Wednesday, July 24, 2013

George Pickering 1906-1943

George Pickering was awarded a short service commission in the RAF in 1924 and became a flying boat test pilot based at Felixstowe. He flew an array of aircraft from flying boats to Nimrods to Audaxes and to the Walrus.  He had also served a good stint on Malta, flying out of the old sea-plane base at Kalafrana. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for a “dramatic” rescue by flying boat.

His short service commission ended early in 1934 by which time he had reached the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Later in the same year he became a test pilot for Supermarine which had become a subsidiary of Vickers in 1928.
With Supermarine he test-flew flying boats which were built at Woolston and it was from here that he looped a Walrus, probably over the Solent. Although the Walrus had quite an ungainly appearance, it was remarkably aerobatic.
George Pickering first flew the propotype Spitfire (K5054) on 24th March 1936, it had first flown on 5th March 1936 . The only other pilots who had flown it before George were chief test pilot “Mutt” Summers ans deputy chief Test pilot Jeffrey Quill.
In 1941 the Spitfire he was testing broke up around him throwing him out of the cockpit. His parachute which had benn damaged remarkably open of its own accord and slowed down his descent which was further slowed down by the branches of a tree. He was badly injured and spent many months in hospital and he was grounded for almost a year. Finally he was called to attend a medical board at Oxford. and was declared fit to resume flying duties. That evening he spent with his sister who lived nearby and happened to meet some army officers who were on exercise in the area. Forming a friendship with the officers, he was invited to join them the following day. This he did and was a passenger in a Bren gun carrier but was tragically killed when the vehicle vehicle failed to negotiate a steep slope at Ivinghoe Beacon and overturned.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bud Scouten

Canadair Test Pilot Bud Scouten

R M 'Bill' Kidd

Canadair Test Pilot, Bill Kidd

Arthur George 'Tim' Sims 1907-1986

Arthur Sims was born in London in 1907 and went to Canada in 1927.He spent the next four years in the employment of Canadian Wright Ltd. and British Aeroplane Engines Ltd. at Montreal. He assembled, overhauled and tested engines and later became a technical representative. His extensive knowledge of low temperature engines placed him as a mechanic, along with W.R. May, on the 1600 inaugural airmail flight from Fort McMurray, AB, to Aklavik on the Arctic Ocean in 1929. During WWII, he flew military aircraft across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In addition, he also flew a 40,000 mile demonstration flight of North and South America as captain of a Bristol Freighter aircraft. After the war he was employed as a sales representative for Canadair Ltd. where he test flew the North Star, Sabre and T-33 aircraft. He became director of world-wide military aircraft sales until his retirement from the company in 1964.

Alexander 'Al' J. Lilly OC 1910-2008

Alexander John Lilly was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1910.He was a son to Harold Lilly, owner of an automotive and farm equipment dealership that specialized in Ford automobiles. Through his dad’s business, Al came in contact with the RCMP who used the dealership to service their vehicles. It must have been an indelible impression, for Al eventually enlisted in 1932. It was with the RCMP that Lilly’s early affection for aviation, first ignited as a boy when he had encountered ace pilots of the First World War, could finally be realized as a career path rather than just a passion or a hobby. It wasn’t until 1937 that Lilly requested permission to take flying lessons and petitioned to join the Aviation Section the following year. He was a strong advocate for advancing aviation in policing having seen first hand the limitations of dog-sled teams and the canoe and recognized that planes could better serve the North. Although flying during his brief career with the RCMP was the catalyst to greater accomplishments in aviation, Al Lilly’s tenure was best acclaimed for encouraging canine services in policing. As the story goes, Al’s dog, Prince, joined him on a search for a missing trapper and, in the course of the rescue effort, Prince was able to find shelter from the encroaching poor weather for both Al and the found trapper. Al instinctively knew there was value in K-9 skills and shared this insight with the RCMP. By 1935, the police dog-handling services were officially formed and Al was one of the first to be assigned his own dog, a German shepherd named Black Lux. The two formed a fond friendship.

It seems apparent that when your dreams to fly are as strong as Al’s, leaving the RCMP behind for Great Britain was the only course of action. And so, Lilly purchased his discharge in July 1939 and set forth to fly with Imperial Airways.The jump to Imperial Airways proved to be that crucial stepping stone to a long and varied four-decade-long career in aviation. With the outbreak of war in 1939, the RCAF drafted Al Lilly as a Squadron Leader bringing him back to Moncton, New Brunswick, home of the active Moncton Flying Club, where he taught new pilots under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. He would go on to fly throughout the war period including, in 1940, with Atlantic Ferry Organization (ATFERO) out of Montreal, transporting equipment and planes across the Atlantic. It was in this role that he received a commendation from the King of England for delivering the first six Hudson twin-engine bombers to Britain. By the end of the war, Al had been appointed as Chief Test Pilot by the Atlantic Ferry Organization which became RAF Ferry Command in 1941.Following the war, Al Lilly joined Canadair and was instrumental in positioning the aircraft manufacturer as one of the largest producers of aircraft in the world - a distinction that gave Canada much notoriety during the Cold War era. There, he would command the initial flights of a wide variety if aircraft from the 4-engined North Star aircraft airliner to the various models of Sabre (F-86).During his 30 years with Canadair, he rose to the position of Vice President before retiring in 1970.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

James Gibson 'Mac' McCowan 19xx-2003


 J. G. 'Mac' McCowan joined the RAF as a Boy Entrant and in 1938 volunteered for flying duties. He did his flying training in Canada and returned to England in 1943. Serving in India and Singapore, he flew with a fighter squadron on the North-West Frontier and later became a rocket-firing instructor. After leaving the Service, he was a maintenance test pilot with Airwork before joining Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft as a test pilot.

