Monday, June 23, 2014
Al McDicken was born in Glasgow and joined the RAF in December 1965.In the mid 1960's, early officer training was carried out at South Cerney and it was here that he first flew the venerable Chipmunk.In 1966 he was posted to No. 6 Flying Training School at RAF Acklington.The aircraft flown were Jet Provosts Mks 3 and 4 and by this time he had married, much to the irritation of the training staff!
More interested in developing a social life, he and Ann, his new wife, decided that Cambridge would be more convivial than RAF Valley, so it was to RAF Oakington.
At that stage Al realised it was time that he woke up and did some studying.Until then all exams passes had relied more on the power of prayer than hard graft!On completion he was posted to IX(B) Squadron at Cottesmore, a happy coincidence as the Squadron was headed to Cyprus in early 1969!
In 1970, a Captaincy was offered with 50 Squadron at RAF Waddington and promotion to Flight Lieutenant came with the job.Two children were born and life was very happy; until a ground tour was threatened.
Alarmed at the prospect, swift research revealed that application to the Empire Test Pilot School might just confound things sufficiently that some other poor chap might get the ground tour!It was then that Al became crewed with Andy (Sponge) Marston as the Wing Operations Crew, a happy, carefree few months ensued as the duo waxed lyrical in various bars around the world!
The ploy worked and Al was posted to Maintenance Command in 1974.It was hard work but a challenge and privilege to be there.From having flown only about four types of aircraft, ETPS offered a great opportunity to fly all sorts of machines, including helicopters.At the end of the course a posting to B Squadron, Boscombe Down ensued and Al remained here until 1980, as a test pilot and then as Senior Pilot, gaining promotion to Squadron Leader in 1976.A ground tour finally caught up with him but then British Aerospace offered employment as a test pilot engaged on military and civil projects.
After brief forays into management, but missing flying he went back to flight testing in 1989; becoming Chief Test Pilot in 1993.Al has around 10000 flying hours on some ninety types of aircraft, being a display pilot for over thirty years.The zenith of this last activity being with the Shuttleworth Collection.
Al was involved in the return to flight of Vulcan B2 XH558, which after being in store or under under restoration since 1992, returned to the air on 18 October 2007 flown by Al and Dave Thomas.
He is now self employed as a freelance test and delivery pilot.