View Full Version : RAE Farnborough - steeped in history

Flying Lawyer
7th Aug 2003, 22:04
BBC News Online A new fight is on, to save 20th Century 'heritage sites' such as the innovation hothouse that gave us Concorde.

Some time after helping to found the Royal Aircraft Establishment preservation society, Laurence Peskett was rummaging through discarded test tubes in the institution's chemistry block.
"I found one with a bit of stuff in the bottom and a note stuck in top. It said 'First carbon fibre ever made at RAE. Could be of interest'."
Carbon fibre, the rigid, lightweight material that has revolutionised everything from Formula One cars to tennis rackets, is just one of the landmark discoveries to be made at the now defunct RAE's headquarters in Farnborough, Hampshire.

Key parts of the site, which is steeped in aviation history, have been saved from the bulldozers and wrecking balls. Earlier this year two of its wind tunnels were given Grade I protected status.

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/39372000/jpg/_39372545_q121_203.jpg http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/39372000/jpg/_39372493_restoration_203.jpg

Built in 1934, the biggest of the two looks nothing like your typical heritage site. Driven by a six-blade mahogany fan (see picture) with a diameter of 9.1m, the tunnel was used to test full-sized aircraft prototypes like the Spitfire.

Campaigners such as Mr Peskett, who have fought for 10 years under the banner of the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust (FAST) to save the RAE site, must now move on to phase two of their plan: restoration.

Restoration is about to become the new "makeover", with the launch of a major BBC television series. With a few exceptions - most notably a dilapidated World War II prisoner of war camp in County Durham - all the buildings are pre-20th Century.

"It is not architectural importance but immense historical importance that should save this site," 'Save British Heritage' says of Farnborough.

Certainly, the buildings are anything but attractive - a grey corrugated iron clock tower, 1940s brick huts and a collection of civil service-style office blocks.

Wind-tunnel from outside

But within these walls, some of Britain's most iconic aeronautical triumphs were forged.

Hothouse of innovation
Concorde, the bouncing bomb, the Harrier "jump jet" and the Spitfire were all developed here, to a greater or lesser extent, as was Sir Frank Whittle's first jet engine.
In 1908, Colonel Samuel Franklin Cody made the first powered flight in the UK at Farnborough.
Ten years later the Royal Air Force was founded here and the space suits for Nasa's Apollo astronauts were developed here.

Since the site was sold off by the Ministry of Defence in 1998, much has been demolished, its land given over to new office developments. But the historic core remains in tact, thanks largely to the campaigning of the preservation society and Save Britain's Heritage.

Not only have they helped achieve Grade I listing for the two main wind tunnels - fondly known as Q121 and R133 in their MOD days - but they have also won protection for the oldest wind tunnel on site, built in 1916, and another building.

"It's been a colossal struggle to get this far," says Mr Peskett. "We set out to do something positive and show how it could be turned into a science park or something and not just whinge about the destruction of historic buildings."

But the struggle has some way to go yet. They have to begin repairing the wind tunnels' crumbling concrete and figure out a use for them. Doing nothing is not an option since an empty building will decay faster than an occupied one.

While there is an obvious case for saving some of Britain's oldest buildings, Farnborough is a reminder that heritage did not stop with the death of Queen Victoria.

I imagine there are people in this forum with views on the above - and some interesting stories to share about the old days at RAE Farnborough.


Dr Illitout
8th Aug 2003, 01:56
The R.A.E. was also the birthplace of my aviation career!!!!. Apart from this Farnborough is one of the most important aviation heratage sites in the country but no body gives a damm, because the general public and the gutter press think aviation is the work of the devil!.

Windy Militant
8th Aug 2003, 05:21
Just like training apprentices, which gave many of us a good start I life. Heritage is not considered a core business by QuinetiQ:(

8th Aug 2003, 10:53
Yesterday (7th August) was the 90th anniversary of Samuel Cody's fatal crash at Ball Hill, Farnborough. How things have changed since then!
I have a question to ask, which may well be answered someone interested in the history of Farnborough.
My grandfather, as a schoolboy in the early 1900s, had a classmate whose father was an "aeronautical engineer".Grandfather was often invited to tea at the aforementioned's house.
On several occasions, Samuel Cody was present, deliberating the merits/demerits of the "aeronatical engineer"'s new engine, to be used in one of Cody's "machines".
The location of the house would presumably be near to Farnborough/Ash/Aldershot.
I am intrigued as to the identity of the engineer....any ideas?

Phil H.

9th Aug 2003, 03:05
RAE Farnborough... also holds a soft spot in my own aviation history.

One of the things I used to do (when on a break) was visit the library next to "A" shed and across the road form the ATC building (N1, of which more later). If you went down a dusty corridor you would enter the "historical" section.

Few people ever went down there but amongst the gems I had the pleasure of reading were hand written test pilots notes on various aeroplanes. I remember very well the notes someone made up for the Shackleton MR3. Lots of red ink and exclamation marks! I've often wondered why.

What has happened to all that? And all the museum "pieces" like the beautifully crafted wooden wind tunnel test models? I saw some of them as well and they were wonderful. Sad to think of them in a skip somewhere.

Back to ATC. When first posted to RAE Farnborough I went through the usual briefing from "Master Spy" (the RAE security people really were paranoid about the Soviets at the time). Next up was to find the ATC building. This I did, noting that some pillock had put the sign by the door on upside down so it read N1 instead of IN.. or so I thought.:rolleyes: Except that it was me that was (still is?) the pillock as all the buildings at the RAE had letters and numbers to identify them. ATC really was the N1 Building:)

Anyway I have many happy memories (and a few stories) of the place, watching the Dak, Comet, Varsity etc doing their various trials. A pity if it's all gone.

rgds BEX

John Farley
9th Aug 2003, 04:58
We cannot live by looking back, I know that, but it is hard for me to accept what has happened to the old RAE ‘factory’ site over the last few years.

I started my five year apprenticeship there in 1950 at the age of 17. Then I got the RAF to teach me to fly so that I could go back there on the course at ETPS in 1963. Over the years since then I have been lucky to work for the RAE in a variety of capacities, but the scene at Farnborough in the early 50’s was remarkable. During my apprenticeship I kept a list of all the aircraft types (not marks) that I saw on the airfield. It totalled 104. Not so long ago I met the RAF Wing Commander who was in charge of flying at RAE when I was an apprentice. I told him about my list. “Wrong” he said “it was 106 -you missed a couple”

The Roman Catholic Church has influenced a few youngsters over the years but not (I suspect) as much as the RAE has influenced me.

You want it when?
9th Aug 2003, 21:54
I've attended many Farnborough events - It's great to have bits if it saved.

Hey Windy don't knock QinetiQ - once you get past the grafted on sales people the old DERA chaps and chapesses are so un commercial they will do almost anything for free :O

10th Aug 2003, 03:30
I guess I've got mixed reactions.

For my present career its great to fly in with loads of tarmac for parking and a feel of permanency about it.

However like John F, there is more than a tinge of sadness about it when I think back to my days in electronics, when I occasionally worked at Farnborough and there was lots of new equipment around and aircraft to see.

Many of the hangers that I either worked in or visited are now blocked off or just have "mundane" aircraft residing. However, I can recall with much fondness a week spent during the Airshow just being available there in case our equipment went wrong ( it didn't ) whilst the representatives of a certain country were there to view it with the intention of buying it ( they didn't !). There were suggestions that to avoid wasting my week I should do a bit of "stand manning" at the main exhibition site, but fortunately this did not materialise and so I spent the whole week loitering in and around the black hangar observing at close quarters the Red Arrows and the Comet Racer that were all parked in the vicinity.

Happy days!

Genghis the Engineer
10th Aug 2003, 23:08
I'm another who started his career there, in my case as an 18 year old Student Apprentice at the SETC in what had previously been ETPS' buildings. After leaving there, at various times I worked in Aircraft Dept, Base Engineering, Engineering Services (and Aero at Bedford).

The state of the place now is appauling, and I'm not too distressed to be working elsewhere these days - but in it's heyday (although a relative youngster, I was there at the end of that happy period of blue-skies research and constant experimental flying) it was fantastically exciting, and created several generations of Britain's best aeronautical Engineers (although Genghis Sr. who was a rough contemporary of JF but at Supermarine would probably dispute that;-) ).

Having said that, when I was there much of RAE was like a shanty town - presumably it's years of lack of investment of in the buildings and facilities, not the 1990-1995 creation of DRA by Chisholm that did the real damage.

Like Bexil I used to lurk when I had a couple of hours spare in the historical section of the library - what happened to that fantastic collection of old manuals, textbooks and airfield logs? For that matter, what happened to the rest of that amazing library? - I heard an awful rumour a while ago that DERA/Qinetiq had simply disposed of a lot of the older journal collections, which if-true is criminal.

It was always inevitable that RAE would have to change, but complete withdrawl from the main site, closing down all flying, and scrapping much of the library I can't ever forgive as a way of bringing the site into the 21st century.

On the odd occasions I have meetings with anybody from Qinetiq, I make a point of wearing my old RAE tie, just in case it causes offence to any of the management!


Windy Militant
11th Aug 2003, 15:58
You want it when?
I have nothing but admiration for the old school employees of QunietiQ. However there aren't many left. Whilst I realise that you can't live in the past, forgetting your history or in this case destroying your skills base can't be good.
I was not actually at Farnborough but at one of the outstations Had I not been able to take up a trade as I did, I would be stuck in an area with no work other than meanial holiday season jobs.
Computer modeling and consultation are fine to a point, but it has limitations as the place I now work at are finding out.
Experimental work needs a certain touch, CAD/CAM is fine where you have an established product but when things don't work quite as planned the ability to make quick modifications on site becomes vital. That's when you find that a Dreadnought file is a bl**dy site more useful than a .DWG file. ;)
Thinking about where some of my fellow ex Apprentices have ended up and the things they are doing, I would say that the money spent on training was well spent.:ok:

Dr Illitout
22nd Aug 2003, 04:50
I too spent some time in the old R.A.E. library looking at some of the gems there. I am sure that it all ended up with all the stuff from the R.A.E. museum. This was all looked after by Brian Kervell the chief librarian. He retired at about the same time as the R.A.E. wound up. All of the artifacts then went to the Science museum. Shame it didn't stay in the Farnborough area though.

Evening Star
22nd Sep 2004, 14:18
Report in today's Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1309812,00.html):

Historic air industry site saved

Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent
Wednesday September 22, 2004
The Guardian

A £20m scheme was announced yesterday to restore a tatty collection of sheds which hold some of the most important aviation relics in the world.

Scientists, historians and conservationists have been fighting for decades to save the main structures of the former Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in Hampshire, which was a secret world for almost a century until the site was sold by the Ministry of Defence in 1999, for a reputed £57m.

Work was done there at every stage of 20th century aviation, from giant airships to analysing the wreckage from the 1954 Comet crash, when the problem of metal fatigue at high speeds was first identified.

Samuel Cody flew Britain's first powered controlled aircraft there in 1908, and later there were tests on the Spitfires and Hurricanes which were to play a crucial role in the second world war, and on Frank Whittle's first jet engine.

Under plans announced yesterday by Slough Estates, backed by English Heritage, the campaign group Save and the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust, which includes many scientists who worked at Farnborough, the 10 hectare (25 acre) core of the site will be restored and reused.

The most spectacular structure, the 120 metre (400ft) concrete wind tunnel, with its beautiful nine metre diameter mahogany blades, may have a new life as a theatre and cafe.

The original development proposals for a business park on the site would have involved flattening most of the buildings.

The breakthrough came last year, when many of the structures were listed, some for the second time.

Before the site was sold several were de-listed, a move denounced by conservationists as a scandalous attempt to make it more attractive to developers.

The most spectacular aspect of the new scheme will be a new public park with the extraordinary hangar frame re-erected as a feature.

It resembles a garden pergola, but on the scale of a row of office blocks, and was originally designed to be covered in canvas and used to park airships.

PPRuNe Pop
24th Sep 2004, 15:54
On the basis that actions speak louder than words - where would be a good place to start for example, a PPRuNe action group? Just speaking as I see it to start with but I also understand that with a large sum of money coming from the Lottery the plan might need muscle help too. Is that right?

Would the current attempt to save so much benefit from some of the talented people we have on PPRuNe? Is anyone close enough to it to get an idea of what is going on, what help if any they need and could PPRuNe assist?

Discuss and speak people.

24th Sep 2004, 23:59
Cody's Tree

During my year at Farnborough I used to often wander past the remains of Cody's tree which had a little fence for protection.

I would look at that tree and imagine Cody tying his elementary aircraft to a selected branch of the tree, climbing aboard and running up the engine. There must be many others who have done the same thing. Oh for a photograph?

Does anyone know how he calibrated a tree branch?

I will be aghast if those irreplaceable remains of Cody's tree have not been preserved and given a place of prominence in an aviation museum.

And what of the Black Sheds?

PPRuNe Pop
25th Sep 2004, 21:18
I was at Farnborough today. Not on the airfield but visiting kin across from the main road.

There is much talk around. From the papers and the locals. Seems that there is a runway extension planned so that the road at the Laffans Plain end could be moved underground! Other ground around there is now being cleared so who can tell.........

The black sheds have almost gone - I say almost because you cannot get close enough to see. The old control tower is still there - as a listed building.

The general view of the place is one of expansion, expansion, expansion. GA move over and let us big boys in! (Maybe!)

John Farley
26th Sep 2004, 18:30
The old control tower is still there - as a listed building.

I wish. It went in less than 24 hours a while ago. You may be thinking about the 24ft

PPRuNe Pop
26th Sep 2004, 19:32
Ah John, I thought the big grey building with the clock was the control tower - next to the black hangars on the Eastern end of the field. Not so? Thought it was up those stairs that GP Spiers gave me a bol......... telling off one time! :O

Have to say that they are destroying the 'OLD' place with seemingly gay abandon though.

What is the 24ft?

Dr Illitout
28th Sep 2004, 09:19
I did my apprenticship at the R.A.E. For the fist two years we were under the tutorage of Reg Weeding and Doug Beckford. Every morning we had two hours of theory lessons. Pinned to the wall was a large picture of a very young John Farley holding a trophy of some sort. Reg and Doug used to say to us "Study hard and you can be just like him!!"..... I didn't and I wasn't!!!!!
I feel that my time spent with Reg and Doug was briliant and their teaching still influences me today.
in the words of Doug Beckford
"Well, my pr**ks a bloater and we'er having fish for tea!"

Rgds Dr.I. (1978-1982)

John Farley
28th Sep 2004, 11:49
PPRuNe Pop


By the 24 ft I was referring to the 24 ft tunnel which is listed and currently still preserved. Sorry that I relapsed into the vernacular of the place in the early fifties when the tunnels were all just called by the size of the working section - the 8ft or the 13x9 etc. the word tunnel was seemingly just 'understood'

So the 24ft was probably the building you mistook for the Control Tower now that all the stuff between the two is no more!

So Reggie gave you a telling off. We must exchange notes sometime. I expect it was the same one he gave me. His stock of same was limited, but that did mean he was less likely to fluff his lines.


28th Sep 2004, 12:22
Reminds me that at school in the early 80s we had a "Science Society" lecture by a scientist from Farnborough who had been involved in the development of carbon fibre or GRP or some such similar material at Farnbrough in the 1960s.

This chap came on stage looking for all the world as I imagine Mr Honey in Nevil Shute's "No Highway" would look - short, bespectacled, balding and sporting a tie liberally smeared with his dinner... And perhaps just a little eccentric...

"Oh no", we all thought, "this is going to be dreary."

He was brilliant, funny and informative; I quote practically verbatim: 'Well, me and the boys were at work one day, and thought "let's invent carbon fibre..." '

Several weeks later, a dozen of us went to Farnborough to take a look at the lab, etc. I also visited the tower and met the chaps who were Farnborough Radar to whom I listened on my air-band most of the time I wasn't in class...

28th Sep 2004, 20:01
I was fortunate enough to be flying at Farnborough at the end of its time as an active MoD airfield in 1993/4, albeit by then it was in the hands of the DRA. We ceased active test flying there at the end of March 1994, but installation and maintenance work was still done on some aircraft until October. At the end of the SBAC Airshow that year, the site was still in good repair. However, I was horrified when, on October 18, I returned to fly the final MoD aircraft out of Farnborough (Tornado F2A ZD902). The hangars and many buildings had been stripped bare of manuals and tools, and I understand that most of them were thrown in skips; total desecration! After take-off, we did a low flypast for the enginerrs, who then locked up the hangar, handed the keys in to the guardroom and drove back to Boscombe Down. A very ignominious end to test flying at such a historic airfield.

Dr Illitout
29th Sep 2004, 09:52
Poor old Reg. W. died about ten years ago whilst having an operation on his knees. His nephew said the night before he died he was cutting pictures of jet engines out of "Flight" and sticking them into a scrap book!. The last time I saw him he was thinking of taking a L.W.T.R. course at Farnborugh tech to "Keep up with things"!
Every body lost contact with Doug. B. after he moved down to the west country. He must be in his ninetys now, if he's still alive.
He was one of the guy's that built the Miles falcon.

Rgds Dr.I.
P.S. If I ever venture down to Chichester, John you can have your book back!!!

John Farley
29th Sep 2004, 14:08
We ceased active test flying there at the end of March 2004, but installation and maintenance work was still done on some aircraft until October. At the end of the SBAC Airshow that year, the site was still in good repair. However, I was horrified when, on October 18, I returned to fly the final MoD aircraft out of Farnborough (Tornado F2A ZD902).


I have read that a couple of times but am not sure if the dates quite gel. Any mods needed? Was it March 2002 for example?


I have a fairly long list of missing ones....give me a clue!


29th Sep 2004, 17:56

Whoops! Of course, I meant 1994. Good spot. How time flies.

Thanks and best regards.


PS. I have now amended the original post.

29th Sep 2004, 21:46
Don't do it JF!

Dr I's a stalker!!:E

Genghis the Engineer
6th Oct 2004, 12:44
A thought. There are some good people posting here who have varied and professional backgrounds at RAE. Whilst there is an ex-apprentices association and FAST, do we need some form of ex-RAE association that wraps up boffins, TPs, and others who were at the core of RAE? Whilst one can have too many clubs, a chance for an annual get together and war-story-telling-session sounds worth the effort perhaps?

For that matter, does anybody know if I, as an ex-SETC Student Engineer (rather than apprentice) am eligible for membership of the ex-apprentices association? Edited to say that I've just discovered that I am, courtesy of an Email via www.rae-apprentices.com


8th Oct 2004, 20:58
As a local( well of 7 years) its excellent that something has been preserved. Sadly I witnessed during 2000-2001 once familiar buildings dissapearing on a almost daily basis:* . First the old RAE main office block, through the awfully 60's naval building, the gym and finally the tower. Whats left is the wind tunnel and whats left of the original RAF( thats factory) buildings. Sadly these are off limits at the moment. The owners of the undeveloped( and whats been built is empty) office park, Slough Estates, have the whole site under close scrutiny. Hopefully in the not too distant future it will be restored to its former glory? And the last Black Shed will contain the FAST aircraft collection?

19th Oct 2004, 20:51
I was fortunate enough to be flying at Farnborough at the end of its time as an active MoD airfield in 1993/4, albeit by then it was in the hands of the DRA. We ceased active test flying there at the end of March 1994

I know you're talking about October here
A very ignominious end to test flying at such a historic airfield.
but all the same...

You'd have been more fortunate to have been based at the other RAE airfield then. If it's possible to use up an airfield's remaining "fatigue life" with one good thrash then ARS made a damn good job of doing so. People who witnessed events at the end of March in both places were shocked at the lack of spirit on show at FRN on the occasion. Perhaps it was ever thus ;)

5th Nov 2004, 22:46
Farnborough Recollections

Farnborough 1955.

About mid year, the RAF put together an aerobatic team based at Odiham not far from Farnborough. The team leader was a USAF pilot on exchange, Captain Immig. Flying Hunters, the team of four took off from Odiham one day in July and climbed above the usual lower cloud layers to fly some sequences which were to be filmed for TV showing. A Meteor 7 and a Vampire T11 having movie camera operators as passengers accompanied the formation and obtained some good coverage.

