and persistent back-room work with experimental mines for that famous raid which eventually won for Gibson a well-merited V.C.

In 1948 he became the first pilot to fly a jet airliner, unassisted by piston motors. He marked the occasion of the 39th anniversary of Blériot's Channel flight by taking the Nene-Viking from London to Paris in the then record time of 34 mins. 7 secs. at a speed of 384 m.p.h.

There are no flourishes about him. He has that solid, cool, unhurried temperament which makes the careful, trustworthy, efficient test pilot; and he has that unostentatious, almost uncanny sense of an aeroplane's qualities and characteristics which make such a test pilot a most valuable ally of the designer. This is the brilliance which makes no show, but invariably delivers the goods.

When he began to near the age of retirement, he was happy to have found as a possible successor, G. R. Bryce, whom he began to train in test work in 1946, so that the great traditions which he founded will be carried on. With all Mutt's experience, he will be even more of a tower of strength to his firm in a ground job. In him will be a well of flying experience, knowing what is wanted and what can be done, such as few other aircraft firms possess.

Mutt was still actively flying at the end of 1950. In August of that year he took the prototype of the Viscount 700, the new 40 to 50 passenger version of this turboprop airliner built for B.E.A., on its very first flight from the very restricted flying-ground in the middle of Brooklands track to fly it to the nearby Wisley where he and Jock Bryce are putting it through its acceptance trials. During the S.B.A.C. Air Show, he allowed Jock Bryce to do all the demonstrations flying this machine, which included a circuit, with three of the four motors stopped.


D.S.C. & BAR


PETER TWISS, D.F.C. and bar, has been assistant test pilot to Gordon Slade at Fairey since 1946. He first attracted public notice as a pilot of unusual ability by his flying of a Firefly 4 at the Lympne Races of 1947. By accurate course-keeping and superb cornering he won the High Speed Handicap Race which in later years would have secured for him the Kemsley Trophy.

Peter was born on 23rd July, 1921, at Lindfield in Sussex, and was educated at the famous Sherborne School in Dorset. He had his first flight in 1935 at the age of 14 when he and his brother squeezed into the cockpit of a Gipsy Moth for a 5/- hop at Hayling Island [Note 2]. His only comment on this was that he cannot remember anything about it and it certainly did not make him airminded.

After leaving school he worked in London for a short time and then got a job on a farm near Salisbury, Wilts. In 1938, when war with Germany seemed imminent he applied to join the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. The F.A.A. was then a young and growing service and to the very young Peter, not yet eighteen, it seemed to have less frustrations and greater possibilities than the R.A.F. Also he was extremely keen on the sea-going side, and already had several friends in the Navy.

So in 1939 Peter climbed into bell-bottoms and became a Naval Airman 2nd Class at Gosport. In that very cold winter of 1939-40 he was trained to fly at Elmdon on Tiger Moths. "My first few flights were agony," he told me, "and the Tiger Moths were so cold! I was only interested in landing and getting indoors!"

After this Elementary Training period he went to Netheravon where he made his first acquaintance with Fairey aircraft, when he was trained on Battles. Then he shed his bell-bottoms and was commissioned as a Midshipman and attached to the Naval Fighter Course at Eastleigh, which had been, and became again after the war, Southampton Airport. He first flew Gloster Gladiator biplanes and then Blackburn Roc and Skua monoplanes.

Then followed a year of courses, and ferrying, after which he became operational. First he was attached to No. 804 Squadron with Hawker Hurricanes and Fairey Fulmars on catapult ships and then joined the famous Ark Royal, flying Fulmars. He was with the Ark Royal when she was sunk and thereafter was embarked in H.M.S. Argus for one or two trips ferrying Spitfires to Malta. During the disembarked period between the Ark and Argus his squadron made several reconnaissance flights including some to Casablanca to check up on the Vichy-controlled French Fleet. In June, 1942, his squadron escorted a convoy to Malta. The old Fulmars were rather too slow for such work as the Germans had now entered this phase of the war with Ju 88s and Me 109s. Most of the squadron were shot down. Peter is very silent on his part in the proceedings, but he was awarded his first D.S.C.!

On the return to the United Kingdom the squadron was reformed with the first squadron of Supermarine Seafires and they embarked in H.M.S. Furious for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. All Peter would say about this was "For various flights against the French in this operation, I gained a bar to my D.S.C."!

