View Full Version : Great British aviation heroes

26th Oct 2013, 01:18
For me,

Sir Stanley Hooker - master of fluid dynamics with probably just a slide rule. Arguably changed history with his work on the supercharged Merlin. I recommend his book 'Not much of an engineer', maybe it could spark a renaissance in British engineering if it was read by a bright teenager wondering what to do with themselves?

John Farley - why he's not been knighted I don't know. I've admired him greatly since I saw a Harrier/P1127/Kestrel documentary in the 70s and a piece on Tomorrow's World (one of my favourite programmes back then, with the great Raymond Baxter), where John described a ski-jump take-off as something your granny could do. Which is typical of John, taking off in a Harrier up the side of a Swiss mountain and almost saying 'so what?' A great engineering and aviation brain but with typical British understatement. I was fortunate enough to see the VAAC Harrier at Cranfield, what became of that? Did those ideas seep into modern-day aircraft I wonder?

AV Roe - enough said - shame about Woodford though.

Sir Sydney Camm - Hurricane and Hunter et al.

Sir Frank Whittle, of course.

Teddy Petter and Roland Beamont, my favourite aeroplane!

Please add your thoughts, I do believe that eventually we could return to be amongst the pre-eminent aviation designers and engineers in the world.

26th Oct 2013, 08:15
The pioneers - Cody et al, the immediate post war Test Pilots, most of whom had distinguished war records as well

26th Oct 2013, 08:22
R J Mitchell ?

26th Oct 2013, 08:25
Sir George Edwards.

26th Oct 2013, 08:45
'Winkle' Brown.

26th Oct 2013, 09:01
Sir Freddie Laker

26th Oct 2013, 09:16
Sir Alan Cobham.........

26th Oct 2013, 10:02
I think we would have to include Richard Fairey and TOM Sopwith. I was hoping somebody else might have included Fred Handley Page; but I will redeem my AVRO connections by pointing out Roy Dobson who took over where old AV left off on actually making things and Roy Chadwick on designing the said things.

26th Oct 2013, 11:14
Claude Graham-White for me.

Phileas Fogg
26th Oct 2013, 11:39
Sir Barnes Wallis

joy ride
26th Oct 2013, 11:53
All of the above and a fair few others, including Norman de Bruyn the inventor of Reduxing, for bonding windows into pressurised aircraft... about as significant to modern aviation as the jet engine!

Genghis the Engineer
26th Oct 2013, 12:26
'Winkle' Brown.

Another man whose lack of knighthood escapes me completely.

the VAAC Harrier at Cranfield, what became of that? Did those ideas seep into modern-day aircraft I wonder?
How do you think Britain maintains it's relatively senior position in the F-35 Lightning II programme? A very large part of that is down to VAAC. I'm sure JF however would be the first to acknowledge that that was a huge team effort.

One I'm researching at the moment and would be grateful for any history anybody has on him - Alan Douglas Carden. (http://www.dnw.co.uk/auctions/catalogue/lot.php?auction_id=275&lot_id=1508)

Sir Tommy Sopwith of-course.

Jeffrey Quill without a doubt, and not just for his work at Supermarine - his work before the war at the Duxford Met Flight was also incredibly impressive.


Brian Abraham
26th Oct 2013, 14:36
Harry Hawker ......... wait a minute, he wasn't British, though the King did send the message of condolence, "The nation had lost one of its most distinguished airmen."

26th Oct 2013, 15:01
Major Halford, an oft-forgotten engineer whose contributions were significant for decades....:)

26th Oct 2013, 16:14
Sir Frank Whittle (Jet Engine)
Sir Freddie Laker (I/T inventor & cheap transatlantic travel)
Lord King and Sir Colin Marshall (for turning BA around in the 1980's)
Barnes Wallis (Wellington Bomber & Bouncing Bomb)
Roy Chadwick (Lancaster Bomber)
R J Mitchell (Spitfire)
Sir Sydney Camm (Hurricane; which shot down more aircraft in the B of B)

26th Oct 2013, 16:53
Sir Adam Thomson & Sir Freddie Laker...

B Fraser
26th Oct 2013, 17:26
Peter Twiss, first man at 1000mph

Brian Jones, first balloonist around the world (with Betrand Picard)

John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown, first transatlantic flight. (While Lindberg's flight was most impressive, he was the 13th to fly non-stop).

