Friday, April 30, 2010

Colin Allen 1924-2006

Colin Allen was born in 1924 and was educated at Eton College and Cambridge. He joined the Royal Airforce in 1943 finally serving in 540Sqn P.R.U flying Mosquitos.
On leaving the RAF in 1947, he spent twelve months as a pilot with Central African Airways. He then joined British European Airways and flew with them as a pilot for three years. During this period he was also a member of No. 604 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force.) flying Vampires before joining Avro.
In 1952 he joined Vickers Armstrong (Weybridge) Ltd., and was, for six years, a production and experimental test pilot flying Valiant and Viscount aircraft.He joined Avro as a test pilot in 1959.
After leaving Avro he went to the Air Investigation Branch (A.I.B) in the late 60s, before joining an African based airline flying DC8s. He then rejoined the A.I.B before retiring in the 1980s.

Monday, April 19, 2010

James Rodney Blackett Hartnoll 1914-1952

Test pilots (Left to right )Bill Humble,Alex Henshaw,Jeffrey Quill,Geoffrey deHavilland,F.H. Dixon,Colin Evans, Pat Fillingham and J.R.B Hartnoll.

Photo by Charles E Brown, Copyright RAF Museum.

J. R. B. Hartnoll was born in 1914, and educated at Harrow and University College, Oxford, he learned to fly with the Wiltshire Club in 1936, and soon afterwards joined the R.A.F. Shortly before the war he went to the de Havilland Company, but was called up as a member of the R.A.F.O. and posted as an instructor to No. 3 F.T.S., South Cerney. In 1941 he was seconded to de Havillands as a test pilot. He flew for their Propeller Division until the end of the war, and carried out the initial development flying of the first D.H. braking airscrews. After a short period at the end of the war in the D.H. engine-installation department, he started Photo Flight, Ltd., at Elstree, in 1948. He was now able to combine his interests in aviation and photography, and to specialize in commercial air photographs of high quality.Mr. Hartnoll lost his life when a light aircraft—in which he was returning from photographing a factory in Wiltshire—dived into the ground near Booker airfield.

Bernard 'Benny' I. Lynch B.E.M 1919-1986

Benny Lynch (in cockpit) with J.O Lancaster

On the 24th July 1946, Gloster Meteor EE416 flying 350 mph at 4500 feet before the first live ejection test in the UK. Undertaken by Bernard (Benny) Lynch, then one of Martin-Baker’s experimental fitters, at a speed of 320 mph, this ejection was perfect and was undoubtedly a landmark in the development of aircrew escape equipment and a highlight in the history of the Martin-Baker Aircraft Company.
From July 1946 Benny Lynch went on to make a further sixteen live ejection tests from the Meteors, both at home and overseas, and was awarded the British Empire Medal for his work. In all he made over 30 ejections.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brian A. Powell 1921-2014

Brian Powell was always keen on flying. His first flight,at the age of six, was on an Avro 504K. He started gliding at Dunstable in 1936 and was a founding member of the Surrey Gliding Club.

He was originally trained in civil engineering, but had joined the University of London Squadron in 1937 and had graduated to the Hawker Hart when war broke out in 1939. However he was under age and was unable to join the RAFVR. He re-applied on his 18th birthday but was made a flying instructor for the whole war finishing at CFS in Rhodesia and latterly at Cranwell before being demobilised in 1946.By this time he had already taken a professional pilot’s licence.

After some three years in civil aviation where he was Chief Pilot of Westminster Airways he decided to combine his engineering training with flying and joined Vickers as a test pilot on the Viscount 630, Varsity and Valettas.

He was transferred to Airspeeds where he did development work on the Ambassador including Tropical Trials.Thereafter he went to de Havilland on the Comet 1. He was posted to Harwarden where the Comet 3 was being built.He also flew Venoms, Vampires, Doves and Herons.

He decided that there appeared to be no future with de Havilland so he went back into commercial flying as Chief Training Captain for Hunting Clan where he spent seven years flying Viscounts, Avro Yorks, DC 3’s, DC 6’s, Vikings and Brittannias.

Hunting-Clan was merged to form British United Airways, where he was Chief Test Pilot and also a route captain They were the first airline to order the BAC 1-11.

Subsequently,when Mike Lithgow and Dick Rymer were killed on the BAC 1-11 Deep stall accident and,at BAC’s request he was seconded back to Wisley where - in addition to development flying on the 1-11 and VC10 he spent three years training customers’ pilots. Returning to British United (which was subsequently taken over by Caledonian) he flew 1-ll’s VC10’s and 707’s until he retired in 1977.

He joined the Guild of Air Pilots & Navigators in 1946 and worked on various committees there eventually becoming Chairman of the Technical Committee. He served on the Court of the Guild for 21 years.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Flugkapitan Hanna Reitsch 1912–1979

Born in 1912, in Hirschberg, Silesia, from an early age Hanna wanted to fly. In her autobiography she wrote, “The longing grew in me, with every bird I saw go flying across the azure summer sky”. Despite her parents' misgivings, she managed to persuade them to let her take up gliding in her teens. She loved flying from the start, and although she started to study medicine, her true love was always aviation. She managed to convince her parents that for a future career as a flying doctor in Africa she would need a pilot’s licence, and began to take lessons in powered flight. Proving herself to be both dedicated and determined when it came to anything to do with flight, she soon gave up her medical studies to become a gliding instructor for a number of years, also winning many glider competitions and gaining a number of records.

