Wednesday, April 30, 2008

John Goodwin 'Bobby' Burns 19xx-2000



J.G. Burns joined the RAF in 1946 as a Cranwell cadet. He was posted to 56 Sqn and after a tour with them went to CFS. He was on No13 course ETPS in 1954. He went to A&AEE Boscombe Down, where he served from 1956-57.
He joined Hunting Aircraft as a Test Pilot in 1958 before joining Blackburn Aircraft in 1959, test flying the NA.39 Buccaneer. He was awarded two Queen's Commendations for Valuable Services in the Air.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Leo Charles Evan DeVigne DSO DFC 19xx-1979





S/Ldr Leo DeVigne served in the RAF from 1940-1953. He won the DSO and DFC whilst serving with No627 Squadrom Pathfinder Force. He was a test pilot from 1945-46 with No41 Group Maintenance Command. He took No6 ETPS course,and was a Service and Civilian test pilot at RAE Farnborough,being awarded the AFC.





He joined Armstrong Siddeley Motors and was Chief Test Pilot 1952-1953,carrying out the initial test flights of the deflected jet Meteor (nene). He joined Westland as a test pilot, and was involved with the Whirlwind.


Tim M.S Ferguson 1932-1997



Tim Ferguson started flying in August 1950 when he joined the RAF. After demobilisation, he flew with No603 Sqn (City of Edinburgh) R.AuxAF. He joined English Electric as a production test pilot in January 1955, also flying the company’s communication aircraft. After Lightning, he was involved in Jaguar and Tornado Flight testing, he landed a Jaguar on the M55 motorway as part of operating trials. In 1975, he was part of the crew (with David Eagles) that flew the Tornado P.03 on its maiden flight. He became Deputy Chief Test Pilot for BAC before retiring from Test Flying in 1979 and transferring to product support.

He was awarded the Derry and Richards medal in 1977 for his high-incidence and spinning experimental work.

Osborne 'Ossie' James Hawkins 1924-2010




Ossie Hawkins started flying with the RNZAF in 1942 and came to the UK in 1951 and joined the RAF, serving in night fighter squadrons. He was posted to RAE Farnborough in 1954 and subsequently to ETPS. He then went to ‘A’ Sqn at Boscombe Down. He joined Gloster Aircraft as a test pilot before joining A.V. Roe. He was involved with Vulcan and H.S.748 testing.

J.Keith Isherwood

Keith Isherwood started flying with the RAF in 1952 and served with No19 Sqn at Church Fenton, subsequently becoming a member of No609 (West Riding) Sqn R.AuxAF. He joined English Electric in 1956 as a production test pilot and also to fly the company’s communications aircraft.

A/Cdre Allen Henry Wheeler OBE DFC 1904-1984



Allen Wheeler was commissioned in the RAF in 1925 and trained as both an engineer and pilot before attending Staff College in 1933. During the Second World War he commanded the Performance Testing Squadron at Boscombe Down and the Experimental Flying Department at Farnborough.

Later he was involved in development flying for the airborne forces before the invasion of Sicily, and he commanded RAF Fairford during the Normandy landings.

Post-war, he commanded RAF Cyprus and the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down. In 1947 he became the Shuttleworth Trust’s first Aviation Trustee, holding that position until 1980.

H. Ken Cartwright

From South Rhodesia, he trained at the de Havilland Technical School between 1935 and 1938. He was an engineer with Wilson Airways, Kenya before joining the RAF in 1940. He served with 30 Sqn in the Middle and Far East flying Blenheims and Hurricanes.On returning to the UK in 1944 he tested aircraft at No 3501 MU and the Instrument Flying Development Flight at Boscombe Down. He joined D Napier as a test pilot.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Alexander Frederick Cecil Roberts OBE 1936-2016








Alexander Frederick Cecil Roberts joined the RAF on National Service in 1954 and was commissioned and posted to 2 Flying Training School Hullavington flying Provosts and Vampires. In 1955 he was posted to RAF Middleton St George flying Vampires. In 1956 he completed 233 OCU course on Meteors and between 1956 and 1957 he was posted to 615 Squadron at RAF Biggin Hill flying Meteor F8s.
In 1956 he joined Short Brothers Belfast as an Experimental and Development Test Pilot under the leadership of Chief Test Pilot Tom Brooke-Smith. Between 1956 and 1957 he carried out test flying on various aircraft and made initial familiarisation hover flights in SC1 during tethered gantry hover tests.
In 1958 he was responsible for high altitude testing of Canberra U Mk 10 Drone Target aircraft and completed open Cockpit testing on Canberra B8. He was appointed project development pilot on Canberra PR Mk9. Between 1960 and 1962 he flew production Britannia 253 aircraft manufactured for RAF Transport Command.
He undertook all SC1 test flying including full transitions using first VTOL fly by wire control system. Between 1964 and 1968 he was responsible for handling stability and control testing of Belfast freighter. In 1969 he was appointed Sales Manager Skywan and between 1969 and 1973 he was Manager Skyvan division. Between 1973 and 1976 he was General Manager Aircraft at Short Bros and then was Executive Director Aircraft Short Bros 1976-82. In 1989 until 1995 he was Deputy Managing Director Short Bros following privatisation of Company and acquistion by Bombardier Group Canada.