By the time all the aircraft had used a goodly proportion of their fuel and started heading for base the pilots found that the weather at low level was rapidly deteriorating. Odiham was equipped only with a VHF Direction Finding system. The Meteor managed to get into Odiham, using a VHF/DF let down. But the Hunters following soon found that Odiham had all but closed with a very low cloud base. By now the formation had broken up into two pairs for easier manoeuvring in cloud. The second pair of Hunters was advised to try for an approach into Farnborough. Farnborough tower had been advised by Odiham of the growing emergency for the Hunters but found it was already overloaded getting its own aircraft down in the worsening weather. Consequently when Blue Three called up with "May Day, May Day, May Day, This is Blue 3 with two diverting from Odiham, request immediate GCA, very low on fuel." Farnborough tower responded almost matter of factly with "Sorry cannot help you I'm afraid. Would you either call Tangmere on emergency or bail out please."

The use of please at the end of that transmission has become a classic in aviation history. Blue 3 responded with " Oh we haven't got enough fuel for that, going to Tangmere emergency channel."

A short while later during a slight break in Farnborough's activities Blue leader came up on Farnborough's frequency saying " Farnborough this is Blue Leader with two from Odiham, can you help us with an emergency GCA?" Farnborough responded with "Roger steer 290. But I may not be able to get you in."

Over the next five minutes Farnborough was able to talk those two down until they became visual and followed through with landings. As they were landing there were a few remarks of appreciation followed by "Blue 2 say after me,” My Father Who art in Heaven!" Blue 2 ran out of fuel taxying.

Blue 3 and 4 managed to get overhead Tangmere where both flamed out. Blue 4 then bailed out. Blue 3 did an engine out spiral descent overhead to break through cloud at about 500 feet. He landed wheels up across the airfield being unable to line up on a runway.

Extract from memoirs.

8th Nov 2004, 16:10

Milt, I always enjoy reading of your flying experiences. Am I right in thinking you are in the process of writing up/publishing your memoirs?

If so (allowing for Pprune advertising rules) can you keep us aware of the progress, please.


9th Nov 2004, 07:22

Well if you insist!!

A few more Farnborough recollections.
From Memoirs.

After an overnight at Mallala, Ken and I set off for the long grind from Australia to the UK in an RAF Hastings with overnight stops at Darwin, Nogombo Ceylon, Karachi Pakistan, Habaniya near Bagdad Iraq and terminating at RAF Lyneham. We then caught a train into London to check into the Strand Palace hotel, for a week or so, to await the start of the Test Pilots' Course at Farnborough, Hampshire.

We enjoyed looking around London and got to know the staff of RAAF London, meeting in the process our future course member Fred Cousins. Fred was an aeronautical engineer with limited flying experience and we wondered how he was going to cope with the flying on the course.

In early February 1954, Ken and I caught a train south west from London to Farnborough and found our way to the TPS mess, arriving early evening on a Sunday. After checking in to rooms already assigned, we met again in the bar. Initially, we were the only occupants of the bar and we had a few glasses of the warm English brew. Eventually, an older person wandered into the bar and sat on a bar stool a few removed from us. The newcomer was almost bald and Ken, always very outspoken, soon remarked to me in a voice loud enough to be heard by all present, "Hey Milt, wouldn't you think that they would take off their bone-domes to come into the bar?". Bone-dome was the name given to hard flying helmets. The new arrival downed his drink, glared at Ken and stomped out without saying a word. The next day we formally met the fellow. He was no less than Wg Cdr McDonald, the Chief Test Flying Instructor. He glared at Ken again, who sank lower into his chair, whilst giving me a quick look and a suppressed smile.

We had a week of ground school before flying, during which we got to know the other course members. They were mostly RAF/RN with two USAF, two USN, three RCAF/RCN, two Italian, two French, one Egyptian, one Dutch, one Norwegian, a Swede and we four Australians. A most interesting coming together of some of the world's best pilots.

The school was made up of about 10 experienced test pilot tutors, the Chief Test Flying instructor, the Chief Ground instructor, two non test flying qualified flying instructors, a few flight engineers, the Commandant and a small administrative staff. The messing staff were locally engaged civilians. Aircraft maintenance and servicing was carried out by civilians employed by the Ministry of Supply.

The aircraft fleet consisted of two or three each of the following aircraft. Chipmunk, Provost, Vampire, Meteor 7 and 8, Sea Hawk, Hunter F1, Canberra B2, Devon, Pembroke, Valetta, Varsity, Hiller helicopter and Sycamore helicopter. Additionally, there was a small fleet of gliders for recreation flying. The gliders were one each of a two seat Sedburg, an Olympia and a Sky. The Chipmunks were fitted with aero tow hooks and they were the only method by which the gliders could be launched.

The airfield has history going back to the infancy of British and world aviation. Preserved on the airfield were the stumpy remains of Cody's tree. A branch of this tree was used by the pioneer aviator Cody as a rough measure of the thrust developed by his engine/propeller combinations. He would tie the tail of his aircraft to the branch and the extent of bending of the branch during ground running would be an indication of thrust being developed.

Farnborough had one main runway of about 8000 ft. Two other cross runways of about 5000 ft were rarely used and often were occupied by parked aircraft. The airfield was the home of the Royal Aircraft Establishment which conducted a great variety of research and development flying. The National Gas Turbine Establishment had its premises on the western side of the airfield. TPS mess and ground school occupied a small area on the southern side of the airfield, adjacent to the main road from the town of Farnborough to Farnham. The extensive Aldershot army base was to the south across that road.

The airfield had gently rising ground to the south so that the TPS mess, about 500 yds from the centre of the main runway, was about 100 ft higher on a low ridge line. This emphasised the slight depression of the airfield which was in an area known as Lappins Plains. Approach lights on gantries at each end of the runway followed rising ground. The famous black sheds of the RAE nestled around the north eastern end of the main runway. A busy Civil airfield named Blackbushe had its main runway roughly parallel to Farnborough's about 10 miles to the north west. Radio aids were a VHF direction finder and Precision Search Radar, without any height finder, but which was used in conjunction with target heights at approach ranges as a limited Ground Control Approach facility.

During the war and after for a period of about fifteen years, there was a minimum of control and regulation over qualifications needed before flying an aircraft. This was especially so within the test pilot fraternity although pressures were building from the Central Flying schools and the Training areas to introduce more regulation. At this time in the UK and particularly at ETPS, it was accepted that any would be test pilot would have been carefully chosen by his parent service and should have no trouble in being able to handle any aircraft in the school's fleet, given a set of pilots notes and some brief hints from the tutors.

The two instructors on the course were instructors in the pure sense and were more concerned with instrument flying standards and ratings than in correcting any hazardous flying habits of the students. It was expected however, that each student would have at least one preliminary flight with one of the instructors before being let loose.

I had not flown a Meteor previously so on 10 February I was assigned for a flight with one of the instructors, Flt Lt Jack Hindle, in Meteor 7 No 337. This flight was more an introduction to the area and the air traffic system than to the aircraft which I found easy to manage. The next day I was assigned to fly an area familiarisation flight solo in another Meteor 7. The rest of the month was occupied with first flights in other aircraft and my first instrument rating for jet aircraft. In 10 flights for the month I had flown 8 different types.

By March 1955 I was through with the instructors and well into test flying techniques with another four types in the log book.

One of the flights in March was my introduction to gliding. ETPS had firmly established that gliding experience for test pilots was fundamental to their extended appreciation of the atmosphere and the effects of the atmosphere on aircraft handling and performance. This became very obvious as some gliding experience was accumulated.

For those who had not flown gliders previously it was necessary that one of the instructors conduct a brief conversion. A two seater side by side open cockpit Sedburg served this purpose. So it was on the 31 March that a gliding session was arranged at a small grass airfield not far from Farnborough.

I had a good look over the Sedburg with the assistance of the instructor Flt Lt Hindle and we were soon lined up behind a Chipmunk and attached by a nylon rope about 200 ft long. The rope had a metal ring on each end attached to manual release units. The intention was to be towed to about 2500 ft in a low tow position, release from the tow and take advantage of any thermals which we might find.

Just after take off, we climbed up over a line of trees adjacent to the airfield and I was soon interested in peering over the left side of the cockpit at the houses which filled the local area. The instructor wanted to demonstrate something and not having intercom he meant to get my attention by tapping my right thigh with his gloved left hand. As he reached across to do this he inadvertently had his fingers pick up on a wire cable attached to a ball like knob close to my right knee. This was the tow cable release. I felt the tow cable release at the same time as he prodded my thigh, quickly looked down at his hand and looked at him incredulously as the extent of our predicament was realised.

All previous training insisted that we force-land close to straight ahead. But all there was ahead were more and more back yards of houses. Hindle lost no time in converting excess airspeed into some extra height as we wheeled around in a turn back manoeuvre. As we straightened out at about 200 feet above ground it didn't take long to sense that our descent angle was going to put us into the trees along the edge of the airfield.

I pulled my straps tight and selected a spot on the coaming to support my head just before the impending crash. Of course I was watching Hindle's handling of the situation very closely and doing a continual reassessment of the situation.

As we approached close to and still slightly above those treetops reaching up for us Hindle eased the nose down as though to dive into a backyard garden. The tree tops rose above us and my thoughts were,"What a way to go!".

Just short of the trees now towering above us, Hindle eased up the nose. The top branches clutched loudly at the wheels and rear fuselage as we stalled, descending rapidly to thump hard on the ground on the very edge of the airfield.

That was my conversion to gliders. I refused to fly any more glider flights with an instructor.

9th Nov 2004, 10:22
Hello Milt

Flew into Farnborough yesterday and I'm sure you would hardly recognise the old place now. As FL has stated, things are changing rapidly.

I never have much time to spend at Farnborough, normally just dropping in to pick up or drop off passengers. Where is Cody's Tree?

Having spent many a hour instructing in Sedburghs (we always had the 'h' in the spelling) and learned to fly in Chipmunks it nice to feel I can relate a very little to your experiences. However that's as far as the similarity goes.

The point is, are your memoirs to be published, or do we have to read through all your posts here on pprune?

Cheers H

John Farley
9th Nov 2004, 11:28
You ask where is Cody's tree.

Originally it grew out of the ground just short of the 25 threshold.

Now it has been moved to the brand new QuinetiQ site (which has replaced the old RAE buildings) which is off the right hand side of the far end of 25 WSW of the new tower


9th Nov 2004, 13:59
JF, thank you. I shall have to see if it can be seen next time we're into Farnborough.

BTW 25 is now 24, do we blame that change on trying to forget Farnborough's past, or is it only a deviation from the variation.

Regards, H

9th Nov 2004, 21:39

Memoirs? They started in response to "What did you do Dad?"
Now they are quite a tome and I am now trying to get into chronological order the 5 years I spent in the USA managing the acquisition of the RAAF's F-111 fleet. That could be a book on it's own.

Publication - if I can manage it between researching the Flight Test History of Australians and finishing a book on Delfosse Badgery, one of our early aviation pioneers who learned to fly at Hendon in 1913. You may have seen a couple of my posts on Del in the fascinating thread describing Mazzy's approach to solo.

Going TDY for a week to visit son of Delfosse Badgery, who as a CFS instructor was able to take his 80+ yr old father for a flight in a dual Vampire.

More later if I sense there is enough appetite.

10th Nov 2004, 05:19
I've got an appetite to hear moreMilt

John Farley
10th Nov 2004, 11:05


I think the 25/24 issue is the only thing about which we need not be suspicious!


21st Nov 2004, 18:03
Paging Milt.....

You seem to back in the circuit, so how long before your audiences get to read some more of your memoirs?

JF, couldn't you add a few recollections also? BTW, have you had any books published? Or plan to?

25th Nov 2004, 08:26
John Farley - thanks for that superb shot of Cody's Tree and the Brabazon.

Farnborough ETPS Memories Continued.

We soon settled into a daily routine. Each day started with a batman waking me up with a cup of tea. After breakfast in the mess, we would all go to an hour-long lecture on some aspect of test flying. Following the lecture, we would walk or drive down to the TPS hangars to check in with our assigned tutor. My first tutor was Sqn Ldr Bill Sheehan. The tutors would brief us on handling and performance techniques, the finer points of report writing and would launch us on flights to make meticulous measurements and observations.

The students without former jet experience and from countries using a different language than English had assimilation difficulties which the rest of us rapidly came to recognise. We did our best to help compensate by many fascinating discussions on flying, English social customs and behaviour.

Major Franki Frankini from Italy had an unusual background in that he had been a wartime fighter pilot with combat experience. Discussions revealed that he had actually flown a mission in which one of our tutors had been one of his adversaries in a dogfight. He also graphically described an occasion when he manoeuvred on to the tail of a Mustang and "I shoot and I shoot all my bullets into the Mustang and it just fly away." Later, following Italy's capitulation, Franki volunteered to fly Mustangs with the Allies against the Germans. So here was a fighter pilot who flew on both sides during World War II.

Confusion often occurred with air traffic control instructions despite the care taken by the controllers to use standard words and phrases with clear English diction.

It was not uncommon for pilots to mistake Blackbush, the civil airfield 10 miles from Farnborough, for home base. I found myself doing an initial approach on Blackbush one misty afternoon. I soon recognised my error as the layout of the airfield became clear. Not so with the Egyptian, Vickery Zarr, He followed through to land and when he went to turn off the runway on to a taxiway with which he was familiar at Farnborough, the resultant radio chatter became really hilarious.

It was normal practice under these circumstances for Farnborough to retain control over the offending pilot whilst liaising with Blackbush over a telephone tie-line. So those of us on the same frequency became party to a fascinating sequence of instructions and responses.

Blackbush was base to a fleet of civil Ambassador type aircraft and it became obvious that one of these was preparing for take off at the holding point when Farnborough said to Vickery " Take the next runway exit left and then the taxiway back to the holding point." Vickery said " I do not understand where I am and what I should do. I have some fuel left and can fly again for 20 minutes." Farnborough came back with "Roger, taxi straight ahead to the Ambassador." Vickery did not respond so Farnborough repeated the instruction. Vickery then came back in a faltering voice with "Please, please, I do not er er I do not wish to see the Ambassador today."

One of the tutors on the radio broke in with " Vickery you idiot, he means the Ambassador aircraft waiting for take off at the holding point." Meanwhile the rest of us had convulsions of laughter at the expense of the hapless and confused Egyptian.

We Australians were sometimes confused by different meanings given to words. The RAE were experimenting with a rapidly configurable inflatable aircraft capable of being carried around on a light road vehicle. The wings were inflatable and normally folded into a container. The engine was fitted with a small air compressor which inflated the wings and fuselage to maintain form and strength of its delta shape. Some intrepid test pilot would occasionally take it for a flight. The craft was always referred to by the British as the Durex Delta. This to us conceptualised a delta aircraft held together by Durex brand transparent sticky tape as marketed in Australia at the time. But the British did not have Durex sticky tape. Their Durex was a brand of condom.

I soon learned about this when my comments in mixed company one evening about having seen the Durex delta flying that day were followed by someone repeatedly kicking me in the shins beneath the table.

Flying in the northern hemisphere often puzzled me as I found I was less able to instinctively know where north should be. I had to take extra care to refresh my orientation with the compass. To this day I am unable to specify the basis for having some in-built directional capacity whilst in the southern hemisphere.

Week ends would mostly start on Saturday mornings at breakfast with an assessment of the weather as it would suit gliding activities. If suitable, those of us left in the mess would organise ourselves to get out the gliders and Chipmunks and get into the air. Two Landrovers were available to tow the glider trailers for the Sky and the Olympia.

On a good day with thermals, the pilot whose turn it might be to fly would be towed to 3/4000 ft and cast off. He would then disappear down wind to an undefined destination. Those left behind would amuse themselves with local flights in the Sedburg. The arrangement then was that each pilot, on landing somewhere, would call back to the mess by telephone, give their position and if an aero tow was possible they would be towed back by Chipmunk. If down in a field from which an aero tow was not possible then two of us would set off in a Landrover towing the appropriate glider trailer. I saw a lot of the English countryside during those Landrover retrieval trips. Also met a lot of interesting people.

All of this gliding activity didn't cost us a penny. There were fuel credit cards for the Landrovers and we were reimbursed expenses for meals, refreshments and any incidentals.

There were lots of visits to aircraft and engine manufacturing plants during the year. These were always of great interest, permitting us to see the latest in technology. Solid state electronics were just starting to have an impact on designs and rapid advances were also taking place with the jet engine. The capability for an aircraft to sustain level flight at supersonic speed was not far off.

To be continued.

25th Nov 2004, 20:53
Great memories Milt.
Of ETPS the hangar is still there. It was used as the main civil hangar until the new complex was built northiside around 3 years ago. It is now just used by the BAe comm's flights who's HQ is now in the ajacent old Comet water tank area.
Codys tree was replaced by a metal replica in the 1960's. Some of the original still remains with museums. The replica was moved from outside the black sheds to the new MoD site in 1997. There is now a good museum in G1 building( the RFC WW1 HQ on Farnborough Road), it has a couple of Hunters,Lightning T5, Jaguar, Gnat and some noses.
Aircraft used to mistake Blackbushe for Farnborough until the ILS and decient(??!) radar were put in when the airport became civil in 99. Although it seems that Northolt will close and 32sqn/Queens Flight will move in next year. So it may become partially military again?
Keep those memories coming.

26th Nov 2004, 02:21
Farnborough and ETPS Memoirs continued.

There were lots of visits to aircraft and engine manufacturing plants during the year (1955). These were always of great interest, permitting us to see the latest in technology. Solid state electronics were just starting to have an impact on designs and rapid advances were also taking place with the jet engine. The capability for an aircraft to sustain level flight at supersonic speed was not far off.

We lost one of our course members in May. Major Vickory Zarr of the Egyptian air force had been flying a Hunter Mk1 at high altitude and was returning to Farnborough through the usual low cloud and reduced visibility of the area. He had been talked down by GCA, had broken through the cloud cover and, as he reduced speed on short final, the windshield iced/misted over.

The foreign pilots with little or no previous jet experience all had trouble appreciating the voracious thirst of the jets and were often declaring emergencies over fuel shortages. So, on this occasion, Vickory did not have enough fuel for a go round. But he tried anyway. Some of us had our attention drawn to the situation when that Hunter's engine was spooled up to full power at which point it began to be starved of fuel. The engine was intermittently getting fuel and its staccato bursts of noise interspersed with silence were made graphic by great bursts of flame from the jet pipe as raw fuel pumped through unlit burner cans.

The pilot tried to turn tightly onto one of Farnborough's cross runways and while pulling in a descending turn bled off too much speed. The aircraft stalled to crash within the airfield environs just short of and to one side of the intended runway. It did not burn as there was little or no fuel remaining. Vickory's remains were taken back to Egypt for a state funeral, considering his high family and air force status.

Routine test flying training exercises continued but there were always many startling occurrences happening around us to keep the adrenalin flowing. There was also much social activity with parties at Tutors' houses or functions in the Mess. Saturday night in the Mess was nearly always a party night, well attended by students and their wives and friends.

Various past graduates of ETPS would come back to the school for the odd refresher flight in one or other of the school's aircraft. ETPS must have had an allocation of hours for this purpose and such flights seemed to be handled on an ad hoc basis.

Such was the general approach to test flying during those days that it was considered highly desirable that as many pilots as possible, get experience in as many aircraft as possible with a minimum of prior formal conversion. This approach did much to evolve standard requirements for aircraft design and handling in an era when aircraft were developing at a very rapid rate. The constrained restrictions imposed on present generation test pilots arise from a much slower rate of development and an enormous increase in capital costs of aircraft and equipment.

So it was that one day we had an RN Captain fly off in one of our Seahawks. He flew some aerobatics and during the recovery from a loop experienced a terrific bang as a goodly portion of the left side of the cockpit disappeared. He was left with little control over engine power with only a portion of the throttle linkage remaining and was only just able to limp back to Farnborough. He had not seen any other aircraft in the vicinity of the incident but presumed that he had been involved in a mid air collision. The story soon pieced together. A report was made by the pilot of a Hunter who had been flying straight and level at the time that another aircraft had plunged down on his aircraft striking it on the side of the front fuselage and taking out some of his right wing leading edge.

On the side of the Hunter's fuselage was a clear impression of a mirror image of the triangular red sign painted on the sides of aircraft cockpits having ejection seats - "Danger Ejection Seat". This had transfered from the Seahawk to the Hunter during the collision. It became an interesting exercise to subsequently use two models of the aircraft involved to attempt to reproduce the precise sequence of movement of the two aircraft as they became enmeshed for that split second of time. That both aircraft and their pilots survived is indeed remarkable.

At about this time, ETPS took delivery of a B2 Canberra No 867 which had just come through a major overhaul with English Electric at Warton. It was flown into Farnborough by one of the tutors. It was a normal practice then for the TPS engineers to do an acceptance inspection. The senior engineer was meticulous which was as well in that we all placed abnormal reliance on the reliability of the aircraft he and his team maintained and serviced.

