Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
G/Capt Sammy Wroath CBE AFC* 1909-1995
Gp Capt Wroath joined the RAF in 1925 as an engineering apprentice at Halton, transferring to flying duties in 1931. During most of his Service career he has been associated with test flying,
first as a test pilot and then, in 1943, when he had the responsibility of forming the Test Pilot's School at Boscombe Down, later to become the Empire Test Pilots' School. He subsequently did two tours of duty in the USA, the first as chief British test pilot responsible for liaison and flight
testing of American aircraft on behalf of this country, and the second in connection with operational proving schedules. From 1953 to 1957 Gp Capt Wroath was back at the ETPS as commandant, and on his retirement from the Service in the latter year he joined Blackburn & General Aircraft for liaison duties in connection with the NA.39. During his Service career he completed some 4,500 hours' flying on approximately 300 different types.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Vance Breese 1904-1973
Vance Breese was born in Keystone, WA, April 20, 1904. He states his education as, "Various engineering extension courses." With those, he spent his life in aviation. Between 1927-34 he was president of Breese Aircraft Company (which went through several iterations of geographic location, name and organizational structure during those years) and the Detroit Aircraft Company.
Two of his airplanes were famous. The Breese named "Aloha" took 2nd place in the 1927 Dole Race from California to Hawaii. It was painted yellow and red. The "Pabco Pacific Flyer" was also a participant in the Dole Race, but crashed upon takeoff. During 1933-34 he moved to California and worked for Northrop Corporation as test pilot. He demonstrated the Northrop Navy fighter, and performed test flights for Fokker. In 1937 he worked for Bennett Aircraft Corp. as VP and test pilot.He was the test pilot at North American Aviation when the P-51 Mustang was developed and was its first test pilot on October 26, 1940.
Barton Traver 'Red' Hulse 1910-1993
Ronald Ward Harker OBE AE 1909-1990
When war came in 1939 he joined his squadron on a full-time basis, but in the spring of 1940, with the squadron ordered to France, he was ordered back to Rolls-Royce to resume test flying at Hucknall, liaising closely with the RAF. Harker was at Hucknall when, in April 1942, he received a telephone call from the CO of the RAF's Air Fighting Development Unit at Duxford, to tell him that they had acquired an Allison-engined Mustang and would he like to evaluate it? Having spent 30 minutes throwing the aircraft round the sky he reported that it closely resembled the Messerschmitt 109F, but with a Merlin 61 engine ought to prove much faster than that aircraft and the Spitfire V. The Air Ministry, however, wanted to put all the available Merlin 61s into the new Spitfire IX to combat the threat of the latest German fighter, the Focke Wulf 190, which was proving vastly superior to the Spitfire V in combat. There was therefore a good deal of concerted scepticism about Harker's observations. But he persisted and the first Merlin-engined Mustang flew in October 1942, giving the radical improvements in performance that he had predicted. News of the Merlin Mustang's performance spread like wildfire and was greeted as manna from heaven in Washington. Indeed, the Americans were the chief beneficiaries of Harker's initiative, since the new escort fighter enabled the USAAF to resume daylight bombing raids which had been discontinued, since the "invulnerable" B17 Flying Fortress had proved incapable of defending itself against the Luftwaffe's fighters.Throughout the war Harker was involved in a variety of other projects for improving the performance of RAF aircraft. Improvements in superchargers increased the speed of the Spitfire; Merlins were put into the Whitley bomber; and - the greatest bomber success of all - the disastrous Vulture-engined Avro Manchester became the superlative Merlin-engined Lancaster. But the Mustang remains his supreme achievement. By the end of the war 15,582 of the aircraft had been built. Harker was appointed OBE and given the Air Efficiency Award (AE) for his wartime work.
After the war Harker continued his liaison work with the RAF, testing new types. In 1974 he moved to London as Rolls-Royce's aero-export manager and from 1957 as the company's military adviser. He retired from the firm in 1971 when it went bankrupt over the financial problems caused by the escalating cost of the RB211 engine for the Lockheed TriStar. Over the years he had spent an increasing amount of time in New Zealand, pursuing his passion for fishing - and flying - and he finally settled there with his second wife in 1993. He had his last flight in a Mustang in New Zealand in 1997 at the age of 88.
