John 'Johnny' William Copous Squier 1920-2006
John William Copous Squier was born on
Squier became the senior test pilot at English Electric's secondary airfield at Salmesbury, near Preston. He and his wife had bought a cottage on the edge of the airfield, and on one occasion he was forced to crash-land a Vampire, which ended up in his back garden. From 1950 he was heavily involved in the testing of the RAF's first jet bomber, the Canberra. After the initial flights of the P1 supersonic fighter, later called the Lightning, Squier joined the test pilot team led by Roly Beamont.
He pulled off what The Daily Telegraph described as "one of the most remarkable escapes from an aircraft" when he was forced to eject from his Lightning fighter in 1959. Squier, a senior test pilot with the English Electric Company based at Warton, in
Squier had been flying at more than 1,000 mph when the aircraft suffered structural failure, and he was forced to abandon the Lightning; using the Martin Baker ejector seat, he was the first British pilot to eject at more than the speed of sound. He landed in the sea and scrambled aboard his dinghy to await rescue. But the widespread search, hampered by the bad weather, failed to find him, and as night fell the air search was called off until first light. This also proved fruitless, and it was feared that he had not survived. Squier's dinghy had drifted north and, after 30 hours, it came ashore near Garlieston, Wigtownshire. He was seen stumbling from the craft by the housekeeper of
He was transferred to a hospital in Stranraer suffering from exposure and a compression fracture of the spine; but considering his amazing ordeal, which resulted in a slight deafness and bloodshot eyes, his injuries were not extensive. Inevitably, Squier became the centre of attraction for the RAF's aviation medicine doctors, who were anxious to learn of his experiences. Squier merely remarked: "I am all right except for earache and aching all over."
It took Squier a few months to recover fully, but by the following May he was cleared to fly again and he resumed his post as chief production test pilot.
Squier continued as a test pilot until 1968, when he joined the engineering development team of the British Aircraft Corporation, which had been formed by amalgamating a number of individual aircraft companies, including English Electric. He specialised in cockpit escape systems, an activity that many noted was entirely appropriate.
Following his own escape he had worked closely with James Martin, whose ejector seat had saved his life, and they established a close working relationship that lasted many years. He worked on the design of escape systems for the TSR2, the revolutionary bomber for the RAF that was later cancelled by a Labour government. After working on the very successful Anglo-French Jaguar fighter-bomber, he retired in December 1983.
In 1965 Squier was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air. He was unable to attend the investiture since he had made a commitment to deliver a West German Air Force Canberra to an airfield near Munich. Colleagues noted that the time of the delivery flight coincided with the annual Munich Bierfest.
Squier served for many years as a magistrate with the Preston bench and became a long-serving chairman before retiring when he reached 70. He was an excellent mechanic, and an accomplished handyman and electrician.