Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Harold H 'Timber' Wood 1903-1980

Harold (Tim) Wood won the King's Cup Air Race in 1954. The son of a butcher and cattle dealer, when first married be managed a public house for his mother-in-law and later had a licensed house of his own. As a direct entry into the RAF Reserve he was taught to fly in 1925 by Mr C. F. Uwins, who later became deputy chairman of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. By the time Wood came to retire be had flown over 14,000 hours, which is a substantial total when it is re- membered that much of his career was spent in test flying. For two years he was Chief Pilot of Hillman's Airways, and in 1936 he flew the General Aircraft machine Monospar to Australia on a demonstration tour. Coming home he was obliged to force-land on a coral reef in the Timor Sea, and for many days there was no news of him and his crew. The reef is only uncovered at certain periods of the year, and by the time the fliers were rescued by some nearby islanders in a boat the aircraft was disappearing beneath the sea. From this boat they were transferred to a coasting vessel, and only then did news of their safety reach the outside world. On his return Wood joined British and American Air Services as chief test pilot, and remained with them until the outbreak of the Second World War. In those prewar days he did a great deal of night flying while engaged on searchlight co-operation duties. He served in the RAF until 1941 when he was seconded to General Aircraft Ltd as a test pilot. He flew a large variety of types including Lysanders, Spitfires, Hurricanes, Welling- tons, Mosquitoes and the tank- carrying gliders, the Hamilcars. On the amalgamation of Blackburn Aircraft and General Aircraft he was appointed chief test pilot of the new concern, and in this capacity carried out the maiden flight of the very large Blackburn Beverley freighter. On take-off he called out to his co-pilot: " My side is airborne, is yours ? ". Later he set up a record by dropping a single load of 29,000lb on eight 66ft diameter parachutes from the Beverley.