Friday, March 28, 2008

Phillip J Stanbury DFC 1921-1979

He joined the Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1938 as a student in their Aero Engine Department. In 1940 he joined the RAF as fighter pilot and was awarded the DFC in July 1942. He took a break from fighter duties from Jan to June 1942 in which time he flew as a Vickers Test Pilot at Castle Bromwich.

In June 1943 he went as a test pilot to the Gloster AIrcraft Company, and was subsequently their Chief test pilot. In May 1947 he joined Elliots of Newbury as their Chief Test Pilot. A year later he rejoined the RAF. Three years afterwards he left the service joining Vickers Armstrongs Servicing School in 1951. He moved to the Service Department in 1953. He was appointed assistant Service Manager at the Weybridge Works of Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) LTD in 1955.

Mr Stanbury has logged over 2000 hours flying on 46 different types including the Trent Meteor. He was closely connected with the Viscount from its early days,and accompanied the prototype on its winterisation and proving flights in North America.

S/Ldr David J Masters DFC 1918-2012

David Masters (left) with company director, Richard Fairey talking after his demonstration of the first Stockport built Fairey Gannet AS1 on October 5th 1954
ML Utility Mk1 aircraft XK776

1st Ringway Gannet 1
Fairey Gannet 2nd prototype
Fairey Firefly Mk.7


David Masters served in the RAFVR fom 1938 to 1946. He became an instructor with the Rhodesian Air Training Group between 1940-1943. He served with Bomber Command between 1944-1946 flying Lancasters.

He joined Faireys in 1946 and the company sponsored him for No5 ETPS course.He became Senior Test Pilot for Fairey Aviation at Ringway. He test flew the Firefly and the Gannet,performing the individual aerobatic display in the Gannet at the SBAC show at Farnborough. He also test flew the then 'cloak-and-dagger' ML Utility Mk1 aircraft.

In 1961 he retired from test flying,left Fairey's and was appointed Special Contracts representative for Derritron Electronics, whom heleft in 1965 to become Technical Press Officer for the Hawker Siddeley Group until joining Gordon Bell & Partners, Management Training Consultants. From 1972 until retiring n 1986 he worked as an independent Management Training Consultant,specialising in Effective Communication,mainly for multi-national organisations.

Sqn Ldr P.Martin R.Walton



Martin Walton joined the RAF in 1942 and later instructed at Soutc Cerney and Church Lawford. He left the service in 1948,obtaining a BSc at Birmingham University in mechanical engineering. He joined No605 (County of Warwick) Sqn RAuxAF in 1949,becoming CO in 1951.

He started test flying with Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft in 1953,after a short time on the company's design staff. He has test flown the Seahawk and Argosy with the company.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

William 'Bill' Humble MBE 1911-1992

Bill Humble (right) with Sydney Camm







Bill Humble learned to fly at Marshall's Flying School at Cambridge in 1929.Trained as a mining engineer, and employed in the coal industry,his pre-war flying was done entirely for fun. He appeared at social gatherings and air-race meetings in his Speed Six Hawk. He was on the Reserve of Air Force Officers,and was one of the original members of No504 Special Reserve Squadron. When war broke out he was called up and spent 10 weeks at No11 FTS at Shawbury as an instructor. However, Government regulations caught up with him and he was hauled back to the mines. It took 11 months for him to persuade the authorities that he was more use in a cockpit than in a coal pit!

He was instructed to go to Scotland on flying duties,but on his way there he called in at Hawkers and never got any farther. It was arranged between the RAF and MAP that he should join the Hawker Company as a test pilot. At first he helped with production testing of Hurricanes and Typhoons only,and then lent a hand with prototype development under Ken Seth Smith (who was killed in 1942).

He took an active part in the development of the Tempest and Fury and from then on would make the first flights of any new aircraft which emanated from the Hawker drawing boards. He flew the prototype P.1040, (VP401) on the 2nd September 1947.

Phillip G Lucas GM 1902-1981



Mr Lucas was Chief Test Pilot of Hawker Aircraft Ltd. from 1940–46,and became a Director of the company at the conclusion of his flying career.



