Saturday, December 15, 2007

John Lankester Parker OBE FRAeS 1886-1965

John Lankester Parker OBE FRAeS Hon. was Chief Test Pilot for Short Brothers from 1918 until his retirement in 1945. He joined Shorts in 1916 as a part-time test pilot and assistant to then Chief Test Pilot Ronald Kemp, having been recommended for the post by Captain, later Admiral Sir, Murray Sueter,RNAS. By the time he retired he was a director of the company.

He gained his first flying experience as a pilot flying for the Northern Aircraft Company based in Windermere, where he worked between 1914 and 1916. It was during his time flying with the Northern Aircraft Company that he made the acquaintance of Murray Sueter, Ronald Kemp and Oscar Gnosspelius, all of whom would figure later in his work at Shorts. In 1916 he joined the Prodger-Issacs Syndicate of freelance test pilots, working for several British aircraft manufacturers.

His first assignment with Shorts began on 17 October 1916, when he was asked by Horace Short to test fly a batch of six Short Bombers from the Eastchurch airfield. In spite of his relative youth, his flying skills impressed Horace Short, who soon offered him a permanent position as assistant to Ronald Kemp.
He became Chief Test Pilot for Short Brothers in 1918 as successor to Ronald Kemp. Between 1918 and his last official flight as Chief Test Pilot on 22 August 1945 he flew every Shorts prototype on its maiden flight, ranging from the diminutive Short Shirl to the very large Short Shetland . During the course of his long association with the company, especially during the early pioneering years, he survived numerous forced landings, both on land and on water. In 1943 he became a Director of Short Brothers and Harland Ltd., Belfast.