Part of his inspection involved climbing through a hatch beneath the rear fuselage to examine the rudder and elevator control push-pull rods which ran along the left side of the fuselage through bearings at about 4 feet intervals. The rods connected directly with the flying controls in the cockpit. They were made from alloy tubing about 1 inch in diameter. The engineer discovered some metal particles scattered down the side of the fuselage in the vicinity of one of the bearings. He initially thought that one of the bearings may have seized and this may have been the source of the metal particles.

On the ground, the mass balances of the Canberra elevator controls caused the elevators to rise to their upper stops so that the control column was always fully back. The engineer used a piece of cord to tie the control column forward so that he could then inspect the complete run of the control rods. On climbing back into the rear fuselage, he was appalled to find that one of the elevator rods had been cut almost right through. The saw cut had been made so that it would be concealed by a bearing with the controls in their normal ground position.

All hell broke loose. Following an initial ETPS investigation, the police and Scotland Yard commenced a vigorous investigation at the English Electric plant at Wharton.

Some months previously, the wiring looms in the main electronics equipment bay of a Canberra being overhauled at Wharton had been extensively cut by someone using wire cutters. The culprit had not been found. Examination of work records showed that three workmen had worked on both aircraft during the periods in question. Close questioning eventually brought forth a confession by one fitter to both acts of sabotage.

Prior to the sabotage, the culprit had been working on night shifts for which there was an extra pay loading. He was transferred against his wishes to day shifts and decided to take out his resentment by deliberately damaging aircraft on which he was working. He was arrested, charged with sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment.

I have always taken great care with pre-flight inspections ever since and it was not the last case of sabotage to cross my path.

Next installment I go flying an ETPS glider again - this time with Bill Bedford. I seemed to always have an exciting/terrifying time with someone else doing the glider flying.

27th Nov 2004, 15:03

Wonderful tales; thank you. Oh that we could escape from today's risk averse culture and return to your time at ETPS when a pilot's experience and ability was respected and not regulated!

Best regards.

27th Nov 2004, 23:43
More memories of Farnborough.
Memoirs continued.
Unfortunately LOMCEVAK those days are gone forever.

One Saturday afternoon at Farnborough I found myself sitting in the right seat of the ETPS Sedburg glider with Bill Bedford, the Harrier test pilot, in the left seat. Bill, a former ETPS tutor, was an enthusiastic glider pilot and at the time held several British gliding records for height and distance. Bill was an informal supervisor of our week end gliding activities. We released from a Chipmunk aero tow somewhere near Guildford under a growing cumulus cloud and were soon rapidly gaining height in the cloud. The air temperature kept reducing with increasing altitude and we began to wonder how much colder we could become before leaving the cloud.

The glider had a battery driven artificial horizon and direction indicator and Bill had been doing a good job with these instruments. But without us realising it initially, the battery was going flat and the AH started to lean over. Bill followed the AH until I noticed that the turn indicator was not making sense. Soon after we entered a steep spiral dive and speed rapidly increased. I watched in horror as the airspeed went on up over the red line, never exceed, speed of 92 Kts. Markings around the dial of the ASI were from 20 Kts to 110 Kts with a gap around the bottom 30 degrees of the dial. I watched the needle go around through the gap and continue until it was showing 25 Kts the second time around. I guess we were up around 150 Kts. Sincere thanks go to the Sedburgh designer for all of that excess strength.

The airflow noise was very high, the wings had unusual twists and I was using both hands pulling on the air-brake toggle with the feeling that if I pulled any harder I would break something. We hurtled out through the cloud base still well nose down and directly over the city of Guildford. Bill slowly brought the nose up and as the speed thankfully reduced we zoomed up to cloud base again. By now the AH was unusable and as we looked at each other with intense relief we both knew that there was no way we were going to re-enter the cloud to gain enough height for us to glide back to Farnborough.

Recognising that we were now too low to glide upwind to Farnborough Bill elected to try to glide downwind to the airfield at Dunsfold just visible in the distance. We hoped to be able to pick up some rising air on the way. Our gliding angle was obviously too great for us to reach Dunsfold directly so we headed off a little towards another cumulus hoping for some lift beneath it. But we were disappointed and realised that a forced landing was now most probable.

It was the time of the year when all of the wheat or other crops in the area were being harvested and there were bales of straw all over potential landing fields. We spotted a green field beyond a small forest and decided that this was to be our place to land. Having committed ourselves to this green field, there was then nowhere else to go. Alas we soon began to see that it was a wheat-field ready for harvesting.

I tightened my harness as much as possible expecting a sudden stop and that was just as well. Bill levelled off the glider just above the wheat and it brushed us loudly underneath. Eventually stalling we sank down into the wheat until our sight line was below the wheat. Suddenly the wings sank into the wheat and we stopped immediately with very rapid deceleration. The last foot or two was a vertical drop on to the ground with a teeth jarring crunch. There was no run-out of an arrestor cable as for a carrier landing.

Suddenly all was silence except that in the distance we could hear a few people yelling to each other. We had disappeared from anyone's view and local observers all believed from the noise generated by our arrestment that we had severely crashed.

Bill and I looked and grimaced at each other in relief and having assured ourselves that we were uninjured except for the sure knowledge that we would be suffering from bruises where the straps had done their job. We climbed out to find that we were just not tall enough to see over the top of the wheat. Having noted where the farmer's house was situated we carefully made our way along the rows of wheat in that general direction. On the way Bill explained that it would be normal for the farmer to extract compensation for that portion of his crop knocked down so we should take care to minimise damage.

Soon we were being treated to a cup of tea in the farmhouse whilst curious locals turned up from all directions. Someone had reported a crash to police and soon several police cars approached. Two policeman turned up on bicycles. One came on a horse. Then came an ambulance and Bill was able to talk the ambulance crew into giving him a few swigs of medicinal brandy to steady his nerves as he so eloquently put it. The policemen were eager to help so we used them in two teams to help manhandle the wings off the glider and move them and the fuselage into the farmer's barn ready for retrieval next day by trucks from Farnborough. Wish I had had a camera.

All that remained was the completion of an incident report and a structural inspection of the glider for overstress. It was duly pronounced to be still airworthy. Two weeks later it was used to give the Duke of Edinborough his first flight in a glider. I often wondered about its continued structural integrity.

The glider flight with Bill Bedford was not to be my last such hairy experience we shared. The next was in a Hunter 7 trainer sorting out severe rudder buzz pulling g supersonic.

We ETPS students all learned a great deal from each other and also from the tutors who were all TPs with recent experimental flight test experience. As well as the opportunities to mix it with some of the best practising test pilots in the world in an atmosphere devoted for almost a year to the pursuits of practical test flying, we learned to grasp the essentials for survival when involved with the rapid mastering of complex machines powered by a wide variety of piston and jet engines. We grew to appreciate the existing and developing standard requirements underlying the design and handling of numerous types of aircraft and their systems.

The reference for British aircraft design was a publication produced over the relatively few years of aircraft development called AVP970. During those days of rapid advancements resulting from the jet engine a world standard reference was also being derived under the auspices of the Advisory Group for Aviation Research and Development - AGARD. Metallurgy was being pushed to the utmost for both aircraft structures and jet engine turbine and compressor blades. Power to weight ratios for aircraft engines were rapidly reducing. We were indeed fortunate to be so close to all of this activity.

In the next post I try to quantify the differences between expert and not so expert pilots and test pilots in particular.

Eric Mc
28th Nov 2004, 16:08
This is all brilliant stuff Milt. Does it exist in a bookyet? I'd gladly pay out for these memories in published form?

29th Nov 2004, 00:28
Farnborough and ETPS Continued

From Unpublished Incomplete Memoirs covering most TP activities. Experience before ETPS, post flying training, was combat tour flying Mustangs in Korean war, QFI 3 yrs, CFS 2 yrs. Hours flown pre ETPS 2000, Types - Tiger Moth, Wirraway, Dakota, Mustang, Vampire, Lincoln, Valetta, S51 Helicopter, Sabre.

I found myself wondering how to define the level of a pilot's expertise and then how to apply similar definitions of levels to the test pilot. Why was a good pilot different from a bad pilot and how could this be quantified. My conclusions then have not changed much with increasing experience. A pilot or car driver or anyone handling equipment requiring a reasonable level of co-ordination is good or bad depending on his ability to contribute to the total control and feedback loops which combine to cause the machine to perform to the greatest satisfaction of the intended design. Generally with aircraft or cars or other means of human transportation, the ultimate aim is for the pilot/driver to control the machine in the smoothest and most efficient manner. Disturbances arising from external influences need to be smoothed out by compensating control inputs from the pilot. The inputs from the pilot need to be applied without abrupt transitions as they affect our normal senses and always within structural and performance limits.

It then follows that if a pilot has a high natural sensitivity to subtle acceleration forces he will be able to react at very low thresholds of these forces and achieve high levels of damping. The result is the smoothest possible progress.

This is best appreciated by two aspects of car driving. We are all very aware of the driver who allows a car to wander from side to side along a lane on a highway only taking corrective action by a deliberate turn of the steering wheel when his level of sensitivity at last detects an excursion which, to him, should be corrected. This driver does not apply slight pressures to the wheel to keep the deviations in check at low levels. Instead, he is more likely to deliberately and suddenly turn the wheel so that the unfortunate passengers are continually being subject to changing lateral accelerations which cause their heads to be forced from side to side. Translate this into four dimensions in an aircraft and it becomes easier to appreciate the differences between pilots.

The other part of car control, where almost universal malpractice persists, occurs during stopping. With brakes applied, the average driver fails to flair down the deceleration just before stopping. The result is an uncomfortable lurch when the deceleration abruptly stops. Many average pilots torture their more sensitive passengers and aircraft with the same treatment.

Smoothness of control is basic to good piloting. Smoothness can only be learned to a limited degree. High levels of natural sensitivity with all of the senses then provides the good pilot with an ability to detect a myriad of other inputs and cues providing extensions to his nervous system to encompass the total aircraft and its systems. Instruments provide further extensions in addition or where no natural cues are present.

As a passenger in an aircraft, I can readily tell the sensitivity of its pilot soon after taxying starts. If the brakes are released in such a manner that passengers lurch in their seats then the odds are there is an insensitive pilot in the feedback loop. If, when stopping the pilot does not flair off deceleration as speed approaches zero then we have another uncomfortable lurch situation. This is very common with insensitive or careless car drivers. The manner of use of nose-wheel steering gives another clear indication to the smoothness of a pilot before flight.

After taxying with a poor pilot, I know that I am in for poorly coordinated flight in the air. I also know from experience that the non smooth pilot will have difficulty in handling abnormal circumstances. He may be able to do it by rote or by the book but there will be that edge of finesse which will always be missing.

Recognition by the test pilot of the limitations of the whole range of pilots leads to the definition of safety margins covering almost all aspects of aircraft handling, control and cockpit design. Obviously, the test pilot can hardly describe the stability of an aircraft as satisfactory if only he is able to fly it. He must always be aware of the limitations of the worst pilot who may be permitted to fly. The result of all the derived limitations and standard requirements is that today we have aircraft which are all easy and safe for the average pilot to fly. As pilot ability decreases from the average, his degree of difficulty rises but rarely to the extent where a desired level of safety is jeopardised.

The TPS course could not possibly cover the vast range of engineering and manufacturing aspects of aviation in any detail but it was instrumental in giving us the basis for design and handling and making us aware of the significant responsibilities we would have in the future to ensure that the established design philosophies continued to be upheld and improved.

Significantly also, the ETPS course gave us the confidence and indeed the ability to be able to make adequate preparation to climb in to yet another aircraft type and be able to make adequate preparations for the first flight of a newly designed or modified aircraft. We became expert in recognising the essentials whilst deliberately discarding the non-essentials in launching an aircraft and in being able to cope with malfunctions of any sort. We became expert at observing and recording intricate details on our knee pads or into tape recorders whilst doing all required to operate an aircraft safely to the edges of their handling and performance envelopes. All of this was in an environment which, on most flights, was all but friendly and always variable.

Aircraft cockpit standardisation was still in its infancy so we had to cope with a great variety of switches, levers, indicators and instruments to achieve similar results. We were essentially the "standard man" as detailed in the AVP970 and so became very aware of man's physical limitations of reach, muscular strengths, vision day/night, tactile feel and all of these within the unforgiving realities of g forces, oxygen supply and extremes of temperature. It was not until the early 60s that we TPs were able to collectively insist on all vital cockpit controls being arranged so that switches and levers be all forward or up for take-off.

We had come a long way in a very short time since the Wright brothers and Cody at Farnborough. Before their first tentative flights, man had for some centuries been preoccupied with attempts to emulate birds. Knowledge of the properties of air flowing around objects puzzled engineers for many years. Basic knowledge of stability and control essential for safe flight took many generations to develop.

10th Dec 2004, 10:10

I assume that you had a "Preview" exercise at the end of your ETPS course. I am interested in how this has changed over the years. Some details of your "Preview" would be interesting for the next chapter!



John Farley
10th Dec 2004, 11:26

Interesting point. I too look forward to Milt’s response.

I was nine years after Milt (1963 22 Course) and then only a ‘standard’ ETPS type written report was expected. Naturally the type was always one you had not flown before.

Preparation was I suspect different from today. The briefing I got was “You are doing your preview on the Javelin. Assess it in the all weather fighter role. There is one at Armament Flight and they are expecting you.”

Since we were (deliberately?) given no clues as to how we were being assessed on this exercise, I chose to presume that I was expected to brief myself. So I spoke to nobody – beyond liaising with the aircraft owner’s engineers for access and the 700 serviceability paperwork. I also got the impression that they had been told not to help me as nobody entered into any conversation beyond answers to my questions regarding access and availability, which is a tad unusual if you think about the way a day to day visitor would normally be treated.

There was a set of Pilot’s Notes in the cockpit stowage – and I remember after reading the system description and limitations pages that I felt a cheat when looking at the handling notes as real test pilots did not have those.


10th Dec 2004, 16:28

Come on, don't stop there. Or are you going to be like Milt and let out your story a bit at a time. If so, remember to always leave it on a cliff hanger (hangar?).

John Farley
11th Dec 2004, 16:10

Sorry, nothing much more to add really. Like any end of course exam in my experience I knew what I was supposed to do, so just had to get on with it. As ever the Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations were the only part that required burning the midnight oil and polishing and polishing and polishing since those were the bits that mattered and enabled you to show (or not) that you understood what the tp’s job was all about. If you could not plan the trips, execute them and write up the main body of the report by then there was not going to be much hope for you as these were just pages of factual grind such as Weather Time and Place, Tests Carried Out, and Test Results.

Since the only other fighter of the day I had any time on was the Hunter (which in my view was one of the worst handling/more useless modern aircraft that Kingston/Dunsfold foisted on the world) I can remember to this day the surprise I felt as I unstuck on my first takeoff in the Javelin. The thing was instantly rock steady, easy to trim hands off and subsequently stable in roll and pitch on the climb. Now that is what you want to fly in cloud or at night. If you are a Hunter man you will know that none of those Javelin attributes applied to the Hunter - a very pretty aeroplane that everybody got a great kick out of poling round the sky. (Great for an exciting ride but fit for the purpose it was purchased …..you have to be joking)

Mind you a pair of donks in an all weather fighter that suffered from centreline closure rather made a mess of the whole enterprise. (Centre line closure being contraction of the compressor casing when hit by cold moist air so that it grabbed the rotating bits…….)


11th Dec 2004, 23:38

I suspect that your comments concering the beloved Hunter were meant to be provocative! Being not a TP, albeit I'm a friend of some, I flew the beast for around 3000 hours in various roles and thought it was a delight to fly. As, I suspect, did thousands of others. If you are observing the beast from a purely analytical view, I might forgive you - to a very small degree.

C'mon - own up: you're being tweeky!

12th Dec 2004, 06:26
I only have a very few hours on the Hunter but would certainly agree with what JF said. The control harmony was nice at around 420KIAS, but it got much twitchier at higher speeds - and at low speeds the converse applied. Hardly surprising as it was really only 'power steering' which, if I recall correctly, didn't have anything to modify gain with respect to speed? The fuel system was chaotic with wildly bouncing gauges which were useless during simulated ACM or in turbulence - and whoever put those CBs back behind the right side of the cockpit was surely having a laugh. You needed the skills of James Herriot to find them and reset them! Reaching the electrical gang bar and AvPin starter button was almost impossible in the Mk 2 bonedome; clearly ergonomics was still in the 'spray glue around cockpit, then throw in bucket of dials, knobs and tits and bolt them in where they stick' era!

Using 23 flap to help the instantaneous turn rate was a known technique - but if it was left down above M0.9 the thing would enter a dive from which recovery was impossible unless flap was first retracted. It's though that's what killed a guy when I was at Brawdy.

At low level even we students felt part of a Gnat with its great view out, responsive controls plus good compass and stopwatch - a feeling that one didn't quite get in the HUnter.

But we all loved the Hunter, of course - even with its not inconsiderable foibles!

A TP once told me a story about flying the last Javelin from Boscombe. Somewhere over Wales they suddenly realised that a Significant Cock-Up had occurred with fuel planning and, as a result, they didn't have much left. On contacting some Air Trafficker or other they were given the usual 'Turn right 90 deg for identification' thinng, to which the TP replied: "Madam, I am flying the world's only remaining Javelin. If I do what you want the world will soon have one less!". I believe they made it back to Boscombe - just. Or may have landed at Lyneham - can't recall.

12th Dec 2004, 10:20

THIS thread is just one such thread I have been hoping to see for many a long day. It has 'grown' considerably over the past few weeks with Milt's inputs. It is clear that my two friends LOMCEVAK and John Farley are getting the taste by adding to a fascinating subject that IS Aviation History and Nostalgia. I am glued to each post!

For that reason, if no other, I am keeping this thread in constant view and hope that the inputs from those I mention, and others who have, and do, make such interesting contributions, will continue to enthrall the avid admirers in this place of their very special past.

Please keep the stories coming. There must be literally hundreds!

John Farley
13th Dec 2004, 19:46

Sorry if you disagree with my views but no I was not being ‘tweaky’. The short answer is that it is a test pilots job to find fault (whereas it is a squadron pilot’s job to cope by compensating for any aircraft deficiencies – and very well they do that too)

The longer answer is that you will never hear much said against the Hunter by those on Hunter Squadrons because that is the nature of squadron pilots. Their job is to do the best with what they have and so it is not in the culture of such units to suggest they find anything difficult – let alone too difficult. When the Hunter replaced the Venom and Meteor it offered a startling improvement in top speed, rate of climb and even service ceiling. So of course it was THE aeroplane to fly, it bored magnificent holes in the sky and its foibles enabled the talented to show that they were better than other less talented squadron mates. In point of fact what they were showing was that they were better at compensating for the aircraft’s weaknesses.

I am certainly of the view that if the Hunter had to be used for what it was procured to do (at least in the late 50’s and early 60’s) then it would have struggled. By then friends and enemies used all flying tailplanes and had basic nav aids as well - while some were even supersonic in level flight. It really was not good enough to offer pilots a GIV compass (tucked away behind the stick) and a map as a means of doing their business. The way new pilots waggled their way into the sky was nothing for Kingston/Dunsfold to be proud of. Even when it went out of service it still did not have an effective lateral trim system. It was all too easy to dutch roll in manual (which killed a very experienced pilot at Dunsfold not many years ago) while pitch up at low speed was something that the pilot was required to avoid by the use of skill.

Having said all that I do admit that my views are those of a professional critic. My appreciation of the Hunter started one day in 1954 at RAE Farnborough when as a flight test observer I had just got out of an NGTE Lincoln that was fitted with a reheated Derwent under the fuselage. My pilot, Flt Lt Norman Kearney fell into conversation with Flt Lt Taffy Ecclestone who had just got out of a Hunter and was clearly exercised by his recent gun firing experiences (as befitted my station I stood in awe of these men).

Taffy told Norman that he for one had had enough of gliding around day after day just because he had fired a fighter’s guns and was off to join the Handley Page team on the Victor as that had four engines and they all seemed to keep going as well. Flt Lt Roger Topp joined in and believe you me these men (and others at RAE at that time) knew when an aeroplane was not as good as it should have been.

If you like during my five years at RAE (50 – 55) I was conditioned by the boffins and tp’s to the point where all I wanted to do was be part of the business of making better aeroplanes. So I did not join the RAF because I wanted to be an RAF pilot but because I needed them to teach me to fly. I wangled an interview with the Commandant of ETPS Gp Capt Sammy Wroath thanks to a letter of introduction from one of the boffins.


