Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Leonard Turnell Carruthers A.F.R.Ae.s. 1899-1973

Percival Chief Test Pilot Leonard Turnell Carruthers had a varied flying career,having been a service pilot, instructor, barnstormer and test pilot.
At the end of 1917, at the age of 17, he left the O.T.C. of Notts University and joined the Royal Flying Corps as an aircrew cadet. After a short period of initial training in Service matters in England, he was posted to Egypt for flying training. Maurice Farman Longhorns and D.H.Gs (known as the Clutching Hand) were the ab initio types in use out there.
Between the 4th and the 9th of May, 1918, he clocked his first 2 hr 55 min dual flying. On the last flight of this period his instructor stood up in the cockpit of the D.H.6 just to give the pupil confidence. Immediately on landing he was sent off solo. He stayed up nearly 50 minutes and in his excitement and false confidence essayed a mild shoot up. After getting the aircraft back on the deck in one piece, he was refuelled and sent off again with instructions to make a fool of himself a little farther from the airfield. He did, and, completely losing himself,finished up with a forced landing between graves in a cholera camp near Kantara.

After qualifying, Carruthers did a little ferrying of R.E.Ss, B.Es, Camels and Pups before being posted for operational duties on the Western Front. His arrival in France, however, coincided with the declaration of the armistice, and he was sent home to the Coventry Acceptance Park to test-fly D.H.IOAS. It was whilst he was there that his flying career nearly came to a very abrupt end. Whilst taking off in a Mono Avro 504 one day, his engine stopped and he spun straight into the White and Poppe motor works, crashing between a workshop and the women's canteen. How he survived such a crash is a mystery, but it left him with a 10 days' mental blank.
Evidence at the subsequent enquiry indicated that he had tried to turn back to the airfield. On recovery he was invalided out of the Service as unlikely to fly again. This would have satisfied most people's desire for flying, but Carruthers, although studying engineering, contrived to do a little unofficial flying until 1926, when he went back into the R.A.F. with a short-service commission.
Having re-qualified, he spent the next five years with No. 9 (Night Bomber) Squadron at Manston and Boscombe Down, flying Vickers Virginia VIIIs. His short-service commission expired in 1931 and, although he was recommended for a Permanent commission, it was refused by the Air Ministry on account of age, and a medium-service commission. offered in its place. This resulted in his being posted for a while to No. 24 (Communications) Squadron and placed on the list of pilots qualified to fly members of the Royal Family, Cabinet Ministers and other V.I.P.s who, in those days, faced the rigours of flying fn open cockpits. For a change Carruthers next applied for an overseas posting and went to No. 55 Squadron as B Flight commander at Hinaidi, near Baghdad. Flying Westland Wapitis, the squadron did a few '' ops '' against the Sheik Ahmed of Bazan in Kurdistan.
Back in England again in 1932 he spent most of his service as an instructor at No. 5 F.T.S. at Sealand, until he ended his second tour of duty with the R.A.F. His Service-flying record entitled him to take out a B licence and, for the next year or so, he did a certain amount of charter work, including a couple of trips to North Africa and back. Those were quite some journeys even in 1935, and from these long trips he went to the opposite extreme by joining the joyriding division of Cobham's air circus, where more hours were spent taking-off and landing than actually in the air. Finding this life a trifle too hectic—the circus moved camp two or three times each week—Carruthers then accepted an invitation to join the Reid and Sigrist Reserve School at Desford as C.F.I, under George Lowdell.
The first vear of the war found him at the Bristol Electrical and Wireless School at Yatesbury, driving Rapides, and Cyril Uwins of Bristols asked him to join his team of test pilots at Filton. The Air Ministry, however, did not see eye to eye with Uwins over this arrangement, and by August, 1940, he found himself instead at No. 24 E.F.T.S. at Luton. After just four more months' instructing, he became Chief Test Pilot of Percival Aircraft. In the following six years he had either test-flown or supervised the test-flying of 1,440 Airspeed Oxfords, 195 Mk.XV Mosquitoes, 55 Mk. XXXIV P.R. Mosquitoes, 600 Conversion Proctors Mks. I, II and III, and 300 Proctors, Q.6s and Harvards.In addition to these, there was the prototype and
development flying to do on the Proctor IV, Prentice and Meganser. He made a market survey tour of the Middle East, and the next prototype he flew was the Merganser.
In all, Carruthers had over 8,000 flying hours to his credit on over sixty types He held the G.A.P.A.N. Master Instructor's certificate, and was a member of the Court of the Guild. He was also a Fellow of the Interplanetary Society.