Monday, February 27, 2006

Paul Millet OBE DSC FRAeS BSc 1931 -2009





On 14 Aug 1974 - The Prototype Panavia MRCA makes its first flight at Manching, West Germany, piloted by Briton Paul Millet.
Paul Millett was born on March 2 1931 in Swindon. His father was an engineer and Paul was educated at the Commonweal School until he volunteered during National Service for a short service career in the Fleet Air Arm.He learnt to fly at RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire and gained his wings in January 1951. His first operational aircraft was the Fairey Firefly, flying in 821 Naval Air Squadron from the carrier Triumph where an early endorsement in his logbook identified him as a natural aviator.His suffered his first accident when an engine failed and he crashed in an Irish bog: but Millett was already skilled enough to extend the glide to stop by an island so he could climb out without getting his feet wet.

From 1952 he fought in the Korean War. While coming in to land on the light carrier Glory in February 1953 the starboard wing of Millett's Firefly dipped and caught a wire as he cut the power. The aircraft crashed over the side and began to sink. As Millett was buffeted in the ship's wake he struggled to free his passenger, but both were picked up by the planeguard destroyer Comus. Millett went on to clock up, while still a sub-lieutenant, 100 combat sorties and 212 deck landings and was awarded the DSC. Returning to Britain, he was appointed to the Central Flying School to become an instructor, where he also flew his first jet, the Gloster Meteor.He taught flying in the Sea Fury, the Firefly and the Vampire jet and examined in instrument flying until in 1958 he was sent to ETPS.

In the two years after graduating from the Empire Test Pilots' School (ETPS) in 1958, Millett flew 44 types of aircraft including the twin-engine, stainless-steel Bristol T188 research plane. Millett was one of only three men to fly the T188, which was intended to investigate the effects of heat at supersonic speeds.The aircraft was not a success, however, as its engines kept stalling after it had broken the sound barrier. Indeed, after his second flight in the T188, Millett entered the officers' mess sporting a new 1000mph club tie and a silver "C" gliding badge, remarking that he had just flown the only aircraft in which he could qualify for both in the same sortie.

In the 1960s Millett tested the Blackburn Buccaneer low-level bomber. The official account of his flight on May 13 1965 was that "during level acceleration with flaps down, [the aircraft] developed progressive increase in nose-down attitude necessitating more and more stick until tailplane stalled. Crew ejected safely." In the cockpit, Millett's description of the same incident – as the aircraft plunged nose-down towards the ground from a low altitude – was considerably briefer and more robust: "Oh ----." He and his observer were lucky to survive and he was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air.

On February 23 1971 Millett flew a pre-production model of the Anglo-French Jaguar from Preston to Istres (a journey of 738 miles) in 85 minutes and in September that year, after intensive test-flying, he flew a French pre-production model from Bordeaux to Warton, Lancashire, to continue engine development trials. His intensive flying enabled the first production Jaguar to roll out in May 1972, only two years after the British decision to order the aircraft. It would see service in the RAF for the next three decades.

In the 1970s, Millett flew the tri-national Multi Role Combat Aircraft, better known as the Tornado, testing the German prototype over West Germany on August 14 1974. Then after taxiing trials at Warton in October that year, and after days of delay for bad weather, Millett took off on October 30 for a 60- minute flight of breathtaking airmanship to show off the new British aircraft to the watching workforce. His display included a short supersonic run, low-level swept-wing passes and a full roll over the aerodrome, together with a touch and go landing and single-engine approach and climb-away. During a high-speed run over the airfield on a test flight in April 1975, Millett suffered a double-engine malfunction; he made a rapid but safe landing.

By July trials were progressing so well that a refuelling probe was fitted and tested by Millett, and soon after the aircraft entered service with the RAF. He was awarded the OBE for his services to aviation. Millett retired as British Aerospace's chief of flight operations to lead its al-Yamamah arms sales to Saudi Arabia. There he showed his leadership and diplomacy by establishing good relations with senior Saudi military personnel and various princes.

