No disrespect to Jock, but he wasn't so much demobilised from the Air Force, as court-marshalled and found guilty of crashing a Royal Flight D.H Domini after running out of fuel.
In his word's - "The case against me, put in simple terms, was that I had failed to take on an adequate fuel supply and that as a result of my own carelessness I had run out of petrol.
This to me sounded ridiculous. The tanks had been full when I left Benson. I had done four hours flying, plus a few minutes taxiing. The planes endurance was 5 and a half hours. It wasn’t possible that I could have run out of fuel. In any case the gauges were reading a total of 16 gallons when the engines cut on me.
Part of my defence would be a letter from the de Havilland engine company to say that even if I had flown the airplane at full throttle I couldn’t have run the tanks dry in four hours. This would dispose of the gravamen of the charge against me. But meanwhile, I was removed from the King’s Flight and sent to Northwood, in Middlesex, to face my court martial.....
....I heard evidence given that the tanks had been filled before we left Benson. I knew this was true – I had checked the gauges myself. Then it was my turn. The Form 700 was produced, the form that authorised the flight, with my signature on it, and I confirmed I had taken on a full load of fuel at Benson.
“Did you dip the tanks?”
“How did you know the tanks were full?”
“I pressed the Gauges.”
“Yes, but the Pilot’s Notes General say you also have to dip the tanks.”
He was dead right, of course, but I’d never dipped a fuel tank in my life, and I didn’t know anyone who had. The gauges had always been good enough for me. But they weren’t good enough for the court. On, what seem to me, a miserable sort of technicality, I was found guilty on all counts......
......Had I stayed in the Air Force no doubt I should have got over it, but while I was waiting my court martial I had a telephone call which was to change my whole life. It was from a man named Mutt Summers.
“Come down and see me.”
I was under open arrest at Benson, but a borrowed a car and slipped down to Wisley to see the great man. I had met him once or twice before when I collected Viking aircraft from Wisley for the King’s Flight. He told me to sit down, and gave me a cigarette.....
“I hear you are in trouble with ‘Mouse’ Fielden?”
“Yes, I certainly am. I’m just about to be court-martialled. I’ve broken one of his airplanes – under very silly circumstances too.”
“How would you like to be a test pilot?”
“I’d love to be a test pilot – but I wouldn’t know the first thing about it.”
“I’d like you to come here and join Vickers.
I could see that there was a misunderstanding somewhere
“Look Captain Summers.” I said, “I think you’ve missed the point here four weeks ago I flattened an airplane in Oxfordshire: I’m jolly lucky to have survived it, and everyone is saying it was my fault.”
“Yes,” he said, “I know about that. But you did a good job at getting it down without killing yourself and your crew. Anyway the offer’s firm. Do you want to be a Vickers test pilot or not?” He mentioned a salary which was four times what I was getting in the Air Force
“Give me a few days to think about it.”
Immediately after the court martial, when one might have imagined that I was in disgrace, I was sent back to Benson and told to fly the Queen’s plane to Cape Town with 28 ground crew. From the Service’s point of view I was still one of the four or five best Viking pilots’ they had, and they were prepared to make use of me. I actually flew the Viking to Cape Town under orders, in 62 hours elapsed time, which was then a record. But in the circumstances I resented being made use of in this way and my decision to resign and join Vickers had been made when I went.
It was a good many years before I was able to think logically about the loss of the Domini and my subsequent court martial, but in time I came to accept that I must have been to blame. The Domini was easy to fly, but I knew little about its fuel system, and no doubt the gauges in that particular aircraft tended to over-read.
Last edited by etsd0001; 15th May 2014 at 08:32.