However, from a brother officer of Peter I found out a bit more. Owing to enemy action or a change of weather, Peter was unable to regain the Furious from one sortie. So he made a forced landing in North Africa without damaging the aircraft. The next day he spotted dust from a mobile column and took off to investigate. It proved to be an Allied column which had by then halted. So Peter landed alongside it and found that the men were in doubt about possible opposition ahead. He put the Commander's mind at ease and sent them on their way rejoicing. He then took off and flew to a spot a few miles away where he had seen some abandoned aircraft so he landed by these. There was a good supply of fuel in the tanks and he laboriously replenished his own tanks which were by then nearly empty. He took off for a further reconnaissance and found another Allied column halted in doubt about possible opposition. He landed by them and was able to reassure them firmly. He next took off and made a rather wider sweep and returned to the Furious.

After this adventure Peter returned to the United Kingdom and was transferred to night fighters and was trained at the R.A.F. Station at Drem on Fulmars before being appointed to the Naval Fighter Interception Unit which was attached to its R.A.F. counterpart to develop night fighter radar equipment in an operational capacity.

From that work he was detached for a short while and here began his start as a test pilot.

He was posted to the Intensive Flying Development Unit at Boscombe Down to assist in flying Fireflies. From this work he was again detached to the British Air Mission in U.S.A. to evaluate the naval fighters and single-seater plane radar which was in process of development. He travelled all over the United States flying all types and investigating night fighter equipment, including the airborne radar set made by the Sperry Gyroscope Co. He took a Seafire round aircraft firms in that country for demonstration and detailed inspection.

He moved his H.Q. from Washington to the Naval Test Center at Patuxent River and then he had an experience which had him more worried than any other. This is what he told me.

"I had to fly a very semi-serviceable Westland Whirlwind from Norfolk, Virginia, to Florida for a fighter conference. The East Coast route lies over hundreds of miles of completely featureless swamp and water which is almost unmapped. The range of the Whirlwind was very limited, and as the aircraft had lain outside and had been unserviceable for over a year, there were no reliable fuel guages. I allowed myself a maximum of 1 hour and a quarter. Thirty minutes out from Norfolk the compass needle jumped off its bearing. This was very disconcerting as the gyro was processing badly. There was no sign of sun and it was very hazy weather. After some very approximate navigation and by flying at a very economical speed I just managed to find the isolated Marine Base at Cherry Point. I think that the sight of the swamps and possible alligators was enough to urge me on. The flight had many more uncomfortable moments, but the aircraft behaved remarkably well."

At the conference, in which British aircraft were represented by a Firefly, two Mosquitos in addition to the Whirlwind, Peter flew several U.S. prototype fighters, after which he went on detachment to Northrops for an evaluation of the P 61 Black Widow night fighter.

He then returned to the United Kingdom via Dorval where he collected a scratch crew, and with himself as pilot, he flew back to Prestwick in a Liberator.

He spent several quite exciting months at home getting up-to-date in new night-fighting technique and other things which had been advanced during his absence. In Mosquitos he took part in several intruder raids on Germany and shot down two Ju 88s before D Day. He also took part in operations against doodle-bugs (or flying bombs) off the South Coast.

In September, 1944, he went back to Patuxent for a further fighter conference. After this "I took a short helicopter course at the Naval Air Station at Floyd Bennett field, but only completed 20 very unsafe minutes solo," he told me!

He came home again in 1945 and joined No. 3 Empire Test Pilots' Course at Boscombe Down and was then posted to the Naval Squadron at the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment there. He was attached, while still a serving officer, to Fairey's to help with the development test flying of the Firefly 4 which was just emerging. While on this work, he was demobilised and so stayed with Fairey's as a staff test pilot.

While with the firm he has been engaged on development work with the Firefly 4, 5, 6, and 7, Spearfish, Primer, and GR 17.

Another Fairey aeroplane which he has flown in public has been the lovely little Fairey Junior at Gatwick in 1949. On one occasion he flew very close to a Bristol Freighter on the ground. The latter, by coincidence, opened its jaw-like nose door just as Peter flew past and it seemed that Peter and the little Junior were going to be gobbled up by the monster!

He has flown a total of 3,000 hours on over 100 basically different types, the most interesting of which were the Maryland, Bell Aircomet, Havoc, Liberator, Black Widow, Welkin, Curtis Sea Hawk, Lancaster, DH 108, and of course the Fairey Junior. [Note 5]



WHEN the 140-ton Saunders-Roe Dollar Princess flying-boat is taken into the air for the first time during 1951, the pilot will be 45-year-old Geoffrey Tyson, who has been Chief Test Pilot to Saunders-Roe Ltd. since 1946.

He was born at Purley near Croydon on 4th February, 1907, and was educated at Whitgift School, Croydon, the school which produced Lord Tedder, John Cunningham, and other aviation types. Like John Cunningham, Geoffrey attributes his early interest in flying to the close proximity of his home and school to Croydon aerodrome which was then the London airport, and to the R.A.F. Station at Kenley.

