Ronald 'Ron' E. Clear 1917-2004
IN A 40-YEAR career as a test pilot, which began before the Second World War and lasted to the late 1970s, Ron Clear conducted test and development flying on a vast number of aircraft ranging in sophistication from the Horsa glider, which played such an important role in the D-Day landings, to the twin-jet Sea Vixen naval all-weather fighter of the 1950s and 1960s.
He had started his life with Airspeed, and he tested numerous examples of that maid-of-all-work, the
Ron Clear was born in Purbrook, Hampshire, in 1917, and educated at Oliver’s School,
In spite of his youth his abilities were noticed by Airspeed’s general manager, Alfred Townsley. In January 1938 he was appointed the company’s liaison engineer with the RAF which, with war approaching, was about to become a huge customer for the “Ox-box”, as this unassuming but incredibly versatile trainer became known in the service.
Clear accompanied the first production
When war came in September that year Clear wanted to join the RAF. Townsley needed his services, however, and offered him the job of production chief test pilot on Oxfords. Just 400 Oxfords had been delivered to the RAF by the outbreak of war. Now there was to be a colossal surge in demand for this aircraft, which was produced as a pilot trainer; gunnery and bombing trainer; and radio operator and navigation trainer; as well as serving as a communications aircraft and air ambulance.
As a result Clear stayed at Airspeed for the rest of the war, testing 1,400 of the 4,400 Oxfords which were built at
In 1942 Clear began test flying the massive Horsa troop carrying glider, which first saw service during the invasion of
With civil aviation reasserting its priorities after the war, Clear flight-tested the Airspeed Consul, a civilian modification of the
In the meantime, in 1951 de Havilland had taken over Airspeed, and Clear found himself testing a new generation of that company’s characteristic twin-boom jet fighters: Vampires, Venoms and the swept-wing Sea Vixen which entered service with the Royal Navy in the mid-1950s.
Clear was subsequently involved in test flying and crew training on later versions of the Comet 4. In 1961 he took a Comet 2 to Edwards Air Force Base,
Finally, in the early 1970s, when the Chinese national airline CAAC bought more than 30 Hawker Siddeley Trident airliners (which had started life as a de Havilland design), Clear became a key figure in the training of their crews. He also delivered a number of the aircraft to their destinations. He got on well with Chinese pilots, whom he greatly admired for their expertise, and he always reckoned this as one of the most enjoyable periods of his career. He made his last Trident flight in October 1978, exploring buffet boundaries.
In retirement he continued to fly. In September 1980 he gave his last Mosquito display at Duxford, and in June 1982 he piloted for the last time his cherished Comper Swift, a pre-Second World War vintage light sports aircraft, an example of which he had acquired and raced in the 1940s and 1950s.