From 1935, Hanna began to be involved in glider research and test gliding. In 1937 she was one of the first pilots to cross the Alps in a glider. Around this time she was ordered to report to a Luftwaffe testing station for duty as a test pilot, and thus began the type of flying for which she is best known. She flew a wide variety of types of military aircraft, including the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka and Dornier Do 17. Her obvious flying skill made her a star in the Nazi party, though she herself was not interested in politics and simply loved flying.

With the outbreak of war in 1939 Hanna was asked to fly many of Germany's latest designs. Among these were the rocket-propelled Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, and several larger bombers, on which she tested various mechanisms for cutting barrage balloon cables. She became Adolf Hitler's favourite pilot and was one of only two women awarded the Iron Cross First Class during World War II.

In 1937 Hanna first flew an early helicopter, designed by Professor Focke of Bremen. Teaching herself to fly it, she thoroughly impressed its inventor, and was soon engaged to fly indoors, demonstrating the new flying machine to the public inside the Deutschlandhalle at the Berlin Motor Show. This gave her a love of helicopters which was to last all her life.

Hanna was captured and interned towards the end of the war, but afterwards settled in Frankfurt am Main, in Germany. She took up gliding again, and became German champion in 1955. Throughout the 1970s she continued to fly, breaking gliding records in many categories. She died in Frankfurt at the age of 67, on 24th August 1979, following a heart attack.

Flugkapitan Fritz Wendel 1915-1975

Fritz Wendel was a German test pilot during the 1930s and 1940s.

On 26 April 1939 Fritz Wendel set the world air speed record of 469.22 mph, flying the Messerschmitt Me 209 V1. He defeated the record set on 30 March 1939 by Hans Dieterle flying the Heinkel He 100 V8. He was also the first pilot to fly a liquid rocket airplane in the Me 209 as well as a jet engine powered airplane in the Heinkel He280. Relics of the Me 209 V1 still exist in the Polish Air Museum at Krakow.

On 18 July 1942 in Leipheim near Günzburg, Germany, Wendel test flew the Messerschmitt Me 262. This flight was significant as it was conducted with jet engines (Junkers Jumo 003) for the first time. The Me 262 had flown first on 8 April 1941 with piston engines.

S/Ldr Robert Kronfeld AFC 1904-1948

Robert Kronfeld was an Austrian gliding champion and sailplane designer of the 1920s and 30s.He became a British subject and an RAF test pilot. He was killed testing a glider in 1948.

As a young man, he visited the Wasserkuppe in Germany and became passionate about the sport of gliding that was developing there. So Kronfeld became a member of the first Austrian gliding school.He befriended Walter Georgii, who was a meteorologist working at the nearby Darmstadt University of Technology and who had recently discovered thermals. Kronfeld became something of a test-pilot for Georgii, investigating this still-new phenomenon with the assistance of a variometer disguised as a vacuum flask.

In 1926, the German newspaper Grüne Post offered a DM 5,000 prize for the first glider pilot to fly 100 km (62.5 miles). Kronfeld took up the challenge in 1929 and selected a long chain of hills, the Teutoburger Wald as a promising site for the record attempt.
He took off in a glider of his own design, named Wien ("Vienna"), launched by bungee, near Ibbenbüren. After a flight lasting over five hours, he landed near Detmold, 102.5 km away. Kronfeld used the prize money to build a gigantic sailplane, named Austria, which had a wingspan of 30 metres - a record not to be matched until the end of the twentieth century. Kronfeld was the first winner of the Hindenburg-trophy in 1929.In the same year he undertook the first flight from a mountain in Lower Austria.He also staged large air shows.By 1930 he held the world records for distance (164 km) and height (2,589 m).

In 1930 he also had success gliding in England.On February 15, 1931 Robert Kronfeld and Wolf Hirth were the first men awarded with the "Silver C".On June 20, 1931 Kronfeld was the first pilot to fly a glider across the English Channel, making a return flight the same day.For this he won £1000 from the Daily Mail.

Kronfeld was an Air Scout within the Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund and took part in the 4th World Scout Jamboree (1933) in Hungary as a member of the Austrian contingent.He participated in the Air Scout camp and contributed to the Airshow.He served as Commissioner for Air Scouts of the Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund. Kronfeld also was an honorary member of this Scout association.
In 1933, the new Nazi government prohibited Jews from flying, and as a Jew, Kronfeld fled Germany first for Austria, later for the United Kingdom.In 1934 he was awarded with the Silver medal of the Lilienthal Society.There, he continued flying, taking over the British Aircraft Company, and in 1938 became chief instructor for the newly-founded Oxford University and City Gliding Club. He settled in England in January 1938 and his father followed him to England in 1939.

Kronfeld was a member of the Österreichischer Aero Club and brought the records of this association to the United Kingdom.

In 1939 he became a British citizen and during World War II he served in the Royal Air Force.He held the rank of Squadron Leader.He was posted to the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment on military glider development. For that work he was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Post war, as Chief Test Pilot for General Aircraft, he was killed in the crash of an experimental flying wing glider - the General Aircraft GAL 56 (TS507) - during stalling trials, at Lower Froyle after taking-off from Lasham Airfield.After successfully recovering from a stall, the aircraft entered an inverted dive. His observer was able to leave the aircraft and survived despite a low level parachute opening.