26th Oct 2013, 17:30
John Britten and Desmond Norman

26th Oct 2013, 19:31
Alex Henshaw & surely test pilots, Duke, Twiss, Lithgow, Gunn etc, etc, etc, PH.

26th Oct 2013, 19:42
Major James Bigglesworth, responsible for setting more young men (including me) on an aviation career than anybody else and of course his biographer W.E Johns.

27th Oct 2013, 07:25

joy ride
27th Oct 2013, 07:43
Worth mentioning pioneers like George Cayley and Horatio Phillips whose work was well studied by the Wright brothers, and Percy Pilcher who might have beaten them!

27th Oct 2013, 08:35
What about Major George Herbert Scott?


The captain of the R34 airship (built in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire) which made the first east-west crossing of the Altlantic in July 1919 - a fortnight after Alcock &Brown and two months after its first flight.

It took them 108 hours from East Fortune to Mineola, Long Island (about the same time as the Mauretania's Blue Riband record).

Strangely, there were no handling facilities at Mineola so bold Major E M Pritchard leapt out by parachute to organise matters - thereby becoming the first passenger from Europe to arrive in America by air.

The return to Pulham in Norfolk took a mere 75 hours.

Allan Lupton
27th Oct 2013, 08:46
Let me nominate some de Havilland names (of course!).
R.M. Clarkson, the Chief Aerodynamicist/Technical Director whose work spanned the Comet racer to the Trident via the Mosquito, Vampire and DH106 Comet airliner.
R.E. Bishop, the Chief Designer/Design Director from 1936-64

As an engineer those are my heroes but I can't omit John Cunningham, the test pilot who assumed the mantle of Chief after Geoffrey de Havilland jr. was killed in 1946 and was still Chief until 1978 after which we were able to use his knowledge of people and aeroplanes in the sales department!

And of course Capt. (Sir) Geoffrey de Havilland whose company employed the above and which he controlled from founding it in 1920 to the Hawker Siddeley takeover in 1960 but he remained active in it for a couple more decades.

Genghis the Engineer
27th Oct 2013, 08:46
All male so far.

So I feel compelled to add the late and much missed Ann Welch OBE.

And you can't really have her without Lorne Welch.

Somebody a bit more recent, who I think is thoroughly worthy of our admiration (and I think the first mentioned so far who is still flying) Dave Sykes. (http://www.soloflightglobal.com/)

And just because everybody forgot to mention him so far. Guy Gibson.


27th Oct 2013, 09:13
Not forgetting the ladies Captain Yvonne Sintes, I can still remember her putting down her knitting to sign the loadsheet.....

27th Oct 2013, 09:21
Women ATA pilots, and of course their male colleagues

Phileas Fogg
27th Oct 2013, 12:04
And just because everybody forgot to mention him so far. Guy Gibson.


27th Oct 2013, 12:30
Sir Freddie Laker (I/T inventor & cheap transatlantic travel)
Lord King and Sir Colin Marshall (for turning BA around in the 1980's)

Able people, certainly...... great British aviation heroes, I don't think so.


27th Oct 2013, 16:54

Ah! I remember her as Yvonne Pope. She taught me to fly a Tiger Moth in 1959. And I saw her again last year for a wonderful afternoon of reminiscing.

28th Oct 2013, 09:48
Captain Eric Moody - shy, retiring glider pilot always hiding his light under a bushel!

Flap Track 6
28th Oct 2013, 13:12
The Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls, holder of Royal Aero Club license No. 2 & his business partner Sir Henry Royce.

Lord Brabazon of Tara - holder of Royal Aero Club license No. 1

28th Oct 2013, 13:37
Judy Leden, MBE. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judy_Leden)


28th Oct 2013, 22:49
Wg Cdr Ken Wallis.

joy ride
29th Oct 2013, 09:49
Tilly Shilling's orifice was greatly respected!

Beatrice Shilling - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrice_Shilling)

29th Oct 2013, 10:39
The Wills's, father and son

30th Oct 2013, 04:14
Captain W.E. Johns (who wrote the Biggles series)
Nevil Shute-Norway (novelist and chief stressman for the majority of Barnes-Wallis' creations as well as a designer in his own right).