Drury W.Wood 1923-




Drury Wood was born in 1923. In 1931,at Atlanta, Drury was taken for a 50 cent ride in a Ford Trimotor by his father, after that, knew instantly what he wanted to do. In 1942 he made his first solo flight in a Piper and graduated to Hellcat and Corsair fighter with the US Marines during World War II from the aircraft carrier Bennington.In the Korean War, Drury fought in the air and on the ground, standing with the 'Chosin Few' in the winter battle at Chosin Reservoir in 1950 where 20,ooo UN troops clashed with 19 times that many Chinese troops.


As a Test Pilot instructor at the US Navy Test Pilot School, Wood had John Glenn for a student. He made the maiden flight of the Douglas A-4B on 26th March 1956.


One of the highlights of Drury's illustrious career, was his involvement with and the maiden flight of the Dornier DO-31 VTOL Transport aircraft. He flew the majority of flights with this aircraft, and set 5 World Records on a flight from Munich to the Paris Airshow in 1969.


In a half century in the air,Drury has flown more than 115 different types of aircraft, and has received many honours including the Kinchloe Award and the Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany for the DO-31 program.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Roland 'Roly' John Falk OBE AFC* 1915-1985





Before WWII, Roly Falk was a test and charter pilot. He flew for the press during the Abyssian War 1935-1936 and the Spanish Civil War, where he ferried newspapermen from one battle district to another and must have been one of the few men to carry a passport stampedwith visas from both sides!.His envoy carried neutral markings and apart from one occasion, he steerred clear of trouble. Between 1936-37 Falk flew a newspaper service between london and Paris and another between London and Scotland, before concentrating on full time test flying and becoming and Air Registration Board Test Pilot in 1938.

During 1939-45 he served with the RAF and in 1943 became Chief Test Pilot at RAE Farnborough. He did over 2000 hours flying 300 different aircrfat types of aircrcraft which ranged from gliders and flying boats to jet and rocket propelled prototypes including captured German aircraft.

In 1946 he was Chief experimental Test Pilot for Vickers Armstrong and in 1949, while working on research that was to lead to the Viscount turbo-prop liner, he had a very unfortunate accident when flying a Wellington,finishing up ploughing through a house.

In 1950, Falk became the Chief Test Pilot with A.V. Roe when he subsequently took over the delta development flying. The first flying model, the 707 had been lost in an accident during an early flight but Falk started work on the 707A and B. The maiden flight of the Avro 707B was in 1950 and the 707A in 1951. On August 30th 1952, Falk took the full size 698 up on its maiden flight, the aircraft needed only very few minor modifications before it went into production for the RAF as the Vulcan bomber. The first flight of the Vulcan B1 was in 1952 and the Vulcan B2 in 1957.



Joseph Harold 'Jimmy' Orrell OBE 1903-1988

Jimmy Orrell (white overalls) with flight test crew after maiden flight of prototype Shackleton



"Jimmy" Orrell had over 30 years active flying, 14 of which have been with Avro. Prototypes he has flown in his career include the Lancastrian, Tudor 8, Athena Mks. 1 and 2, Ashton, the
Avro Canada Jetliner, and Shackleton Mks. 1 and 2. He was also concerned with the flight testing of the Vulcan. Born in Liverpool, Jimmy Orrell took a flying course and served with No. 25 (Fighter) Squadron as a flying instructor until 1931. He was then employed in charter flying from that time until 1933, when he started airline and air ambulance services to the Western Isles. He became a test pilot with Avro in 1942.

Alexander Ewen 'Ben' Gunn 1923-1999





Alexander Ewen 'Ben' Gunn was born on 24th June 1923 and educted in Whitehill in Glasgow. Fom 1942 to 1942 he attended the RAF Staff College at Cranwell and thn went to 501 Sqn flying Spitfires. From 501 Sqn, 'Ben' went on to 1 Group and No 274 Sqn flying Tempest 5's.

