I wondered if anyone would have any information on any of the British Helicopter Test Pilots from the 1940's - 1960's. I have found very little information on any of the gentlemen who flew such types as Westland Widgeon,Westminster,Dragonfly,Scout and Fairey Gyrodyne, Saro Skeeter etc.
The following names have been gleaned from old Farnborough Flying Display programmes from that period
LtCdr Roy S.Bradley Westland W.H.Sear Westland D.A.S Colvin Westland R.R.Crayton Westland R.H.Bradley Westland J.S.Fay Westland L.C de Vigne Westland Ron Gellatly Westland Roy Moxam Westland D. co Vin Westland JJM Jeffrey Saunders-Roe Ken M Reed Saunders-Roe
If anyone knows the status of these gentlemen (or others not listed), whereabouts or has any photographs of them, i would be interested to hear from you. Feel free to PM me or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Amongst other things, Slim Sear did the first flight of the Westminster back in '58 and was still at Westlands when I met him there in '66. I think Ron Gellatly was there at that time, in fact he may have taken over from Slim as Chief Test Pilot shortly afterwards.
Ken Reed carried out the first helicopter deck landing on a Royal Navy ship when he landed, I think an R4 Hoverfly, on HMS Vanguard off Portland in early 1947, although I believe the statement that this was the first is currently being challenged. As a Lieutenant RN he was the first CO of 705 Naval Air Squadron in 1947 and used to run Twyford Moors Helicopters at Southampton Heliport in the late 60's and 70's. I didn't take up the job offer but I had an interview with him in '68, a very pleasant guy, always sported a bow tie.
Haven't seen Roy Moxam since I flew with him back in 1980 in the WG-30 demonstrator, G-BGHF, which is now in the Helicopter Museum at W-S-M.
L C de Vigne's first name was Leo. John Fay wrote "The Helicopter: The History, Piloting & How It Flies".
Something in the back of my mind says RR Crayton's first name was Ron, but I'm not sure.
I'll try and get more info from a retired Westland Production Test Pilot friend of mine and get back to you.
Last edited by Speechless Two; 25th Nov 2007 at 12:20.
Reason: Corrected date
Alan Bristow, who founded Bristow Helicopters as Air Whaling in 1953, became the first helicopter test pilot employed by Westland Aircraft Limited. He was indeed their chief test pilot from 1947 to 1949. In September 1946 Lieutenant Alan Bristow carried out the first helicopter landing on a naval escort vessel at sea. Then he was again famous in 1947 when he flew a Westland Helicopters operated Sikorsky S51 on the first known police fugitive search over Norfolk in England.
Is Johnnie Johnson still around - last heard of instructing at Shoreham some years ago?
First RN Helo course, sent solo in an R4 after 3.5 hrs and told by his instructor, "You now know as much as me". Instructor then had 7 hrs rotary. No one knew about autorotation then! (if memory serves)
John Fay and Roy Moxam still around as is Sox Hosegood and Peter Wilson ( Bristols),Basil 88888 ?come to me in a minute ??? Fairey test pilot on Gyrodyne and before the war flying the Cierva C30.... and John Morton ...Fairey Ultralight and Rotodyne (in New Zealand ). Ron Gellatly died a long time ago as did Leo de Vigne .Jeep Cable died with Alan Marsh.
Hi. My dad worked for Saunders Roe at Eastliegh in the sixties and I used to hang around the hangars and was rewarded on several occasions with a flip in a Scout, Wasp and Skeeter. It gave me my first flying experience and although I don't fly professionally I did get a CPL(Airplane) and currently enjoy a share in a C42 at Old Sarum. To the point though, the pilots I flew with were John Jefferies and Harry Phillips. I was just talking to my dad today about his days at SARO and he remembers that Harry Phillips was injured and burnt after an accident whilst testing a one man de riggable helicopter intended for army or marine use. I didn't see Harry Phillips name in your threads so hope it may be of some use. Cheers, Jim Pearce.
Nice chap, RIP. Leo came out to Abu Dhabi in the early Seventies to fly the Bristow Whirlwinds. He passed on a tip which I never used, WW Nr is 220 - 222 RPM, most were set at 222. Leo said that the WW would lift more if the Nr was set at 220.