Friday, April 25, 2008

F/lt Robert Plenderleith DFC 1919-2005

Robert Plenderleith joined the RAFVR in 1937 and the RAF in 1939, serving in Fighter Command throughout the Second World War before becoming a test pilot.

He was one of the first pilots to see action in France in May 1940, when 73 Sqn in which he was serving, was one of two Hurricane squadrons sent to resist the German advance. They returned to England after the fall of France. He was awarded the DFC for his service. He was shot down by a Me109 on the 11th October 1940, receiving burns to his face. While recovering from his injuries he served as a flying instructor but went back to Operational flying in North Africa and Italy. In 1944 he joined Maintenance Command and was M.U. test pilot until 1947.

He joined the de Havilland Engine Company at Hatfield in 1947 and worked on Vampire and Venom jet fighters. He flew the Gyron engined Sperrin at the 1955 SBAC show at Farnborough. He was made Deputy Chief Test Pilot in 1957. He undertook a course with Saunders-Roe on the Skeeter, preparatory to flight testing the turbo-supercharged version of the Gipsy Major 215 and later the Gnome turboshaft unit.He transferred to Rolls-Royce at Leavesden where he became a helicopter test pilot.

At the end of his flying career he became the company’s marketing promotions manager.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stuart N 'Scotty' Sloan MVO DFC CGM 1922-1994

'Scotty' Sloan

Over Dortmund in May 1943 when the crew of a Wellington bomber of 431 (Canadian)Squadron from Burn ran into trouble and were ordered to bale out of the aircraft. As the bomb aimer, Sergeant Stuart Nimmo Sloan (146605), was preparing to leave when he realised that there were two crewmen aboard who had not heard the order.With the pilot gone, Sloan took charge of the pilot's seat, even though he had no previous experience, and fought the controls and managed to get the aircraft level and under control. Harassed by flak, he shook off the searchlights, which were trying to pin-point the aircraft for the enemy guns, with remarkable corkscrewing, twists and dives.He asked the two remaining members of the crew if they wanted to bale out.
The navigator, Sergeant Parslow, and wireless operator, Flying Officer Bailey, both said that they were willing to stay. Sloan made for the East Anglian coast but he realised that the port engine was failing.Over Cottesmore, he once again asked his companions if they wished to bale out and once again they refused. With the aircraft becoming impossible to control, Sloan lowered the undercarriage and, as the engine failed completely, he made a good landing at RAF Cranwell.

The incident is still remembered as a magnificent feat for a seasoned pilot, let alone a bomb aimer with a very tentative knowledge of the pilot's trade.

Sgt Sloan was given an immediate Conspicuous Gallantry medal, which ranks just below the VC as the highest award open to NCOs. He was also commissioned in the field and sent on a pilot's course and in 1945 completed a successful tour with the famed 158 squadron at Lissett (flying Halifax MkIII). He ended the war as a Flight Lieutenant with a DFC and relinquished his commision as a Wing commander in 1975.

Post war he served with the King's Flight.He joined Vickers Armstrong as a test pilot in 1951, flying various types and displaying at the 1953 Farnborough airshow.

J.D 'Johnny' Baker 1923-2003



Johnny Baker was born in Wales. In 1941 aged 18years old he joined the RA, flying daylight bombing raids in Bostons and Mitchells,targeting mainly Buzz bomb sites with the 2nd TAF.
After 30 ops he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant to Ministry of Supply Aircraft Experimental Unit at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, Test Piloting acceptance trials for new Aircraft including
Hurricanes, Spitfires, Liberators, Meteors, Vampires, Lancasters, Halifaxes, Mosquitoes,Flying
Fortresses Monitors and Abermaries.
He joined Avro in Manchester in 1948 and flew the main types until 1958 when he joined Avro Weapons Division in Australia mainly for the testing of the Blue Steel stand-off missile flying V Bombers.He was transferred to Adelaide Australia as AVRoe Australia Chief Test Pilot having by then piloted 99 different types of Aircraft He retired in 1968 and settled in Australia where he died in 2003.







F/L Albert H 'Witt' Wittridge DFC 1922-2009



World War Two RAF Spitfire fighter pilot, Flight Lieutenant Albert Wittridge, DFC, flew two tours of operations with 155 Squadron in Burma, and was subsequently and RAF and civilian instructor and test pilot.
He joined 155 Squadron, flying Mark 8 Spitfires. He shot down high flying Dinah reconnaissance aircraft similar to the RAF’s Mosquito, and also a Jap Oscar fighter, which outclassed RAF Hurricanes.
Albert Wittridge, always known as ‘Witt’, ended his tour of operations as an instructor with the flying assessment of ‘Exceptional’. Based at Boscombe Down he became an experimental test pilot until leaving the RAF in 1953 where he continued as a civil test pilot, being at the forefront of many fascinating experimental developments, flying and testing over 30 different types of aircraft including Meteor jet fighters and V-bombers. Despite having flown so many different and more advanced aircraft, he rates his Mark 8 Spitfire DG-C above all the others.

G/Cpt J.F.X 'Sam' McKenna AFC 1907-1945

G/Capt J.F.X 'Sam' McKenna AFC

Group Captain John Francis Xavier McKenna, A.F.C., F.R.Ae.S., or " Sam " as he was known to his friends, was Commandant of the Empire Test Pilots School, Boscombe Down, Wiltshire.