Philip Gadesden Lucas learnt to fly on a Kenault-engined Avro 504 at the de Havilland Flying School at Stag Lane in 1924. This was the pre-Moth period when surplus aircraft and engines left over from the 1914-18 war were still being used. The eight-cylinder 90 h.p. Renault air-cooled engine replaced the air-cooied rotaries previously used in the Avro 504 and gave the advantage of a throttle control instead of a plain on or off " blip" switch. Lucas was, at the time, an engineering apprentice at Vickers, and was also one of the first twenty members of the London Aero Club. Like many young men at that time who had learnt to fly, Philip wanted more hours in
the air than he could afford to buy and also the opportunity to handle some of the more powerful military types. To this end he took a short-service commission in the Royal Air Force in 1926, serving with Fighter Command (then Air Defence of Great Britain) and the Fleet Air Arm which, at that period, was part of the R.A.F. It seems strange now to speak of "powerful military types" whereas, of course, they were only Avros (100 h.p. Monosoupape), Bristol Fighters (250 h.p. Rolls-Royce Falcon) and Sopwith Snipes (200 h.p. BR2). He was in the last course at No. 1 F.T.S.,Netheravon, to be- taught on rotary engined aircraft.
Three years after joining the Service he was posted to Martlesham Heath as a test pilot. The experimental establishment,where all our most secret types are flown, is now at Boscombe Down having been moved from Martlesham when war broke out. The point about Martlesham Heath and secret machines is that a public road goes right through the centre of the camp for all to use. During the next two years Lucas remained at Martlesham test-flying multi-engined types. Nice gentlemanly aircraft they all were, with a top speed in the region of ioo m.p.h. In the midsummer of 1931 he joined the Bulman-Sayer team of Hawker test pilots at Brooklands. This was in the heyday of the Hart and Fury period (with all their variants), and it fell to Philip to take many of these abroad, either for demonstration or delivery. He travelled the world over, going to Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden,Esthonia, Belgium, Egypt, Iraq, Persia and the Far East.He is one of the few outsiders who have lived with the Japanese Navy. In 1931 he took two Nimrods—the Fleet version of the Fury to deliver and instruct the Japanese in maintenance and training.
In 1933 Lucas had one of his biggest jobs. He had to go Persia,erect a Boulton and Paul steel hangar with local labour and assemble, test-fly and deliver The Hawker Audaxes and Furies which had been bought by the Persian Government. He had three spells at this work, being relieved at intervals by Maurice Summers (Vickers Aviation)and altogether over 100 aircraft were delivered.
When Gerry Sayer was appointed to Glosters as chief test pilot, it meant that Lucas did a fair amount of development work on the Hurricane. It was on one of the early Hurricanes that he nearly "bought it." While doing a climb to rated altitude (17,000 ft) fog obscured the ground, and feeling his way down carefully to get his bearings, he took most of the fabric off the underside of his wings on some trees in the Kenley area. All the later Hawker types—Hotspur Henley,Tornado, Typhoon, Tempest and their variants—were his responsibility. It was on the Tornado that he felt the effects of compressibility, and it appears that this was the first time it had been recognised,and possibly the first occasion on which it had been experienced. Whilst flying the prototype Typhoon he had an experience which probably was tied up with compressibility trouble, and it showed the calibre of pilot he was. He could hear the fuselage breaking just aft of the cockpit but, remembering how much time would be lost in building another prototype, he did not bale out, but remained with the aircraft and managed to land it in one piece. Philip was awarded the George Medal and the citation read:—"Lucas displayed great courage and presence of mind during a test flight and by his skill and coolness saved an aircraft from destruction."
Lucas handed the reins over to Bill Humble, but still did an appreciable amount of flying in addition to his duties as a director and general manager of Hawkers.
He had flown some 120 types and has 3,450 flying hours in his log books.

P.W.S 'George' Bulman CBE MC AFC 1896-1963




Paul Ward Spencer Bulman, universally known as George Bulman, was Chief Test Pilot at Hawker Aircraft between 1925 and 1945.His flying career started after he transferred from the Honourable Artillery Company to the Royal Flying Corps early in the First World War. He was awarded the Military Cross and Air Force Cross. He continued in the Royal Air Force until 1925,during this time 1919-1925 he was a Test Pilot at the Royal Aircraft Establishment,Farnborough.In 1925, he resigned his permanent commission and transferred to the reserve as a Flight Lieutenant to become the Chief Test Pilot at Hawker Aircraft for the next 20 years. He performed the maiden flights on the following aircraft :
Hawker Gamecock,Heron,Horsley,Hart,Tomtit,F.20/27,Demon,Hurricane and Hector.
He became a director of the company in 1935. He won several air races in the mid 1920's flying the Hawker Cygnet. During the Second World War,he was head of the test branch of the British Air Commission in Washington,DC and was appointed honorary Group Captain.
 