On VE Day in 1945, 'Ben' Gunn took up a position tets flying at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at the RAE Farnborough where he graduated as a Test Pilot. Having completed the ETPS Course at Farnborough, he then moved on to become Chief Test Pilot for Boulton Pail Aircraft and Armament Ltd, a position which he held for 17 years.

Whilst with Boulton Paul, 'Ben' was involved in the Test Flying and maiden f;lights of many aircraft types, two of which were the little delta aircraft the P111A and P120 (which are depicted on the above cover). 'Ben' became the first pilot to eject (and inverted) from a delta aircraft, when the P120 lost the port elevon in flight.

In 1957 he flew the 'Tay' Viscount Flying Test Bed, whereby he was the first to fly by wire on all three surfaces.

In 1971, A.E. 'Ben' Gunn retired from test flying having flown 175 different types of aircraft, from single engine to 4 engined aircraft.

Geoffrey Arthur Virley Tyson OBE 1907 -1987




Saro Skeeter, signed by Geoffrey Tyson
Saunders Roe SRA/1
Saunders Roe Princess Flying boat, flown by Geoffrey Tyson






Geoffrey Tyson was born at Purley on 4th February 1907, and was educated at Whitgift school,Croydon. On leaving school, he was articled to an estate agent in Croydon until he joined the Royal Air Force in 1925 with a short service commision. In 1931, on the expiry of his commission, he joined the Maidstone Aero Club in the same capacity.





During 1933-35 Tyson flew as an aerobatic pilot with Sir Alan Cobham's Air displays. He became a Test Pilot for A.V. Roe and Co Ltd from 1934-37. From 1937-40 he was an Experimental Pilot with Fligh Refuelling Ltd, then joining Short Brothers as a test pilot. As assistant test pilot to John Lankester Parker,Chief Test Pilot to Shorts, he tested production Sunderland flying boats and Stirling bombers. He often flew the half scale model of the Stirling.





He made the first test flight, with Lankester Parker, of the Short Shetland flying boat, and when Parker retired from active test flying, Tyson was appointed Chief Test Pilot in his place.





In 1946 he moved to Saunders-Roe in the same capacity. In 1947 he made the prototype test of the Saro A1 Jet flying boat and was responsible for much of the test flying on this aircraft. On 2nd Augut 1952 he made the maiden flight of the gigantic Saunders-Roe Princess flying boat.





Geoffrey Tyson left Saunders-Roe in 1956 and after a spell with Dunlop's Aviation Division, he retired in 1958.

Leo J.Sullivan 1919-1995




Leo Sullivan was one of America's most experienced engineering test pilots, having flown more than 25 types of aircraft for the United States Navy and Lockheed in a career spanning more than 40 years. He is best known for being the Captain on the first flights of the C-130 Hercules, XV-4A Hummingbird VTOL Experimental aircraft) ,C-141 Starlifter,C-5A Galaxy and various derivitaives of the L329 Jeststar.

Sullivan served for 14 years as Chief Engineering Test Pilot at the Lockheed Georgia Company and in 1968 was promoted to Assistant Chief Development Engineer Prior to joining Lockhhed-Georgia in 1952, Sullivan had been a production Test Pilot with the Lockheed-California Company, conducting flight tests of the PZV Neptune, Constelation C-97 and T-33 aircraft.

A native of cloverdale,Iowa, he was a graduate of Pomona,California. He had been devoted to flying since early youth when he began with drawings and models of aircraft. He got sidetracked temporarily by a love for cars, even building one that would do 108mph. Sullivan paid his way through college by working as a carpenter.