He was born at Putney on December 20, 1906, and educated at Berkhampstead School. Subsequent engineering at the City and Guilds enabled him to obtain the B.Sc. degree. In July, 1926, he was commissioned in the Royal Air Force Reserve, later obtaining a permanent commission. He quickly showed his skill as a pilot and was chosen, while serving with No. 23 Squadron, to give an aerobatics display at Hendon in 1930. Between 1932 and 1934 he was a pilot in the Aerodynamic Test Flight of the Royal Aircraft Establishment. He demonstrated during this period that he was a test pilot of considerable skill and promise. This, together with his fundamental knowledge of aerodynamics and thermodynamics, cemented his future as a specialist in test work. After a tour of duty in Aden from 1934 to 1936 he returned early in 1937 to join the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment, Martlesham Heath.
He was soon appointed flight commander and later became the chief test pilot of the establishment., During this period he assumed a pre-eminent position in the flight, testing of new types of civil and service aircraft, and he made many friends throughout the aircraft industry. He did much of the official flight testing of the prototype Spitfire and he was the first pilot forced to make a landing on a modern high speed aircraft with the undercarriage retracted. This landing was the forerunner of the " belly " landing now used on modern aircraft in cases of emergency. He was awarded the A.F.C. in 1939. In May, 1941, he joined the Flight Test Branch of the British Air Commission in Washington, later becoming chief of the branch. He held this position until early in 1944, and during this period he tested, with United States pilots, American prototype aircraft, and made many American friends both in the industry and the flying service. In 1944 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. In March of that year he was appointed commandant of the Empire Test Pilots School of the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment. He was killed on 19th January 1945 during a familiarisation flight on a a Mustang Mk IV which crashed when the ammunition box cover detached at high speed and the aircraft shed a wing crashing on the perimeter of Old Sarum airfield.

'J.W Charles 'Pee-wee' Judge 1922-1970


'Pee-wee' Judge started his aviation career with the Royal Air Force, flying Hurricanes and Spitfires of No 33 Squadron in the Middle East, with Fighter Command and with the 2nd T.A.F. in Europe. Later transferring to Typhoons of 245 Squadron again with the 2nd T.A.F.
After the end of the war 'Pee-Wee' continued his service as a Ferry pilot and finally as a test pilot in India.On leaving the Service he was for a time a free lance Ferry pilot delivering aircraft to the Middle East, Pakistan and India until joining the Supermarine division of Vickers Armstrongs Ltd. as a test pilot in 1950 to fly Spitfire, Seafire, Attacker, Swift and Scimitar aircraft.
Then followed a period with Rolls-Royce Ltd.,to which Company he was attached as a test pilot for one year on the Tyne-Ambassador and Conway-Vulcan programmes before joining Beagle as test pilot at Shoreham in 1961. His appointment as Chief Test Pilot of the Beagle Groupwas made in 1962.During his eight years of strenuous work at Shoreham and Rearsby he made the first flights of 12 different types of Beagle light aircraft—from the B.206-Y prototype on August 12, 1962, to the Bulldog prototype on May 19, 1969.
He had joined Airmark in 1970 to continue development flying of the Wallis WA.117 when he was killed in a flying accident at the SBAC show at Farnborough in 1970.

He held the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air and had amassed 6,850hr of flying, which were spread over a wide pattern of aircraft types.

Wilfred. H. ("Slim") Sear, OBE, AFRAes 19xx-2015

Slim Sear
Slim Sear climbing aboard Westland Wessex
Slim Sear (left) and test crew of Westland Westminster

Westland Westminster in flight



W. H. ("Slim") Sear, OBE, AFRAes was called up to join the Royal Air Force in 1942 and trained in Canada returning to the UK to fly Hurricanes and Spitfires, he was transferred have to the Fleet Air Arm in 1945 flying Hellcats, Seafires and Firefly.
In 1951 he joined number 10 course at the Empire Test Pilots School Farnborough and qualified as a test pilot, subsequently flying Wyvern and Vampire.

Having qualified on helicopters he joined Westland in 1952 as Chief Helicopter Test Pilot a position he held until 1967, during this time he led the transition of Westland to become a helicopter company and the development of Sikorsky designs to accept turbine engines.
Slim was a leading figure in the development of the anti-submarine helicopter for the Royal Navy.
The ability of the helicopter to use as autopilot to transition to the hover and hold that position over the sonar was pioneering work in the introduction of automatic systems, and resulted in the Whirlwind, Wessex and Sea King helicopters, which have served the Royal Navy well.

He also held responsibility for the integration of the Flight Operations part of the four helicopter companies that would join together following the government led reorganisation of the aircraft industry, and finally retired from flying in 1967, he was awarded the OBE for his services to the defence industry.
He accepted the position of responsibility for the day today engineering requirements in the flight shed, during which time the Lynx flight and Sea King development programmes were active, retiring from Westland in 1976.

G/Cpt Harry A.'Bruin' Purvis DFC AFC* 1905-1966


Harry Alexander 'Bruin' Purvis was born near St Andrews in 1905. During his school holidays he spent much of his time watching the flying at Rendcombe Aerodrome,managing to get a flight in a BE2a biplane.
He joined the RAF as a cadet in 1924,learning to fly on Mono-Avros and graduated on to Bristol fighters,DH9a and Sopwith Snipes. He was awarded his wings in 1926 and won the Groves Memorial Flying Prize. He was then posted to No23 Sqn at Henlow,flying Gloster Gamecocks.
In 1929 he was selected to give an individual flying display at the Hendon Air Display.Later the same year he was selected to take a course at the Central Flying School (CFS).

