Saturday, November 24, 2007

John Cochrane 1930-2006

Brian Trubshaw (left) with John Cochrane in the cockpit of Concorde 002

John Cochrane was born into a farming family in Ayr, and educated at Strathallan school, Perth. He abandoned an engineering degree to join the RAF and graduated second in his year from Cranwell in 1952.
He was posted to the famous 617 squadron flying Canberra bombers, and moved on to pilot the Vickers Valiant, the first of Britain's three V-bombers. While graduating from the Empire Test Pilots School, Farnborough, in 1960, he met Brian Trubshaw, who two years later invited him to join what was then Vickers-Armstrong as a fellow test pilot.
In preparation for Concorde, Cochrane test-flew all the military aircraft then capable of Mach 2, twice the speed of sound, including the French Mirage series, the British Lightning and two specially built research aircraft, the Handley Page 115 and the Bristol 221. He was the co-pilot on the maiden flight of the British Concorde.
Cochrane saved a later production Concorde from what could have been a fatal crash when demonstrating the aircraft in 1974. His co-pilot selected gear-down halfway through a turn, which led to the left landing gear crashing out and being seriously damaged. Cochrane took over the controls, and briefed the crew and ground control for an emergency landing.Ground traffic at Concorde's Fairford base, in Gloucester, was halted while he nursed the aircraft down, so that the majority of the weight was placed on the right landing gear, in what would normally be an improper configuration. The seven-strong crew made an emergency exit over the right wing, but ground crews managed to get jacks under the fuselage before it collapsed to cause major damage. The episode led to another vital modification of the aircraft.

After that Cochrane test-flew all the British Concordes, and was in command when Concorde 101 reached its highest speed of Mach 2.23 and a height of 68,000ft. He established record three-hour crossings of the Atlantic in both directions.
By the time he had helped to train British Airways' Concorde pilots, and been appointed assistant director of flight operations at what had become BAC, there was little left for him to do. So he resigned, and in 1980 joined Cyprus Airways as a captain.

One of aviation's most respected figures, he was awarded the Queen's commendation for valuable service in the air in 1971, and the Derry and Richards award for flight testing in 1977. He was in one of the three Concordes that made their final landings in 2003