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

William B Wheatley 1902-1941



William Wheatley was Chief Test Pilot for the Consolidated Aircraft Company. He flew the maiden flights of the Consolidated 31 (June 1931) XP2Y-1 (26 March 1932) , XP3Y-1(21 March 1935), XPB2Y-1 (17 Dec 1937) and the XB-24 (29 December 1939). He was killed on June 2, 1941, when the first Liberator II (AL503) which was to be delivered to the RAF crashed during its acceptance flight into San Diego Bay, killing all aboard including Consolidated's chief test pilot William Wheatley.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Jack Sherburn DFC 1924-2014







Jack Sherburn commenced Pilot training in the RAF in 1943 and trained on Tiger Moths and Harvards in South Africa. He was then posted to II Operational Training Unit for Hurricane conversion. In 1945 he joined No 78 Squadron at Almaza and Kabrit in Egypt and then converted on to Dakota where he undertook troop carrying and cargo flights to North and Central Africa.
In 1947 he returned to the UK. In 1948 he was posted to Linton-on-Ouse and joined No 65 Squadron, Fighter Command, initially flying the Hornet Mk I and Mk3 in low level intruder role and later Meteor Mk4 and Mk8 high level interceptors. He also flew Mosquito, Oxford, DH Dragon and Spitfire Mk22
In 1952 he went on a Flying Instructor's course at Central Flying School on Meteor and Prentice and was then posted to No 209 Advanced Flying School, Weston Zoyland as QFI on Meteor Mk7.
In 1953 he volunteered for service in Kenya to fly Harvards on anti-terrorist operations and completed over 450 sorties with No 1340 Flight operating mainly from short rough landing strips. In 1955 he was posted to No 231 OCU Bassingbourn for conversion on to Canberra B2 and on completion he joined No 18 Squadron at Upwood Squadron detached to Cyprus for the Suez Campaign where he flew on several operational flights as marker/bomber. He was appointed OC Station Flight at end of Squadron tour responsible for operation of Canberra, Anson and Chipmunk Unit QFI and Instrument Rating Examiner.
In 1957 he was posted to Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough for experimental and development flying where he flew various types including Hastings, Valiant, Javelin,
Hunter, Canberra, Devon, plus 30 flights in Avro Delta 707 research aircraft evaluating signal control system.
In 1962 he retired from Royal Air Force and joined Short Bros in Belfast as Development Test Pilot where he was repsonbsible for Development testing, evaluation and demonstration of early Skyvan Demonstration flights at Paris Air Show and numerous others world-wide including pilot navigation across north and south Atlantic. He was also involved in development of Belfast, initial flights of production aircraft and testing of Smith's Auto-land system. He was responsible tor flight testing of various Royal Navy aircraft to Manufacturer's standard after storage at Shorts Types. Hunter, Sea Hawk, Sea Venom, Gannet, Sea Devon, Sea Prince & Pembroke Other aircraft flown at Shorts Canberra, Queen Air, Baron, Musketeer and also Civil Instrument Rating Examiner.
In 1970 heart problems resulted in grounding and he accepted appointment as Short's Chief Security Officer. In 1972 he resigned from his Security post and accepted position with Short's at RAE LLanbedr operating Meteors and Jindivik pilotless drone aircraft. In 1977 he was appointed Deputy Manager Short's Flying Services Division at West Malling and in 1979 the closure of West Malling airfield meant the Flying Services Division transferred to Belfast so he accepted voluntary redundancy. He then joined College of Air Training at Hamble as ground instructor. In 1981 he retired on closure of Hamble College of Air Training.

Phillip Edward Gerry Sayer 1905-1942




Knee pad notes from Flt Lt Sayers first flight of the Gloster Whittle E28/39 from Cranwell on the 15th May
1941, kindly supplied by Hartley Moyes.

Gerry Sayer was born on February 2nd,1905 and was educated at Colchester Grammar School, obtaining a short-service commision in the RAF in June 1924. After learning to fly in an Avro 504K, he flew Snipes and Gladiators, hist outstanding qualities asa pilot resulting in an appointment as test pilot at Martlesham Heath.
He left the RAF on the completion of his 5 year commission to join the Hawker Compamy,and was appointed as assistant to Group Captain P.W.S Bulman. Here he was engaged in testing Harts,Furies and other aircraft, and on the acquisition of the Gloster Aircraft Company by the Hawker Group, was appointed in 1935 as Chief Test Pilot of the Gloster Company.

Gerry Sayer flew Britain's maiden jet flight in Sir Frank Whittles's Gloster E.28/39 on the 15th May 1941.


On 21st October 1942 Sayer departed from RAF Acklington in a Typhoon to carry out tests of a gunsight involving gun firing into Druridge Bay Ranges, he never returned.

