Wednesday, July 24, 2013

George Pickering 1906-1943

George Pickering was awarded a short service commission in the RAF in 1924 and became a flying boat test pilot based at Felixstowe. He flew an array of aircraft from flying boats to Nimrods to Audaxes and to the Walrus.  He had also served a good stint on Malta, flying out of the old sea-plane base at Kalafrana. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for a “dramatic” rescue by flying boat.

His short service commission ended early in 1934 by which time he had reached the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Later in the same year he became a test pilot for Supermarine which had become a subsidiary of Vickers in 1928.
With Supermarine he test-flew flying boats which were built at Woolston and it was from here that he looped a Walrus, probably over the Solent. Although the Walrus had quite an ungainly appearance, it was remarkably aerobatic.
George Pickering first flew the propotype Spitfire (K5054) on 24th March 1936, it had first flown on 5th March 1936 . The only other pilots who had flown it before George were chief test pilot “Mutt” Summers ans deputy chief Test pilot Jeffrey Quill.
In 1941 the Spitfire he was testing broke up around him throwing him out of the cockpit. His parachute which had benn damaged remarkably open of its own accord and slowed down his descent which was further slowed down by the branches of a tree. He was badly injured and spent many months in hospital and he was grounded for almost a year. Finally he was called to attend a medical board at Oxford. and was declared fit to resume flying duties. That evening he spent with his sister who lived nearby and happened to meet some army officers who were on exercise in the area. Forming a friendship with the officers, he was invited to join them the following day. This he did and was a passenger in a Bren gun carrier but was tragically killed when the vehicle vehicle failed to negotiate a steep slope at Ivinghoe Beacon and overturned.