Captain Dart
30th Oct 2013, 07:09
My boyhood hero was Roland Beamont; and I'm not even British!

Ian Burgess-Barber
30th Oct 2013, 08:54
Lilian Emily Bland born in Kent Sept 28 1878 - the first woman in the world to design, build and fly an aeroplane - initially a glider, but then she bought an engine from A V Roe (Price 100 Pounds if you please) and flew it several times in County Antrim during 1910. In 1911 her father persuaded her to give up this dangerous activity by offering to buy her a motor car. She died May 1971 aged 92, buried in Sennen, Cornwall

India Four Two
30th Oct 2013, 09:18
After reading Judy Leden's fascinating Wikipedia entry, I was reminded that Joan Hughes should be mentioned, not least, because like Judy, she was recruited to fly an early low-powered aeroplane. In her case it was the Demoiselle in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.

Here she is in her ATA days with something larger:


John Hill
30th Oct 2013, 09:58
Dont forget Dame Mary Russel, Duchess of Bedford..
Mary Russell, Duchess of Bedford - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Russell,_Duchess_of_Bedford)

Ian Burgess-Barber
30th Oct 2013, 10:02
I had the privilege of being checked out on the mighty PA 28 by Joan Hughes in January 1974. Although not quite as tiny as she appears in the photo above, she did bring a substantial cushion out to the aircraft for the right hand seat!
Ian BB

30th Oct 2013, 10:46
I have told the story of Joan Hughes's log book and the flying scholarship students at Whte Waltham so won't repeat it.

As a kid I had Neville Duke's photo, amongst others, on my wall.. Nearly sixty years later, I had the great privilege of knowing him - he was a Member of the South Coast Yacht Club of which I was professional secretary. What a lovely guy to have known.

Tray Surfer
30th Oct 2013, 11:38
From my perspective...

Barbara Jane Harrison.

Barbara Jane Harrison (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Jane_Harrison)

30th Oct 2013, 11:41
TS - the normally clear air here has suddenly become dusty..............

Tray Surfer
30th Oct 2013, 11:45

I apologise, I was not aware there were restrictions on what type of aviation heroes you were able to post about. I will remove it if people would prefer.

30th Oct 2013, 12:48
Tray Surfer - "Stupid Boy" - just a very heart warming and chastening story and well deserving of inclusion in the list -Reading the link my eyes started to itch................. Well included. Thank you

Tray Surfer
30th Oct 2013, 14:54
Ah OK. Sorry. I misunderstood. :)

30th Oct 2013, 16:31
Aircon in this office seems to be on the blink as my eyes are watering badly.

Barbara Jane Harrison, True grit indeed.

How badly we need people of her calibre.

In 5 years it will be 50 years. I hope there will be some kind of remembrance.

30th Oct 2013, 18:22
Can remember being stirred-up as a kid by the tales of derring-do of such men as Douglas Bader, Bob Stanford Tuck, Paul Richey and Ginger Lacey et al and really had no other choice after these but to follow them into aviation....

30th Oct 2013, 19:43
Tray Surfer, may I add my thanks for highlighting Barbara Harrison's story? How marvellous, too, to see how fitting her memorials are.

exmanman asks what became of the VAAC Harrier - i think it's still at Boscombe Down, in store.

I truly hope it ends up in a museum. My order of preference would be:

1. Cosford, in the Research and T&E section.
2. Yeovilton.
3. Farnborough Air Sciences Trust.


Tray Surfer
30th Oct 2013, 23:19
This is such a great thread... I am so happy I stumbled across it.

I have always been interested in aviation. Since I took my first flight on an Air Malta 737-200 in July 1987, being invited into the flight deck to see Paris as we overflew it, then being taken around varying air shows in the UK by my dad, setting off at silly o'clock in the morning to drive for 5 hours to get somewhere to spend hour upon hour with my jaw hanging open as planes buzzed overhead...

I have spent hours, clicking on links and googling and searching information about all the things posted in this thread, truly inspirational and I have had an amazing few hours.

I now fly for a living, all be it in the commercial cabins, and to me, it is still just that little bit more, every time I step over the threshold of an aircraft door, I still get a few wee butterflies in my stomach at the thought of being in the air.