On leaving school he was articled to an estate architect in Croydon with whom he remained earthbound for a year and a half. Then, in 1925, he joined the R.A.F. with a short service commission and learned to fly on an Avro 504k at No. 5 Flying Training School at Sealand in Cheshire.

On the expiry of his commission he joined the Maidstone Aero Club at West Malling as an instructor. In 1932 he transferred to Scarborough Aero Club in the same capacity.

The turning point in his career came in 1933 when he joined Sir Alan Cobham's Air Circus, succeeding Charlie (Toc-H) Turner-Hughes as aerobatic pilot.

A number of the younger test pilots in this series made their first contact with flying, or had their first flight with Sir Alan's circus, so no doubt Geoffrey was responsible for first infecting many of his present colleagues with a love for flying.

Appropriately enough Geoffrey's first appearance with Sir Alan was at Hamsey Green, within a couple of miles of his home at Purley. This was in a large field on the opposite diagonal corner to where Charles Gardner, three times winner of the King's Cup and no connection with the popular B.B.C. Air Correspondent, later established his private airfield.

I well remember seeing Geoffrey's fine performance there on a Tiger Moth in which he flew the length of the flying field, inverted, with his head about 50 feet above the grass. He continued this three or four times daily for three years, sometimes flying a Blackburn Lyncock or an Avro Tutor in place of the Tiger.

Flying the Tiger Moth, inverted, at Tonbridge, he had what he considers was his luckiest escape. The flying field was in a narrow valley, and as he turned the Tiger on to its back, his Sutton harness which held him in began to slip its buckle. Fortunately the Tiger had a spade-grip to which Geoffrey hung like grim death. He succeeded in getting the right side up again and managed to land safely. From that incident he learned the importance of seeing his harness was in order before any aerobatic flying.

The technique of display work which he learned with Sir Alan's circus he used at many Air Shows in the late 1940s.

Anyone seeing the little Saunders-Roe A 1 single-seat jet flying-boat fighter hurtling along at the 1948 Air Show at 500 m.p.h., inverted, only about 100 feet above the Farnborough runway, might be excused if he thought the pilot was some hay-wire young man full of the initial exuberance of youth. He might have been surprised to see that the pilot was a near-veteran of 42 with greying hair.

This inverted flying is by no means an expression of hay-wire youthful exuberance. It is the result of a very carefully thought out plan, coupled with very sound judgment, accurate flying, and twenty years experience of exhibition flying.

The care which Geoffrey has always expended on his low flying might be compared with the great care, practice, and experience, which the late Guy Gibson, V.C., brought to his historic breaching of the Mohne Dam from exactly 60 feet as described in his wonderfully readable book Enemy Coast Ahead.

While he was still with Cobham's circus, Geoffrey flew an Envoy and Courier, made by the Airspeed Co. of which Sir Alan was one of the three founders, and with which Sir Alan had begun flight-refuelling tests. After leaving the Cobham Circus, Geoffrey joined A. V. Roe and Co. Ltd., as an experimental test pilot; in 1937 he returned to Sir Alan who was becoming still more active with his newly formed company "Flight-Refuelling Ltd.". Geoffrey flight-refuelled the Short flying-boat Cabot which was flown on the first trans-Atlantic refuelling trials by Captain Kelly-Rogers in August, 1939.

It was in that capacity that he first came into contact with John Lankester Parker, who was then Chief Test Pilot to Short Bros. at Rochester, Kent, and he joined that firm as assistant test pilot soon after the outbreak of war in September, 1939. There he met Mr. (now Sir) Arthur Gouge who was then a director and chief designer for Shorts, and who later became the executive head of Saunders-Roe Ltd.

As assistant test pilot to Parker, Geoffrey tested production Sunderland flying-boats and Stirling bombers. He often flew the little half-scale flying model of the Stirling, powered by four 100 h.p. Pobjoy motors which had been built to test the aerodynamics of the Stirling in advance. This "little Stirling" was used by Geoffrey and other Short pilots as a runabout, and caused endless mirth and confusion to other pilots who met it in the air.

He made the first test flight, with Lankester Parker, of the Short Shetland flying-boat which was then the biggest aeroplane which had ever flown in Britain. When Parker retired from active test flying at the end of the war in 1945, Geoffrey was appointed Chief Test Pilot in his place.

In 1946 he handed over to his assistant, "Brookie" Brooke-Smith, and followed his chief Arthur Gouge, who had left Shorts when that firm was taken over by the Government, and had gone to Saunders-Roe as Chief Executive. That firm had decided to go ahead with building a huge flying-boat of 140 tons to carry 105 passengers in great comfort at 380 m.p.h. Its official title is the "Princess" class, but as it is expected to be a big dollar-earner, it has become known as the Dollar Princess. The design is based on Gouge's successful succession of Short boats from the Empire "C" Class of 1937 through the Sunderland to the Solents, the latter being the most pleasant and comfortable aircraft which had been built up to 1950.