Capt Harry Albert 'Sam' Brown OBE 1896-1953

L-R, Bill Thorn, Capt Brown and Geoffrey Tyson
Capt H.A 'Sam' Brown OBE made all the first flights of prototype aircraft for Avro from the Tutor in 1929 to the Lincoln in 1944

Prototype Lancaster
Prototype Manchester


Sam Brown, like many a young man of his generation, could not wait for the Royal Flying Corps to be expanded in 1914, in case the war should end before he could take part in the fighting in France. (The 1914-18 war was very popular; we were a rich country and had a three power navy in those days.) Although a man of Kent, he joined the London Scottish after obtaining
release from his indentures as an apprentice at Gwynnes and, having fought on various sectors of the Western Front, including the battle of Loos, and having seen the slaughter on the Somme, he transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service and was sent to Vendome to be taught to fly.
where Lt. Carr (became Air Marshal Sir C. R. Carr, K.B.E., C.B., D.F.C., A.F.C., Retd.) was one of the instructors.
His ab initio training was on a wing-warping, 45 h.p. Caudron biplane, which in his opinion required much more judgment for handling than present-day aircraft. It had practically no speed range, stalling speed was within a tew m.p.h. of top speed, and the nose had to be stuffed
well down before one dared to close the throttle. Sam never went on air operations, but, directly after learning to fly, was posted as an instructor to No. 2 School of Special Flying at Redcar. This school was run on the Gosport modtel to the principles laid down by Col. Smith-Barry. Major McMinnies (for many years public relations officer of Armstrong Siddeleys) commanded the
school, and when the Armistice came in 1918 he and Brown went into a huddle to find the means of earning a peacetime living. Joyridmg with Mono Avros converted into three-seaters
appealed to them, and McMinnies went to see the late John Lord, then managing director of Avros, and put the project before him. In passing, it is interesting to recall the part played by John Lord in the original establishment of Avros. In 1909 young A. V. Roe wanted financial
aid to help him carry on experiments with his selfmade 9 h.p. triplane John Lord supplied this money out of profits derived from manufacturing " Bullseye " braces, and that is why the first Avro aircraft ever to fly was called the " Bullseye." The joyriding idea was taken up by Avros in a big way, and McMinnies and Brown, and a number of other pilots from Redcar, started up at Blackpool, where a part of the sands was allotted to them as a landing ground, lt is said that in the first season alone some £10,000 was taken at this seaside resort.
Next year Brown, in partnership with Moxon, started up on his own at Rhyl, but the big profits had by then gone out of joyriding and only by virtue of John Lord forgoing all rent for the aircraft did the,two pilots make ends meet at all.
Sam's next venture, which lasted from 1920 to 1926, was in Barcelona supervising the training of Spanish naval air service pilots. One of his pupils was F/L. Duran, who later flew as navigator to General Franco's brother when he crossed the South Atlantic in a Dornier Wai in 1926.
Duran's end was curious. He was leading a flight of Martinsydes in a naval review when a collision occurred. Duran, in his disabled aircraft, nosedived vertically into the sea, narrowly missing a non-rigid airship also flying in the review. The remainder of the story is almost unbelievable. One of the airship officers dived from his gondola into the sea and was able to pick Duran from the wreckage under the water On reaching the surface, however, Duran died.
At the end of 1926 Neville Stack gave up his job as instructor to the Lancashire Aero Club, and Brown camt home to take on the job. This brought him into even closer touch with Avros, who were then busy turning out their famous 504 trainers with Lynx engines The late Bert Hinkler, who was then Avro's test pilot, spent most of his time at the Hamble works, and lo save him endless travelling Brown started to do the production test-flying at VVoodford Airfield in addition to the club instructing.
In 1928 the passion for record-flying persuaded Hinkler to leave Avros, and Sam Brown became the firm's chief test pilot. The Avian was in production at the time, and his first prototypes were the Tutor and the Avro Ten. The latter, for its time, was quite a complicated structure, but it is interesting to compare its 20 or so instruments with the 95 to be found on the Tudor II to-day. The initial flight on the Tutor—or Trainer, as it was then called—was made in September, 1929, and on the 19th of October, on Trainer G.AART, he had a crash which nearly finished his career. The Trainer originally had ailerons only on one plane, and while Sam was doing a -slow roll at 500 ft he went into an inverted stall and dived into the deck with engine full on. His memory of events after the realization that "this is the end" is very hazy in fact, there is a complete mental blank One eyhiulei of his engine was found 209 yards from the main wreckage,and his injuries included two compound fractures of the right leg, a fractured pelvis and a dislocated spine. Despite all this, he was test flying again on the 21st of May, 1930, and in 1932 competed in the Kings Cup race on the Avro Mailplane.