The Great Man asked me a bunch of questions the first being ‘Why do you want to be a test pilot?’ (BTW in my book that is the No1 question to ask anybody applying for any job) and after 45 mins he stood on the steps of the mess and said that I seemed just the sort of young chap they liked to have at the school - but that I would have to go away and learn to fly first….. As I walked down the drive from the mess towards my YMCA hostel I thought no sweat, the RAF will teach me that (but there you go without the arrogance of youth not much progess would ever be made eh?).

Norman is till very much alive and kicking – I sent him his Xmas card yesterday, Taffy was killed in his Victor following flutter only a month or so later and Sammy died some five years ago. Sammy was tickled pink when I went and saw him after passing ETPS in 63.

After getting my wings I joined 4 Sqn at Jever in ‘58 when they were just changing from Hunter IVs to 6’s. Like you for the first six months I just enjoyed one of the best rides in the business, but by the end of my tour I could see how we were all kidding ourselves if we thought we could have coped with the WP. So I was really pleased to go and do what I saw as a ‘proper’ and worthwhile job - QFI on the JP3 at Barkston. Now NO proper fighter pilot would EVER say anything like that eh? Half way through Barkston they sent me to ETPS. Bingo.


Gareth Blackstock
13th Dec 2004, 23:05
There was a programme on Discovery Wings tonight about the history of FArnborough, did anyone else see it?

I thought it was very good.


14th Dec 2004, 03:20
This post completes my memoirs concerning Farnborough.

I must disappoint those wanting some details of my "Preview" of the Canberra as my final ETPS event as I will be hard pressed to separate it from an actual Preview I later conducted on the RAAF's first 'trainer' Canberra which required extensive refit to reach anything close to acceptable.

ETPS at Farnborough continued.

Many early "test pilots" were killed in their unflyable contraptions. One early would be aviator, in the interest of self preservation, proposed," there would be stronger and steadier winds over a lake than over the land, and the selection of a sheet of water to experiment over was very happy, as it would furnish a yielding bed to fall into if anything went wrong, as is pretty certain to happen on the first trials."

Fortunately, we English speaking pilots benefited with the world standard aviation language being English. Standards of measurement gradually became focussed and assigned to the sub-conscious. Some were always a stumbling block. The RAF used yards to measure the lengths of runways whereas the rest of the world was more content with feet. Mach Numbers were a new measure and added a third dimension to the way an aircraft performed. The relation between Mach No, Indicated air speed and True airspeed had to be fully appreciated. Heights and altitudes persist in feet and speed in Mach No or knots, distance predominantly in nautical miles, loads confusingly going through a slow change to metric measures and fuel changing from gallons to pounds. I had already gone through a transition from Miles per Hour to Knots during flying training when one had to closely identify which type of airspeed indicator happened to be fitted to the aircraft about to be flown.

By the end of the Test Pilot Course, I realised that although I had a graduation certificate, I was far from being satisfied that I could readily tackle any flight test task which may become my responsibility. Fortunately, my predecessors who would be my supervisors for the next few years had also had similar misgivings and there was an accepted pecking order of capability amongst the test pilot fraternity. There were also good and not so good test pilots considering their ability to satisfy the stringent demands for each to have a very broad depth of knowledge and the manipulative skills to go with such knowledge. Most gravitated to their areas of best capabilities. Others failed to recognise adequately their own limitations and either came to a sudden end or were eliminated by the fraternity.

We also learned that the vast majority of test flying would be very routine, interspersed liberally with those highlights which are generally considered to be the norm of the TP. The developing TP gradually enhances his feel for aircraft and the atmospheric medium. Subtle vibrations, tiny forces, movements, sounds and other cues begin to be translated into meaningful messages and signs which are not appreciated to the same extent by the average pilot. The TP's enhanced sensitivities to his machine extend from fingertips, seat of the pants feelings, visual and audible inputs to give the TP a complete and continuous feedback loop. He strives to make all of his controlling inputs into this complex relationship between man and machine as smoothly as possible, while maintaining close monitoring over any aberrations to expectations and reactions to his inputs. Special instrumentation recordings provide long term extensions to the TP's sensibilities.

Conflicts arise when other regimes attempt to insert impediments to the TP's feedback loops. For reasons of safety, physiological comfort and personal longevity a variety of these impediments have been imposed on aircrew. Wearing of gloves is not normally for the purpose of keeping hands warm. They are for protection, primarily against fire and to be a barrier against the extremely low temperatures should one have to eject at high altitude. The same applies to footwear, with military aircrew now wearing heavy boots. Both of these are simple examples where the result is a severe reduction in the sensitivity feedback loops for the TP. Whenever I needed high sensitivity I would have my gloves in my flying suit pocket.

Early powered flying control systems made the tasks of the TP more difficult. High break out forces and artificial feel severed or drastically reduced the primary feedback loop for the TP and made it necessary to compensate as best he could.

By now we were fully immersed in the course with the pressures of data analysis and report writing increasing. Flt Lt Dick Wittman developed a grounding medical condition about mid way through the course. He had been pre-chosen to follow on from the course to an exchange post with the RAF flight test centre at Boscombe Down near Salisbury in Wiltshire. With Dick's departure from the course I was advised that I would now take up this exchange posting. I was elated with the prospect and began to make arrangements to bring the family to England.

During 1955, the RAAF was evaluating a replacement for the MK35 two seat Vampire trainer. The British Jet Provost was on its list of contenders. I was tasked to fly an evaluation, which TPs termed a Pilot's assessment. I was thus diverted from the course for a few days to go to Luton for a 50 minute flight in a civil registered Jet Provost GA-OBU. My assessment was prepared using notes written on my knee pad against a pre-flight test format. I may never know how useful that report may have been in the RAAF's decision to equip with the Italian Macchi..

The course finished during the second week in December. I made my last flight at TPS on 14 November to complete the Preview on the Canberra. My flying hours on the course were 112.30, with total hours of 2280.

During the last few days of the course, some of the tutors arranged for a flight in an Avro Ashton, then at Boscombe Down. The Ashton had a Tudor fuselage, modified with a nose wheel and fitted with four Rolls Royce Nene engines. Six of these had been ordered by the RAF for high altitude research. The first of these, WB490, was the one assigned to Boscombe Down. It had two partly underslung engine nacelles, each containing two engines in wings with about 15 degrees sweep back of the wing leading edges. Wing span was 120 feet; AUW 72,000 pnds.

I became a member of a group to fly to Boscombe Down where the Ashton was flying some circuits. We climbed into the Ashton after it completed a circuit and whilst it was holding for a re take-off. This was my first flight in a prototype large four engined jet. We completed about five circuits with pilots rotating through the cockpit. To my disappointment, a malfunction in one of the engines prevented me from flying this aircraft.

Sqn Ldr Fred Cousins and Flt Lt Ken (Black) Murray were posted back to the RAAF's Aircraft Research and Development Unit at Laverton. Fred picked up along the way the responsibility for continued test flying on one of the small scale delta aircraft built by AVRO as development tools for the Vulcan. The aircraft, to be used for extended low speed research, was still at Boscombe Down. On 5 December, I accompanied Fred to Boscombe Down where he was to have a few familiarity flights. I managed to fly this aircraft, the Avro 707B, on 6 December for 20 minutes. It was to be the first of my many flights, over the next two years, in the mature version, the Vulcan B Mk1, from Boscombe Down.

So ends the story of a rapid learning curve produced by the Empire Test Pilots' School with Farnborough having been a dominating proving ground. What lay in store for me at Boscombe Down following my first assignment to investigate the spinning characteristics of a Mk 9 Auster ?

This thread will be best kept for anecdotes about Farnborough and I for one will be most grateful for posts covering the early periods of historic Farnborough.

Another thread on Flight Testing at Boscombe Down is bound to produce a series of stories that will otherwise be lost to posterity.

14th Dec 2004, 10:25
Thank you John - a nice reposte, as usual. I don't take issue with anything that you say. Compensation was great, however! Especially the wadi-bashing bit.

Genuine question for you though. What in your view are those British post-war aircraft that fall into your definition of being 'fit for purpose'?

John Farley
14th Dec 2004, 14:15

Once they cancelled the TSR2, P1154, AW681 and the Rotodyne IMHO the UK matured into somewhere that did satisfactory aeroplanes and thanks to both company and Boscombe people assessed them professionally. No exceptions in my view. Sure you can debate whether the specs of some were quite as appropriate as they might have been but that did not mean they were not fit for purpose – just that they could have been better.

The Lightning really could do a point defence job against the opposition of the day while the Canberra and V-Force fleets were certainly world class. The Canberra still so in its current role. The Nimrod equally could do its job as well as the Jaguar and Tornado (although the early F3s were pushing the concept a tad) Initially the Harrier GR1 was also not really up to snuff from an operational point of view because it went into service minus its FE541 nav attack system, however it proved to be a good tool to learn the VSTOL trade - which was what the RAF actually needed at that time. When the GR3 and SHAR came along actual operations showed they were well up to the job, while the Hawk’s track record at home and overseas speaks for itself.

So it took from 1952 (say) to 1970 (say) for Hawkers to go from your beloved Hunter to the first RAF aeroplane to offer a HUD as well as an inertial nav system and a moving map – plus it offered a level of operating site flexibility that was hard to believe 30 years ago.


15th Dec 2004, 09:40
Hawker Hunter at ETPS Farnborough and sundry adventures with others of similar vintage.

If there was an F1 Hunter then that is the one that caught my attention at Farnborough in 1955. It was the second aircraft that I flew with powered flying controls. The first was an Avon Sabre which had spring feel and break out forces of about one pound. Cannot recall the feel system for the Hunter. Was it q feel or some other concoction?

As the two types were about the same vintage and performance I could not help but think of the F86 Sabre as the robust Male and the Hunter the more delicate Female.

Sabre had no manual reversion unlike the Hunter which had a wierd system for unlocking the power from the controls which then became massively heavy. To re-engage power one had to have the controls roughly in the position of dis-engagement - select engage and then feel for a detent into which the engagement paul would be trying to enter. It seemed to be a bit hit and miss and productive of a certain amount of adrenalin.

Not having a saw tooth wing the Hunter did terrible things at the top of a loop if the speed happened to be a bit on the low side. First there would be a distinct declining stick force followed by reversal until the stick was hard forward whilst trying to stop a runaway in pitch. Pilot became superfluous as the aircraft continued over the top out of control until coming down the other side it increased speed and control came back with a rush.

Nobody had warned me of the Hunter's pitch up so the initial reaction during my first ever pitch-up and then whilst wrong way up was that I had better be ready to leave it. Ended up staying.

Later flew a Swift with AB and a saw tooth leading edge wing which seemed to have corrected the Swift's pitch-ups. But then nobody told me either that it was normal to climb in after burner (AB) or was it called reheat. So I cancelled AB after take off and it became a lead sled in the climb.

Then I flew a Gnat, the first with a full slab tail, which was yet to have its terrifying JCs subdued and with which one ran out of back stick as the gear was lowered for landing.

It's a most uncomfortable feeling to have the nose going down with no more back stick, fuel on minimum of about 300 pnds and Rolly Beaumont being given priority to land the first Lightning for Boscombe Down. He graciously declined priority after hearing and understanding my high pitched 'strine' whilst I found the over-ride trim switch and slipped in ahead.

Never a dull moment!!

Incidently JF, Sammy Wroath was CO of ETPS in my time. How long was his tenure ?

Genghis the Engineer
15th Dec 2004, 11:37
My first flight in a Hunter was some years after the two gents above, it was also the cause of the biggest B****ing of my flying career to date. I was briefed in the right hand seat of Hunter T7 XL612 out of Boscombe. The brief was as a radar target in a 4-ship dissimilar types formation - the others being the Comet, a Tornado and a miscellaneous Harrier (my logbook didn't note the registrations). We were there to be radar targets against a new air defence radar fitted into a SHAR.

Not having flown in a Hunter before, I'd spent the evening before reading the (very brief by modern standards) pilots notes, and also been down to the seat bay to get re-current on the MBS Mk.4 (an awful device of torture that I can't honestly say I ever made friends with - but I was raised on the Mk.8 and Mk.10, so arguably spoiled).

Anyhow, I'd done that, we'd briefed up at some ungodly hour of the morning so that we could get airborne just after metbrief, and then we walked around 0830. In the time honoured practice before sitting into the right hand seat, I gave the harness a good yank to make sure the clips were in - but failed to notice that the buckle was tucked around the emergency oxygen bottle.

Hissssss...., followed by my sprinting for the line shed in search of an armourer to shut it off - in full view of the crew of the other four aircraft.

We got airborne only slightly late at 0940, and were airborne for a very uneventful hour of flying up and down whilst the SHAR illuminated us with various Radar control modes.

My subsequent bollocking, in the crewroom, in front of most of FWTS was never officially recorded - for which I am eternally thankful. But it was not one of the highpoints of my aviation career so far.

My subsequent relationship with the Hunter was a little better - but like JF I can't honestly say I ever really rated it for anything other than the pure pleasure of being airborne in something with light handling and lots of thrust.


With the tolerance of the house, I may come back with a few Farnborough recollections a little later.

15th Dec 2004, 12:47
Absolutely Genghis - I am browsing the thread on and off, but I intend to print the whole thing off just before Christmas to read at my leisure rather than in snatches between bouts of pretending to work - fantastic stuff, please keep it coming chaps - and I'm sure that Milt's idea for a Boscombe thread would be equally well received!



John Farley
15th Dec 2004, 13:11

Sammy was the first CO of ETPS and formed it at Boscombe in 43

He was also the only chap to do a second tour (as you say when you were there) There is a rumour that he did not complete his second tour but was posted prematurely due to some early warning example of the awful cult of PC. God how I hate that stuff. Anyhow what is wrong with using the library table in the lunch hour to chat up a pretty girl...or whatever it was.

Real men (as opposed to admin types) never were happy with sitting in the ante room after their meal, putting their head back, opening their mouth and snoring. They had better things to do.


15th Dec 2004, 14:46

Was Sammy Wroath required to write up a "preview" or any other sort of report on his 'successful' testing of the library table?:E

John Farley
15th Dec 2004, 15:00

Since I don't think there was any intention that it would enter squadron use I doubt it.


15th Dec 2004, 20:08

I congratulate you on the most entertaining thread I've read in a long time. Many thanks!

Your mention of the control pushrod incident on the Canberra reminded me of the very first time that I was given the authority to sign off an aircraft for flight test (as a humble RAE outstation FTE doing the job of trials project officer). The job was to do some high speed carriage flights of an experimental light store retarder I'd designed. I'd carefully checked that the store parachutes were secured from accidental deployment in the bomb bay, even asking my boss to cross check before I signed the flight safety certificate as I was as nervous as hell about the responsibility of signing the chit for my own bit of kit.

The initial runs went well, as we increased speed on each sortie in 25kt increments, with landings and inspections of the bomb bay between each run. The routine was to climb and transit out to the danger area, stabilise at the chosen speed, turn on the bomb bay cameras and open the doors. After the film ran out on the Deckos we'd close up and return to the airfield to check everything over and wait for the phots to do the film reload.

On the 425kt run it all went a bit pear shaped. The sequence ran as before, but soon after the bomb bay doors opened the pilot announced in a slightly strained voice that he had a control restriction. After declaring an emergency and doing a gentle handling assessment a safe landing was made, with very limited pitch or yaw control and lots of throttle tweaking and wallowing around.

Subsequent examination of the bomb bay revealed two deployed parachutes, wrapped like dirty washing tightly around the pushrods and jammed up tight against one of those bearing blocks. Despite my best endeavours they had managed to squirm out of the packs as a result of the low pressure at the rear of the stores with the doors open. The chairman of the inquiry board let me off with a written reprimand and words I have always remembered: "Your penalty would have been far worse had you not been foolish enough to wish to fly in the aircraft you had signed off as safe".

As luck would have it, I had the sad fortune of flying in this particular aircraft (WT309) on it's last ever active flight, in July 1986, before it went back to Boscombe to be used as a training airframe. Thankfully, FAST have saved the nose section. Hopefully they will have removed the "A&AEE" lettering that found it's way onto it in place of the original "Royal Aircraft Establishment" wording that belonged there. I have a pic of the old girl (older than me I think) on that last trials sortie in front of me at the moment.

17th Dec 2004, 14:15
To continue with Jindabyne's question regarding British post-war aircraft that were fit for purpose and JF's reply, let us not forget the Buccaneer! At low level and high speed, it was in a league of its own for handling qualities and performance; very stable but with precise control and excellent specific fuel consumption. However, if you went too fast (greater than around 550 KIAS/0.85M) roll performance reduced dramatically. In addition you could not keep the slip ball in the middle at these speeds. Allegedly, the latter problem was due to the fin not being tall enough as it was limited by the distance between decks of the carriers of the day (HMS Eagle?). But at 350 - 550 kts it was the best aircraft for flying very low that I have operated. But I must add that it had the worst handling qualities in the landing pattern of anything that I have flown. But for its day, getting the approach speed of a 16 ton aircraft down to around 130 - 135 kts was quite an achievement.

The comments on the Hunter are interesting. I agree with JF that its capabilities as a fighter were limited and soon superceded, and that if you assess it academically it has many deficiencies. However, it has a phenominal "je ne sais quoi". Part of me is a professional test pilot who has to take an impassioned view of the fitness of an aircraft for its assigned mission. But part of me (a large part!) lives for the sheer joy of flying and appreciates an aircraft for its pure flying qualities and performance. For this reason, the Hunter is still my favourite aircraft, especially the Mk 6.

To return this thread to Farnborough, in its latter days many of the aircraft were used for research into systems for low flying at night. The "Nightbird" Buccaneer, XV344, was equipped with the inertial navigation system from the Jaguar (FIN 1064) and a Head-Up Display (HUD) that was later fitted to the Jaguar for the GR3 upgrade. It was then an even more impressive aircraft when fitted with what were modern avionics at the time. The last Hunter that was at Farnborough was WV383 (named "Hecate", the Lady of the Night for Classical scholars), another night research aircraft. In its final configuration before retirement, it was fitted with an experimental navigation system that was fed by a ring-laser gyro, GPS and a terrain referenced navigation system. This gave a position accuracy of around 3 - 5 metres. It also had a HUD that had symbology called SPIRE. This was a lattice which represented the terrain ahead, along with obstacles. When flown with the FLIR scene displayed in the HUD and night vision goggles it made night low level considerably easier and was a very impressive system. Once Farnborough closed, both of these aircraft were moved to Boscombe Down and "Hecate" was flown as part of the ETPS course for systems evaluations by day and night. But please don't ask me where the stick from the Nightbird Buccaneer is!

17th Dec 2004, 15:14
VP959 and Lomcevak,

Its good to see others adding to this thread. It all makes very interesting reading.

Lomcevak, can you explain a bit more of how this night work was carried out? Was it mainly to provide as close to daylight visual conditions for navigation and weapons aiming? Would the Buccaneer have a dual capability, with a safety pilot able to take over if it was felt the handling pilot wasn't getting all the information from the test systems to fly safely? (I seem to recall hearing of a two stick Buccaneer). Did you start high (for a Bucc that is) then work steadily lower and closer to the ground?

We know a lot of work was routine, would any of you care to illustrate that work?

Thanks, H

Genghis the Engineer
17th Dec 2004, 16:07
Pure anecdote here.

I was Genghis the extremely junior engineer, just out of the Student Engineers Training Centre (SETC) over in the white "H-blocks" that Milt and JF had received their ETPS training next to Queens gate. (I believe that those building are still there, but empty and looking rather sorry for themselves). The establishment had recently changed name from "RAE" to "RAE" although most people hadn't really noticed the change from "Aircraft" to "Aerospace", and ultimately it was RAE and all one big happy family. My first job out of my initial "student apprenticeship" was as assistant to just about everybody in "Base Engineering", which was the department responsible for taking the boffins ideas, and getting them into aircraft and airworthy so that Test Pilots like LOMCEVAK could go and break them.