A whole hearted thank you to all the contributors to this thread, you have made an unplanned day on the ground, very, worthwhile.


joy ride
31st Oct 2013, 09:20
I saw a programme on BBC 4 about flight attendants and this included details of Barbara Harrison's heroism. I wanted to add her to this thread but could not remember her name. Reading more about her on this thread made realise that she was on BOAC at the time that I was regularly flying with my brother as unaccompanied children between UK and USA, so it is even possible that as an Aunt we might have been attend to by her. Very moving.

31st Oct 2013, 20:46
Jean Lennox Bird

I'd add to the list Jean Lennox Bird who was the first female RAF pilot to be awarded full RAF pilots Wings (as a member of the WRAFVR) in 1952.

There's a British Pathe clip of her receiving her wings here:
FIRST R.A.F. WINGS FOR WOMEN aka 1ST WOMAN GETS RAF WINGS - British Pathé (http://www.britishpathe.com/video/first-r-a-f-wings-for-women-aka-1st-woman-gets-raf)

Her portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery as seen here:
National Portrait Gallery - Portrait - NPG x86584; Jean Lennox Bird (http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw100109/Jean-Lennox-Bird)

She sadly died in 1957 when the Miles Aerovan she was piloting crashed at Ringway Airport, Manchester.

1st Nov 2013, 01:46
Raymond Baxter
I grew up in the seventies and his voice described some of the best moments of my early years.
Farnborough with Concorde, Harrier, Phantom etc.
I'm now off to youtube to relive those moments

1st Nov 2013, 10:23
My wedding reception was held in a pub in New Malden Surrey and the landlord was the Steward who was with Barbera. This was many years later and he still could not forget her and blamed himself for her demise.

He had to give up flying due to this terrible incident.

1st Nov 2013, 19:48
Any more info on women VR pilots - were there many, how were they employed, were they trained to full "wings" standard. Not a topic I have ever heard of before

Tray Surfer
2nd Nov 2013, 15:14
vctenderness... How very sad to hear. There is always a lot left behind, physical and mental, and the poor man must have felt terrible.

2nd Nov 2013, 19:32
Another vote for Joan Hughes. Did my instructor's rating with her 5000 years ago. She was very unassuming and never mentioned her ATA and film careers. She was like a character from an Agatha Christie novel. Especially endearing was her propensity to refer to people she didn't approve of as "it", as in "It wandered in expecting some sort of special treatment and it wasn't happy when everyone ignored it."

Ian Burgess-Barber
2nd Nov 2013, 20:06
Andy McCarthy who trained me at BOAC Cranebank in 1973 was another Cabin Crew survivor of the Whisky Echo incident - it had scarred him for life also - I don't think he ever went back to regular line flying - those of us who have gone through a flying life as pros or pleasure flyers without such traumas must count our blessings - God bless Barbara.

3rd Nov 2013, 02:29
Captain Gordon Corps : Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers: Gordon Corps 1929-1992 (http://tinyurl.com/bnzyozz)

Allan Lupton
3rd Nov 2013, 07:43
I certainly agree that Gordon Corps should be on the list - such a pity that the poorly-written piece you link seems to be all there is on the interweb.

Another pilot for the list is Hatfield's Jimmy Phillips as seen below and from about 70 sec. into this:
BEA Presents: Clear to Land- 1968 Trident Promo Film (Part 2 of 3) - YouTube

later, like Gordon Corps, was with Airbus.

3rd Nov 2013, 11:26
Geoffrey de Haviland (Jnr), John Derry and John Cunningham..........


3rd Nov 2013, 16:57
I certainly agree that Gordon Corps should be on the list - such a pity that the poorly-written piece you link seems to be all there is on the interweb.

He crops up a fair bit in the flightglobal archives - particularly with reference to the A320 project at its various stages. I've often said that there'd be far less misunderstanding of the Airbus technology among the piloting community had he not passed away so tragically prematurely*. I have been reliably informed that he had the same gift for explaining engineering principles to pilots as his ARB predecessor D.P. Davies.

Will read up on Capt. Phillips - cheers!

* - Of altitude sickness, having insisted he be on Airbus's safety "go team" when a Thai A310 crashed in the Himalayas.

4th Nov 2013, 19:48
Brian Trubshaw, John Derry and
Ron Souch.