Tuesday, March 02, 2010

S/Ldr Ken Cook DFC 1911-2006

Ken Cook with Hedley Hazleden

Squadron Leader Ken Cook was awarded the DFC at the end of his first tour of 37 operations as a bomber pilot flying Hamdens with 83 Squadron. It was later, while working as a production test pilot at A.V. Roe & Co. Ltd at Woodford, Manchester, that, having started his take-off run, he encountered a double-decker bus used to convey workers from one side of the airfield to the other, which, having jumped the runway traffic lights, was crossing in front of him. As he was rolling too fast to abort the take off, he prematurely hauled the Lancaster into the air but was unable to miss the bus. One of the undercarriage legs hit the vehicle, neatly removing the upper deck which was luckily unoccupied. Cook managed to safely land the aeroplane on what was left of the runway beyond the rearranged bus.

Albert Kenneth Cook was born on October 7th 1911 in Bedford. He joined the Royal Air Force becoming a ‘Halton Brat’ as an apprentice aero-engine fitter in 1928. He became an air gunner in 1933 and saw service in Jordan. He learned to fly on Tiger Moths in 1936 at Philips & Powis at Reading, before arriving at Netheravon on Salisbury Plain as a newly qualified Sergeant Pilot to fly Harts and Audaxs. In 1937 he joined 83 Squadron at Scampton where, by the outbreak of war, he had converted to Hamdens – the bomber type which he flew mainly at night for the 37 operations of his first tour during which he was commissioned. The near seven hours of night flying on his first operation laying mines in the Baltic totalled more than all his previous night training flights put together. After a short instructional tour he returned to 83 Squadron and continued to fly Hamdens until the type was replaced by the Lancaster’s predecessor, the Manchester.

At the end of his second tour and now a Squadron Leader not relishing the idea of a ground tour, Cook volunteered to attend the first formal test pilot’s course at Boscombe Down in 1943. He graduated from No.1 Course, Empire Test Pilots School in 1944. He was then seconded to Avros as a production test pilot where he remained for the rest of the war. After the war he stayed with the company as a civilian test pilot and was later involved with the development of the Avro Tudor airliner. He finally retired from flying in 1949 having flown during his time the company, 415 different Lancasters, 29 Lancastrians, 52 Yorks, 104 Lincolns, 182 Ansons and 26 Tudors. He remained at Woodford for the next 21 years as Senior Air Traffic Control Officer before he finally retired in 1971