Richard G 'Dick' Thomas 1930-2006




Richard "Dick" Thomas, chief project pilot, flew the first flight of the Tacit Blue demonstrator aircraft and the first flight of the F-5F Freedom Fighter. His hazardous high angle of attack test flights in the F-5 established procedures now followed by fighter pilots around the world.
As a Northrop Grumman test pilot, Thomas led the flight testing of Tacit Blue. According to the U.S. Air Force, Tacit Blue was one of the most successful high tech demonstrator programs ever conducted and it had a direct influence on the design of the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Thomas was a test pilot for the T-38 and the F-5, as well as for the highly experimental laminar flow control X-21. He also spent time in Madrid, Spain, helping the Spanish Air Force flight test the CASA 101 trainer aircraft.
Thomas earned his Air Force pilot wings in an open cockpit Stearman in 1952. He flew F-80C, T-33, F-86, F-100D for six years before leaving the military for a flight test career with Beech Aircraft and later Boeing. He tested the ERB-47 and B-52 for Boeing and in 1962, Boeing sent him to U.S. Navy Test Pilot School. He joined Northrop Aircraft in 1963 and retired from that company in 2000.
A Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and recipient of their Iven C. Kincheloe Award, Thomas was named an Eagle by the Flight Test Historical Foundation in 2004. He has logged 8,000 hours flying more than 116 different aircraft.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Peter P Baker AFC 1925-

The triumphant flight crew pose at the bottom of the steps of Concorde 001 after her first landing at Filton, on the 10th August 1972. A historic day for Filton's history. Stood at the bottom of the steps; Deputy Chief Test Pilot John Cochcrane bottom left, John Allen, Chief Flight Test Observer in the middle, and Peter Baker right, Test Pilot. Back row left, Mike Addley, Flight Test Observer, Terry Mason, Dennis Ackary, Flight engineer (Third crew member).

Peter Baker joined the RAF in 1943, flying Sunderlands between 1946-1949 with No 201,209 and 239 Sqn's. He attended the CFS course then FTS. He took No12 Course ETPS in 1953 and served with A and AEE Boscombe Down between 1954-1956. He was a tutor at ETPS between 1957-1959. He voluntarily retired at the rank of Squadron Leader from the RAF in 1959 to join Handley Page as a Test Pilot.

He was a Test Pilot with Handley Page Ltd then with British Aircraft Corporation (becoming British Aerospace) for 19 years. He has been involved with VC 10, BAC 1-11, Concorde. Peter left British Aerospace to become a Test Pilot with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) becoming their Chief Test Pilot. He practised for two years as freelance airline pilot,becoming and Aviation consultantin 1989.

Among his honours are the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the air, R.P. Alston Medal, Liveryman and Upper Freeman of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators

LtCol John "Jack" E. Allavie 1922-2006



Lieutenant Colonel John "Jack" E. Allavie was the project pilot for "Hurry - Hurry" which was designed to determine take off procedures and problems associated with "in-line" and formation take offs at maximum weights. He was the B-52 launch pilot for the first flights of the X-15 rocket plane.
The results from project "Hurry – Hurry" were crucial to national security because the U.S. government and the Air Force knew that, in the event of a nuclear attack, a response would have to be launched within ten minutes.
After graduating in 1955 from the Empire Test Pilot School in Farnborough, England, he moved to Edwards Air Force Base Flight Test Operations. In 1958, he was one of only two pilots assigned to the B-52/X-15 flight test program, completing 60 flights by 1962. Later, he flew the B-58 for escape capsule system tests. These tests were conducted from 70 knots on the runway to Mach 2 at 46,000 feet.
Allavie was the only military pilot on the United States Supersonic Transport (SST) source selection team in 1964, followed by a role as a member of the USAF Aerospace Plane Evaluation Team.
In 1966 he retired from the Air Force and joined Flight Test Operations at Douglas Aircraft Company as an experimental test pilot, initially assigned to military test programs followed by flight testing of the DC-8, DC-9, MD-80 and DC-10/KC-10. Allavie is a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He has logged 18,000 hours flying more than 120 different aircraft.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