Ronnie Harker has his place in the history of aviation for the role he played in the evolution of the Mustang fighter into one of the great warplanes of history. The North American P-51 Mustang was originally built for the British Purchasing Commission and the early aircraft had many pleasing qualities but its Allison V-1710 engine gave it poor performance at higher altitudes and its range was somewhat short.he Mustang entered service with the RAF in 1941 but, because its performance did not challenge that of the latest marks of Spitfires, it was relegated to Army co-operation and recon work where it performed admirably. However, Ronnie Harker, RollsRoyce's senior test liaison pilot, was offered the opportunity to test the Mustang by the RAF. He liked the aircraft's handling qualities but not its engine, which did not have the performance to exploit the fighter's advanced aerodynamics. He was convinced the airplane would be another animal entirely if fitted with the Rolls-Royce Merlin.
Harker pressed strongly for the American engine to be replaced by the Merlin and, after a good deal of official reluctance, largely from the Air Ministry, he got his way. The result was a transformation. The Mustang's top speed went from 390 mph to 440 mph and the range from 450 miles to as much as 2000 with various configurations of drop tanks. A great escort fighter had been born and ever afterwards Harker was known as "the man who put the Merlin in the Mustang."
Lowery Lawson Brabham 1906-1981
While chief test pilot performed initial flight test in many aircraft, including the XP-47 Thunderbolt, XP-72 and XR-12 Rainbow. Recognized as outstanding pioneer in the art of engineering flight tests. Retired as Vice President, Sales, Republic Aviation in 1964.
Robert W. Fausel 1914-1998
Although Robert W. Fausel trained as a pursuit pilot, he never flew in combat -- at least not officially.Curtiss factory pilot, Bob Fausel, was able to shoot down a Japanese G4M Betty bomber in 1940 prior to the evacuation of Loi Wing when demonstrating the aircraft. Unfortunately, during that first pass his guns jammed and all of his ammunition was quickly spent. He was rewarded $1,000 by Chaing Kai Shek for his efforts.
But as a civilian test pilot, he paved the way for those who did in World War II by testing the hottest airplanes built by Curtiss-Wright.It was in C-W's P-40 Tomahawk that Mr. Fausel set a world dive record of 661 mph in April 1940 at Wright Field, Ohio, in a test to meet military contract requirements.
Herbert O Fisher 1909-1990
Henry Lloyd Child 1904-1970
Lloyd Child was a Naval Aviator from 1927-1952. He held the world altitude record in 1930 and in 1935 power dived a Curtiss Hawk 75 to 600 MPG and was labeled the man “faster than a bullet”. He joined Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Co. in 1926 and was responsible for development of the Curtiss Thrush and Falcon models. He worked for Lockheed from 1958-1968, then retired.
Curtiss factory test pilot Lloyd Child took the Curtiss P-36A for its first test flight on
The first production P-40 was flown on
Friday, May 16, 2008
W/Cdr Harry Proctor 'Sandy' Powell AFC 1911-1986
W/Cdr Powell was born in Sussex in 1911 and was educated at Ardingly and at the Camborne School of Mines. After spending some years as aschoolmaster, he joined the RAF in 1936,and trained at No5 FTS at Sealand. On gaining his wings in 1937,he was posted to a light bomber Squadron at Hucknall flying Harts. He flew Blenheims in France at the beginning of the war before being posted to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down where he served from 1941 to 1943 as a test pilot, flying over 30 types.
He was then appointed as Deputy Commandant of the newly formed Empire Test Pilots School. In 1940, he left Boscombe Down to become Chief test pilot of Air Service Training Ltd,testing Yorks,Spitfires and Mosquitos. After periods of service as Chief Test Pilot at Percival Aircraft and the aviation division of Dunlops, Aviation division, for whom he completed 18months test flying he joined the Aircraft Division of British Lockheeds at Leamington,where he was Sales Manager.
He left flying to pursue the commercial side of Aviation,joining the Lockheed Hydraulic Brake Co at Leamington Spa in 1951.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Neil Williams 1934-1977
Neil Williams was a former Empire Test Pilot School graduate, military and civil test pilot(Handley Page) and 11 times British aerobatic champion, as well as European Champion and Captain of the British Aerobatic team from 1966 to 1977. In 1970 he performed an incredible feat of airmanship when he successfully crash landed a Zlin after a wing folded during aerobatic practice. He was killed when the Spanish built Heinkel he was ferrying to the UK crashed in bad weather into a hillside.
