Friday, January 09, 2015

Hans Häfliger 1924-

On April 25, 1955, test pilot Hans Häfliger made the first flight of the prototype FFA P-16 serial No J-3001. He also made the first delivery flight of the first Swiss Hunter Mk58, J-4001 on 3rd April 1958.

He was the first Swiss pilot to break the sound barrier and succesfully eject from an aircraft.

William Herbert Baxter Ellis AFC KStJ 1921-2014

Herbert Ellis was the son of a First World War flier, and first flew as a toddler sitting on his mother's knee. He had cadet air-rides while a teenager at Oundle School, Northamptonshire, then trained in medicine at Durham University, applying to join the Royal Navy while doing so.
He was posted to hospitals in Malta, then back to England at Gosport, where the future Rear-Admiral Ian Robertson  gave him four hours' unofficial tuition in a Tiger Moth before letting him go solo. He gained his wings in 1948, the same year he qualified as a doctor.

Ellis's speciality as a naval doctor with the Fleet Air Arm in the early 1950s was G-forces, a vital area of research for fliers of the new generation of jet planes, and he possessed unrivalled experience of what harsh thrusts of acceleration can do to the human frame. He had often used himself as a guinea pig, coming close to unconsciousness in airborne trials with a modified Spitfire at the RAF's institute of aviation medicine at Farnborough in Hampshire.
Ellis, driven by fascination to disregard danger, was, as Naval Medical Liaison Officer at Farnborough, doing urgent work to determine how much strain pilots' bodies could take with the new device for take-offs from Britain's five aircraft carriers: the steam catapult.
Pilots supposed the catapult's power would flatten their eyeballs, disabling them just as they got airborne. Ellis tested the probable forces by being shot by rocket in a trolley along a makeshift railway track at Farnborough. The idea sprang from track-runs at more than 600mph, with sudden stops, that were performed by Colonel John Stapp in the United States in the early 1950s to test deceleration. Stapp's eyes bled; for Ellis, the bodily punishment of speed broke his neck – for the rest of his life he endured the effects of a compression fracture. He was nevertheless able to reassure the Royal Navy that the catapult would not blind or disorientate.
Ellis worked on and tested pressure suits and helmets for use with ejector seats, endured "the bends" (nitrogen bubbles in the body) while flying in unpressurised cockpits, flew so low and fast the buffeting burst his aircraft's rivets out, and explored high-altitude physiology in the then-new Canberra jet bomber.
Naval squadrons still used propeller aircraft such as the Firefly, but Ellis introduced senior officers to Farnborough's experimental Canberra. That coup, together with his ability to fill a gap when a squadron was one pilot short, and land one of the Fireflys on the deck of HMS Theseus off Plymouth, charmed his Navy bosses into letting him stay longer at Farnborough to do more research.
Ellis studied the way pilots in fast jets used their eyes, and concluded that they were so busy that audio, rather than visual, signals were best for communicating height and speed as they came in to land. The type of bleeps he developed for naval airmen have since become universal as car-parking sensors.
His work brought him a PhD, the Gilbert Blane Medal for advances in naval medical science, and the almost unheard-of award for a non-RAF man of the Air Force Cross.
But the sun was already setting on what Ellis later described as a "carefree period in the development of British aviation". The year 1954 brought two epoch-ending crashes, from metal fatigue, of the Comet –Britain's, and the world's, first civilian jet passenger aircraft.
Ellis had also begun to notice how American research was pulling ahead of Britain's and focusing on space exploration. Finding himself sent on a US tour as part of a team assessing Cold War defence measures, he accepted an invitation to spend two years "on loan" to the US Navy. He arrived just as the Suez debacle of November 1956 sent a chill through US-UK relations, and spent his first weeks barred from most tasks beyond talking to some chimpanzees kept at the base he was sent to, Johnsville near Philadelphia.
The chimps were used for early space trials with a centrifuge, and as soon as affairs thawed he proposed some human spins on the machine, pioneering them himself. The trials would pop out his tooth-fillings and leave him with permanent balance problems.

Ellis left the Royal Navy in 1959 and had a spell in the motor industry before becoming director general from 1971-73 of the children's charity Barnardos. He was also an industrial medical consultant and served as a government health adviser for 20 years from 1972.

W/Cdr Stan Hubbard DFC AFC* 1921-2014

Stanley John Hubbard was born in York on March 25 1921 and attended Manor School in the city. He joined the RAF in October 1941, training as a pilot in the United States. After returning to Britain he joined No 78 Squadron, flying the four-engine Halifax. His arrival on the squadron in October 1944 coincided with Bomber Command’s “Final Offensive”, when oil targets and railway centres were a priority. By the end of 1944 it was possible for some of these to be attacked in daylight. During the final phase of the campaign, Hubbard and his colleagues continued to attack oil targets in addition to selected cities in support of the Allied advances on both the western and eastern fronts. Having completed 30 operations, he was rested and awarded a DFC.
After the war Hubbard flew transport aircraft in the Middle East, where he was personal pilot to the Commander-in-Chief. Then, in January 1948, he started the one-year course at the ETPS. This was followed by three years at Farnborough testing and evaluating the RAF’s fighters, including the various marks of Meteor and Vampire jets.
In August 1950 Hubbard was walking across the airfield when he heard a humming, hissing sound. He reported: “I turned round and saw a strange object approaching. It looked like an edge-on view of a sports discus.” A month later he was with five other officers when they had a similar sighting, and the MoD’s chief scientific officer, Sir Henry Tizard, established a Flying Saucer Working Party to investigate.
Despite the calibre of the RAF witnesses, the working party summarily dismissed Hubbard’s sighting as an “optical illusion”. It also concluded that the five additional witnesses “saw some quite normal aircraft at extreme range and were led by the previous report to believe it to be something abnormal”. The report was classified as secret and did not come to light until 2001. When advised of the working party’s conclusion, Hubbard responded: “Absolute rubbish. My engineering experience convinced me it was not of this earth.”
Hubbard’s next appointment, in 1952, was flying Meteor day fighters with No 92 Squadron, based in Yorkshire, initially as the flight commander and then as squadron commander. He then progressed to the Day Fighter Development Squadron at West Raynham, where he and his fellow pilots developed tactics and assessed the new generation of fighters, including the Hunter and the Swift.
After his tour at Aero Flight, Hubbard attended the Indian Air Force Staff College before spending two years on an exchange appointment with the USAF. He served as Deputy Director of Fighter Operations at HQ Tactical Air Command, where his two years culminated in planning operations during the Cuban missile crisis.
In November 1962 he returned to ETPS as the chief test pilot instructor, an appointment that gave him the opportunity to fly many different British, American and European aircraft. In 1965 he decided to take early retirement. He was awarded an AFC in 1948 and a Bar in 1952.
In September 1965 he and his family left for California, where he worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft as director of special projects. In 1973 he moved to Virginia, where he established his own defence technology company .