My job was on Lynx ZD285, which was being used for developing various Heli-tele and FLIR systems. I had a desk in a drawing office next door to it's hangar and spent many happy days crawling underneath it with a steel rule and micrometer, then back and forth to my desk and drawing board as I created various "make to fit" installations for retaining various black boxes, cable arrays and external lamps and sensors in the right place, at the right angle, and designed to take the right flight loads. I recall my supervisor having to remind me several times that gravity didn't just act downwards in a flying machine and the importance being hammered into me of allowing for inertial forces in every direction as I analysed the various bracketry I designed. As a 19 year old, allowed for the first time around flying machines, it was all very exciting - although to this day I'm not sure I've ever actually seen ZD285 airborne, not could I find a picture of it - but here is ZD284 it's sister


I can recall a few other instances from that period. One was being told to take a couple of days away from the drawing board and go and learn a bit about how Southern Squadron handled it's maintenance, I was passed over into the care of a couple of chaps with the introduction "don't tell them any state secrets, they're armourers". These chaps introduced me to the intricacies of ejection seat servicing (a skill I've never used - as clearly indicated by my Hunter anecdote earlier) and explosives safety. They also let me sit in the back of a Hawk one day for a maintenance engine run. Having made quite sure that the back of the aircraft was pointed directly at Western Squadron's tea room, I got shown what not to touch, given a pair of ear defenders and shut in with the fitter I/C in the front seat. The engine started, and as it started the air conditioning kicked in; however it turned out that this particular aircraft had an air filter saturated in moisture, as a result it started snowing in the rear cockpit. Apparently the look of utter horror on my face, just before all visibility of the inside of the cockpit from outside blanked out was extremely funny - although it took me a few minutes and a large mug of sweet tea to fully appreciate the humour of the situation. My next morning's task was learning how to help remove and replace the air filter in a Hawk's air conditioning system.....

Another task I recall learning a great deal from in that job was a little powered parachute microlight called a Powerchute Raider. We had one of these, with a military registration ZG927. This was being used for testing various "flying wing" canopies - on the basis that starting on the ground was a happily low risk way of testing an experimental canopy. It looked something like this...


Anyhow, this beastie was getting through an embarrasingly large number of engine mounting bolts which were routinely going through the propeller - doing it no good whatsoever, and raising serious concerns that sooner later a bit of bolt would come back through the pilot. I was basically given the aircraft, a corner of the hangar, and told to work out what the problem was and how to solve it. That was when I learned to understand and respect boffins - I particularly recall taking some failed bolts over to M&S (Materials and Structures Dept, often referred to as Marks and Spencers) and tracking down the expert on failed bolts. He took them from me silently, put them under a magnifier and calmly gave me a full run down on how the bolt was mounted, how many cycles it had taken to fail, where the peak stresses where, and even how many weeks it had been sat in the hangar supervisors drawer since it had been removed from the aircraft.

This really was one of the huge strengths of RAE - and Farnborough in particular. There were these incredibly bright chaps who beavered away for 40 years studying often quite obscure subjects. But, the fact is that they became the worlds leading experts in their various subjects - and when called upon could solve a problem of a failed bolt, fit AAR to a Vulcan bomber that was never designed for it, create an airborne radio-range extender for a particular operation, invent carbon fibre, whatever was called for - all in an incredibly short space of time before returning to writing obscure reports about their pet subjects. I really do think that a huge national asset was destroyed when much of this "blue skies" research was curtailed in the name of efficiency and DRA.

(Eventually I came up with a revised design for the engine mount, which changed the loadings and eliminated the fatigue raisers around the bolts. Unfortunately I believe that ZG927 was lost about a year later in an unrelated accident - but by then I was elsewhere and wasn't involved in any subsequent investigations).


Dr Illitout
17th Dec 2004, 17:29
Ah yes ZD285!. I was sent to Westlands to do a manufacturers course on the Lynx to look after it. At the end of the first week we were taken around the factory and shown the production line. In one corner of the hanger was a pile of bits with ZD285 chalked on it. A week later the production team had assembeled said pile into a Lynx!. We all thought it won't be long before we get it.
Eight months later , after many delays it landed in front of "A shed" late one friday afternoon. As we admired our new "toy" we noticed the delivery pilot's removing the second pilot's collective, cyclic and rudder pedals. When asked what they were doing the crew said that a second set of controls were extra and we hadn't ordered them! Then they took out the seat cushions because we hadn't ordered them too!!.
On the monday our two pilot's, Andy Warner (Now with Eurocopter) and the late Peter Rainey, turned up all excited expecting to fly the asr$e of it. They were not impressed!!.When we tried to order said bits from Westlands we were told that there was a two year lead time on them!!!. Strings were pulled and a set were borrowed from the Army.
The aircraft was used then as a "hack" whilst various people came to make drawings of it for the instalation that was planned (one of those people was probably you Genghis, did you ever come over to A shed?). Then the aircraft was taken away to "N shed" for the instalation to be done. I, in the mean while had left to go into civil aviation and never actualy worked on the aircraft!!!.

Rgds Dr I

17th Dec 2004, 19:31

Ref 344's stick, will that be the front or rear cockpit item?


Genghis the Engineer
17th Dec 2004, 20:48
I don't recall ZD285 moving out of Base Engineering (was that "N" shed, I don't recall) the entire time I was there. The powerchute I worked on was in the corner of A-shed, so I certainly spent some time there. I certainly remember the constant robbing and jury-rigging that went on there to keep those horrible PA31 ferry hacks serviceable.


17th Dec 2004, 20:53
I suspect that LOMCEVAK is referring to the rear stick - since 344 was the only 2 stick Bucc (unless anyone knows different?) made. Did anyone every fly it with both sticks fitted? Certainly in my time it was only flown as a single sticker.

17th Dec 2004, 21:15
Yes, 344 was flown with the rear stick fitted by the HOSM folk when they were required to 'certify' the fit. I am not aware of any occasion after that when the rear stick was fitted. I often felt I would have liked it there during the several 'famils' yours truly had to supervise from the rear position. That said, a pair of throttles may have been even more preferable!


17th Dec 2004, 21:42
What fascinating stuff coming now out of the "back rooms" or should I say from within the black sheds.

If only we embryo TPs at ETPS could have had the opportunity to have seen more of that activity at Farnborough.

The state of the art of Fracture Mechanics was in its infancy in my time and apart from the water tank torturing a Comet fuselage near the ETPS flight line we were not introduced to 'wiffle trees' and aircraft structure fatigue testing - fatigue spectrums and the like. Excuse my pre-occupation with this subject but I may be over sensitive after having survived a main spar failure of the second Valiant prototype and then gone on to be intimately involved with the problems associated with the use of high strength steel in the main load bearing structure of the swing wing F111.

Incidently the F111 structural problems were/are solved by regular "Cold Proof Testing" of every aircraft to +7.3 g and - 3.5 g at - 40 degrees C/F. The freezing is accomplished by boiling off lots of liquid nitrogen.

Was there a full scale fatigue testing facility at Farnborough ?

John Farley
17th Dec 2004, 22:06
Was there a full scale fatigue testing facility at Farnborough ?

Yes for Concord. Had to make it hot and cold as well as bend it.

Dr Illitout
18th Dec 2004, 04:56
The Concorde test rig used to be heated by boiling amonia I remember. Every now and again there used to be exercises for the emergency services to deal with an amonia leak. Depending on which way the wind was blowing a leak would have wiped out half of the R.A.E. or half of Cove!. The Concorde was scrapped in the early eightys.

Rgds Dr I

John Farley
18th Dec 2004, 11:24
Dr I

I never went in the Concord test facility but I was told it was heated by infra red. Might the ammonia have been associated with the refrigerant?

Are you on the effing night shift again?


18th Dec 2004, 15:10

I well remember the Chieftains, having often used the service to get from one or other of the far flung RAE outstations to Farnborough for meetings. It always struck me as an odd choice of aircraft to replace the old gentlemans aerial carriage not unconnected with my PPRuNe username.


Dr Illitout
18th Dec 2004, 17:35
Effing night shift?? naaaa not me John. I don't sleep, it's practicing for death!. Also the eldest woke me up at some ungodly hour!.

Rgds Dr I

20th Dec 2004, 11:51
My cryptic comment about the stick in XV344 referred to the front cockpit, although it was good that this stimulated comment on the unique dual control aspects of this Buccaneer. In my time at Farnborough and Boscombe Down the rear stick was never fitted in this aircraft, nor even considered for trials. To answer TD&H's question regarding the protocol for night low level trials, I will just give a few general aspects then a couple of stories.

An incremental build up technique is always used for safety critical trials such as night low level. Precursor activities would include a survey of the test route by day for crew familiarisation and to look for uncharted obstacles. Infra red sensors can initially be tested by day, albeit looking at a different thermal contrast to that which will occur at night. As you surmise, a route would initially be flown slightly higher than the test heights required, say 500 ft before reducing to 250 ft. However, as height is increased the resolution of IR or image intesifier displays deteriorates due to the distance from the surface. Another problem with increasing height for a fixed field of regard sensor such as a navigation FLIR is that the distance ahead of the aircraft that cannot be seen is increased. Therefore, it is not worthwhile flying too much above test heights. In addition, wherever possible the pilot would carry out work-up training on other suitable vehicles.

For reasearch and development trials, the item under test would often not be the sole sensor that could be used in the low level environment. For example, if testing a new FLIR, proven night vision goggles (NVGs) would ideally be used for safety monitoring. When we first cleared the Tornado GR1 for flight using NVGs (Gen 2 ANVIS goggles with no automatic separation on ejection!) I flew one familiartistaion sorties with the goggles in the rear seat of a Jaguar from Farnborough and then flew the trials in a single-stick Tornado. However, the initial flying was performed with the autopilot coupled to the terrain following radar under existing flight clearances such that I could just assess the compatibility of the cockpit lighting with the NVGs. Once I was happy, I flew the aircraft manually at 250 ft around Wales. We did not fly this trial in a dual control aircraft with a safety pilot, and in fact the rear cockpit did not have NVG compatible lighting so the navigator was literally in the dark while I flew at 250 ft through the valleys!

In early 1994 at Farnborough we carried out a trial on what was referred to then as "Super Gen 3" NVGs. We had 4 sets, made by different manufacturers, and we had to assess their performance against the current Gen 3 tubes. We flew the trial in a 2 seat Jaguar, and on each sortie flew a 20 minute triangular route using standard NVGs then immediately flew around the same route using the experimental NVGs. In this way we flew the comparison at as close to identical light and humidity levels as possible. On each sortie there was a saftey pilot in the rear seat who had a standard set of Gen 3 goggles. One of the sets of experimental goggles was outstanding, and I well remember one very dark night flying quite happily around the Clee Hills with the safety pilot saying that he could not see anything with the standard goggles! A problem in the Jaguar is that the forward view on NVGs is always worse from the rear seat than the front due to the increased light path at an oblique angle through the front canopy and then through the blast shield. Therefore, he was on a loser even with goggles that performed as well as those that the front seat pilot was using.

This raises an interesting philosophical point in R&D work. When testing equipment that gives improved performance, it is good practise to have a safety pilot who can take control if the experimantal equipment fails. But, if the safety pilot is relying on an existing system and the new system works better than the existing system (inevitably a design objective), he may not be able to recognise a subsequent failure of the article under test and thus not be able to take control! The above NVG trial was a case in point. I was also involved in another series of trials at Farnborough that suffered from this conundrum. The Institute of Aviation Medicine had two Hawks which, amongst other trials, were used for developing the anti-g garments for Eurofighter (I will use contemporary nomenclature). These Hawks had an expanded envelope to +9.5g, but trials on the new kit required a safety pilot in the rear cockpit who just had a normal Hawk anti-g suit. I flew a few sorties as safety pilot and these were hard work when the new equipment was working as the trials pilot in the front seat was quite comfortable sustaining 9g whereas I was very uncomfortable in the back!

Interesting times, and I am sure that more will emerge on this thread.

Genghis the Engineer
20th Dec 2004, 12:39
Or EFA as I think we called it at the time, I spent a fascinating summer once assisting with wind tunnel testing of a new and still moderately "hush-hush" jet fighter in the 8ft tunnel at RAE Bedford. Sadly I believe that this really quite remarkable bit of kit is now mothballed.

The 8ft tunnel consisted of a huge closed loop tunnel, with a cubic capacity of 450,000 ft^3, driving by a series of enormous fans. Added into this were massive compressors and cooling towers all aimed at allowing windspeeds of up to 3.5 Mach through a small 8ft test section. It took about half a dozen of us to run this, all sat in a large (and thankfully soundproofed) control room in the bowels of the tunnel itself which would not have looked out of place on the Starship enterprise (or equally, in a Quatermass film).

A test in the 8ft tunnel (actually you usually had wallmounted baffles in to bring the section down a bit, particularly if you were running transonically) was a far from trivial affair.

Firstly the incredibly complex (and expensive, Ive heard high 6 figure values quoted) model had to be mounted onto the end of the sting, a high-tech spike on which the model was assembled and which would measure the aerodynamic loads upon the model. Then it was configured as we required for the test - small stainless steel control surfaces and stores, AAR probe and so on would be carefully unscrewed and screwed on in the right settings, before the screws themselves were painstakingly covered over with fine dental plaster.

Once the plaster had dried, and the model and instrumentation were "pre-flighted" (a failure at supersonic speeds would have cost a fortune and put the programme back months) the large safelike doors on the test section were closed and the cameras and lights were tested.

With a big tunnel like that you couldn't just run it up to speed - you'd wreck everything as the shock waves made their way through the system at atmospheric pressure. So the first 30+ minutes were spent with the huge compressors pulling the atmosphere in the tunnel down to about 1/10th of a bar, whilst usually the cooling system also reduced the temperatures down to something appropriate for the test.

Once we were down at temperature and pressure, the fans were run up and you'd watch the mach number rise. As the Mach number got near to around 0.8 Mach you'd first of all see the inevitable condensation shock form then vanish on the visual cameras, followed by the supersonic shockwaves on the Schlieren video.


Then having settled down on the right Reynolds and Mach numbers, we'd slowly cycle through the series of pitch and bank angles needed for the test of the day - working as fast as possible, being acutely aware of the large power gauge on the wall (when running the big tunnel at supersonic speeds it generally read about 70MW) and what it was costing the taxpayer. (Okay, we didn't really care, we were having fun - but you have to say that sort of thing, and it was a point of pride to do this as efficiently as possible). Outside the control room the noise was so bad that you couldn't go within about 500m of the tunnel without ear defenders, and a line of water towers cascaded as they desperately dissipated the huge amount of heat being generated.

Eventually you'd have completed the test grid, done a quick longhand check for any inconsistent numbers, then you'd spend half an hour or so bringing the pressure back to about 1/10th of a bar, then take the Mach number back down to zero before opening up the tunnel and adjusting for the next half-days work.

Who said that the pilots always had the best toys!

Incidentally, I remember a story I was told by one of the aerodynamicists there - which I'm sure was true but I'm not quite sure which tunnel it was (I suspect the 20ft tunnel at Farnborough). The RAE had received a request from the forestry commission to look into behaviour of pine forests in gales. Analytical tools for predicting the behaviour of a pine tree were thin on the ground, so they decided that the best thing was to import a load of small trees and experiment with smoke generators and suchlike to see how the wind behaved around and through the trees - and thus what advice to give forresters on how to plant their trees and avoid storm damage.

All good stuff, except...

That nobody had considered the fact (which is certainly apparent to me at the moment) that under the slightest provocation, pine trees will shed their needles. This they did, leaving pine needles embedded in every bearing and fan housing throughout an extremely large and complex piece of research equipment the size of a medium sized factory. Apparently they were still removing pine needles (or they were emerging of their own accord) for about 6 months after the, otherwise very successful, forestry commission trials.


20th Dec 2004, 20:48
Good point about the law of unintended consequences and wind tunnels. I once did some work in the 11.5 x 8.5 on a novel ram air inflated retarder I'd designed. I was trying to visualise the complex flow around the thing when inflated, which needed the tunnel to operate at the nominal store terminal velocity of around 30 m/S (about 70mph).

To do this, I stood inside the working section, wearing a retaining strap fixed to the upstream side of the balance arm on which the model and test item was mounted. Flow visualisation was by oil spray via a wand, which worked very well indeed. The problem is that one can get carried away with curiosity, so I spent much longer than planned exploring the complex flow around the thing, as it was absolutely fascinating seeing how well theory tied up with reality.

It wasn't until we shut down and I walked back into the control room that I realised one inherent disadvantage with a closed loop tunnel - you tend to get your own back, so to speak. I'd foolishly gone into the tunnel wearing normal work clothes, that were now thoroughly soaked in the vegetable oil used to create the wand mist..........................

Oh happy days!

Tim Mills
21st Dec 2004, 10:28
A fascinating thread; grandchildren in bed, glass of good Oz red at hand, and at last time to give it the attention it deserves.

No way can I compete with the likes of Milt, John Farley, Lomcevac, Ghengis, and all, but I do have fond memories of Farnborough, mainly from SBAC Display visits. From the tragic John Derry accident, Neville Dukes sonic boom in the Hunter a few minutes later, Bill Bedfords Hunter 7 spin, 22 turns was it, the stately flypasts of the Brabazon and Princess flying boat, 74 Squadron stream take off and vertical climb in the early Lightnings, and so on until 15 or so years ago. And in 74 actually flying in the display as a member of the Rothmans team, when they allowed little chaps like us to take part. And on a couple of occasions we was able to watch the display from the TPS Mess lawn, courtesy of mates, the most civilised of vantage points.

I did attend an interview for the ETPS course in 1958, or thereabouts, largely, if I remember, to try and escape a looming ground tour. Not the best of reasons, and they of course very soon saw through me. I was disappointed at the time, but in retrospect, and having read the contributions by the afore mentioned gentlemen, I know I would never have made a good TP, not nearly analytical enough, and too fond of 'boring holes in the sky', I'm afraid.

Just returning to the remarks on the Hunter by JF and others, I only managed about 20 hours on the Mk4, found it delightful, and actually achieved my highest ever score on the flag in one. So I have always wished I had been able to do more, and, as I said on another thread, become a fairly fast jet pilot rather than a pretty slow jet one!

21st Dec 2004, 21:37
Snippets of Farnborough History.
Great stuff.

How about someone from the National Gas Turbine Establishment telling us what went on over there.

JF did you ever visit that place? Is it still there?

Genghis the Engineer
21st Dec 2004, 21:44
I visited it a few times, but never worked there (it was just called RAE Pyestock when I was there). Give me a day or two, I'll see if I've got any notes about what I saw in my apprentice visits there.


John Farley
22nd Dec 2004, 12:14


I never worked in what was NGTE but we called Pystock (as G said) Today I believe there is very little of it left in terms of active test cells.

My NGTE time was spent with their flight section on the airfield. This rather poor pic shows the Lincoln they used for reheat trials using a Derwent as a gas generator. My job was moving from front to rear changing paper in various recorders. It would go very high and had special Merlins modded for 40k plus. Not surprisingly I had a touch of the bends a couple of times due to exertions on a walk about O2 bottle.

One mad bugger, not our normal pilot, when on the way home used to insist on lighting the reheat and descending to low level over the Channel and leaving a wake when the sea was calm.

My apprentice master at the time - a boffin by the name of Ray Holl - was one of the original powerjets mafia and went on to be a senior player for the MOD PE on the engine side and in the 70's I used to work with him in that capacity over Pegasus issues. Small world.


23rd Dec 2004, 03:09

Any more pearls like that one ? and complete with fascinating picture.

What was the pitch up like when reheat lit up?

And was this the first airborne trial with reheat in the UK ?

I'm surprised the "mad bugger" pilot didn't try a loop what with uprated Merlins and reheat down under.

Flew Lincolns a bit when at RAAF CFS and tried a few unusual attitudes on poor unsuspecting pilots being instrument rated.. Yes we had elementary dual controlls.

One attitude only used twice was to pull up very nose high with lots of power on and with speed decaying past about 90 Kts pull power on an outer then "handing over". Neither pilot was quick enough to return to normal and the Lincoln would soon be upside down wanting to progress into a spin.
Recovery was to pull the other outer, let the nose drop as one continued the roll with full aileron around to right side up again whilst taking care to keep a little positive g on during the recovery. A very untidy barrel roll. The Lincoln felt to be "comfortable" throughout but I became wary lest the "poor bugger" under the hood should do something to cause the Lincoln to go too far into the incipient stages.

23rd Dec 2004, 20:01
A great read guys, please keep it up.
Just to give you a update the former 'RAF No1 officers mess' is sadly almost no more. About half having been demolished so far to make way for a hotel. Sad considering some of these buildings date from c1918.
The nightbird Bucc VX344 is the 'RAE' or what ever its called this week, gate guard. Although you can not see it as its hidden in a garden within the labs built around 1997. The nightbird Hunter is now with the FAST museum on site by The Swan.
The NGTE is still active, the newish Pyestock bypass cuts through it. You can still here a jet fire up on the site a few times a week. Giving the impression of a low level Tornado coming from the Cove direction!