He was posted to Leuchars where he trained RN pilots for the Fleet Air Arm. In 1932 he was posted to Torpedo Development Flight at Gosport,flying Hawker Horsleys and Blackburn Darts and Ripons.
In 1936,he was posted to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Whilst he was there he was selected to fly a special Spitfire which had been prepared for an attempt on the world speed record,however, before he could make the attempt, it was beaten by a special ME109,and the attempt was abandoned.
In the early months of WW2, Bruin Purvis was invloved in the trials of the Wellington D.W.I (detonation without impact) which was being used to counter mines laid in shipping lanes.

In May 1940, he was posted to command a Hudson squadron with Coastal Command at Leuchars. The following year he went to the USA with a British Air Mission to test and evaluate American aircraft. The head of the mission was P.W.S ('George') Bulman. He returned to the UK in 1942 to take command of the Performance Testing Squadron of the AAEE at Boscombe Down, where he remained until 1945.
After the war he retired from the RAF to become Chief Test Pilot to the Civil Aviation Section at Boscombe Down. In that capacity he did much of the testing on Tudors,Marathon,Ambassador,Viking,Viscount and Hermes and Comet.
He had flown over 7,000 hrs on over 200 types.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Desmond Gerald 'Dizzy' Addicot 1922-2005







Desmond "Dizzy" Addicott was nicknamed "Dismal Desmond" at school but this became "Dizzy" when he joined the RAF in 1942 and trained in Canada in Tiger Moths and Harvards. In 1945 he flew Mosquito to Burma and joined 110 Hyderabad Squadron which was advancing to Rangoon and Singapore, He took the first Mosquito to Java. Between 1945 and 1946 he was promoted to Squadron Leader and joined 84 Squadron on operations in Java. Between 1946 and 1947 he instructed on Mosquitos at 13 OTU. Between 1947 and 1948 he was a test pilot on Wellingtons and other types at 201 AFS Swinderby.
Between 1950 and 1951 he was a civilian flying instructor to Royal Navy pilots on Mosquitos and was with the Civilian Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Unit flying Beaufighters Spitfires and Vampires. Between 1951 and 1955 he was with Short Brothers and Harland as a Civilian naval ferry pilot. Between 1955 and 1961 he was with Vickers-Armstrong Ltd at Wisley as a test pilot where he flew Rapides, Doves and Herons on comms duties and Valetta, Varsity, Viking and Canberra on guided weapons duties. He was involved in production test flying Valiants and development of airborne re-fuelling. He was a tanker pilot on the first V-bomber to V-bomber refuelling
Between 1961 and 1965 he was seconded to Hunting Aircraft as Senior Test pilot on Jet Provosts. He was involved in the spinning trials and developing the tail parachutes He continued the test flying and demonstration of H126 at Paris air Show in 1965. Between 1965 and 1971 he returned to Wisley which was now part of BAC flying Vanguards, BAC1-11s and VC-10s.
Between 1971 and 1979 he was posted to Filton to fly comms duties on HS125, DC3, President, Heron and Dove. He flew the Junkers Ju 52 in "The Dirty Dozen", Mosquitos in "Mosquito Squadron", various WW1 replica aircraft in "The Blue Max" and the B-25 camera aircraft in the "Memphis Belle" remake in 1990. He was also in the 1986 release, "Biggles: Adventures in Time". He flew a wide variety of aircraft and became well known on the air show circuit.

Addicott was a keen racing driver, and in the early 60s he raced an Elva-DKW alongside such names as Jim Clark, Mike Spence, Hugh Dibley (another pilot), Peter Arundell, Frank Gardner and Tony Maggs. He even had plans for a go at Craig Breedlove's 407mph land speed record using a vehicle based on a Swift fighter!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Harold 'Pip' Lord Piper 1899-1965




Harold Piper was born in 1899 and lived on the family farm in Banks,New Zealand. He learnt to fly in a Caudron aircraft at the Canterbury Aviation Company's site at Sockburn,going solo in 1918 after 5 hours and 30misn of tutoring. Sadly for Piper, WWI ended before he could enlist for service.
After a gap of several years,Piper joined the NZPAF in 1926 and was commisoned as a second Lieutenant. In 1927 he decided he would join the RAF and did so that year. After gaining considerable flying experience he sought leave from the RAF IN 1930 to undertake a flight from England to Australia with a fllow Kiwi who was also in the RAF. Piper bought a Dessouter aircraft which he called 'Aorangi' ,and the pair flew on what was to be an epic adventure across the World,via the Middle-East, India and South-East Asia, reaching Darwin six weeks and 2 ays after leaving England,completeing the eighth succesdul flight between England and Australia in the process.
His career with the RAF ended in 1933 and he joined Gravesend Aviation,training pupils and giving joy-rides. A year later he joined Shorts Brothers as a Test Pilot, with whom he stayed until 1948,having been their Chief Test Pilot for 10years. He had an extensive involvment with Flying Boats produced by Shorts, especially testing 166 Sunderlands. In 1946 he test flew the 4 Shorts Sandringhams ordered by Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (TEAL),before leaving Shorts and returning to New Zealand.
He retired from flying in 1956 and died in 1965 after having flown as a pilot for 41 years. He had flown 6372 hours on 91 different aircraft.