John H. "Hank" Meierdierck 1921-2006




John Henry "Hank" Meierdierck was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1921. His parents spent 11 years in the area. At age eleven, Hank's family moved to Chestertown in upstate New York. Hank rode a bus to school nine miles away.
Tragedy struck when he was 12 when the house caught on fire. He, his father and 3 brothers escaped out the second story window into the snow. The family moved back to Newark. Hank worked delivering papers and in several grocery stores during his high school years. He never had a chance to attend college until much later. At age 42 he received a degree from the University of Maryland.
Hank worked in a shipyard as an accountant and as a mail runner to New York. With the outbreak of World War II, Hank signed up for cadets and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant "fighter pilot" in July 1943. He was assigned to various bases flying P-39, P-40, P-47, etc. and went to France in 1944 where he flew a F-6d and a camera-mounted P-51D. He flew 13 tactical reconnaissance missions over Germany during WWII.
Returning to the United States, in 1945 Hank flew his first jet, a P-80 in the 4th Fighter Group at Andrews Field. Assigned to Panama, he flew reconnaissance missions in a RF-80. Caught up in the post WWII RIF, he enlisted as a Master Sergeant and transferred to March AFB in California. Three months later he was recalled as a First Lieutenant for pilot duty.
Hank spent several years in the 31st and 508th fighter wings in Albany, Georgia. A period after he was one of the pioneers in air to air refueling using the Probe and Droque system in a T-33 and F-80 tiptanks and later with the F-84 . He performed mission planning and flew the F-84G over the North Atlantic, Central Atlantic, and the Pacific oceans. From duties as Air Force program manager for celestial navigation for fighters, in June 1954 he received orders to report to March AFB where he commenced his U-2 experience at Area 51.
At the Area, as a experimental test pilot ,Hanks duties were to integrate in the U-2 test phase with the LAC Test pilots,determine the tactical use of the aircraft, including navigation,cameras,targets,mission,pilot survival and train the three detachments of pilots for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Upon completion of this assignment, Hank spent some time in the UK and ended up serving as Director of Operation for the 414th Fighter Group flying F-101B interceptors at Oxnard AFB, California. Three years later he was visiting the Pentagon and found he was being considered for another "black" assignment. The assignment turned out to be with the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters as Director of Operations for the OXCART program [Yf12A and A12 airplanes] at Area 51. Hank flew the YF-12A once while at the Area. When the OXCART program ended, he remained with the OSA for another program assignment as Program manager and unit commander of the 4027th Squadron at Area 51. He and Millie moved to Las Vegas.
Hank's second tour at the Area was as Commander and program Director for Project Aquiline (early forerunner of the Predator). At Hank's suggestion, this program was aborted. Hank retired in Las Vegas and spent many years fishing and trailering to Canada, Mexico, and wherever the Bass or game fish were plentiful.

MGen Wilbert D. "Doug" Pearson, USAF




Major General Wilbert D. "Aggie" Pearson, Jr. commanded the F-15 Anti-Satellite Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base. On September 13, 1985, flying an F-15, The Celestial Eagle, he launched the first and only ASAT missile to intercept and destroy an orbiting satellite, a feat that earned him recognition as the world’s first "space ace".
Flying F-4s from August 1972 to August 1973, he logged 364 flight hours during 137 combat missions over Vietnam. In 1978 he was assigned to Nellis Air Force Base as an F-15 operational test pilot. Graduating with U. S. Air Force Test Pilot School Class 82A, he served as an F-4, F-5, T-38, F-15 and F-20 test pilot until 1989. He returned in 2001 as the Commander, Air Force Flight Test Center, where he was later credited with restoring the credibility of the F/A-22 development program and delivering the aircraft successfully into operational test and evaluation. He was the first general officer to fly the F/A-22.
Among many other decorations, General Pearson was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. He received the Air Force Systems Command Primus Award, the 2004 San Fernando Engineer’s Council Chuck Yeager Award for lifetime achievement, and a 2004 Laurel from Aviation Week & Space Technology. He is an Associate Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and has flown over 4,500 flying hours in more than 50 military aircraft.