28th Dec 2004, 05:25

Is there a way I can download a copy of the Lincoln Photo ?

There was a Lincoln at Woomera with two Pythons which may have been installed by NGTE ? Have photo.

John Farley
28th Dec 2004, 13:52

Check your PMs


1st Jan 2005, 21:33
Very interesting thread. Any annecdotes re: Michael Brian Hawkins, ETPS then trials at Farnborough prior to Ottawa in mid 60's, then Boscombe Down, would be gratefully accepted. It's been just over 30 years since Mike was killed, but his grandchildren are beginning to ask questions about what it was he did for a living. I have some film of a Beverly doing an ULLA drop which helps put things in to context, but any stories that could help flesh out his log books would be great. A PM would be fine, Anders Hawkins

6th Jan 2005, 01:04
Farnborough History

Just happened to be at Farnborough during the year of its 50th anniversary.

A booklet produced for the occasion summarises the history and is well worth repeating here.

The Farnborough Story

Few of the millions for whom Farnborough now means something will know that the telegraphic address of the R.A.E. is "Ballooning, Farnborough". This amusing vestige is a key to its history. The family tree of British official aviation shows that Farnborough was conceived when the War Office opened a Balloon Fquipment Store at Woolwich in 1878; it was born in 1905 when their balloons were first parked on Farnborough Common. In the next decade the pioneers of heavier-than-air flight began to mingle with the balloonists the first aeroplanes began to stagger into the air ; and it was then that the War Office realised rather tardily that there might be a future for these odd and unpredictable contraptions. The nekt significant date is 1909, when the family tree divides. One branch begins with the Balloon Section, R.F., soon to become the Farnborough Air Battalion and later the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force; it soon left
home. The other branch, growing up through H.M. Balloon Factory, the Army Aircraft Factory, the Royal Aircraft Factory and the Royal Aircraft Establishment, has always stayed at home.

The next keynote in Farnborough's history is the word "Factory". In those early days, before World War I, to design, build and fly an aeroplane was certainly a dangerous adventure ; it was perhaps an art ; it was not yet a science. But when the war came, and with it the stunning fact that war itself could grow wings, the pioneers had to be very quickly organised and expanded.

The brave and brilliant group of Farnborough men who got the BF2C and its successors into the air and coaxed them to stay there were aeroplane fanciers ; it was natural and right that Farnborough should build what they fancied. But they had to reckon with the aeroplane industry, a turbulent infant howling for its sustenance, and they lost their battle. In 1916 it was decided that the men of Farnborough would have quite enough to do in amassing knowledge on how aeroplanes should be designed and flown; others would in future build them. If the men who made this at-the-time debatable decision could have had a preview of the next forty years they would have been much fortified.

The Course is Set

The course of Farnborough was thenceforward set under successive Government Departments : Air Ministry, Ministry of Aircraft Production, Ministry of Supply. It was to be Research and Development. The sharp outline of this time-honoured phrase has been almost rubbed away by official usage. How does it fall out at Farnborough? It is simplest, perhaps, to watch a scientist or a technician at work there. He is seen to be kept, if not on the run, then in a state of healthy motion, by the presence of three persistent clients who will not leave him alone. One is always jogging his studious elbow: "Hurry ; we want to get that to work". Another is always eager for prescient conversation: "Open your lips and your files ; we badly need your advice". And the third, with his eyes permanently fixed on the horizon, vibrates with a vast impatience : "That will be old stuff soon. Now here is a real problem for you". In consequence, no one who has worked at Farnborough is able to place it in any of the usual institutional categories. It has for him an undefinable but familiar shape, a peculiar but unmistakable dynamic. A rum place, he might say, but a very stimulating one ; he would not really have it otherwise.

When the Balloon Factory moved from Aldershot to Farnborough fifty years ago much pioneering work had already been done; Col. Templer (Superintendent 1878-1906), Col. Capper (Superintendent 1906-9), J. W. Dunne and S. F. Cody in particular were ready to give Farnborough a good start. The balloon and man-lifting kite work was continued and a beginning was made on airships, motor-driven kites and aeroplanes. An appropriate starting-point of Farnborough's experimental equipment was the erection of a 5 ft. by 5 ft. wind tunnel. In 1907 British Military Airship No.1 (Nulli Secundus) made a record flight of 31/2 hours. This was the first of a line, all of which made valuable contributions to development and operational experience. At the same time (and in at least one case using the same engine for both types of craft) the work on aeroplanes was gaining momentum under Cody and Dunne. A year later Cody's Biplane No.1 made the first official British flight 496 yards at a height of 50-60 feet. Dunne's work suffered from the bane of early aircraft designers-lack of a suitable engine.

In spite of the clear success of Cody and the less exciting but valuable contribution of Dunne, the War Office considered that work on aeroplanes was too expensive and Cody and Dunne were "released" from the Factory early in 1909. Compensation came later, however, with the decision to separate the Balloon Factory from the Balloon School. Colonel Capper took over command of the School and Mervyn O'Gorman was appointed Superintendent of the Factory. The coming of O'Gorman inaugurated the use of scientific methods in aeronautical development. The Factory, working closely with the newly formed Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the National Physical Laboratory, soon became the chief centre of experimental aviation with full-scale craft. O'Gorman's appointment was immediately followed by the arrival of F. M. Green from the Daimler Co., on the recommendation of that great pioneer of aerodynamics, Dr. F. W. Lanchester. As "Engineer in Charge of Design" Green was responsible not only for the final types in the airship series, most of the aircraft in the famous "Factory series" and all the early Factory engines, but also for the pioneer work on stressing, testing, airworthiness and inspection. In addition he obtained for the Factory the D.H.2, complete with its designer, Geoffrey de Havilland. With such a team Farnborough was well placed to start a profitable period of research, development, design and manufacture that was to come to fruition in the war.

To be continued.

14th Jan 2005, 01:06
Farnborough History Continued.

When war broke out in 1914 Farnborough had for the first and only time a fourfold function; to combine the main supply of aeronautical information with the conduct of official tests, with design, and with manufacture of prototype engines. The period of official neglect swung suddenly to its opposite, a scramble to create the first breed of fighting aeroplane. This had to be done initially through Farnborough. It was well that a man of O'Gorman's calibre was in charge; it was well, too, that he could command recruits from the universities. His bag of young men was a mixed one, of those committed to aviation and those who were not mathematicians, physicists, engineers, biologists, professional and amateur pilots. They had to invent not only aeroplanes which could stay a few hours in the air, but also a number of instruments with which they could be navigated and could fight. This is the legendary period of great improvisation which is recollected later in these pages by some of those who shared it. It was, perhaps, only muddling through. The list of vital jobs that somehow got done is a ragged one. But at the end of it stands S.E.5, a war winner.

The spirit of efficient team work was shared by all who worked at Farnborough; it sprang from a sense of being the leaders in a new field of science and engineering. As the importance of air warfare increased, so did the Factory's consciousness of being a corps d'elite in the country's war effort.

In spite of these achievements the criticism which had originated in 1912, that Farnborough was a Government monopoly detrimental to private enterprise, increased in scope so that by the end of 1915 it had become sharply recriminatory. It led to the change of policy mentioned previously. This change was accompanied by a change of leader: Henry Fowler took over from O'Gorman in 1916 when the latter completed his seven years' contract. Many of the senior staff of Farnborough were directed to Industry on the score of national economy. This was perhaps an anticlimax for Farnborough but not for aviation as a whole. Of the O'Gorman period Sir Roy Fedden wrote: "There is no doubt that history has shown that this was a unique place, and you can hardly turn anywhere in British aviation without finding that the good things that were done on aircraft between the two wars stem almost entirely from engineers who had been at this remarkable place and who were inspired by an outstanding leader"

But Air War I was, with all its triumphs, only an initial sortie into the air when viewed in a scientific perspective, and the men of Farnborough were now released to get to more leisurely work.

Farnborough's experience in the years after World War I was no exception to the general trend of retrenchment due to industrial depressions and national stringency. War is the spur of aeronautics ; the curves of expenditure and manpower at Farnborough fall on an ebb tide from the flood of 1918 and rise on a second flood as 1939 approaches.

Sydney Smith, who had succeeded Henry Fowler as Superintendent in 1918, proceeded to adjust the internal organisation. to meet the new era, and the Royal Aircraft Establishment's family tree began to assume a familiar shape. The Aerodynamics, Engine Experimental, Physics and Instruments, Metallurgical, Mechanical Test and Chemical and Fabrics Departments were re-established or brought into being. In 1922 the Wireless and Photographic Departments arrived from Biggin Hill and Airworthiness and Contracts from the Air Ministry. This organisation was not materially changed in 1928 when A. H. Hall became Chief Superintendent, to steer the R.A.E. through the worst period of the economic depression and later to deal with the slow and then rapid expansions of the rearmament period. Throughout the inter-war years Farnborough's co-operation with the aircraft industry grew until it was an established practice for aircraft firms to evolve and develop their designs with the help of the accumulated experience and facilities at Farnborough. In the aircraft equipment field material advances were made in bombsighting and navigational instruments. The work on pilotless, radio-controlled aircraft (particularly the LARYNX of 1927-30) laid the basis for aircraft automatic pilot control and led steadily towards the possibilities of guided weapons.

The lean years were however, big with the beginnings of two revolutions, in both of which Farnborough played some part. The angular biplanes of 1918 had the air of not belonging to the medium which suffered them. A long period of development based on Melvill Jones's classic work on drag reduction was to change all that and lead to the beautiful fitness of the streamlined monoplane.

This spectacular decrease in drag was to be matched by an equally spectacular increase in propulsive thrust. In this period, many of the ideas which were later to triumph in Whittle's jet engine were germinating.

In this period, too, the Farnborough radio engineers were preparing a contribution to the shape of things to come by the design of short range pilot operated radio-telephone equipment working on very high frequencies. Without this means of learning quickly and continuously what our radar system knew of the whereabouts of the approaching bombers, our pilots would have been in poor shape for the Battle of Britain. Throughout the war this VHF communication system was used in all allied air forces. It now forms the basis of systems for operational control of fighter aircraft and for the approach and landing control of all types of military and civil aircraft.

Next - World War 2.

16th Jan 2005, 19:31
Having followed this thread since it started, I feel obliged to convey gratitude to all contributors for what must be one of the finest threads I’ve ever read :ok:

From what I can gather, documentation in the public domain relating to the Air Accident Investigation department at Farnborough seems to be fairly thin on the ground, and I was wondering if any of the contributors here might be able to supply background information relating to its initial inception and projects over the years? Obviously, the Comet investigation brought this department into the public spotlight, but when exactly did RAE first establish an accident investigation dept, and what events precipitated this?


22nd Jan 2005, 22:42
Continuing with Farnborough’s early history

At the outbreak of WW 2, in contrast to that of WW1, aviation, and with it the R.A.E., were mature organisations and ready to meet the emergencies ahead. One valuable resemblance to WW1 was that Farnborough again received its share of the country's leading scientists from the universities. From this source came its main war-time leader, W. S. Farren, one of the scientist-pilots of Farnborough's team in World War I, who took over from A. H. Hall in 1941 after a period as Director of Technical Development in the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Under his direction the scientific and technical effort of Farnborough was as versatile as it was effective in its object of helping to win the war. The specialist departments were backed by the all-out efforts of the test pilots, whose skill and devotion ensured efficient and rapid flight experiments; one of Farnborough's vital activities whose work covered not only the multiplicity of allied aircraft but tests on captured enemy equipment. Behind the scientific, technical and piloting effort was the essential team of craftsmen producing models and instrumental equipment and maintaining aircraft. Thus Farnborough was capable of carrying out the research, development, design and testing effort that helped the aircraft industry to produce aircraft like the Spitfire and Lancaster, and also helped the expanding aircraft instrument industry to produce a formidable range of vital operational equipment; navigation and photographic gear, radio, gunsights and bombsights. The specialised requirements of the Navy and Army received due attention; intensive development took place on the take-off and landing problems of naval aircraft; and for the Army Farnborough participated in making the Airborne Forces effective.

This is a bald enough summary of what was really a pretty sustained effort. Towards the end of the war Sir Stafford Cripps coined a phrase for it : "the nerve centre of our efforts in the air". This may have been too kind, but it does express succinctly what Farnborough was trying to do and what it felt like to be working there then.

The pattern for the ten years after World War II was being set at the close of the War by the coming of the atomic warhead, guided weapons and the new forms of propulsion (gas turbine and rockets) with the consequent entry into a new era of high-speed flight. These developments were reflected in the functions and organisation. In dealing with them, W. G. A. Perring succeeded Farren as Director in 1946, and, after his untimely death in 1951, was followed by A. A. Hall.

Work on gas turbines had been concentrated in a specially built outstation adjoining the R.A.E. in 1942; this was taken over by Messrs. Power Jets (Research and Development) Ltd., in 1944 and has since become a companion organisation, the National Gas Turbine Establishment. Its close proximity (which includes use of the Farnborough airfield) ensures a continued and close collaboration.

A co-ordinated effort on guided weapons in the R.A.E. was begun in 1946 by the formation of what is now (1955) the Guided Weapons Department. The pioneer work of this department, in relation to the fast-growing guided weapons industry, raises by its vigour, its vicissitudes and its improvisations, many of the problems which faced the Royal Aircraft Factory vis-a-vis the aircraft industry at the beginning of WW1. A further step was taken in 1947 when the rocket work of the existing Guided Projectile Establishment (Westcott) for land weapons was brought into Farnborough's orbit. This Establishment became the Rocket Propulsion Department of the R.A.E.

No major change has taken place in the Ministry's organisation with regard to airborne radar. This is the responsibility of a sister Establishment at Malvern (the wartime T.R.E. and now the Radar Research Establishment).

The present (1955) function of the R.A.E. can thus be summarised as that of fostering scientific investigation likely to lead to advance in all aspects of aeronautics other than those connected with turbine engines and radar.

An important section of Farnborough's work, and one which indicates the hot pace at which aeronautics is now moving, is labelled laconically " Projects" or" Assessments". In this activity the Establishment becomes in effect The Critics, bringing to bear the whole of its resources in making independent estimates of the value of new designs in aircraft, guided weapons and their equipment, while they are still in the problematical stage.

Farnborough clearly had to have increased elbow room in which to undertake its extended functions and organisation. Toward the end of the war the idea of an additional site to house extensive laboratory and flight facilities was worked out; this extension of Farnborough would be a natural off-shoot specialising in the ever-increasing aerodynamic and structural problems. Bedford, the chosen site, is still building, but is now (1955) partially operating. Its group of high-speed tunnels includes a 3 ft. by 3 ft. transonic-supersonic tunnel which has been working since 1952, and an 8 ft. by 8 ft. subsonic and supersonic tunnel now nearing completion. It has extensive full-scale flying facilities and provision for Naval Aircraft work.

Tunnel building has also proceeded on the Farnborough site at Ball Hill, where 1951 saw the completion of a group of intermittent-type supersonic tunnels and the 18-in. continuous supersonic tunnel. The laboratories for structural research and testing have been largely extended and the urgent necessity for the fatigue testing of complete structures has led to the provision of full-scale equipment.

An interesting development of Farnborough's activities resulting from the need to study high subsonic, transonic and supersonic flight has been the use of the rocket-powered models, launched into free flight. The exploitation of this technique has led to the provision of facilities at a firing range at Larkhill, while the need to study guided weapons in flight has been met by establishing a laboratory at Aberporth, where there is a sea range.

As a result of other considerations Farnborough also possesses laboratories at Martlesham, Orford and Cardington. Thus the small "Factory " that left Aldershot for the greater spaces of Farnborough Common and Laffan's Plain fifty years ago has not only spread over most of that area but has now several offspring, some of them larger than the original parent body.

Completes history to 1955 which was Farnboroughs 50th anniversary.

30th Mar 2005, 12:55
One of the most fascinating threads ever on the forum.
Enjoyable and educational.

Hope more will be added.

John Farley
30th Mar 2005, 19:30
Fans of this thread may like to know that Hugh Warren who was a boffin at RAE 1940 - 1978 will be talking about his time there at the Holiday Inn Farnborough (formerly known as the Queens Hotel) 6 April at 19.30. I have heard Hugh speak before on this topic and you can be sure I will be there to listen again...

The evening is being arranged by FAST (Farnborough Air Sciences Trust)


PPRuNe Pop
31st Mar 2005, 12:32
I will certainly be there. A rare opportunity to see one let alone hear one.


Genghis the Engineer
1st Apr 2005, 06:26
Damnit, I'd love to have heard that but will be giving a talk at the other side of the country that evening :(


1st Apr 2005, 08:22

Perhaps Hugh Warren will have his presentation in 'computer speak' in which case we who cannot join for a reunion at the Queen's might have the opportunity to appreciate an important slice of aviation history on this thread.

PPRuNe Pop
2nd Apr 2005, 18:41
Milt, be sure if it is available I will see what can be done. John F knows him well so at least we can approach him.

4th Apr 2005, 20:55
That goes for me too. Sounds fascinating but too far for me to get to.

PPRuNe Pop
7th Apr 2005, 12:23
Milt, sadly the computer bit seems to have been an aide memoir, the rest was his own papers.

It was a great talk from a modest man. He worked with the best of them and he had a rich talent of his own. He 'worked' on the Whelkin, the Shetland flying boat, Halifax, Hurricane and others. He also had a good understanding of the Farnboro' wind tunnel.

A short film about ditching a P31 was a treasure. That actually might be truer than we think - it belonged to the IWM - showed how they made models to show how to ditch a Mustang. Which also showed it couldn't be done! When it hit the water it just dived to the bottom. They later discovered that with one wing low it was possible - just. But then the war was over.

A good night much enjoyed by everyone. Some I suspect who were also boffins in their own right.

John Farley
7th Apr 2005, 16:41
Hi All

Well you wil be pleased to know that I have had a word with Hugh Warren and he is quite happy to make his speaking text available to all you RAE enthusiasts.

I also have a copy of the illustrations he used in PowerPoint format.

So advice please on how to go ahead. 6000 words is probably a bit much to paste here and the pics run to 40 megs and would need hosting on a suitable website anyhow........?


Genghis the Engineer
8th Apr 2005, 10:16
Announcement: RAE Ex-apprentices association, 95th anniversary celebration, re-union dinner. 3rd September 2005, Princes Hall, Aldershot, Hampshire.

Guest of Honour to be ACM Sir Michael Alcock (Student Apprentice, 1953 intake).

If anybody wants to go and isn't a member of the association, drop me an Email and I'll send you a copy of the contact details. Cost looks to be £29.50 for members, £33.50 for non-members.


PPRuNe Pop
9th Apr 2005, 08:22
JF, that is good news.

Damned if I know how to put it up though. TREADDERS!!!!

9th Apr 2005, 08:42
John F and PPP, be delighted to help - I can probably reduce the PPT in size or turn into an Acrobat file if you can get it to me on CD?

I've PM'd you my office address.



John Farley
10th Apr 2005, 10:00

Thank you so much.

I have emailed the script to you and the pics CD is in the post.



11th Apr 2005, 02:36
Meanwhile here is another snippet of Farnborough history in 2 parts as the word count is too high for one post.

Target Aircraft Development

Extract from memoirs by Geoff Taylor, an Australian Research Engineer at Farnborough 1952 - 1954.

On arrival at RAE Farnborough my work situation was immediately pleasant and interesting. I was placed in Radio Department, responsible to a senior engineer by the name of Bill Campe. It seemed in fact that I was cast in a rather similar role to that played four years earlier by my boss at Salisbury, Bob Leslie. Campe's association with pilotless ('drone') aircraft had begun in wartime with a modified Tiger Moth known as the 'Queen Bee' of which quite a few were used as targets - by the Royal Navy in particular. Campe, with Bob Leslie's assistance, had been a driving force in the development of the Jindivik radio control system, however the new task now before us was the conversion of surplus ex-Royal Navy Fairey Firefly aircraft (looking somewhat like a larger version of the well-known Spitfire), to be used as drone targets at the British rocket range in Wales.

At Farnborough, responsibility for the whole operation was divided between Radio Department, which looked after most of the ground and airborne radio control equipment as such, and Instrument and Photographic Department, (lAP) which was responsible for the flight arrangements and the autopilot installation, in collaboration with the RAE test pilots and, of course, the aircraft manufacturers.