John Hindmarsh 1907-1938


John Stuart Hindmarsh was the son of Donald Stuart Hindmarsh and Annie Stuart Campbell. He went to school at Sherborne, Dorset before going to the Military College Sandhurst for Officer Training . He subsequently gained a commission in the Royal Army Tank Corps and was posted to the 2nd Battalion at Cranwell, in 1928. In 1930, John was seconded to the Royal Air Force and learned to fly at No.2 FTS, Digby.

John Hindmarsh was a noted Talbot and Lagonda driver, during the 1930's. His achievements included winning the Le Mans 24-Hour Race in 1935. He was as popular among the motor-racing fraternity, as he was in aviation. He participated in several important car races throughout the period 1929 to 1938 and was always a consistent competitor, racing the Lagonda and Talbot in long-distance events in England, Ireland and France. In June 1935, with Luis Fontes, John won the Le Mans 24-Hour Race in a 4 ½ litre Lagonda, with a Meadows Engine. Their average speed was 77 mph (or 124 kph) during the long distance endurance race.

After completing flying training, he was first posted to No.16 Army Co-operation Squadron, at Old Sarum and then to No.4 Army Co-operation Squadron, at Farnborough. At this stage he was in the Army and seconded to the RAF. Deciding that flying was what he wanted to do and clearly a talented aviator, he resigned his commission with the Army and formally joined the RAF.

In February 1935, John Hindmarsh secured a post as a test pilot with the Hawker Group.The Ministry of Defence plan for the RAF was to establish 4 Hurricane squadrons and 2 Spitfire squadrons during 1937 but this plan was thwarted by problems with the Merlin engines for the Hurricane. The protype aircraft when completed required test pilots to "prove" the operational capability of the new machines. So it was that John Hindmarsh together with two other test pilots, Flt Lt Bulman and Philip Lucas set about tackling the task. With the technical problems and the mounting "threat" in Europe the pressure was on to introduce the aircraft into service as quickly as possible. The first production Hurricane, was flown on October 12th, 1937 by P.G. Lucas, at Brooklands.

Sadly, after a comparatively short but very promising career in aviation, John Hindmarsh, a senior test pilot for Hawkers, was killed on September 6th, 1938 while testing a Hurricane at Brooklands. Just what happened will never be known; however, he had apparently been advised not to fly above 10,000 feet without oxygen in case he 'blacked out'. It seems that he may have ignored this precaution either intentionally or inadvertently; whatever the reason, the Hurricane which had been wheeling high in the sky above Brooklands one moment, was suddenly seen to be in a headlong dive, the engine note rising to a terrifying howl which was clearly heard by the pilot's wife, in her cottage, at Cobham. It struck the ground in an explosion, at St. George's Hill Golf Course, Weybridge. A thin pall of smoke spiraling upwards marked the spot. The contents of the fuel tanks exploded, but the pilot was mercifully killed instantly on impact. It is perhaps ironic that the crash was clearly visible from the Brooklands Track, where John had driven so many of his greatest races.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Samuel M. "Pete" Purvis 1934-



Pete Purvis was born on December 1, 1934 in Cleveland, Ohio where his first exposure to aviation came while sitting atop the family 1937 Ford watching the Cleveland Air Races. After high school, and a year at Dartmouth College, he spent the next four years at the U.S. Naval Academy where he encountered his first Grumman aircraft and had his first taste of carrier aviation while, rolled up in the bowels beneath the aft turret of a COD version of the TBF Avenger.

Upon graduating from USNA in 1957 Navy flight training beckoned. Pete flew his first Grumman aircraft, an S2F-1 Tracker while assigned to VS-32 at NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island. He soon decided that there was more to flying than chugging along at 100 feet, day or night, over the roiling North Atlantic. After racking up 1,500 hours in the S-2 and over 200 straight-deck carrier landings on board USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39), he was selected to attend the US Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. Purvis was one of the first two of his USNA classmates to do so and graduating with Class XXXII in October 1962 opened new vistas. Assigned to the Service Test Division at the Naval Air Test Center Pete flew just about everything in sight while maintaining currency in six different aircraft ranging from the Lockheed P-2 and P-3 to the Grumman A-6 and Vought F-8.

One of his most interesting projects was the Skyhook Covert Aerial Retriever System invented by Robert Fulton, who was a direct descendant of the steamboat inventor. He achieved several firsts for Skyhook, such as the first live pickup at night and the first simultaneous snatch of two people. His work with Skyhook formed the solid technical base for later Skyhook Surface To Air Recovery System (STARS) programs undertaken by the U.S. Air Force for the HC-130H.

After serving three years at NATC, it was Pete back to on the North Atlantic as the Assistant Navigator of USS Randolph (CVS -15) until his 1966 assignment to VF-151 F-4 Phantoms at NAS Miramar where he compiled, and 101 combat missions with VF-151in the McDonnell F-4. In 1968 Pete resigned his commission to join Westinghouse in Baltimore as an engineering test pilot but in 1971, Grumman called and asked offered him if the opportunity to become he wanted to be an F-14 experimental test pilot at NAS Point Mugu, California. His answer was obvious. Among the various programs being tested at Point Mugu, Pete was intimately involved in missile separation tests, where he achieved brief notoriety in 1973 by being shot down by the Sparrow missile he had just launched.