Capt Valentine Henry Baker MC DFC 1888-1942
A/Cdre Augustus Henry Orlebar CBE AFC* 1897-1943
4th from right is A.H Orlebar
Augustus Henry Orlebar was educated at Rugby and served as an Officer with 1st/5th Bedfordshire Regiment at Gallipoli in 1915 before transferring to the RFC for pilot training in 1916. From
After the First World War he served with the Aeroplane Experimental Station, Martlesham Heath before taking up a permanent commission with the RAF and at the same time relinquishing his commission as a Lieutenant in the Bedfordshire Regiment on
In December 1929 he became OC Flying Boat Development Flight, during which he set a new air speed record of 357.7mph and in May 1931 OC RAF High Speed Flight,which won the Schneider Trophy for Britain in 1929 and 1931 thus securing the trophy as a permamnet possession.
At the out break of the Second World War he held the appointment of Director of Flying Training and then joined the Air Staff, HQ Fighter Command in October 1940
On 22 Jul 1941 he became AOC, No 10 (Fighter) Group and at the time of his death he held the position of Deputy Chief of Combined Operations, which he attained on 2 March 1943.
Geoffrey Raoul de Havilland Jr OBE 1910-1946
Geoffrey Raoul de Havilland Jr.( young D.H. as he was universally called) took over the de Havilland’s chief test pilot's position in October, 1937,when R. J. Waight unfortunately lost his life on the T.K.4. Being, however, the son of an illustrious father, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, who designed, built and test flew his own aircraft from 1911 onwards, young Geoffrey can be said to have been '' in the industry'' from the very cradle. It is not generally known that Sir Geoffrey took his R.Ae.C. ticket No. 53 in February, 1911, on the second machine of his own design and construction, and that he has made many of the first flights on new D.H.types right up to the Moth Minor in 1938. Geoffrey's first flight is lost in the dim past, but certain it is that at the tender age of six he was flying with father at Hendon in a D.H. 6 (also known as the Clutching Hand).
When 18 years of age he left school and came to de Havillands as a premium apprentice for 4 years and learnt to fly on Moths at the firm's reserve training school. After spending two years in the drawing office—much of the time being spent looking out of the windows envying the pilots—he joined the Air Operating Company, who were doing a lot of air survey work in South Africa. This, however, gave him but very little flying, and at the end of six months, he came back to England to become a flying instructor to the D.H. Technical School. The aircraft were wooden Moths built by the students. In 1929 he took his B licence ; a very simple business in those days. Some 20 or 30 hours' solo flying, a little cross-country work, a simple "Met" exam, and about one hour's night flying at Croydon was sufficient to qualify. In 1934 Capt. Hubert Broad was chief test pilot of de Havillands, and Bob Waight looked after the production side. There was so much work, however, that Geoffrey was given the opportunity to lend a hand testing Tiger
Moths, Dragons, Rapides, Express Air Liners, and Hornet Moths.
Nobody could have taken on a more interesting or more complex job because the Albatross was completely experimental from tip to tail. Engines were new, construction was new, and the layout was extremely advanced. He had a curious experience on the Albatross. While its strength was ample for all flying loads, some unfortunate drilling had weakened the fuselage under ground loads, and shortly after landing from a test flight the machine broke in halves on the ground.When war broke out he was busy testing Oxfords and Flamingoes, but when things became desperate at the time of the Battle of Britain, de Havillands did a big job doing emergency repairs to shot-up Hurricanes.
Dick Reynell of Hawkers came over and gave- Geoffrey the "know how" on Hurricanes. A little later Dick went out on operations with his old squadron (No. 43) and was, unfortunately, shot down.' He was an excellent test pilot and a gallant gentleman.
In the days of peace before the war Geoffrey de Havilland was to be seen at all the air meetings and twice finished 4th in the King's Cup Race flying the TKi and TK2. He was awarded the OBE in the King's birthday honours in 1945.
Geoffrey flew the first DH 108 prototype, TG283, utilising the Vampire fuselage and a 43° swept wing on 15 May 1946. Designed to investigate low-speed handling, it was capable of only 280 mph (451 km/h). Geoffrey de Havilland, gave a display flight in the DH 108 during the 1946 Society of British Aircraft Constructors (SBAC) airshow at Radlett.