In 1947 Geoffrey had made the prototype test of the Saro A 1 jet flying-boat fighter which, as I have already described, he flew inverted at the Air Shows at Farnborough and elsewhere. This little fighter stands in a class alone, and could make all the difference between defeat and victory where there are few and vulnerable runways such as Gibraltar and Hong Kong. In view of the fact that we lost the battle for Norway in 1940 for lack of fighters which could work off the water, one wonders at the lack of action of the British Air Staff, three years after the speed and manoeuvrability have been proved, in not ordering squadrons of this fighter.

The public's first view of this machine was probably one of Geoffrey's greatest triumphs. It was at the Air Show at Farnborough in 1948. There was a cloud ceiling of only 800 ft. When the turn came for Geoffrey and the A 1 we saw them appear at the far end of the runway at a height of about 100 ft. They passed over our heads at about 600 m.p.h. and swept up into the clouds in a steep climb.

Then they appeared at the far end of the runway, again at 100 ft., but inverted. Geoffrey flew the length of the runway still inverted and climbed inverted into the cloud. I asked Geoffrey afterwards if there was any direct connection between these flights and his Tiger Moth flying in the Cobham show; for it "looked the same shape". He agreed that the A 1 flying was the result of what he had learned with Cobham.

Meanwhile he is now, in 1950, awaiting his really big moment—big in every sense—when he will take the Dollar Princess in the air for the first time. Remembering that a village had to be demolished to make the runway for the Brabazon, Geoffrey said to me, in jest, that at any rate they will not have to tow the Isle of Wight into mid-channel for the Princess to fly from Cowes where three of them are being built.

Owing to the almost unlimited space of runway on the water, he has no qualms about its first flight, though there is no comparable flying-boat of the same size for him to fly to get the feel.


D.F.C., A.F.C.


THOUGH there are a few British test pilots who have been active test pilots for more than 20 years, a new generation has come into existence since the war, who gained their experience in war flying. One of the best-known and best liked is the Chief Test Pilot for Hawker Aircraft Ltd., Squadron Leader Trevor S. Wade, D.F.C., A.F.C., who is so much better known as Wimpy Wade.

Though his nickname of "Wimpy" might suggest that he became known as a pilot of "Wimpy" (Wellington) bombers, the whole of his career has been on fighter types. The name came from the "POP-EYE" cartoon, in which a stooge named Wimpy was very fond of his food!

He was educated at the famous Tonbridge School in Kent, that south-eastern English county over which so much of the Battle of Britain was fought. That school has produced many famous flying types, some of whom have been mentioned in earlier chapters. Wimpy was born in 1920. He joined the R.A.F.V.R. in 1938 when he was 18, as soon as he left school, and learned to fly at Gatwick in Surrey. When war broke out in 1939 he took a flying instructor's course.

Just before the Battle of Britain began he joined No. 92 Squadron equipped with Spitfires and fought with them from May, 1940, to October, 1941.

In July, 1941, he was awarded his first gong, the D.F.C., as recognition of his gallant work in the Battle of Britain, and on the fighter sweeps over enemy-occupied France, in the course of which he destroyed seven enemy aeroplanes.

His experience in action eminently suited him for his next post which was an instructor to an Operational Training Unit, which was followed by a course which sets a seal on any flying instructor's career, an instructor's course at the Central Flying School.

From the C.F.S. he was posted as a fighter-pilot/gunnery-instructor to the Central School of Gunnery, and then for three months as Gunnery Officer to No. 9 Group Headquarters in which post Wimpy became responsible for all gunnery instruction in fighter operational training units.

His good work there singled him out for what, to one of his enquiring mind, must have been his most interesting wartime job. He was appointed O.C. Flying, Air Fighting Development Unit, responsible for testing performance of captured enemy fighters, and comparing them with Allied equivalents. For his work in this branch, he was awarded the A.F.C. in 1944.

During the last months of the war he was sent to the U.S.A. and Canada for flight trials on captured Japanese fighters, and to gain experience on new American types. When the war ended, his experience ranged over 65 different types.

Soon after the war ended, he turned his hand to aeronautical journalism and joined the editorial staff of The Aeroplane. There he was principally concerned in trying out new types of civil aeroplane, and flying the Auster Autocrat "G-AERO" which had been acquired by the Editor of The Aeroplane for transporting his staff on various assignments. I often met him in that capacity, and he often saved me much time and discomfort by waiting me from some outlying airfield to one near London in the editorial Autocrat. In an Auster or any other kite, Wimpy had those sure "hands" which, even under conditions of quickly deteriorating weather, or under any sudden emergency, inspired absolute confidence in him.