By early 1975, flight test activity at Point Mugu had waned, so Pete joined Grumman International as Director of Washington Operations and in 1981 he became affiliated with Tracor Aerospace. He changed course in 1988 to become the vice president for privatization for Hannon Armstrong & Company, a boutique investment-banking firm specializing in government project finance and leasing. The recession of the early ‘90s and fading government projects required another course change back to aerospace where he has worked as a consultant since 1993.

Pete remained in the Naval Reserve, retiring as a Captain in 1987 after four commands, including that of an RF-8 photoreconnaissance squadron. He is an Associate Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, former chairman of its East Coast Section, and trustee of the Association of Naval Aviation.

Frederick Ronald 'Midge' Midgley 1907-1985


Armstrong Whitworth Chief Test Pilot Frederick Ronald
at one time, shared with Harold Penrose, of Westland’s, the distinction of being the only two chief Test pilots in Britain that never served in any of the three Services. Starting his career as an apprentice at Vulcan’s, he later became an automobile draughtsman with the Lea Francis company, which was an associate concern of Vulcans. When, however, the depression of the late 1920s came, he decided to change his career and learn to fly. He was living at Birkenhead at the time, and Hooton was his nearest flying club. This he joined as an ordinary member in August, 1931, and learnt to fly under Geoffrey Clapham, who was the C.F.I., and John Higgins. The club aircraft were Avro Avians, and as a not very brilliant pupil, Midge took 10 hours' dual before going solo. His "A" licence he got after 16hr 35min flying. Having got his "A" licence, the next problem was how to get in the necessary 100 hours' solo flying to qualify for his " B " licence. There was somewhat of a pause while financial resources were investigated. Everything saleable which he possessed—including his car—was realized and, with some monetary aid from his parents, he went to see Duncan Davis, of Brooklands Aviation. Duncan, always an enthusiast himself, and recognizing a kindred spirit,gave young Midgley very generous terms for the complete hundred hours, making possible that which had appeared impossible but a short while previously.
After having put in the required time in the air, he went through the necessary " B " licence flying tests. These were carried out by No. 24 (Communications) Squadron at Northolt. Two cross-country flights had to be completed,the examinee being given a three-legged route and a met. report. He did his own navigation and was accompanied by an official observer, who was not allowed to help in any way. On the second cross-country the observer was liable to pull back the throttle at any moment to simulate engine failure, and the examinee had to bring off a forced landing. Midgley had two of these to do. The only other flying test required was a solo night flight from Croydon to Lympne. This, usually, and certainly in the case of Midgley, was the pilot's first attempt at night flying. Whilst doing it there were some celebrated navigational errors made by people who later became famous pilots.
Armed with his " B " licence he took a job with Bill Ledlie and, in July, 1932, did the first of many charter jobs by taking two passengers from Heston to Le Touquet in a Puss Moth. Headquarters were at Brooklands, and occasionally it was his job to fly Puss Moth G-ABNZ, which belonged to a Cambridge undergraduate, up to Cambridge to bring down its owner, Whitney Straight, for the motor racing then held on the track. Leaving Ledlie after a while, he cast his lot with Maddox Airways, a charter company with a '' press'' connection, and a certain amount of aviation insurance assessing. In addition to specializing on flying for the press, the racing fraternity were also catered for, and owners and jockeys were frequently taken to meetings by landing on gallops or in fields adjacent to the racecourses. Maddox Airways ceased operation in 1934, and Midge joined Olley.

At the outbreak of war all internal lines were nationalized and became National Air Communications. Midgley, still with Olley Air Services, was directed as personal pilot of A. Cdre. F. P. Don, who was then in command of No.2 British Air Mission (Intelligence for the Air Striking Force) in France. The winter of 1939-40 was just about as bad as this last one, and at times flying conditions were awful.On one occasion A. Cdre. Don wanted to get back to London for a vital staff meeting, and conditions deteriorated badly as the Rapide crossed the Channel. Visibility went down to less than 500 yards in continuous snow, and severe icing occurred. Approaching London with the intention of getting into Northolt if possible, two attempts at getting through the Dorking Gap were unsuccessful,but the third try was more fortunate. With visibility now in the region of only 300 yards or so, and no radio on board, it was a question of getting in whenever possible. By chance Midge recognized a well known landmark on the Portsmouth road—tie White Lion at Cobham—and his familiarity with Brooklands, which is just around the corner so to speak, enabled him to land there. George Bulman, who then had his office at Brooklands, saw this arrival under such appalling conditions, and said to Midge later, '' If ever you want to change your job, let me know."