Did Roy Moxam do some fixed wing instruction at Ipswich in 1973? If so, I flew with him without realising his background. I can't think there would be too many of that name..
If it is him, I'd be delighted to re-make his aquaintance.
Those were the good days - I was 17 yrs old and anything aviation related was hugely exciting. One saturday Wg Cdr. Ken Wallis turned up in his gold Rolls Royce towing one of his latest autogyros on a trailer. Myself and a pal spent a good half hour chatting to him and helping him unload it before watching him flying around the airfield overhead.
I do sometimes wonder if it was only coincidence that later steered me towards rotary aircraft...
Maybe one day I'll also be lucky enough to meet Nick Lappos for a drink and pick his brains. From what I've heard, getting information out of him is a lot easier than getting the drink...
One name check that hasn't come up is Derek Colvin,
I first met him in the early 1960s when he was racing a single seat Lotus 18. Very successfully too. I seem to remember his son drove and would still be up and about today.
Derek Colvin was a prominent member of the Taunton Motor Club.
In my 1970s Spooner Aviation days, I flew with Ken Reed on many occasions ... in fact he helped my new firm acquire the Enstrom distribution from Twyford Moors Helicopters. His co-director was Frank Mitchell and Bill Bailey was also flying with Twyford too.
Apart from doing our CAA certification flying on the 280C, Ken also got me ready for my CPL GFT, (now ST) to secure my first professional licence and test by Don Sissons.
I'll never forget that test flight cos there weren't many flyers in the UK with any Enstrom experience. On my EOL I failed to hit the 'square' at HTA 2 at Redhill. I tried again and missed the target by a mile.
Don Sissons looked across at me and enquired if the Enstrom was especially difficult to autorotate? I couldn't resist offering him a go, thinking he'd never make the spot either. Very wrong was I. Don dropped the lever and promptly plonked the skids down dead centre.
Happy thoughts to everyone.
PS. Any one know the whereabouts of Wing Commander Chris Bartlett. Ex RAF on the R4.
Yes I do remember ... or at least my log book does! I suppose i must have done a proper test or you wouldn't have graduated to the Brent fields etc.
Yes the Spooner days were good, and Roy Spooner is still up and about, but doesn't fly now.
I exchange Xmas cards with John ZZ and his good lady Dee. I think he is in the Farnham area now. I'd dearly like to make contact with Chris Bartlett for an aviation piece I'm writing on the R4 and the Rota.
Peter, didn't you have a B47 at some time, or are the memory cells fading. Would love to see the 1970s Shoreham piccies.
Sorry to bore the rest of the ppruners, but you know how this thing is. Anyone else from the Spooner and 1970s Shoreham Airport days here. Here's some names to kick off. John Gregorshek (spelling probably wrong) Dave Regi, Martin Cass, Graham Russell, Martin Nunn, the Mike Woodley of course, Peter Brown, Mary Whitton (CFI for a while) Jane, Pauline and Lynette in reception. Probably got enough for a reunion. Take care all,
From M C EX Spooner Aviation. My God Ive just seen your message posted 2008. All the names are there. It brought an old soldiers tears to my eyes.I do know that GR retired from Monach as a TRE. But Jane, Mary.Pauline,Lynette and all//// Everybody was so dear to us then and now.If you get this Ill write again. I should have wriiten to you long ago,but could not think of a single useful thing to say . I do hope you are ok. July 2011. Its a time warp. Across the space of years a message comes.Yours Martin
At the time I first left school I lived in Yeovil 1959-62 before going to College, and I knew many of those named here. Leo De Vigne, John Fay, Pete Wilson and several others who visited our home at "125" for parties, just up the road from Leo & Mary. Stayed with Fay's at Pickett Witch GH for a year.
It was a time when Johnny Joint and the DH team were fitting the DH Gnome in several types - and John Fay was doing his stunts in the Hughes. One year, Cliff Nighe, of DH, got me up the photographers tower at Farnborough.
The laugh at the time was Leo being pushed to do another run on a Demo in Spain, and running out of fuel.
My sisters boyfriend, Nick Tyler, next door, went through training with Fleet Air Arm training until he crashed at Culdrose: arrived home all cuts and bruises - subsequently became Westland's man in Paris.
It was also a big time at Yeovilton, with Selection Testing for the Jump Jet and the ski-jump they had built.