Sunday, February 05, 2006

G/Capt John Cunningham CBE DSO** DFC 1917-2002

Cover produced for the 50th Anniversary of the De Havilland DH108. Cover depicts the first, second and third prototypes along eith the DH110 (sea Vixen) and DH106 (comet) which were developed as a result of research from the DH108. Signed by Group Captain John Cunningham CBE DSO** DFC* AE DLChief Test Pilot DeHavilland Aircraft Company 1946-1977 and Ralph Marcus Hare CEng FRAeSMember of the De Havilland Stress Office from 1935, Chief Structural Engineer HSA/BAe Hatfield 1971-1979.

Cunningham was apprenticed to the DeHavilland Aircraft Company 1935-1938 and started flying under the tutelage of Geoffrey de Havilland. In 1939 Cunningham was called up flying Blenheim aircraft with 604 Squadron. In 1940 they were equipped with Beaufighters and in 1941 he became Wing Commander and Commanding Officer of 604 Squadron. He was awarded the DFC for night fighter action against 3 HE111. He was awarded the DSO after his tenth enemy victory (9 of these were at night). In 1942 he was posted to Training HQ 81 Group and was responsible for night fighter and radar operator training. He was awarded the bar to his DSO after destroying 16 enemy aircraft. 1943 he was appointed Officer Commanding 85 Squadron flying Mosquito night fighters and in 1944 he was promoted to Group Captain directing Night operations at 11 Group HQ Uxbridge. He was awarded his second bar to DSO after 20 enemy aircraft victories.
After the war he returned to DeHavilland for test flying and was appointed Chief test pilot on the death of Geoffrey DeHavilland in 1946.In 1949 he flew prototype DH106 Comet on its first flight 27 July. Between 1945 and 1977 he had test flying experience on DH100 Vampire, DH108, DH112 Venom and was on the first flights of DH110 Sea Vixen all marks of the DH106 Comet, Nimrods and Tridents. He set the World Altitude record in a Vampire in 1948 and various long distance speed records in Comet airlines 1954-1957.
In 1958 he was appointed a Director of DeHavilland Aircraft Company. 1963-1977 he was Executive Director Hawker Siddeley Aviation and 1978-1980 he was Executive Director British Aerospace Hatfield.