Joseph 'Mutt' J. Summers 1903-1954
Among the first aircraft he tested were the Gamecock, Bulldog, Hornbill and Avenger. The prototype Bulldog was so unstable he almost had to make his first parachute jump. It got into a spin that he could not stop, but when he started to get out he found that the airflow disturbance caused by his body had started to bring the aircraft out of the spin. He returned to his seat and landed – the fuselage was then extended by 18 inches and no further problems occurred with the Bulldog.
During a terminal velocity test in a Hawker Hawfinch the upper decking of the fuselage collapsed, with the side effect of overtightening the Sutton harness and jamming Mutt so tightly in his seat he could hardly breathe. He decided never to use shoulder straps again, which undoubtedly saved his life on another occasion.
One of the Martlesham pilots to test the Vickers 141 single-seat Scout in January 1928 was F/O John Summers, soon to become a Flight Lieutenant and Vickers’ chief test pilot.
The Vickers biplane bomber proposal to meet Spec. B.19/27 flew for the first time for 10 minutes in the hands of Mutt, on
The prototype Vixen I, registered G-EBEC and designed as a private venture day bomber proposal, after several metamorphoses including major airframe changes, was fitted in 1924 with a developed version of the 650 hp Rolls-Royce Condor III direct-drive engine. Although undergoing trials at Martlesham in connection with the 1927 general-purpose competition, it was not selected. However in Mutt’s hands it had one claim to fame: on
Private venture single-seat shipboard aircraft Type 177 was flown by Mutt at Brooklands on
The last aircraft to be built by Vickers at the Vickers Crayford Works was the Vellore Mk III, which was registered G-AASW and first flown by Mutt at Brooklands on
The Vickers Type 160 Viastra commercial monoplane fuselage was built at the Crayford Works, but then work was transferred to Woolston, Southampton, which had just been acquired by Vickers. On completion at Woolston, the Viastra I was towed down the Itchen river and round to Hamble aerodrome on a lighter. Registered G-AAUB, it was then flown at Hamble by Mutt on
In 1930, Barnes Wallis attempted to save weight in the structure of the Vickers proposal to meet the M.1/30 specification, given the serial S1641. Unfortunately he overdid the weight-saving, and after a couple of dozen test flights the aircraft disintegrated with pilot Mutt and flight test observer J. Radcliffe on board. Both landed safely by parachute, but the entry for this flight in Mutt’s log book was very laconic! This was on
Vickers tried to interest the Air Ministry in a new tactical concept with their Type 163 Battleplane, with huge 37 mm COW guns at the nose and tail and another firing downward beneath the fuselage. Powered by a combination tractor/pusher propeller arrangement, Mutt flew it for the first time on
On 4th November 1932 Mutt, by then chief test pilot for Vickers, received a letter from an officer of 216 (Bomber Transport) Squadron requesting that the Victoria (originally designed to meet the Troop Carrying Aeroplane (B) D of R Type 12 specification) should be re-engined with Bristol Pegasus engines and provided with wheel brakes and a tail wheel to replace the skid. Vickers had, probably unknown to this officer, already investigated the possibility of installing the Pegasus in the Victoria V airframe, and K2340 was selected for the initial conversion. This eventually became the Valentia.
A special twin-engined Viastra, Type 259, was built for the use of the Prince of Wales on official flights. It even included parachutes for the crew and passengers. Registered G-ACCC on
A development of the
The first of Barnes Wallis' geodetic aircraft was the
The Vickers F.5/34 embodied many new features, including 90 degree trailing edge flaps and actually flew on its first test with its full battery of eight Browning machine guns in wing mountings.It also had electrical undercarriage. Mutt Summers flew this aircraft, now called the Venom, on
Although the F.7/41 twin-engined fighter proposal DZ217 was first flown by Vickers test pilot Tommy Lucke, on
There were 3 accidents with the Warwick within the space of a few days early in 1945, and Mutt, with his flight observer Jimmy Green, was involved in the one concerning HG364, from which they escaped without serious injury. Mutt’s brother Maurice (also a test pilot) was involved in another
Windsor DW506 was first flown from Farnborough by Mutt Summers on
The Viscount needs no introduction and the prototype of this tremendously successful turboprop civil transport (originally the VC2) was flown from Wisley by Mutt and Jock Bryce for 10 minutes on
Jock Bryce recounts that on his first flight with Mutt in the prototype Viscount 630 he was astonished to see Mutt beginning his pre-flight checks by relieving himself alongside the main wheels. “Never fly with a full bladder,” was his advice, “I know people who crashed with one and it killed them!”
The very last prototype to have Mutt at the controls on its first flight was the Type 600 serial WB210, in June given the name Valiant, once again with Jock Bryce as co-pilot, from the grass at Wisley on 18 May, 1951. Only 3 more Valiant flights were made from Wisley before flight trials were transferred to Hurn, while a paved runway was being constructed at Wisley.
After 3 flights with Jock, he was checked out as first pilot and took over as chief test pilot when Mutt retired shortly afterwards. Sadly, his retirement was brief. He died after an operation 2 years later.