At the end of 1940 he decided he did want to change his job and joined Hawker's team of test pilots at Brooklands. This was at the time when they were producing the Hurricane I’s at a panic rate. Two of Midge's colleagues at the time were Ken Seth Smith, who was later killed whilst testing a Typhoon, and J. C. V. K. (Watty) Watson, who went to the Fleet Air Arm and lost his life while flying a blind-flying instructor. Test pilots of the Hawker group of companies operated to some extent as a pool, and when Eric Greenwood was posted from Armstrong Whitworths to Air Service Training,Midgley was sent up to take his place at Coventry as second test pilot to Charles Turner-Hughes. This was in October, 1941, when Whitley IVs and Vs were still being produced. Later, of course, the factory turned on to Mk. I I Lancasters and Lincolns. In addition to the ordinary test-flying, however, there was also a considerable amount of work to be done for the Armstrong Siddeley aircraft engine side, and for a long while the pilots were busy doing development flying for Hobsons on automatic boost controls on American aircraft, such as the Airacobra, Martlet, Mustang and Lightning.
Another flying job was the testing of the special long-travel undercarriage built to the ideas of John Lloyd, the chief designer of Armstrong Whitworth. Designed for tricycle operation, it was fitted to an A.W. Albemarle, and the extra long travel, backwards and upwards, enabled the aircraft to be flown straight on to—almost straight into—the ground safely. A "semi" edition of this undercarriage was embodied in the AW.52. When Turner-Hughes retired in 1946, Midgley took over from him, with S/L. Franklin, who had joined the company to do all experimental flying.

Midgley had his share of "experiences." On one occasion when diving a Whitley to its limiting speed (240 m.p.h.) and testing, ailerons, the connecting link between the rod and chain in the aileron circuit parted, and the starboard aileron jammed hard up. By reducing speed, and by the judicious use of rudder, elevator and engines, he did a wide circuit which really amounted to crazy flying, and managed to land the Whitley in one piece. It was found that a flaw existed in a batch of links. It is possible that a number of lives might have been lost over Germany at night had this particular link not been tested to destruction. On another occasion as he was bringing a Lane. II from Sywell to Baginton for finishing—a distance of 30 miles, he had trouble with the electrically operated airscrews. Three had to be feathered and he just sneaked in on the fourth which looked like following suit at any moment.

Midgley had 7,500 flying hours to his credit on 64 different types, mostly twins and four-engined aircraft. Of military types tested during the war he passed out 350 Hurricanes, over 600 Whitleys, 120 Mk. II Lancasters, and another 160 other Lancasters and Lincolns. In 1947 he retired , to be succeeded as CTP by Eric Franklin, and he then became Airport Manager of Baginton.


Leonard Turnell Carruthers A.F.R.Ae.s. 1899-1973


Percival Chief Test Pilot Leonard Turnell Carruthers had a varied flying career,having been a service pilot, instructor, barnstormer and test pilot.
At the end of 1917, at the age of 17, he left the O.T.C. of Notts University and joined the Royal Flying Corps as an aircrew cadet. After a short period of initial training in Service matters in England, he was posted to Egypt for flying training. Maurice Farman Longhorns and D.H.Gs (known as the Clutching Hand) were the ab initio types in use out there.
Between the 4th and the 9th of May, 1918, he clocked his first 2 hr 55 min dual flying. On the last flight of this period his instructor stood up in the cockpit of the D.H.6 just to give the pupil confidence. Immediately on landing he was sent off solo. He stayed up nearly 50 minutes and in his excitement and false confidence essayed a mild shoot up. After getting the aircraft back on the deck in one piece, he was refuelled and sent off again with instructions to make a fool of himself a little farther from the airfield. He did, and, completely losing himself,finished up with a forced landing between graves in a cholera camp near Kantara.

After qualifying, Carruthers did a little ferrying of R.E.Ss, B.Es, Camels and Pups before being posted for operational duties on the Western Front. His arrival in France, however, coincided with the declaration of the armistice, and he was sent home to the Coventry Acceptance Park to test-fly D.H.IOAS. It was whilst he was there that his flying career nearly came to a very abrupt end. Whilst taking off in a Mono Avro 504 one day, his engine stopped and he spun straight into the White and Poppe motor works, crashing between a workshop and the women's canteen. How he survived such a crash is a mystery, but it left him with a 10 days' mental blank.
Evidence at the subsequent enquiry indicated that he had tried to turn back to the airfield. On recovery he was invalided out of the Service as unlikely to fly again. This would have satisfied most people's desire for flying, but Carruthers, although studying engineering, contrived to do a little unofficial flying until 1926, when he went back into the R.A.F. with a short-service commission.
Having re-qualified, he spent the next five years with No. 9 (Night Bomber) Squadron at Manston and Boscombe Down, flying Vickers Virginia VIIIs. His short-service commission expired in 1931 and, although he was recommended for a Permanent commission, it was refused by the Air Ministry on account of age, and a medium-service commission. offered in its place. This resulted in his being posted for a while to No. 24 (Communications) Squadron and placed on the list of pilots qualified to fly members of the Royal Family, Cabinet Ministers and other V.I.P.s who, in those days, faced the rigours of flying fn open cockpits. For a change Carruthers next applied for an overseas posting and went to No. 55 Squadron as B Flight commander at Hinaidi, near Baghdad. Flying Westland Wapitis, the squadron did a few '' ops '' against the Sheik Ahmed of Bazan in Kurdistan.
Back in England again in 1932 he spent most of his service as an instructor at No. 5 F.T.S. at Sealand, until he ended his second tour of duty with the R.A.F. His Service-flying record entitled him to take out a B licence and, for the next year or so, he did a certain amount of charter work, including a couple of trips to North Africa and back. Those were quite some journeys even in 1935, and from these long trips he went to the opposite extreme by joining the joyriding division of Cobham's air circus, where more hours were spent taking-off and landing than actually in the air. Finding this life a trifle too hectic—the circus moved camp two or three times each week—Carruthers then accepted an invitation to join the Reid and Sigrist Reserve School at Desford as C.F.I, under George Lowdell.
The first vear of the war found him at the Bristol Electrical and Wireless School at Yatesbury, driving Rapides, and Cyril Uwins of Bristols asked him to join his team of test pilots at Filton. The Air Ministry, however, did not see eye to eye with Uwins over this arrangement, and by August, 1940, he found himself instead at No. 24 E.F.T.S. at Luton. After just four more months' instructing, he became Chief Test Pilot of Percival Aircraft. In the following six years he had either test-flown or supervised the test-flying of 1,440 Airspeed Oxfords, 195 Mk.XV Mosquitoes, 55 Mk. XXXIV P.R. Mosquitoes, 600 Conversion Proctors Mks. I, II and III, and 300 Proctors, Q.6s and Harvards.In addition to these, there was the prototype and
development flying to do on the Proctor IV, Prentice and Meganser. He made a market survey tour of the Middle East, and the next prototype he flew was the Merganser.
In all, Carruthers had over 8,000 flying hours to his credit on over sixty types He held the G.A.P.A.N. Master Instructor's certificate, and was a member of the Court of the Guild. He was also a Fellow of the Interplanetary Society.

