Sunday, December 27, 2009

Howard T Murley DFC AFC* 1923-2016

Wing Commander Howard Murley flew four-engine bombers with Bomber Command before spending a number of years as a test pilot.

When Murley joined No 218 Squadron in May 1944 as the pilot of a four-engine Stirling bomber, he was barely 20 years old, the second youngest member of his seven-man crew.

His early sorties were to northern France during Bomber Command’s campaign to destroy vital targets, particularly rail marshalling yards and infrastructure, in the lead-up to D-Day. On one such sortie, as he was heading south over London, one engine of his bomber failed. The Stirling was at maximum weight and unable to maintain height. By the time Murley reached the Wash to jettison his bombs, the aircraft had lost more than 10,000 ft in height.

The squadron soon re-equipped with the Lancaster and bombing over Germany was resumed in August. Flying over Homberg on Bomber Command’s first major daylight raid for three years, Murley’s aircraft was badly damaged by flak and its hydraulics and undercarriage were damaged, but he managed to return to his base in Suffolk and land safely. After 39 operations over Germany he was rested and awarded the DFC.

After his tour with No 218 Squadron Murley had a spell as a bombing instructor before transferring to the air transport force and flying Dakotas on routes to Italy and the Middle East. He later joined the Transport Command Development Unit and during this period flew sorties on the Berlin Airlift, operating from an airfield in West Germany. He was also seconded to the USAF as an RAF representative, during which time he flew as co-pilot on a C-54 Skymaster as one of the team transporting the much-publicised millionth sack of coal into Berlin.
In July 1949 Murley was selected as one of the first two RAF exchange students to train as test pilots at the United States Navy Test Pilot Training School in Patuxent River, Maryland, where he met and married his wife. A year later he returned to Britain to take up a post as a test pilot at Farnborough, flying a wide range of different aircraft types.

In 1953 he became the flight commander of the Aerodynamics Flight, at a time when the first of the V-bombers were being tested. One was the Avro Vulcan, and to provide aerodynamic data for its revolutionary delta-wing configuration a small number of third-scale single-engine research aircraft, the Avro 707, were built to provide aircraft handling data. During the 1953 Farnborough Air Show, he flew one of four of these aircraft in formation with the first two prototypes of the Vulcan, providing a stunning spectacle.

His flying duties also included photographing live trials of the Martin Baker ejector seat, and he flew some of the initial test flights investigating the spinning characteristics of the early high-performance jet fighters. He was then awarded a bar to his AFC.

While flying a Sabre fighter he suffered a pneumothorax as a result of being subjected to high g-forces while breathing 100 per cent oxygen at low level. Although unknown at the time, this is now a recognised risk. He was grounded, returning to flying in July 1960.

After three years in Malta as a staff officer, he returned to the test-flying arena when he was appointed as the Officer Commanding the Experimental Flying Wing at Farnborough. Again he flew a wide variety of aircraft, but he enjoyed none more than a replica SE 5A bi-plane of First World War vintage, which he demonstrated at several air shows.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

W/Cdr Michael R. Ingle-Finch DFC AFC 1920-2002

Michael Roscoe Ingle-Finch commenced his operational RAF career flying Hurricanes during and after the Battle of Britain. He then joined 56 Squadron based at Duxford and was amongst the first squadron pilots to fly a Typhoon when the first operational Typhoons came into service on that significant day, 11th September 1941. In September 1942, by now promoted to Flight Commander, Ingle-Finch achieved another first - 56 Squadrons first air victory in a Typhoon when he shot down a Junkers Ju88 off the east coast. Having been involved with Typhoons since they became operational, Ingle-Finch went on to fly them throughout their operational life. On 31st December 1943, he was promoted to command 175 Squadron during the decisive campaign in Normandy. In that same year he was awarded the DFC. His distinguished wartime service in the RAF culminated in promotion to Wing Commander Flying of 124 Wing.
On leaving the RAF he joined Marshalls of Cambridge as a test pilot. He joined Joined Short Bros as a test pilot in 1952. He displayed the Shorts Seamew at Farnborough in 1955 and the Belfast in 1964.

A/Cdre F.R.D. Swain CB AFC 1903-1989

Air Commodore (Francis) Ronald Downs Swain.

Joined the RAF in 1922,initial training with 5FTS. On gaining his wings joined No2 Sqn as a pilot. Transferred to No11 Sqn in 1923. He became a QFI with No2 FTS in 1926. Posted to No 23Sqn as a Flight Commander in 1929 and then to No 6 Sqn at the same rank.
During 1933 he commanded the Cairo-Rhodesia Flight. In 1935 became a test pilot in the Experimental section at the RAE,during his time there, he was involved in high altitude experiments and on 28th September 1936 he set a new World Altitude Record of 49,967 feet in the Bristol 138A (Serial K4879).
In 1938 he attended RAF Staff College and during the war and the course of his remaining career was posted to various Staff positions. His last appointment was SASO/Deputy Head of the Air Staff,British Joint Services Mission,Washington D.C. He retired from the RAF in 1954 with the rank of AIr Commodore.

Friday, December 04, 2009

S/Ldr Ronald “Taffy” Ecclestone DFC AFC 1923-1954

Squadron Leader Ronald Vivian (“Taffy”) Ecclestone DFC was Handley Page deputy chief test pilot.
He flew Stirlings and Lancasters in Bomber Command, and also Hurricanes and Spitfires in the Bomber Defence Tactical Unit. Later he was engaged in development flying, successively at Marham, Boscombe Down and Farnborough; he had completed the Empire Test Pilots School course and had served for a year in the Directorate of Operational Requirements at the Air Ministry. He had joined Handley Page, Ltd., less than three months before the crash of the Victor Prototype WB771 in which he was killed along with Mr E. N. Kenneth Bennett, 29, the company's chief flight observer (he joined them in 1946); and two other H.P. observers, Mr. Bruce Heithersay, 28 (ex-R.A.A.F.), and Mr. A. B. Cook, 24 (formerly with Aero Research, Ltd., and Glosters).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Edward (Ed) Strongman 1949-2016

Ed Strongman, Eric Isorce, Didier Roncerary, Ignacio Lombo, Gerard Leskerpit, and Jean-Philippe Cottet - First Flight Crew of the A400M

Maiden Flight of A400M from Seville, 1th December 2009

Edward "Ed" Strongman is Chief Test Pilot Military with responsibility for the development of the A400M and Airbus military derivative aircraft. He captained the aircraft's maiden flight alongside his colleague Ignacio "Nacho" Lombo. Having joined Airbus in 1995, he was initially Project Pilot for the A330/A340 family and was particularly closely involved with the development of the A340-600 which he piloted on its maiden flight in April 2001. Subsequently he worked on all Airbus aircraft and participated extensively in the A380 flight test development programme.
Mr Strongman is today a veteran test pilot who was selected to attend the United States Air Force Test Pilot School (USAFTPS) at Edwards AFB, California in 1979 after five years of operations flying the Lockheed C-130 Hercules for the UK's Royal Air Force.
After graduating from USAFTPS Mr Strongman served for six years at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Bedford, UK flying a wide range of transports, fighters and helicopters. In 1986 he left Bedford as Commanding Officer of the Test Squadron to join the UK CAA as a certification test pilot involved in the regulatory approval of numerous jet and turboprop aircraft.
Mr Strongman has some 11,000 flight hours of which more than 7,000 have been in flight test.
Born in Cornwall, UK in 1949 Ed Strongman has an engineering degree from Bristol University .