After little more than a year of pen-pushing and flying the small aeroplanes described so graphically as those with "pop-bottle motors", Wimpy yearned for real flying again. He was never really happy tethered to an office and living in London, though he compromised to a certain extent by living in a houseboat moored in the River Thames at Chelsea.

Then, towards the end of 1947, Bill Humble, Chief Test Pilot to Hawker Aircraft needed help in testing the growing production of Furies, Sea Furies, and other Hawker products which were rolling out from the factory. He knew Wimpy's capacity as a pilot; he knew Wimpy could never be happy pen-pushing, and he offered him the job as assistant test pilot.

Wimpy threw off the dust of London with pleasure, sold his house-boat, and moved lock, stock and barrel into an old manor house on the banks of the Thames within easy distance of the Hawker test airfield at Langley, some 20 miles west of London.

His big chance came in the beginning of 1948, when Bill Humble was appointed sales manager of Hawkers. He had for some time contemplated giving up the very exacting work as a test pilot of fighters with ever-increasing speeds, but he would not do so until he was satisfied that he found a successor who was fully up to the work. When he found that Wimpy filled that bill, he gladly gave way to him after he (Bill) had completed over 15 years as a test pilot.

Wimpy’s first big job was the testing of the first Hawker jet-propelled fighter, the P/1040. This was Sydney Camm's latest and greatest design, and there has been most complete co-operation between this great designer and the new Chief Test Pilot in producing yet another world-beater.

In 1948 I watched, with a number of aviation journalists, a first public demonstration of this fighter on a fine, bright, summer morning down at Langley. Most of us had seen the first demonstrations of famous aeroplanes; but we were all agreed on one point. We had none of us ever seen a new aeroplane demonstrated in such a superb manner.

Wimpy told me he had done something less than 10 hours flying on it, but put it through a superb display of low-level aerobatics at speeds which must have been very nearly sonic, and I knew he was pulling my leg, but he had not flown it much more than 25 hours.

Several times, as he swept past us, after a dive, at a speed which we estimated must have been over 650 m.p.h., clouds of vapour were formed which seemingly wrapped the monoplane in a cocoon of transparent woolly vapour. His climbs in an inverted position, to a height which took him almost out of sight into the blue, convinced us that Sydney Camm had produced another aeroplane which, in its own class, was the greatest in the world.

A few weeks later Wimpy gave a further demonstration with this kite at the S.B.A.C. Display at Famborough. We were able to compare his flying with such masters as John Cunningham, John Derry, Geoffrey Tyson and others, but he still held the high place he had gained in our estimation. He is a very great pilot indeed, and well fitted to hold his own with any of the really great test pilots who were the giants of the past. I make that statement with confidence, although he was first of the new generation of test pilots to come under my microscope. He has not the slightest sign of being "too big for his boots" and is a cheerful companion with a happy sense of humour. When he got down from the P/1040 after his superb demonstration and had received the plaudits of the multitude, I, a veteran pilot, always a "ham", now well past my flying years, said to him with appropriate understatement, "Yes, Wimpy; you are certainly improving. With a bit of practice you would be quite good, if only someone will show you which is the right-side up for an aeroplane". For Wimpy had treated us to much superbly skilful upside-down flying.

He flew the Sea Hawk in the S.B.A.C. jet race of 1950 during which he made the fastest lap at 584 m.p.h., which won for him the Geoffrey de Havilland Trophy for the fastest time of the year in any British air race. At the Air Show of 1950 he flew the 1081 at a speed which must have been near that of sound.

He has a good head on him and is not merely a pilot. So when that time comes, as it must, when his reactions have grown too slow with the years, for him to continue, he should be assured of a high place on the administrative side of the company. For he has one great asset; everyone likes him instinctively, and that liking increases with closer acquaintance.

He considers that his narrowest escape was when waiting upside down in a Spitfire which he expected to catch fire, on Lewes Race Course after being shot down by crossfire from a formation of Dornier 17s during the Battle of Britain, on 27th September, 1940. In lighter vein he is also inclined to include his successful survival from a deck landing course at a Royal Naval Air Station early in 1949.

He has flown 2,200 hours and 72 different types of machines.





AIR COMMODORE ALLEN HENRY WHEELER, O.B.E. and Vlieger Kreis (Dutch D.F.C.), was made Commanding Officer of experimental flying at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough at the beginning of 1949. In August, 1950, he was promoted Air Commodore on his appointment as A.O.C. Cyprus. He has a very wide experience of flying aeroplanes of the very earliest times to the jets of 1950. He has flown most service aircraft since 1925, and in addition has helped to rebuild and has flown such real antiques as the 1909 Blériot XI Cross-Channel type, 1910 Deperdussin and 1916 Sopwith Pup.