Brown's knowledge of the Spanish language stood him in good stead when, at the end of 1933,he was asked to take a 626 military trainer and a Cadet on a demonstration tour of South America. While the machines were being erected in Rio he became friendly with Col. Mello, a star Brazilian pilot, who got leave of absence to accompany Brown on his demonstration tour with the Cadet in Uruguay and Argentina. In return for his services, Avros agreed to present the Cadet to Col. Mello, who used it as his private aircraft for over 11 years. The 626 trainer Sam flew over the Andes from Mendoza to Santiago, Chile. This is a difficult journey at any time of the year, but circumstances dictated that Brown should do it in mid-winter. The mountains are some 23.000 ft high, and the pass rises to nearly 14,500 ft. Add to this the knowledge that the theoretical ceiling of the Avro 626 was under 17,000 ft, and it becomes very apparent that, at its best, the journey was likely to be a sticky one.By following the road and rail he should have been in the mountains for just about an hour, but, because these guides were obscured by snow, and a compass is quite useless while winding in and out between mountain peaks,desolation, until, by sheer chance, he recognized the pass once more, and was able just to get back to Mendoza on the last cupful of petrol.' This was not all. Air conditions in the high mountains were terribly rough, and in one bump alone he lost 1,200 ft down and in another went up 1,400 ft. In the open cockpit the cold was also intense. Nothing daunted, however, he tried again, this time more successfully, and for his efforts he was rewarded by receiving in Chile an order for £70,000 worth of aircraft out of a total allocation of £100,000 by the Chilean Government. For good measure he sold the demonstrator machine as well.
1934 saw him back in England once more, testing 626.S, Ansons and, later, Blenheims. On July 24th, 1939, he made the first flight on the prototype Manchester, which was the forerunner of the Lancaster. To a large extent it was also a flying test-bed for the Rolls-Royce Vulture
engine and, in addition to a number of forced landings, it gave Sam a few of his most anxious moments. Under the pressure of wartime urgency some air screw tests were being flown under unsuitable weather conditions. On the morning of the day in question the aircraft had been flown by Brown at about 500 ft, owing to low cloud. In the afternoon he was able to get to 1,200 ft and, fortunately, was still within gliding distance of Woodford airfield when the port engine broke up, more or less completely. Sam perched smartly and skilfully, back on the airfield, and one of the flight observers, who had taken the incident somewhat to heart, ran from the Manchester, and Brown has not seen him since.
The first flight of the Lancaster prototype was made in December, 1940, on a pleasant day—not at all typical of Manchester in the winter—and it was obvious to a pilot of Brown's experience that here was an absolute winner. In fact, there were no major modifications done before the Lane went into mass production, and of the various marks no fewer than 7,366 were built.
One of the most interesting sideshows in the testing of Lancasters was the production of 26 special machines for "Operation Upkeep " (the official title of the Mohne dam-bursting venture). The explosive missiles, to the special design of B. N. Wallis, of Vickers, had to be dropped from
precisely 30 ft while flying a straight course at exactly 130 m.p.h. On the first rest run Sam Brown was at the controls and Mutt Summers, chief test pilot of Vickers, was watching the behaviour of the missile from the radar scanner blister. On impact with the water, part of the casing burst and the pieces, flying upward, hit the Lancaster, some severely bruising Summer's elbow, and others jamming the elevators. Fortunately, enough movement was left to enable Brown to keep control. For the actual run Guy Gibson ascertained his exact height by having beams from landing lights on each wing converging at such an angle that they joined on the ground when the aircraft was at the required height. For his long service as a chief test pilot, Capt. Brown was awarded the O.B.E. in the King's Birthday Honours List in 1946. He had over 10,000 hours' flying to his credit.

Sydney Albert 'Bill' Thorn 1901-1947

L-R, Bill Thorn, Sam Brown and Geoffrey Tyson


Sydney Albert 'Bill' Thorne was known to the whole industry,has had a very varied career, having been a time-serving soldier in the Guards, an officer in the Royal Air Force, a flying instructor, and a major in the Home Guard.His first recollection of things aeronautical is being taken by his mother, at the tender age of nine, to watch some very early flying at Wormwood Scrubs in 1910. This experience created in him somewhat of an obsession for flying and, during his holidays from Hurstpierpoint College in the years of the 1914-18 war, he spent most of his days, with a packet of sandwiches, sitting on the edge of Shoreham airfield watching the Avro 504s and Maurice Farmans perform. His most interesting day was a famous occasion on which no fewer than thirteen machines were piled up. Here he made his first flight. Having by much hero worship persuaded a major of the R.F.C. to come home to tea, he also persuaded him to take him for an unofficial flight in an Avro 504—and was very scared for his trouble.