Charles K 'T-H' Turner-Hughes 1908-1973




Charles Turner-Hughes
AW-52G
Albemarle prototype
Whitley prototype


Known throughout the aircraft industry as "T-H," Charles Turner-Hughes had a very varied career.
Charles K Turner-Hughes was educated at Pangbourne Naval College taking a short-service commission in the R.A.F., he learnt to fly at No. 5 Flying Training School on Avro 504 KS and Sopwith Snipes. The Snipe was the last aircraft to go into service with a rotary engine. On qualifying for his wings, he was posted to the famous No. 56 Squadron,here he flew Gloster Grebes and later Siskin.This was his first introduction to the Siddeley Group aircraft, and the Siskin was the earliest all-metal fighter to go into service with the R.A.F. His next move, in 1930 was to No. 24 (Communications) Squadron (which can be considered as the beginnings of Transport Command) where he flew such exciting types as Moths, IIIFs and Wapitis.

When the late Ramsay Macdonald, then Prime Minister, was flown by No. 24 Squadron to visit Hindenburg in Berlin, he wore a seat-type parachute over a Sidcot suit and sat in the open cockpit of a Wapiti. Things are different for V.I.P.s to-day. Turner-Hughes did not pilot the Premier, but flew his personal assistant. In 1931, when his commission came to an end, he came out of the Service and joined Caribbean Airways in Jamaica. This airline company had a Moth, a Fairchild on floats, and a Vickers H-boat. This latter was very like the Walrus, but had an American 400 h.p. Liberty engine which was a remnant left over from the 1914-18 war. After six months of this work he returned to England and joined the Cobham air circus. This travelling air display and joy-riding concern was the biggest of its kind in the world. Charles stayed with it for two seasons. His share of the show was aerobatic and low inverted flying on a Tiger Moth. For six shows a day, Sundays included, he was paid £25 per week. This was later increased to £30.
Having had a sufficiency of barnstorming, Turner-Hughes then turned to more serious flying, becoming No. 2 test pilot to Campbell-Orde at Armstrong Whitworths, and in 1936 became chief test pilot. This post he held for ten years until he gave it up in 1946.
His first prototype was the A.W.Scimitar, a single-seat fighter, and all A.W types from then which were the Whitley,Ensign,Albermarle and 52-G flying wing glider. His flying hours exceeded 6,800 on over 160 different types.

Eric Stanley Greenwood OBE 1909-1979

Eric Greenwood(right) with Hugh Wilson




Eric Greenwood joined the RAF straight from Wantage School and learnt to fly on Lynx engined Avros at No5 FTS in 1928. On completion of flying training he was posted to No3 Sqn at Upavon to fly Hawker Woodcocks and Bristol Bulldogs. In September 1930,he went to CFS to take an instructors course,and after qualifying,spent the rest of his commission as an instructor.

On leaving the service he joined Lord Malcolm Douglas Hamilton in a Scottish joy-riding and charter concern,flying from the Lochs using a Saro Cloud. His next job was as an instructor at the Penang Flying Club,flying Moth Majors. When Charles Kingsford-Smith was lost over the Bay of Bengal, Eric Greenwood spent 74 flying hours searching for him.

Early in 1936,George Bulman whom Greenwood knew from the days when he flew Hawker Woodcocks wrote to him and advised him to return to England. On his return he went to Air Service Training as an instructor until Campbell-Orde left Armstrong-Whitworths and Charles Turner-Hughes asked Eric to join him as No2 Test Pilot. Greenwood was based at Coventry and moved round to Hawkers and Glosters as required.

He flew as 2nd pilot on the maiden flight of the A.W Ensign. In 1941 he was sent as Chief Test pilot to A.S.T. at Hamble,where all the examples of USA fighters were being modified. In 1944 he took over the position of Chief Test Pilot at Glosters on the retirement of Michael Daunt. It was here,while testing Meteors for the World's Record Attempt,that he flew at 500mph and then over 600mph in the recorde breaking aircraft. It was an amzing piece of development flying to raise the speed from 500 to 600mph in a fortnight.

He was awarded the OBE in 1946 and gave up Test Flying a year later. He was sales director for Beagle Aircraft from 1966-1970.