In the old R.F.C. Officers' Mess at Farnborough, one of the oldest flying messes in the world, Allen Wheeler told me how his first remembered flicker of interest in flying was aroused when he was told on that historic Sunday morning in July, 1909, that a man called Blériot had flown the Channel. Allen was born on 27th September, 1903, so he was only six, and I doubt if he ever seriously considered the probability of his flying a similar Blériot many years later when it had become a museum piece.

He also remembers in about 1910 being taken to the top of Clee Hill in Shropshire to see some air race pass, but saw no aeroplanes. I think this must have been 1911 and the 8-year-old Allen went to see the Circuit of Britain flyers on the leg from Manchester to Bristol.

The first sight of an aeroplane which he had was in 1913 when one passed over his preparatory school at Bournemouth. That could have been from the R.N.A.S. newly formed air station at Calshot, or a Blériot from the New Forest Flying School run by McArdle at Beaulieu, on the site of which Allen was to become the Commanding Officer of the R.A.F. station in 1948.

In 1917 he continued his education at Eton and he remembers many R.F.C. and R.A.F. aeroplanes flown by O.Es. "shooting-up" the school. He has a vivid recollection of a very young looking O.E., Arthur Rhys-Davids, D.S.O., M.C., conqueror of the great German ace of the Richtofen Circus, Wernher Voss, landing at Eton. He also remembers one rather too trusting (in his uncertain motor) O.E. crashing into Windsor when taking-off.

He left Eton in 1921, and went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read engineering. In 1924 he took a degree in engineering and with a friend from Trinity decided to join the very young R.A.F. His pal failed to pass the grade; but Allen, after a period as a civilian on probation in No. 2 Squadron at Manston flying as a passenger in the antedeluvian Bristol Fighters was commissioned on 17th January, 1925, and was posted to No. 2 Flying Training School at Digby which was then commanded by a young and enthusiastic veteran of the R.F.C., Wing Commander Tedder.

Early in 1925 he made his first solo in an Avro 504K, even then an elderly type. His instructors were George Lowdell, who now in 1950 is a test pilot with Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd., and L. S. Snaith who was a member of the 1931 High Speed Flight of the R.A.F. which won the Schneider Trophy outright. He was now flying Sopwith Snipes and Bristol Fighters, and in 1926 he was posted to the School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum.

"In 1926 I had a slight difference of opinion with the Air Council," he told me, "and I was posted to No. 111 (Fighter) Squadron at Duxford, where I was made a temporary Flight Commander on Armstrong-Whitworth Siskins with 385 h.p. Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar motors." At the R.A.F. Display in 1927 he was chosen, with Alan Marsh, to do the individual aerobatics; there was a somewhat "dicey" incident during this which Alan Marsh described in the chapter devoted to him. In October, 1927, he went on an Engineering Course at the Home Aircraft Depot at Henlow in Bedfordshire.

From Henlow in October, 1949, he went to No. 111 Squadron at Hornchurch commanded by the one time "parachute king" of the R.A.F., Frank ("Mongoose") Soden. While flying a Siskin, Allen inadvertently landed on a sheep. He sent a wire to Mongoose, who was away at an Armament Camp, making the excuse that he had not seen the sheep as it appeared to be the same colour as the ground. Mongoose sent a wire back: "Put Siskin on scrap-heap and retain green sheep for British Museum"!

Immediately after this incident, but not as a result of it, Allen was posted to the R.A.F. Depot at Hinaidi, near Baghdad, in charge of engine shops, and in 1930 he was A.D.C. to the High Commissioner for two months, after which he served for six months as personal assistant to Air Vice-Marshal E. R. Ludlow-Hewitt, then A.O.C. Iraq, after which he returned to the Depot.

While he was in the Middle East, Allen tried to design and build his own light aeroplane around a 6 h.p. Blackburne inverted "V" motor. This never reached the flying stage because, Allen told me, the project was too ambitious and he was posted too frequently.

In 1932 he came back to England to Henlow again, and after a posting to No. 1 Squadron at Tangmere for one whole day, he was transferred to No. 41 Squadron, Northolt, then a Fighter Station, where he flew Bristol Bulldogs and Hawker Demons. This was followed in October, 1935, by a further tour of the Middle East, at Aden as Flight Commander, with six Demons and personnel collected from various places. This was the time of the Abyssinian War, when the Hadhramaut was being opened up by Britain. He remained here throughout 1936 as Engineer Staff Officer in Air Headquarters under Air Commodore McClaughry.

