Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gabe Robb (Jock) Bryce OBE 1921 -2014

Crew of the 1st VC-10 flight, Bill Cairns,Jock Bryce and Brian Trubshaw
Roll out of the prototype BAC 1-11
Maiden flight of the Vickers VC-10, G-ARTA
Maiden flight of the Tay powered Viscount
Maiden flight of the Vickers Viscount
Nene powered Vickers Viking, the first Commercial Jet Aircraft

Gabe Bryce was born in 1921 in Glasgow and joined the RAF as a Direct Entry Sergeant  in 1939 and trained to fly at Prestwick. In 1940 he was posted to Special Duty Flight 10 Group flying Blenheims from Leuchars, Wick and Christchurch. In 1942 he was posted to 172 Chivenor flying Wellingtons hunting U-boats over the Atlantic.
He was then commissioned and posted to 45 Group on the North Atlantic Ferry Force. In 1945 he was posted to the Douglas Conversion unit and then went with 232 Squadron for duty in South East Asia Command to initiate long-range transport capability for Tiger Force. In 1946 he returned to the UK and was posted to the King's Flight RAF Benson flying the Viking. Later that year he was demobilised from the RAF.

In 1947 he joined Vickers Armstrong Aircraft at Brooklands and Wisley as a test pilot under Mutt Summers and became Chief Test Pilot upon the retirement of Summers. During his flying career with Vickers, Jock was either Captain or Co-pilot for the first flight of eleven prototypes, the Varsity, the jet powered Nene Viking, the Viscounts 630, 700 and 800, the jet powered Tay Viscount, the Valiant, Pathfinder Valiant B2, Vanguard, VC10 and BAC One-Eleven.
The prototype Valiant was lost as a result of a severe fuel fire in the wing trailing edge and the crew had to bail out. The three observers in the rear did not have ejection seats and struggled to leave the aircraft, however all survived. Jock's co-pilot, from the RAF, ejected first, however he struck the fin and was killed. Jock did eject successfully and Martin Baker record this event as only their eleventh successful ejection. Jock's experience was used by Sir James Martin to improve the performance of subsequent seats.
It is now (July 2012) 50 years since Jock flew the prototype VC10 out of the very short (4000ft) runway at Brooklands over to the BAC test airfield at Wisley.
When Jock retired from flying in 1965 he was appointed Sales Director (Operations) at Weybridge and then he completed his career until retirement in 1975 as the Vice President (Corporate Aircraft Sales) at the Washington DC office of British Aircraft Corporation. During this period the BAC One-Eleven was adopted as a corporate transport by several large US Corporations, such as Tenneco and Ford Motor Company.