A/Cdre Cyril 'Cyclops' Brown AFC CBE 1921-2003

Cyril Bob Brown was born on January 17 1921 and educated at Southend Grammar School. He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1939 as a sergeant, completing his pilot training in time to join the Hurricane-equipped 245 Squadron in the latter stages of the Battle of Britain.

Based in the Orkneys, his squadron flew patrols in protection of the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. He was commissioned in 1941 and joined 616, flying patrols over the Midlands until he was wounded.
Brown was serving with 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron when he was scrambled on May 25 1942 to intercept a German bomber approaching Leicester. Although he managed to achieve cannon strikes on a Dornier 217, his Spitfire was hit by return fire from the bomber's rear gunner. As the windscreen shattered, Brown was hit in the face by splinters, causing severe damage to his right eye.

Notwithstanding his wounds, he was able to struggle back to his airfield near Peterborough, where he landed safely before staggering to the control tower to report to his station commander, Group Captain Basil Embry; he explained that he had experienced "a bit of a problem" before collapsing. Brown was then placed on a stretcher but, as the party descended the stairs, he fell off and tumbled to the bottom. He later claimed that this was the most frightening aspect of the whole event.

Surgeons were unable to save Brown's eye, and after his wounds healed he was fitted with a clear blue false eye. The effect of a boisterous night out was that the colour no longer matched his remaining eye, in which case he would remove the false one, invite someone to "keep an eye on it", and place a black patch over the socket. Later he adopted the patch permanently.

Although medical staff wanted to ground him, Brown was able to display all his old piloting skills when he flew with Group Captain Embry, who immediately cleared him to return to operations as a fighter pilot. Once he had become fully fit again, Brown had a further spell on operations before joining the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down as a fighter weapons test pilot.Since using the gun sights of fighters required binocular vision, he specialised in flying and testing the Typhoon and Tempest aircraft in the ground attack role. He commanded the Fixed Gun Firing Flight and became an expert in rocket-firing.

On one occasion Brown almost shot himself down when a rocket struck the ground, and the subsequent ricochet hit his Typhoon. After three years of test flying he was awarded the AFC.

After attending No 5 Course at the Empire Test Pilots' School, Brown returned to Boscombe Down to test fighter aircraft, including the new jets, before being appointed to command 220 Squadron flying Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft from St Eval in Cornwall.

He resumed his test piloting career in 1956 when he became a senior instructor at the Empire Test Pilots' School, which had relocated to Farnborough.

On one occasion he gathered together a one-armed colleague and another with a broken leg, and - with Brown sporting his eye patch at a jaunty angle - the trio hobbled arm-in-arm into the officers' mess bar to announce to the new students that they were the staff running the test pilots' course.

In 1958 Brown took command of D (Helicopter) Squadron at Boscombe Down. In August 1960 the new twin-rotor Bristol 192 helicopter, later known as the Belvedere, was due to fly to Idris, in Libya, for hot weather trials. He decided to use the transit flight to establish a long-distance helicopter record.

Setting off from Gatwick in the early hours of the morning, Brown and his crew arrived on Malta just over 12 hours later, after stopping twice to refuel en-route. The record still stands.

Promoted to group captain, Brown took command of the V-bomber airfield at Waddington, near Lincoln, in 1963. The three Vulcan squadrons he commanded formed part of Britain's strategic nuclear deterrent and were frequently tested to respond to no-notice dispersal and scramble exercises. He regularly flew the four-engine bomber, and his piloting skills were readily apparent; but, as one colleague recalled, Brown was never able to learn how to park his staff car without colliding with the steps.

It was during his appointment in command at Waddington that Brown learned that the last airworthy Lancaster was due to be retired to a museum. The engineers of one of his squadrons suggested that they should collect the bomber from Cranfield and fly it to Waddington, where they would maintain it in a flying condition. Brown was full of enthusiasm for the idea.

Although he incurred much displeasure from higher authority, the Lancaster was restored and subsequently became the flagship of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight; it still graces the skies.

Brown was promoted to Air Commodore to take up the post of Commandant at the Air Warfare College, where he continued to remain in flying practice.

After spending three years as the Director of Flight Safety in London, he decided to retire in 1972 in order to pursue business interests and his passion for yachting.

Arthur Roy 'Barny' Barnard 1922-1998

Arthur Barnard joined Rolls-Royce, Ltd., in 1952. Served in R.A.F. from 1942 and transferred to F.A.A. in 1944, training on Corsairs. Served in Far East until 1946 and later joined 800 Sqn. on four-year extended commission. Recalled for 18 months during Korean war and qualified then as B.I instructor, C.F.S.