Back home again in 1937 he had a brief attachment to Bomber Command and in January, 1938, a course at the R.A.F. Staff College, Andover, commanded by Air Vice-Marshal A. S. Barratt. After further posting to H.Q. No. 6 Group in London, which moved to Norwich in March, 1939, he moved with the unit on the day of the outbreak of war, 3rd September, 1939, and No. 6 Group which later became Operational Training Group. In 1940 the Senior Air Staff Officer was Group Captain R. S. Sorley who was soon posted to command the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down. This contact was responsible for Allen's initiation into test flying, for Sorley, an Air Commodore by 1941, sent for Allen to command the Performance Testing Squadron at Boscombe Down. He had by then become a wing commander, and was the first R.A.F. pilot, except John Cunningham (who had been testing for de Havillands before the war), to fly the Mosquito.

"This was really my first experience of experimental flying," said Allen, "although I had previously owned an SE5a in 1927, and subsequently a Westland Widgeon, Tiger Moth, Desoutter, and my own 'Slymph'. From these I had got a considerable background of what was required of a test pilot. W. S. Farren, Director, R.A.E., asked for me to be posted as O.C. Experimental Flying at the R.A.E. where I became, for the first time, a Group Captain."

From 1942 to 1944 he commanded Experimental Flying at the R.A.E. which included development of gliders for "D" Day and tests with the Gloster Pioneer, the first British jet, on which he did the first aerobatics. He also made performance tests on captured German aircraft, notably the F.W. 190. There had been an increasing number of structural failures on Spitfires and tail failures on Tempests, and he did much flying investigation into these.

During those last two years the R.A.E. Experimental Flight had begun a scheme called "Operational Attachments" whereby R.A.E. personnel were attached to operational squadrons and went into action against the enemy so as to keep touch with active service conditions. The R.A.E. Flight thus completed in two years the equivalent of two complete tours. Allen's attachments included bombing Germany, fighter sweeps over France, and Photographic Reconnaisance Unit sorties over France, to which he adds laconically "No incidents"!

In 1944 he was posted to open up and command a station at Fairford, from which, with two Stirling Squadrons, gliders, and paratroops, he took part in special operations over France before, during, and after D Day, and finally at Arnhem where they lost one quarter of the aeroplanes in a week, and every aeroplane on the station was hit. This, he says, was probably the most hazardous and eventful experience of his career!

After this, by way of a quieter life, he was promoted Air Commodore and flew a Spitfire XI to India to become S.A.S.O., B.A.F., S.E.A., under Air Marshal Sir Leslie Hollinghurst.

He returned to the U.K. in April, 1946, and was posted to the Air Ministry as Deputy Director Auxiliary and Reserve Forces. Two years later he went as Commanding Officer to that same Beaulieu (though now much enlarged and improved) from which he saw his first aeroplane flying when a boy. This was the station for the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment. Here he added yet another parlour trick to his repertoire and learned to fly helicopters under Flying Officer Merrick's instruction. I well remember at the Battle of Britain Air Day Show, in 1948, at Beaulieu, Allen flew a 1910 Deperdussin with a 25 h.p. motor. The younger generation were disappointed because he only made a very shaky circuit about 50 ft. up. The old hands, who remembered the days of those low-power craft, whose pilots would not fly unless cigarette smoke rose vertically, were amazed to see him fly it in the hot, gusty, bumpy conditions prevailing.

In January, 1949, he was posted as Commanding Oificer of Experimental Flying at the R.A.E. again, and in that capacity he has been controller of flying at the S.B.A.C. and other Air Shows there. He has flown nearly 3,000 hours on over 200 different types. He came in third in the King’s Cup race of 1950, flying an Auster. Later in 1950 he was appointed to an R.A.F. Command in Cyprus.

In 1932 he had met Richard Shuttleworth and became friend and adviser to him for the collection of ancient aircraft which Shuttleworth had bought to make airworthy. After Shuttleworth had test flown the Blériot and Deperdussin, Allen was asked to test the Sopwith Pup as he had experience of rotary motors in his Avro days. Allen flew these relics in displays with Shuttleworth until war came in 1939. When Shuttleworth was tragically killed flying with the R.A.F. in 1940, Allen became a trustee of the Shuttleworth Trust and has looked after the veteran aircraft and flown them at displays with loving care in memory of his old friend ever since.  