Rather to my surprise, advantage was taken of my existing experience with Jindivik to the extent that I was made responsible to Campe for work on virtually the whole of the ground and airborne radio control chain in our new project. It must be said however that much of the basic equipment involved was of the Jindivik variety, already designed and in production in UK. Major exceptions were the main ground control unit containing the various knobs and switches, and also a large logic box called the Relay Set Receiving (RSR), which was the major airborne interface between the basic radio commands and the many functions peculiar to each type of aircraft. The simple command 'Land Glide' for example, set the plane in a shallow dive, lowered the undercarriage, set the landing flaps and reduced the airspeed to a set figure. The control logic to achieve all this in the many different commands was arranged in a box of some fifty multi-contact relays and many metres of wire - no solid-state integrated circuits in those days'.

My first job therefore was to design versions of these pieces of equipment to suit the Firefly; the autopilot adaptation already being underway in IAP Department. Again to my surprise, I found myself allocated several staff in the form of a group of specialist Royal Air Force NCOs who had joined the project with the eventual aim of forming the control team when the target service was launched. They were bright and willing helpers and we made quite rapid progress, managing to get the first Firefly fitted out ready to start its flight checks within about three months.

My work had now progressed to the point where we were running active trials with our first Firefly. It would fly (with a live pilot acting as monitor) and perform the necessary maneouvres quite well at altitude and the effort was now concentrated on developing takeoff and landing techniques. The RAE people had observed the difficulties which the Australian team were still having with Jindivik, and had decided that the Firefly would never be successfully landed without some form of automatic assistance. It was indeed a difficult aircraft to land in any case. Being a tailwheel plane it could not be flown on to the field in a level attitude but had to be made to 'squat' with a carefully timed throttle cut so it would not take off again. It bounced readily and was also difficult to keep straight after touchdown. These problems were overcome in its normal aircraft carrier environment by lowering a hook near the tail on landing to catch a cable stretched across the ship's deck.

Part 2

The IAP Department team had developed a pair of optical sights based on WW2 anti-aircraft predictors, whose function was to align the plane on the desired glidepath, sending the necessary signals automatically to keep it there until touchdown. We conducted many unsuccessful trials on Farnborough airfield, bringing other airfield activities to a standstill in the process, until eventually the exasperated airfield superintendent informed us that it would be appreciated if we took our dangerous and time wasting activities somewhere else! I and my RAF lads had by this time fitted out a three-ton van with all our necessary radio-control and communications gear, so the whole operation was more or less mobile. It was decided to move the landing trials to quieter venues, first Chilbolton and then Dunsfold, a WW2 fighter airfield in Surrey, now used mainly by private firms. These day trips into very pleasant countryside were, it must be said, a very welcome diversion from work in our rather gloomy old laboratory.

Our Firefly trials were still having mixed success, but it was felt that the team must soon move operations to their eventual destination, a little-used ex- WW2 fighter aircraft base at Llanbedr, a small village on the coast in north Wales. We were to provide targets for experimental anti-aircraft missiles launched from the firing base at Aberporth, another village some eighty kilometres south on the other side of Cardigan Bay. The Bay itself forms a great arc on the West coast of Wales, facing across the Irish sea to Ireland, only about one hundred and fifty kilometres distant. The whole arrangement was a sort of Woomera-by-the -sea, but with vastly more stringent geographical constraints, dictating that all operations had to be carried out over water.

Our team had made several inspections of the site, traveling by various strange RAE hack aircraft including a Lincoln bomber (I rode in the empty tail turret - quite a thrill) and an Avro Anson. Now however I had to think seriously about the airfield installation and do some on-site groundwork

By this time also an RAF squadron leader, one Sean Scanlon, had arrived to take up residence at Llanbedr as the formal base commandant with, inter alia, the job of carrying on the whole activity after the RAE group had finished the development phase. There had of course already been other RAF officers, test pilots based at Farnborough, closely involved with our work; notably a very pleasant squadron leader by the name of Ken Ashley. I developed tremendous respect for Ken and his colleagues; people of enormous skill who took considerable risks every day without being pretentious or overbearing about it. Ken was a gem; patient and tolerant of our mishandling of his aircraft and the frights we gave him, and always one for a joke.

Our gear was installed bit by bit. After a few days I left my part of the work in the hands of the RAF lads and returned to Farnborough to finalise activities at that end. There was yet more equipment to be transferred to Wales and this time I was able to make use of a small HilIman utility truck the section had acquired. I also wanted to show Lorna something of Wales so rather illegally took her with me - the Riley still being in Scotland with Jim and Alice.(In retrospect, the rules at RAE in those days seemed to have been pretty relaxed!) I remember that Hillman well. Amongst other deficiencies, the engine \'pinked\' dreadfully on the low-octane fuel the Ministry insisted we use. I once asked the transport supervisor why we had to use second grade petrol. \'Because there\'s no third grade petrol!\' was the growled reply.

Casual accommodation at Llanbedr consisted of the Victoria - the ancient village pub; the airmen\'s huts on the airfield, or various boarding houses. We chose the most imposing of the latter group, a four-hundred-year-old stone manor house named Cae Nest. It was our base for a month, not only for work purposes but as a centre for weekend and evening walks around the district. Among other activities, Lorna and I managed to climb Mt Snowdon on foot, a feat of which my wife in particular was quite proud.

The team was now able to continue with flight trials; the airfield installation having been duly set up - albeit in rather rough-and ready fashion. We had barely got going when it was announced that, at only a day\'s notice, we were to be honoured with an inspection by the Area Officer Commanding - the senior RAF officer for the Western region. There was an immediate flurry in the RAF ranks. Not only did our equipment still lie where we had hastily put it, but the huts themselves had not even been swept since about 1945! All work was temporarily suspended, and the entire team set about trying to tidy up our image. Wives were even called in, including my own. It must be the only occasion on record where officers\' wives have been seen trying to polish the ancient linoleum of an RAF operations office!

The Air Commodore swept in - in his own aircraft of course - and after a cursory look, swept out again. He had little to say, but I gathered that our efforts so far were deemed to be acceptable. We nonetheless still had far to go. The following week, there were failures in the signals along my plastic-covered cables; newly laid on the ground around the airfield. Amazingly, we discovered that the large colony of hares on the airfield were responsible for several gnawed segments. Even though the cable positions were still not settled, we had to hire a local contractor to plough trenches and bury them. Then there was rain - lots of it - and flights were suspended for several days.

Landing was still the main problem. Now on our \'own\' airfield, we were able to make use of cables stretched across the runway (attached to weights) to engage the aircraft deckhook and bring the plane to a halt after touchdown - as on an aircraft carrier. The difficulty of achieving an accurate touchdown point and tail-down attitude however meant that the cables were missed at least half of the time by the bouncing plane. The IAP people persevered, making this or that minor adjustment to the landing sight parameters, with Ken and the other pilots becoming rather fed up with the whole thing. Meanwhile, there were echoes of rumblings in high places in London. The Americans were doing this sort of thing as a matter of routine; why couldn\'t the RAE team?

My radio control gear as such was now working well so I returned to Farnborough (with Lorna) to address a new problem. It had been so far assumed that if hit by a missile the target would promptly crash, and there was a radio signal to make this happen if it looked like traveling any distance after being merely \'wounded\'. But what if only the radio control - perhaps a mere antenna - was destroyed, leaving the Firefly to stagger on until it ran out of fuel ? It could easily reach Ireland!

After brief consultation with various pundits at RAE, I managed to produce in very quick time an armoured steel box containing an electronic timing device which would in effect be \'wound up\' by special timed radio signals sent at short intervals on the normal control channel. if more than a few of these pulses were missed, the plane would immediately self-destruct. After many tests, it received general approval. (This was of course long before the transistor era - how much easier such design tasks would be now!)

I had now been back and forth to Llanbedr several times. The landing trials were still not totally successful but the Ministry had by now lost patience. Political considerations demanded that a British anti-aircraft missile should be seen to have downed a real aircraft. The question of whether we could land our Firefly was now secondary. The objective was to get a pilotless target down to the missile range to be shot at. With any luck, we wouldn\'t have to land it again anyway!

Crunch point came at the beginning of a cold February 1954. A missile (possibly a Bloodhound) was on the launcher at Aberporth. We had to fly tomorrow, willy nilly! There had been a light snowfall overnight, which didn\'t help, but zero hour saw our pride and joy successfully take off and head south, followed by the \'shepherd\' - another Firefly; piloted of course and fitted with emergency control gear in case our base system misbehaved.

We waited anxiously, listening for the shepherd aircraft comment. \'All seems OK. We\'re now nearly within range. Aberporth has control. They\'ve fired! And missed. Target turning north. Control back to you.\' Oh dear! Anxious faces looked at one another. We in the radio control room couldn\'t see the expressions of the RAF boys manning the landing sights, but we could imagine what they felt. The two planes finally appeared. Sean in the little control tower turned the target successfully on to the runway heading but it was seen that the arrester hook had not come down properly. Another try, round again. This time for some unknown reason the hook emerged, and the final approach began.

The lads no doubt did their best, but true to form, the Firefly touched heavily and bounced right over the cables laid across the runway careering blindly onward. The engine had cut, but we had no brake control other than the cables. Providence nonetheless was with us, in the form of the inch or two of snow still on the runway. An uncontrolled aircraft of this type in such circumstances tends to ground loop and the Firefly promptly obliged. Due to the snow however, the plane stayed on all three wheels, eventually ending up sliding gently into a snowbank at the end of the runway, quite undamaged.

The whole team wasted no time in hastening up to the village pub to celebrate. Our flight that day was supposed to be secret but the airfield activities were plainly visible from the village, and Welsh villages being what they are, the publican greeted us at the door with a loud \'Congratulations!\' We duly celebrated, along with most of the pub regulars.

13th Apr 2005, 07:28
Folks, herewith links to the text of Hugh Warren's excellent presentation and the powerpoint presentation which contains the photos... I have converted both to Adobe Acrobat format.

Text - 47kb (http://www.tpsconsult.co.uk/dump/_pres/fast.pdf)

Presentation - 807kb (http://www.tpsconsult.co.uk/dump/_pres/fast-presentation.pdf)

If you don't have Acrobat Reader, you can download it for free from Adobe's site: download (http://www.adobe.co.uk/products/acrobat/readstep2.html) - please be warned it may take a little time if you have a slow connection as the basic version is 9.2mb.

Feel free to PM me if you have any problems with the files.



John Farley
31st May 2005, 17:34

No particular reason for posting this pic of the RAE Armorial Bearings but it is nice and it does get the RAE up the top again....

Dr Illitout
1st Jun 2005, 09:15
Thanks John!!!!
I've been wanting a copy of that to turn into stickers for the back of my car/ side of my toolbox etc, etc.

Rgds Dr. I.

Genghis the Engineer
1st Jun 2005, 09:20
I have a fine copy of that sewn onto the shoulder of one of my flying suits, you can get such things from the ex-apprentices association, or (last I was there) the RAE gardening club, if it still exists.

On the subject how many of us are planning to attend the re-union dinner later this year? Just a thought, but I notice the form asks you to say if there's anybody you'd like to sit with, and on the whole I suspect I'll get better dinner conversation out of ex-RAE ppruners than the alternative which is just people from my year?


1st Jun 2005, 18:46

Be assured, the RAE Gardening Club continues - and even the occasional, well hidden signpost to the RAE still exists.


John Farley
2nd Jun 2005, 17:04
For those RAE fans who may have missed the news item (it was good news so it did not get much of a spread) about the VAAC Harrier landing on Invincible on 15 May 2005 here is a pic


So what you might say, but you are actually looking at a pic of the world's first fully automatic recovery and VL of a jet aircraft to a ship. This is the culmination of a journey by RAE Aero Flight boffins (now paid by QinetiQ) that started in 1971 with a meeting at RAE on how to make jump jets easier to fly. I came away from that meeting quite excited by what I had heard and thought to myself (as one does driving back to Dunsfold) 'That will take them a couple or three years to sort out'. It took 34 years but what an achievement.......

I recently spoke to an RAE Aero Flight boffin Dennis Higton who in 1952 was tasked with the job of coming up with a rig to find out how you could control the attitude of a hovering jet aircraft by use of jets. His work led to the RAE being able to specify the control system for the R-R Bedstead and the rest is as they say history

Here is a diagram of his rig


Some flight control journey that - from Dennis's rig to the VAAC auto recovery - and all masterminded by RAE Aero Flight boffins.

Not surprisingly the US JSF programme observers on board Invincible were impressed. Especially as the VAAC (the oldest Harrier still flying) did 107 VLs over the course of the eight day trial.

I am sure PPRuNe members who visit this thread will want to join me in congratulating the entire VAAC team - especially Justin Paines who has been a leading pilot on the programme for several years and who was my safety pilot when I last flew the VAAC in 1999.

3rd Jun 2005, 15:55

What a fantastic achievement! (Even if your initial estimate for how long to make it work was a little optomistic.:E )

However, the reason for this reply was to ask how much the word 'boffin' was/is still used? Somehow thought it was an old-fashioned word not used much since WWII, which I think is a pity for it always seemed to be used with such high regard and respect.

John Farley
3rd Jun 2005, 16:15

Speaking personally I have always used boffin as opposed to scientist or engineer to indicate just what you suggest - respect.

In my book all boffins are scientists but not all scientists are boffins. Boffins are totally dedicated to their work, care not what they look like (although may still be smartly dressed these days) and may behave in excentric ways when judged by those who 'conform' to establisment norms. Above all they do what they do for the benefit of knowlege and the project rather than the boss or promotion. Boffins are above such things. Way above.


3rd Jun 2005, 16:44


Quote: 'Above all they do what they do for the benefit of knowlege and the project rather than the boss or promotion. Boffins are above such things. Way above.'

That will explain why no boffin has become a politician or even worse the PM!

Genghis the Engineer
3rd Jun 2005, 18:21
There always was a shakey dividing line between "Engineer" and "Scientist", particularly at RAE. I've known Engineers with Science degrees, Scientists with Engineering degrees - but the term Boffin was one that we were always very proud of and the ideals JF describes were certainly what we aspired to. Is it still in regular use anywhere?

Incidentally, I was dismayed to learn a couple of years ago that Boffin had, at-least at my stepson's comprehensive, become a term of abuse, roughly equivalent to "swot". Oh well, I'm sure that we'll all outlive that.


N.B. Jolly well done the VAAC guys, I was never on that project but was "in the next office" for a few years - damned impressive work over a very long time.

4th Jun 2005, 00:42
Boffins at Farnborough were always reaching for the sky but were always too busy with boffinry to acquire the additional skills needed for flight testing. They must have felt on the ground what the test pilot feels in the air - extreme dedication to a project and an immense sense of responsibility to get it right. Together they made a hugely successful team.

4th Jun 2005, 15:47
I am sure PPRuNe members who visit this thread will want to join me in congratulating the entire VAAC team

You bet: Bedford Boffins and Bonedomes in Better Bedstead Boat Bonanza :=

Seriously impressive, and more so considering that it appears just as it has a significant operational use waiting for it (JSF/JCA, of course).

5th Jun 2005, 11:14
Bedford Boffins

Ironic given that this is a thread about FRN. We're all one happy family though :O

John F: It was 101 deck landings by my count. Not everything we needed to learn required us to put the jet on the deck at the end of every approach. It was, as you and I discussed at Boscombe Down the Friday after we got back, real test flying.

John Farley
5th Jun 2005, 12:24

Well you should know the numbers (unless of course you were looking for your pen on the floor of the hut while J got in another 7)

I take your point about Farnborough, but the RAE was the RAE wherever its folks did their thing................


henry crun
6th Jun 2005, 03:15
John: You say "you are actually looking at a pic of the world's first fully automatic recovery and VL of a jet aircraft to a ship."

Accepting that it was not a success in service, but didn't that honour belong to the Yak38 ?

John Farley
8th Jun 2005, 15:57

I wondered if anybody might pickup on that. Well done you.

My understanding of the Forger was that the crew had to set themselves up pretty close to the boat and tracking properly to lock on to a boat Tx that then carried out the decel trans and VL. Bit like their auto dockings in space.

That was obviously a great achievment but fell rather short of a full blown auto recovery to a ship and VL from a random position at considerable range.

Mind you they did do it all with a hydro mechanical computer under the cockpit floor that controlled all three engines. When I mentioned same to the then Pegasus designer back in the 70s he remarked "Yeh - and we are working on a developing a hydaulically controlled TV set too".



Genghis the Engineer
8th Jun 2005, 16:45
Here's an interesting point, how many RAEs were there?

I worked at Farnborough and Bedford (of which there were two, the airfield and the tunnel site).

I recall visiting RAE Pyestock (previously known as NGTE), and believe there was RAE Aberporth.

Was West Freugh part of the RAE empire?

Where else was part of this wondrous organisation that taught so many of us our trade?


8th Jun 2005, 21:15
Aberporth and Wet Through certainly were RAE, as were Llanbedr and Larkhill.

Then there were also operating airfields at places such as Pershore and Defford, which were RRE/RSRE - airfields supporting Malvern.

Along with A&AEE/A&AEE/DGT&E/DERA Boscombe Down, they are all one big happy QQ family now, of course. (Less Llanbedr).

I bet I've missed a couple of RAE outstations, too. Was Cobbett Hill one?

19th Jul 2005, 14:28
Back to the Top

The last sortie before Christmas always used to be a good one. It was usually an instument test flight, with the regular crew on board. After the test sortie had been flown, it would turn into a crew training trip. Usual suspects, smoke and fumes, fire, simulated loss of an engine etc.

However, just before the engineer ditched all non-essential power, the loadie would ensure that the essential did include the oven.

Returning to Farnborough as the last aircreaft home, we would declare a practice emergency. We would come to a halt on the runway, and a practice emergency evacuation would follow, appart from the volunteer casualty. She (usually a she for some reason :E ) would "hide" inside the aircraft, and the firemen and medics would then try and find her, treat some imaginary appauling injurg, carry her out and load her into the ambulance.

Exercise over, we would be joined by our ground crew from Western Sqn, the loadie would then return to the aircraft, and bring out a tray of hot mince pies from the oven, and cold beers from the ramp. The traditional MRF Christmas beers on the runway would then follow! We were usually joined by ATC, fire, medics airfield ops as well as our ground crew. Beers drunk, the aircraft would be towed back to Western Sqn, and all return to MRF for the traditional Christmas Barrel.:ok:

This even transformed from a humble barrel from number one officers' mess to a mini beer festival. I think our record was almost 19 real ales on tap! If arranged far enough in advance, it was even possible to get partners on site for the event! If you invite the police, then there are no problems! Survivors breakfast followed some time next morning, followed by the clear up.

Happy days.
Was never quite the same again after the move down to Boscombe.

20th Jul 2005, 16:04

Amen several times over to your last.

Just for interest, your old home now appears to be a storehouse for outdated QinetiQ Annual Reports.


21st Jul 2005, 10:43

When I was last at Farnborough, the control caravan out of Snoopy, that I spent several thousand hours flying around the world in, was still sitting in the car park behind Y46.

I was wondering if it was still there?

I know there are mutterings elsewhere to get the aircraft to either Duxford or Cosford after Marshalls have finished their engine trials for the A400M. I just thought it would be nice if Snoopy and the van could be re-united?


21st Jul 2005, 19:39

Walked around the back of Y46 today, no caravan, just a length of pipe stretching across the car-park.

I thought the Cloggies were after Snoopy? From your comment, it seems not.


21st Jul 2005, 23:33
I'd gathered the Cloggies angle also, also as a replacement for the tragic Xv179, but no, a test bed she apparently will be.

Ah, 30 years ago at a fag free boarding school a few miles south of Guildford, your totally bored, absolutely non-academicaly inclined, spotty teenager found his maths and English lessons enlivened by:

Mr Farley and colleagues in and out of Dunsfold in a variety of Hawks and Harriers (and if I recall also the Blue Fox Hunter(s))and once, in '76, the Miles Student. John F, do you recall that instance and why?

Various oddities from Farnbrough - Varsities and a strange Herc with a Barbars' Pole proboscis which may seem familiar to this thread, and the odd Hunter and other types;

Extremely low 707s and the like transiting in best hooligan fashion from Gatwick for TLC at Dan-Air's Lasham health spa for geriatric airliners.

The other classrooms faced the wrong way.

Oh, and David Lockspieser's..., er, ODD looking LDA-01 which blew the Bursar's mind as it flew overhead. "I've been working too hard" he muttered...

Happy days!

Dr Illitout
22nd Jul 2005, 12:42
Hi all
there was an short artical on Marshals plans for "Snoopy" in Flight international two weeks ago. According to the artical they will be removing the barbers pole and overhead radome before converting it into th A400M engine test bed. So when they have finished with her she will not be the plane we all know and love!!!.