The end of the Great War saw him in a factory near Brighton, making submarine parts, but by his eighteenth birthday in August, 1919, he was out of a job. Added to this his father had died and his mother was not very well provided for. Without telling anyone of his intentions, and with the munificent sum of 15s in his pocket, he came to London to join the Army. Having taken the oath, he picked his regiment at random and decided on the Coldstream Guards. Even the recruiting sergeant—once he had the body in the bag—called him an adjectival fool. Not because he had joined the Guards, before realizing that he wasn't the normal type which joined the Army in those days, and knowing at the same time of the intention of the authorities to get the Guards regiment back to pre-1914 standards. The next six months, which he spent at the Guards depot at Caterham, would have broken most people's hearts. As a recruit he had to address even the ordinary guardsmen in the prescribed manner, "Yes, trained soldier," or "No, trained soldier." Living conditions were both rigorous and primitive. In 1922, having served his three years with the Colours, he came of age and inherited some money. This he invested in a poultry farm in Surrey. With his brothers he slaved for the next three years until, like thousands of similar projects at that time, the farm failed.

Making yet another start in 1925, he took a short-service commission as a pilot in the R.A.F. and was posted for training to No. 5 F.T.S. at Sealand. His ab initio instructor was none other than Jim Cordes (later chief test pilot for many years of Handley Page, Ltd.), and his CO.was Wing Cdr. Philip Babington, M.C., who retired as Air Marshal Sir Philip Babington, K.C.B.
The primary type was the Avro 504 with rotary Monosoupape engine, but Bill did not,at this stage, prove a very apt pupil. He took 16 hours to go solo and was very nearly turned down. It was not until he got on to Sopwith Snipes under Eddie Fulford that he made up for his earlier backwardness.After qualifying he was posted to No. 17 Squadron at Hawkinge, which was then equipped with Hawker Woodcocks—the first night fighter, designed as such, to go into service. When the Central Flying School left Upavon for Wittering, No. 3 moved in, and it was whilst he, as a junior officer, was ferrying one of the Woodcocks that he had his first forced landing. Arriving in the region of Guildford, the weather clamped down both fore and aft, and Bill put the Woodcock down on Cranleigh School rugger ground. Weaving in and out of the various posts as he slowed up, he was unfortunate enough to hit his starboard main planes on the last pair of goal-posts. The portion from above the crossbar whistled down and, just missing the cockpit, stood quivering in the ground. In a matter of seconds, of course,that football ground was a milling mass of schoolboys, and the Woodcock suffered more damage from them than from the forced landing. The Woodcock also gave him an unhappy few minutes one very dark night when he was flying at 1,500ft over Southampton. His engine cut dead and, as he had been trained to do, he looked out for an unlighted area in which to land. As he selected the place, the inevitable thought came into his mind, "Is it open? " "Is it woodland? " At 500ft he lit one of his Holt wing-tip flares and turned to make his final approach into what, in the dim light, appeared to be parkland. As he fired his second Holt flare at 300ft, to light his actual landing, the Jupiter picked up arid functioned again as if nothing had happened. Presumably a stoppage in the fuel system. It was also whilst flying Woodcocks in 1927 that he had a rare experience. Lindbergh had just flown the Atlantic to Paris and then come on to England, and his aircraft was dismantled for the return passage. As Lindbergh wanted to go to Paris again on his way back, the Air Ministry put a brand new Woodcock (Bill Thorn's) at his disposal. Thorn went by train and boat to Paris to fly it back. When Lindbergh arrived at Le Bourget the enthusiastic crowd broke all the barriers, and he had to open-up and do an extra-quick hop to the hangars on the far side of the airfield, where the Woodcock was hurriedly housed and the doors closed a split second before the crowd arrived.The arrangements for Bill's departure included, first of all, an "aerobatic display by him, and then a journey to the French coast escorted by a formation of French fighters. All would have been well had not Bill lost his maps during a slow roll in his display, and then tried to make the Frenchmen take the lead in order to get a bearing. Their native courtesy precluded them from doing any such thing, and it is easy to imagine them all waffling about the sky in a semi-stalled condition doing an " after-you-Claude " act. Finally Thorn pointed his Woodcock roughly in the direction of England and took the lead.

In 1927, as a flying officer, he was offered a posting to the R.A.E. at Farnborough as a test pilot, and served there for the next two years, flying such aircraft as the Bristol Berkeley, Vickers Venture, Westland Yeovil and Gloster Goldfinch.

The Fairey Fox, the Curtiss D.12 engine of which was the first type ever allowed by the Air Ministry to have its carburettor placed between the cylinder banks, caught fire whilst he was flying it, but fortunately the flames subsided before any serious trouble occurred. On the prototype Bulldog, at 4,000ft, he went into a spin which altered its characteristics, immediately becoming flat and staying so until a burst of engine and stick movement together jerked it out at less than 1, oooft. After landing, his story was politely disbelieved, and he looked even sillier when, later, he tried to reproduce it in the air and failed. His vindication came six months afterwards,when Poppy Popie had it happen to him at Martlesham.