A. & A.E.E.—Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment.
A.A.F.—Auxiliary Air Force.
A.D.C.C.—Air Defence Cadet Corps (forerunner of the A.T.C.).
A.F.C.—Air Force Cross.
A.F.R.Ae.S.—Associate Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
A.O.C.—Air Officer Commanding.
A.R.Ae.S.—Associate of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
A.S.I.—Air Speed Indicator.
A.T.A.—Air Transport Auxiliary.
A.T.C.—Air Training Corps.
A.W.—Armstrong Whitworth.
B.A.F.—British Air Force.
B.A.F.O.—British Air Forces of Occupation.
B.E.A.—British European Airways.
B.O.A.C.—British Overseas Airways Corporation.
B.W.I.—British West Indies.
C.F.I.—Chief Flying Instructor.
C.F.S.—Central Flying School.
C.O.—Commanding Officer.
D.C.M.—Distinguished Conduct Medal.
D.F.C.—Distinguished Flying Cross.
D.F.M.—Distinguished Flying Medal.
DH—de Havilland.
D.S.C.—Distinguished Service Cross.
D.S.O.—Distinguished Service Order.
E.F.T.S.—Elementary Flying Training School.
E.T.P.S.—Empire Test Pilots' School.
F.A.A.—Fleet Air Arm.
F.A.I.—Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
F.R.Ae.S.—Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
F.T.S.—Flying Training School.
F.W.—Focke Wulf.
G.A.P.A.N.—Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.
G.M.—George Medal.
h.p.—horse power.
i.a.s.—indicated air speed.
I.A.T.A.—International Air Transport Association.
I.C.A.O.—International Civil Aviation Organisation.
I.T.W.—Initial Training Wing.
K.B.E.—Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
K.C.B.—Knight Commander of the Bath.
km.p.h.—kilometers per hour.
L.A.C.—Leading Aircraftman.
L.A.P.—London Air Port.
M.A.P.—Ministry of Aircraft Production.
M.B.E.—Member of the Order of the British Empire.
M.C.—Military Cross.
M.G.—Morris Garages (car).
M.M.—Military Medal.
M.O.S.—Ministry of Supply.
m.p.h.—miles per hour.
M.V.—Motor Vessel.
N.C.O.—Non Commissioned Officer.
N.F.S.—National Flying Services.
O.C.—Officer Commanding.
O.B.E.—Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
O.E.—Old Etonian.
O.T.U.—Operational Training Unit.
P.C.—Privy Councillor.
P.R.U.—Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.
R.A.A.F.— Royal Australian Air Force.
R.A.E.—Royal Aircraft Establishment.
R.Ae.C.—Royal Aero Club.
R.Ae.S.—Royal Aeronautical Society.
R.A.F.—Royal Air Force.
R.A.F.O.—Reserve of Air Force Officers.
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
R.A.M.C.—Royal Army Medical Corps.
R.Aux.A.F.—Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
R.C.A.F.—Royal Canadian Air Force.
R.F.C.—Royal Flying Corps.
R.M.L.I.—Royal Marine Light Infantry.
R.N.—Royal Navy.
R.N.A.S.—Royal Naval Air Service.
R.N.Z.A.F.—Royal New Zealand Air Force.
S.A.S.O.—Senior Air Staff Officer.
S.B.A.C.—Society of British Aircraft Constructors.
S.E.A.—South East Asia.
S.I.F.S.—Special Instructors Flying School.
s.t.—static thrust.
t.v.—terminal velocity.
U.K.—United Kingdom.
V.C.—Victoria Cross.
V.R.—Volunteer Reserve.



Some of the pilots mentioned in this book were killed during the course of their work test-flying aircraft:

Geoffrey de Havilland Jr., September 1946, whilst carrying out high-speed tests in the de Havilland DH 108.

F. J. 'Jeep' Cable and Harry Marsh, June 1950, while flying a prototype Cierva Air Horse 3-rotor helicopter which suffered structural failure.

Trevor Wade,
April 1951, while testing the Hawker P.1081 in high speed flight, successfully ejecting when the aircraft became uncontrollable but impacting with the ground when unable to separate from the seat.

John Derry, September 1952, at the Farnborough Airshow when his DH 110 aircraft broke up because of a design fault resulting in catastrophic structural failure.

Peter Lawrence, June 1953, after ejecting at low level while flying a prototype Javelin which had entered a deep stall.

Mike Lithgow, October 1963,
during stalling trials in a prototype B.A.C. 1-11.

George Errington, June 1966, during stalling trials in a Hawker Siddeley Trident 1C.


Note 1: In August 1949 US pilot Frank Everest achieved an unofficial altitude record of 71,902 ft. in a Bell X-1 rocket aircraft.

Note 2: 5/- means 5 shillings, equalling a quarter of £1 (approx £12 in 2024 money).

Note 3: The Vickers Vireo was an experimental low wing all-metal monoplane built to explore the use of catapult launched ship board fighters, powered by a 235 hp Armstrong Siddeley Lynx IV 7-cylinder radial engine. Only one was built.

Note 4: The Vickers M.310 was an experimental carrier-based torpedo bomber. It was a single-engine biplane, powered by an 825 hp Rolls-Royce H10 twelve-cylinder (V12), liquid cooled engine. Only one was built, destroyed in the accident described by the author.

Note 5: On 10 March 1956 Peter Twiss broke the World Speed Record, raising it to 1,132 mph in the Fairey Delta 2 research aircraft.