Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ranald Logan Porteous 1916-1998


Born in 1916 in Edinburgh, Ranald was sent first to West-Hill Park prep-school then on to Canford School. In 1934, Ranald turned down a place at London University to join De-Havilland Technical School where he learned to fly. Studies were interrupted in 1936 when the Anzani motor of a Luton “Buzzard” stopped once too often and deposited Ranald into a tree with a fractured spine amongst other painful disabilities. Also at De-Havilland he met Reggie Ward and Andrew Dalrymple which led to Ranald's subsequent involvment with Chilton Aircraft - test flying the DW1 prototype in 1937. At the end of 1937 Ranald joined the Reserve of Air Force Officers. In 1938 he joined Phillips & Powis which later became Miles Aircraft Ltd., at Reading as a flying instructor and a junior test pilot.

When war broke out Ranald spent 18 months instructing with an EFTS in the UK, followed by a posting to Rhodesia in 1941. Remaining in the Rhodesian Air Training Group until 1945, Ranald finally become President of the Central Examination Board.
Post war, Ranald went charter flying, including flying an Airspeed Consul from the UK to South Africa in 4 days. In 1947 Ranald became CFI and Club Secretary of Derby Aero-Club and flew his own Chilton ('GH) and also the Train engined DW1A ('SV). In 1947 Ranald flew the latter in the Folkstone Trophy and, by flying an extra lap also took the International 100Km Closed Circuit Speed Record - Class A.
1948 Ranald joined Auster Aircraft Ltd as Sales Representative and Chief Test Pilot where his flying exploits are perhaps best known.
In particular before the 1951 Farnborough airshow, Ranald was working on his display routine-"Finding that Farnborough was upon us and not wishing to be accused of serving up the mixture as before, I took up one of our new Aiglet Trainers shortly before lunch at Rearsby, determined to piece together a different and hopefully improved routine. After some thought and practice I proved to my own satisfaction that the Aiglet's quite remarkably crisp characteristics enabled it to flick reliably from inverted to inverted at the top of the loop, and decided to try this out on the dog. Arriving back over Rearsby Airfield I saw my colleagues and the workforce generally streaming towards the canteen for lunch, and entertained them overhead for a few minutes, including a few of my new-found 'Avalanches'. After landing I strolled over to join Frank Bates, my Managing Director, and asked him if he had noticed what I had been doing and whether he thought this strange manoeuvre would look effective at Farnborough. He looked at me quizzically and said: 'Are you trying to tell me that was intentional?'" Later, much to Ranald's surprise, the “Avalanche” became known as the “Porteous loop”.
1951 Continuing the theme of Austers and aerobatics, Ranald won the Crazy Flying Championship during the Indian National Air rally.
1952 On a sales trip to Japan Ranald gave a display at an airfield named Tamagawa. Following this he was asked to lead the procession of light aircraft over the centre of Tokyo in honour of Prince Akihito's coming of Age. The arrangement was that Ranald would break off over the centre of the city and perform some aerobatics – seeing the Imperial Palace Ranald gave a display so that the bottom of the dives and loops were virtually within the space enclosed by the palace walls. All ended well and Ranald was made an honorary member of the Japanese Pilots' Brotherhood.
In 1955 Ranald entered the Lockheed Aerobatic Competition where he was placed 4th whilst flying an Auster J5L Aiglet. This was remarkable, not for the placing per se, but in that it was achieved in a standard Aiglet which was pitted against much more sophisticated aerobatic aircraft.

Auster and Miles merged to become Beagle in 1961. Ranald left Beagle in 1968 when Beagle “went bust”, and moved up to Scotland to join Scottish Aviation Ltd (SAL) in January 1969. Whilst at SAL, Ranald became Director of Marketing where his wide experience and professionalism was vital in the Bulldog achieving about 100 orders from a number of countries against stiff, usually much cheaper, opposition. Ranald left SAL in 1976, along with a number of other directors, when Scottish Aviation was about to become part of British Aerospace.
Ranald then joined Fairey Britten-Norman in January 1977 eventually retiring in 1981.
As well as his aviation exploits Ranald used to sing, sometimes in peoples' front rooms and on one occasion, broadcast on the B.B.C.'s African programme. He loved poetry and wrote extensively, but very privately, work which a few privileged and knowledgeable readers have held in very high regard. He frequently stopped conversations by smilingly describing himself as 'Scotland's Greatest Living Poet.' Here is an example:-

Warsaw 1944
We shall not raise a statue to each one,
Nor mock his glory with some brazen plaque;
No act of ours can cancel what is done, -
No triumph of our arms can bring them back.
But, when the bats of hate are on the wing
And sombre shadows still the soul of Man,
Beyond the tumult there's a murmuring;
Take heed, - take heart; and hear it if you can.
Theirs was the courage, when they raised their voice,
Articulate for all to short a spell -
Theirs the decision, when they made their choice,
Spoke for the angels in the courts of Hell.
The wheel of history will turn again; -
Their sacrifice shall not have been in vain.
Ranald died on 5th November 1998 in Ayr, Scotland.