At the R.A.E. there was a light plane club—of which George Bulman was the original pilot and chairman and Thorn in 1929 flew the club's Avian Q.N. to many of the week-end meetings held at that time. It was at one of these meetings that he met Capt. T. Neville Stack,R.F.C. (now a Commander in the Royal Navy with two sons 111 the R.A.F.) who was the chief test pilot of Aircraft Disposals Company (the company responsible for selling the surplus aircraft left over after the 1914-18 war and the forerunner of Cirrus Engines). Stack told Thorn that he was leaving A.D.C., and Bill took over in his place, and remained there until the company ceased to operate.For a short while after this he became an instructor at Shoreham, where F. G. Miles—now the head of the big Miles Aircraft concern—ran a small flying school, built a couple of aircraft of his own design, taught his wife to fly, and lived in a caravan on the airfield.The next two years or so he spent as sales manager and instructor with Brooklands Aviation, Ltd., running the Northampton Club for some part of this time. Later he joined Birkett and Brian Allen. As a charter pilot in those days he had a number of exciting trips, of which two are outstanding. The first was a Puss Moth charter to Belgium with an eccentric but rich man as his passenger. He gave Bill £180 to spend on himself for the first evening and then, when most people were going to bed, told Thorn that they must start at once for Cairo. When Bill told him you couldn't start just like that, he started a fight in the bar. This was exceedingly foolish because among Thorn's many accomplishments he had won the Wakefield Officers' Middleweight Championship,the Officers' Open Championship, and the Officers'Open Light-Heavyweight Championship. On his passenger's recumbent form the bartender expended most of a siphon of soda water to bring him round.
Later, on the way home, "whilst circling Calais before setting out across the Channel, this passenger (in the back seat) put his arms round Bill's neck and tried to throttle him. The Puss Moth was left to its own devices while Thorn turned round and laid his passenger out a second time.Another Puss Moth charter gave him the closest shave he had had in 21 years' flying. He had flown a couple to the Channel Islands and landed on the beach at St. Aubins at low tide. Aircraft cannot be left on the beach with the water coming in, so despite the lateness of the hour and the absence of any night-flying equipment or other aids, he started back for England. In failing light the bad weather-forced him down to within 50ft of the water,and there was no alternative but to climb up through the muck and go on by dead reckoning.By the time he surmised he was over the coast it was quite dark and his descent through thick cloud with no blind-flying panel was no small feat of pilotage. Spotting a line of lights, he circled them, only to find it was a liner going up Channel. Turning north for ten minutes, a coast town showed up, but Bill was unable to identify it, and he went on in the hope of being able to pick up the lights of London reflected in the cloud base. In this, however,he was defeated by fog, and back again he went to the coast town—-.still unidentified. Petrol had now become low and a landing had to be made with no Holt flares nor landing lights to help him. No selection of area was possible, just a straight blind flop into an abyss.

Thorn is not what one would call a religious man, but as he made his approach he recited the Lord's Prayer out loud. After a short run and a couple of hefty bumps, the Puss Moth stopped and the light of a match showed everything intact. Daylight revealed that he had got down in a field 180 yards long, that he had bounced over one irrigation ditch and stopped two yards before another. Apparently,quite unbeknown to Thorn, there had been a freak wind of 35 m.p.h. above the clouds, and calm conditions at ground level. Had it been a little stronger he would have
been blown off his course so much that he would have missed England completely and run out of fuel over the North Sea. The unidentified town was Eastbourne.
In his A.D.C. days Thorn had met Roy (now Sir Roy)Dobson of Avros, and in 1934, when he wanted a change,he asked if he could come on the test-piloting staff. H. ("Sam") Brown, who was then the chief test pilot, a who did all the first Avro prototype flights up to and including the Lincoln, was away in S. America; J. B. Tompkins was holding the fort. Thorn came in as third dicky to help finish-off the production-testing of the Tutor,Avro 641, Cabin Cadet, Commodore and C.30 Autogiro.
In 1935 he spent much of his time demonstrating Avro aircraft on the Continent, notably in Greece, Denmark and Turkey, and then late in the year, when Tompkins left Avros, he stepped up to assistant chief test pilot. At this time the Avro Anson was being produced. It was one of those aircraft which came out almost perfect right from the beginning. Its only trouble was a tail vibration which tended to build up. It was cured by putting streamline wires from the fin to the tailplane. Over 7,600 Ansons have been produced since then and given wonderful service. Sam Brown did the initial flight tests on the Manchester, Lancaster, York and Lincoln, but an enormous amount of development flying had to be done on these types, and Thorn put in a very large share. On the Manchester he had five forced landings through main tearings failing in Vulture engines. Now, with Jimmy Orrell as second pilot, he is putting Tudor Is and II's through their paces and waiting for some very interesting types which are not yet at the flying stage.In 21 years' flying Bill Thorn has piled up some 5,500 hours' flying, on n o types. He has test-flown and cleared over 3,000 aircraft himself. In the whole of his career he has smashed only one machine. This was a Desoutter with Hermes engine. A flat-spot in the carburation caused him
to undershoot, and he finished up with his face in the valve rockers.

Bill Thorn was killed when the first prototype Avro Tudor II, G-AGSU, crashed at Woodford, on Saturday, August 23rd, killing four of the occupants.Namely, Mr. Roy Chadwick, Chief Technical Director of A. V. Roe, Mr. S. A. Thorn, Chief Test Pilot of the firm. S./L. D. Wilson, chief of Avro's flight test section and and Mr. J. Webster, the wireless operator.

Wg Cdr George Edward Lowdell AFM 1902-1974





Wg Cdr Lowdell was well known as an instructor, demonstration and test-pilot in the period between the wars. He was particularly associated with Brooklands, first as instructor (later chief instructor) at the Brooklands School of Flying.He left the Brooklands School of Flying in 1934,where he has instructed for nearly four years, to join Wolseley Motors Ltd. as Chief Test Pilot. Three Hawker " Tomtits,"which Mr. Lowdell will use, are soon to be taken from Brooklands to Castle Bromwich. George Lowdell flew a " Tomtit " fitted with a Wolseley engine in the King's Cup Race in 1933. He became Reid and Sigrist's test pilot and flew the prototype Reid and Sigrist R.S. 1,early in 1939.

Operation "Banquet Lights" was the arming of Tiger Moths of the Elementary Flight Training Schools, the Reid & Sigrist-converted "Paraslasher" airborne Scythe experiment for Banqust Tiger Moths.It was the brainchild of Sqn Ldr George E. Lowdell of 7 EFTS, a pre-war stunt pilot and Reid & Sigrist's test pilot (they made aircraft instruments). 7 EFTS was based at RAF Desford, previously Reid & Sigrist's test field.
Wg Cdr George Edward Lowdell joined Vickers as a test pilot in 1941 and after a short time at Weybridge and Eastleigh went to Castle Bromwich for two years,test flying production Spitfires and repaired Wellingtons. In 1943 he transferred to Blackpool as test pilot in charge,handling Wellingtons. Two years later he returned to Weybridge as Chief Production Test Pilot,retiring from flying in 1953.
He did considerable development flying on early Vikings,flew the nene-engined Viking and Tay-Viscount and demonstarted Valettas,Varsities and Viscounts at Farnborough displays.
In 1956 he was appointed as a member of the after sales service organisation at Vickers,where he was responsible for relations with pilots of customer airlines and visiting the Weybridge Aircraft Service School.

Capt Roy Smith 19xx-1957


Roy Smith joined the RAF in 1941. He became a senior captain with Scottish Airlines and then as a test pilot with Scottish Aviation. He had over 8,000 hours to his credit when he was killed along with David McIntryre in the crash of a Twin Pioneer in Libya.

Lt Cdr J 'Jock' Elliot 1921-1975



Jock Elliot

Chief Designer W.A.Tamblin and Chief Test Pilot 'Jock' Elliot.

DH. Sea Vixen XF828






Jock Elliot served with the Royal Navy between 1941-1954 and had quite a wide range of flying experience in that he commenced with Swordfish and Albacore before the advent of the mighty Avenger with it's undecarriage strengthened to take up to 16/sec thump onto the deck, which would be needed on their trips to the Arctic realms up around the Kola Inlet and Murmansk on Convoy escort duty. Thence to 778 Sqn and the Carrier Trials Unit for several years 1946-1948, to be followed by ETPS and posting to Aero Flight from 1949 -1951.










In 1946 he won the McKenna trophy at ETPS. He was the first Naval Officer to land a swept-wing aircraft (Swift) on the deck of a carrier. He joined the de Havilland company in 1954, becoming Chief test pilot at the Christchurch factory. He made the first flight of the navalised Sea Vixen, XF 828, on July 20, 1955.








Dave Morgan, writing in the Aeroplane in Nov '03 in response to the magazine's request views on those who might be said to have made the greatest single contribution in the century since the first powered flight, said Jock's contribution of variable gearing placed him right at the pinnacle of achievement in that he set the scene for fly by wire.