On a slightly different note the toy company Corgi are releasing a limited edition Buccaneer in R.A.E. livery! They have done a few others in the past. (Comet, Viscount, C-47 and the Tornado). I just hope that the do Seaking mk4 ZB507!

Rgds Dr.I

P.S. any ex apprentices out there I will be at the reunion in September, look out for the drunk with a R.A.E. tie on!!

Eric Mc
24th Jul 2005, 17:00
It looks like a set of RAE decals are no being offered by Xtradecals for the upcoming Airfix 1/72 scale TSR-2.

17th Nov 2005, 13:18
I remember what I think was John's last flight out of Farnborough in a Harrier. He was taking G-VTOL back to Dunsfold after an airshow, and as he taxied out, asked if we had a bit of concrete available for his departure. He was duly lined up at the beginning of the runway (then 25 now 24) and came to a halt right on the edge of it. His clearance from radar was something like 'straight ahead to 2000ft then left turn for Dunsfold'
As I expected, he executed one of his 'rocket' takeoffs, lifting vertically and rotating until the aircraft was perpendicular whilst climbing away. As he accelerated towards the sky, he rolled the aircraft until its belly pointed at Dunsfold, then simply pushed over to the horizontal on reaching 2000ft, immediately accelerating to about 450kts! It took him maybe 3 minutes to reach Dunsfold. Awesome, and something that no other aircraft (or pilot?) can do

7th Dec 2006, 19:17
BBC TV "South Today" carried an item about the restoration of the great 24ft wind tunnel on the old RAE Farnborough site on the evening programme today.
It looks like its restoration is complete and is now open to the public to admire and dream about heady days of real British Aviation....
Can't find anything on the web to say it's open now, including now't on the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust site.
Anything about this anywhere else ?
The FAST museum at Farnborough of saved RAE artefacts is well worth a visit...

20th Dec 2006, 07:39
Try gulf5uk; I think he's a FAST member.

20th Dec 2006, 09:33
On a slightly different note the toy company Corgi are releasing a limited edition Buccaneer in R.A.E. livery! <snip> I just hope that the do Seaking mk4 ZB507!

They have! (Sort of). It's a Mk3, XV370:


Here's a site with lots more piccies and details: Click here (http://www.tricatus.co.uk/aa33412.htm)

And there's even a couple available on eBay at the moment (although I'm sure that plenty of other places sell them as well): eBay link (http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=200033972224&ru=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.ebay.co.uk%3A80%2Fsearch%2Fsearch.dll %3Ffrom%3DR40%26satitle%3D200033972224%26fvi%3D1). (No connection to the seller, BTW). :ok:



20th Dec 2006, 09:35
May be wrong, but I think '370 broke its back doing an engine off landing in about '90 or '91, but then if it's in ETPS markings rather than RAE -----!

20th Dec 2006, 09:38
but then if it's in ETPS markings rather than RAE -----!

Oooops. :O

20th Dec 2006, 14:32
Re Post #134 "Awesome, and something that no other aircraft (or pilot?) can do"

If memory serves, this was the basis of the Lightning FCS , ( OR-946 I think.) Near vertical climb, roll and push onto heading. All done with Euler angles.....

Standing by to be corrected .:)


Dr Illitout
21st Dec 2006, 11:36
They have just released a Canberra in ETPS colours too, but at SIXTY quid I think I will wait for a proper RAE Canberra!


Rgds Dr I

21st Dec 2006, 12:51
That's not ETPS, Doc - that's A&AEE. Not the same at all, even if same location.

Oh, and B73: XV370 wasn't even a Mk1, let alone a Mk3; she was a US built SH-3D, and IIRC even had "Sikorsky" on the yaw pedals. I hadn't come across the suggestion of a broken back in the early 90s, and am sure I'd have heard about it if so. I believe she's now sprayed grey and down at HMS Sultan as a trainer.

Still. none of this is RAE-relevant so back to the plot...

Dr Illitout
21st Dec 2006, 21:50
A&AEE, ETPS the same thing, Boscombe rabble!

When I was on the Chopper flight at Farnborough we had Seaking XV371. She also had Sikorsky molded on the pedals. A good aircraft that one, always ready to go. We also had a brand new MK4, ZB507 as well. That one was the typical friday afternoon aircraft, a bag of ......! They sent her off to Bardufoss to do some cold weather trials and on the first flight she sheared a engine to gear box drive. We changed the gear box only to find that the factory supplied unit was goosed too! So we took her to bits and loaded her into a Belfast to bring her home. I'd still like a model of her though!!

Rgds Dr I

22nd Dec 2006, 16:17
Could be it was '371 that got broke then! I know it was one of the Sea Kings doing a practice 'throttle computer freeze' onto the now disused runway 29; controller (ex Navy) didn't see it happen for some reason and the pilot (current Navy) was reluctant to say anything on the r/t, (too much chance that OC Flying might be earwigging) so it happened 'quietly'!!

Dr Illitout
23rd Dec 2006, 06:29
I seem to remember some scandle about 370 having an accident. XV371 was airworthy right up un till she flew to the RN training school where she is today (Fleetlands?) Sniff:{
371 was the first aircraft I declard servicable too. She took off and landed almost immediatly with a MRGB problem! Not a good start to my certifieing career!

Rgds Dr I

Dr Illitout
14th Jan 2007, 14:06
Whilst we are on the subject of Farnborough “Choppers”. Hear is one of my most precious possessions, a watercolour painting of two of “My” Farnborough helicopters.
I got it at an Aero jumble at Yeovilton back in 1984. A guy called R Finch who was based at Shoreham-by-sea painted it.
XL728 was the prototype Gnome powered Wessex and it ended its life on Pendine Sands Rocket range.
ZA941 was the last Westland build Puma. It crashed in France killing two RAE engineers, who were on board.

Rgds Dr I

15th Jan 2007, 10:09
But there was also an earlier Wessex at Farnborough - single Napier Gazelle powered Mk 1?(as opposed to twin Gnomes).can't remember the reg but it's in my logbook.
OC Flying was booked for solo C/T in it one day, and I scrounged and had the time of my life being taught how to hover, lift off, land, transition etc. Touchdown was easy; when you felt the mainwheels touch, dump the collective; liftoff was far more complicated involving sychronised (well almost anyway!) movements of the controls in order to achieve a 'clean' lift ie collective as well as cyclic and yaw.

Dr Illitout
15th Jan 2007, 11:02
That was XM330, now at the International helicopter museum.
It was the last flying MK1 and was fitted with an APIN starter. From what I remember there was something odd about that as the MK3's had an airstart system. (I think!).This exploded on startup one day, blew an impressive hole in the nose and grounded it! I was in the last year of my apprenticeship at the time so that puts it about 1982ish

Rgds Dr I

15th Jan 2007, 13:24
AVPIN (Iso-propyl-nitrate) same as Lightnings; flashpoint about 75 deg I seem to remember.
An American company called Turbonique used to market rocket motors (pure thrust type) and rocket turbines powered by the stuff; the turbines would be attached to a differential to provide wheel drive!!! Used to smoke the tyres for the entire quarter mile.

15th Jan 2007, 13:26
Reading all this reminded me of my time at Bedford. I was too late for the exotic stuff, though the Fairey FD2 was parked in a hangar, as was that low speed research Handley Page thingy. There was a P1127 which caused me to push the crash button on at least one occasion and an assortment of fairly normal aircraft.

However, what I suddenly remembered was the Twin Comanche, in RAE colours which was also hangar bound....can anybody say why that would have been there (this was 1973-1974). It didn`t fly while I was there, what became of it I wonder.

15th Jan 2007, 13:36
Vague recollection of the Twin Com; was it something to do with a Cranfield research project?
There was also the Auster in '74. He did a 'practice pilot incapacitation' one day; all went well until the fire service lifted the pilot out of the aircraft, and dropped him, injuring his back poor guy!

2nd Feb 2007, 10:33
Does anyone have any recollections of my late uncle Sdn Ldr M R "Jace" Alston when he was a TP at Farnborough? He was on No. 7 course in 1948 and was killed flying the third prototype B(I)8 Canberra in May 1956 when at Boscombe Down.

It is great hearing the stories and memories of that time. Oh, to be able to turn the clock back a bit...

John Farley
3rd Feb 2007, 19:01

Sorry about your uncle. I never met him but I presume you know the facts about his crash? If not I have the bare bones. If you want them drop me a pm.


Proof Reader
16th Jul 2007, 23:21
Can anyone help me with a picture of the once beautiful, wrought iron gates with RAE emblazoned on them? Gone - where? However fondly remembered.

22nd Jul 2007, 10:44
Just for info; No 1 RAF Officers Mess (originally built for the RFC) has disappeared and it's replacement is well advanced; a 5 storey hotel complex!
Did anyone ever find the model Spitfire that was stolen from the plinth in the mess grounds?

11th Aug 2007, 21:52

I've checked with the administrators that it's OK to post this, and they've said it's alright so I hope you can all help.

I have setup a new web site, Historic Farnborough www.historicfarnborough.co.uk (http://www.historicfarnborough.co.uk) which is trying to uncover more about Farnborough's history and encourage people with an association with the town to submit their own photos, memories, family histories from whatever period. One of Farnborough's biggest assets is clearly its aviation history from the early experimental work of Samuel Cody in the town through to
the establishment of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in the town, and we still have the international airshow every 2 years. Also, a lot of recent work has been done to help restore existing RAE buildings and a heritage quarter is being developed, the centre-piece of which is the reconstruction of the structure of one of the old Balloon Factory sheds from the early 1900s which Cody himself would have used. Currently I have a few photos from 1913 to the present day, but I'm also after memories as well - aviation-related or otherwise.

My reason for posting is to ask whether you have any photos or information which you'd be prepare to share with the site if you have or have had any link with the town? This is a non-commerical site, and I would acknowledge all sources as has been done with contributions received so far.

If this of of interest to you the URL is above, and there is a submission form on the site if you have anything you'd like to share.

Thanks, and I hope to hear from some of you.

Jon Cole.

Flying Lawyer
15th Aug 2007, 01:13
You've probably seen these already but, just in case, there are lots of pictures of the RAE at pages 398-404 here:

And many fascinating personal recollections here (http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?t=98520).

18th Aug 2007, 08:34

I wasn't aware of these, so many thanks for the pointer which I'll follow-up.

Thanks again.


19th Aug 2007, 07:17
I see Puma '941 has appeared in the F.A.S.T. Museum compound from the Qinetiq site.

Dr Illitout
26th Aug 2007, 10:09
Sadly Chevron the Puma at FAST is XW241. I say sadly because Puma ZA941 crashed during a test flight killing two RAE engineers. One of them had moved onto chopper flight to replace me, when I moved on to bigger things:(
I spent many a happy hour on ZA941, back in those days Andy Warner and the late Pete Rainey were our main pilots. Top blokes both of them. Andy Warner was last heard of at Eurocopter flying the Tiger. I wonder what happened to him?

Rgds Dr I

26th Aug 2007, 15:19
Sad to see the RAF No 1 Mess gone without a murmur. It was built from drawings of the mess at Poona by legend , hence the covered walkways and storm drains.
There used to be a metal model of the 'Cathedral' which was put on the plinth on special occasions- it normally lived inside by the entrance to the Bar.
Happy days 69-72

26th Aug 2007, 16:17
I posted on another thread to try to identify an Avenger I saw abandoned at Farnborough in the late 1950s (see http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?t=289162
for details and photos).
"lauriebe" has suggested it might have been KE436.
Can anyone on this thread confirm that? Thanks.

John Farley
26th Aug 2007, 18:49
I spoke to Norman Kierney a few moments ago and he confirms he flew the NAD Flight Avenger in the early 50s at Farnborough. He has promised to dig out his log books establish the serial number and get back to me tomorrow.


John Farley
26th Aug 2007, 19:09
He just rang back. His aircraft was all black with reg XB388. So not yours. He also thought that his aircraft went to NAE Bedford shortly after his flight (which was on 4 Aug 54) when NAD moved up there.

John Farley
26th Aug 2007, 19:31
While I am at it what is being built on the site of No1 RAF Officers Mess taken last month
Taken from outside A Shed

The control tower (if it had been still standing) would have been 100yd left of the photographer

26th Aug 2007, 19:55

It is understood to be a Hotel. Flats and houses joining shortly on the Queens Gate area south of the 'Hotel'.


27th Aug 2007, 05:46
Thanks John. I checked XB388 on the ukserials and jbaugher sites:
An AS5, formerly USN 69452, delivered 10/10/53 and scrapped in 1961.
These "new" Avengers were only used from 1953 for a couple of years waiting for Gannets to be delivered. I did not know there had been one at Farnborough. As you say, they were black overall, and judging from photos I have seen the roundel was further forward on the fuselage than in "my" photos. Also the "Royal Navy" logo was just above the serial on the fuselage, whereas in my photos the leters "VY" can be seen on the fin extension along the top of the fuselage. Compare the photos on p196 and p206 of British Naval Aircraft by Owen Thetford (1958).
Maybe you know someone else who knew of the Mk III in service at RAE....

27th Aug 2007, 11:03
More flats and housing under construction near 'North Gate' where NRSC used to be (near to where the ejector seat rig was until Tom Kerr told 'em to use it or move it!)

John Farley
27th Aug 2007, 14:08

Many thanks - my poor (ambiguous) use of what!

I am reliably informed the hotel is to have an airside and landside so that those who come to FY from abroad and do not wish to enter the UK can stay there. Not sure how that would work though during showtime...


John Farley
27th Aug 2007, 14:24
The current view looking N through where the old N Gate used to be


and looking south from a similar spot


I must say the buildings that have been refurbished have been done beautifully

28th Aug 2007, 07:35
The new flats are to the right of John's second photo.

28th Aug 2007, 08:10
Hello All, what a marvelous thread!
For the historical types; I worked at the DSTL site down the road from the Cody site 1998-2002. Whilst there, I shared a house with a chap called Phil who was a computer engineer. He mentioned to me one evening that he'd had to install a new computer for someone in one of the Cody site buildings. During the installation, he needed to route cables under the floor. On further investigation, the floor turned out to be a cellar. Inside he says he came across a complete scale mock-up of various dams which had been built by Barnes Wallace and team. I believe it also included some 'bouncing bombs'. Not sure if this piece of nostalga has been rescued and protected. Anyone know?

28th Aug 2007, 14:34
I recently enquired about an abadoned Avenger I saw at Farnborough in, I think, 1957. I got some very helpful responses.
I have looked further through my pictures of that era. I apologise for their very poor quality, but they may bring back some memories to someone out there.
I took them, again I think at the time of the SBAC show in September 1957, near the ETPS. They show the prototype Varsity VX828, carrying its ETPS number 12. Also visible are various other aircraft, including Devon "2", which should be XA879. There is also a Viking or Valetta with its fin off, which might be the 4th prototype Viking VW218. Also a Gannet and a Meteor, probably NF11.
Can anyone confirm the year from these data? Thanks



29th Aug 2007, 10:48
I should have known I had the wrong Puma! I did a superb trip in it with Andy Warner once; I was acting co-pilot (but without knowledge of the emergency undercarriage lowering system) and Pete Rainey and John Turner were in the Sea King, on which for a start we formated for aerial photos of the globular TV/sensing system - you may have seen one of these in various publications - that's me in the left hand seat! After this we descended into the LFA and went down to Salisbury Plain for a recce of a route to be used that night; below the tree tops in the area west of Sidbury Hill and south of Netheravon.

Dr Illitout
29th Aug 2007, 20:35
Do you mean this globular thing?
(A very bad picture I know but it was scanned from a copy of a slide!)
I was one of the guys who fitted it to the aircraft in A shed.
Front of the ball should have had three large panels of some exotic material, that did not interfere with the signals being sensed by the things inside. But theses panels were so freakishly expensive the RAE could not afford them. So the firm that supplied the sensors sold us a roll of very exensive plastic flim to keep the wind out. This film looked exactly like "Clingfilm". When the proper stuff ran out we tried "Clingfilm" and found it did just as well!!!
You mention John Turner. Another top bloke, last heard of working for the Australian Army Air Corps.

Rgds Dr I

30th Aug 2007, 15:16
That's the one! Looks like that photo was taken on SPTA.
Ah there were two John Turners, one was a Sqn Ldr TP, the other was a doctor Lt Cdr working at IAM; like me this latter one had a PPL and he scrounged his Sea King ride that day like I scrounged the Puma ride! The other John Turner was a development TP on the Typhoon last time I met him and actually displayed at an airshow here.

30th Aug 2007, 19:02
Slightly predating that, I still have to hand an IAM report from 1969
" A Review of some Aeromedical Problems in Helicopters"
By Surgeon Commander E.P. ( Peter) Beck and
Sqn Ldr D.G. ( Dereck ) Beaton
It still makes striking reading- I quote from the conclusion :

"From this report it is obvious that helicopters have long been neglected in the field of aviation medicine. The general standards have not improved with the successive generations of helicopters introduced into military service, and the current situation with the four new types to be introduced over the next three years shows no improvement in standards."

NO Brown-Nosing there. That was the spirit that was common at that time and made me so proud to be at Farnborough during my formative years.

31st Aug 2007, 16:28
Going back a few years, it always puzzled me but before I became a fixture here, I visited as an ATC cadet during an air show about 1966, and I remember near the Comet tanks on the south side close to ETPS, there was a fuselage of something which wasn't a Comet. From later photos, I would have guessed it was an Ashton or (possibly) Apollo. It wasn't here by the time I started work here in '74.

31st Aug 2007, 20:14
It was , in fact, that of an Ashton and has ended up with one of the museums further North.
Like yourself I initially thought ( hoped ) it might be of the Apollo.
Over by Western Squadron was the scrap dump which had bits of TSR2s ,Javelins, Dragonfly Rotor blades a Valiant nose etc.
Also was a Vampire nose section half buried. The nosewheel undercarriage leg assembly from that now resides in the FAAM's ( actually Science Museum's) first deck landing Vampire at Yeovilton. Great fun getting it out.

1st Sep 2007, 07:26
The dump has gone now; where it was is now the west end of the superhangar (new buildings to house aircraft are called hangars, the original ones are still called 'sheds').
Back in the late '70s, I drove round the tracks near the fence of the structures/tunnel site(in the days when there was still a Concorde airframe in structures). I found some tailplanes dumped there which I couldn't identify. Fortunately one had a serial number on it, and a little research revealed they were Valiant tailplanes presumably dumped there after the investigations into Valiant accidents had finished.
You mention the first deck landing Vampire; well of course before that was the Vampire rubber landing deck. The concrete base for this still exists between the new control tower and the runway.

1st Sep 2007, 08:19
I was assured that the hardstanding in front of the Black Sheds was built partly upon a base core of surplus early aero engines. Anno Domini precludes me remembering the full story.

5th Sep 2007, 08:10
I'll get me metal detector! And to think Pete Le Gros did shakedown runs on his drag-bike on that very piece of tarmac; little did we know what was under it!

IFPS man
5th Oct 2008, 18:52
Visiting the 2008 SBAC show at Farnborough, I looked across at the old RAE site. Hmmm. Not much of the original factory site appears to remain. I worked in the Atmospheric Hazards Section of EP Dep't between 1967 & 1970; just wondering if there are any other Pruners who were there at that time, and if they have any interesting stories of their time there??

5th Oct 2008, 20:15
I was at I.A.M 69-73 on frequent detachments.
Lived in the No.1 Officers' Mess of the R.A.F.
Now long gone,
Like me.

6th Oct 2008, 06:11
Brand new hotel on the Officer's Mess site and another one being built roughly where 'Space Dept' used to be (near the archway which was the framework of the original airship shed). Only arrived in '74 so I can't help you IFPS Man.

IFPS man
7th Oct 2008, 08:49
Re "Chevron's" comment about the Valiant bits:
When I was in the Atmospheric Hazards Dep't, (working particularly in the Bird Impact Section over at Ball Hill), myself, Tony Campbell and Brian Dawson had to go to the Shoeburyness Ranges to get some windscreen wiper motors/assemblies from some of the "redundent" Valiant aircraft - there were probably ten or so "aircraft" there in various stages of destruction: One row was sections of fuselage; another cockpit sections, and another of the wings and tail units.
Also lurking in the same area was a Bristol 188 research aircraft.
In the Section, we also had parts of the wing section of TSR2, the idea being that we could fire the chickens at the airfame sections and thus build up a "bank" of statistics on Bird Impact. That would have been in the late 60's/early 1970. Also, I had to go to the "aircraft dump" near Ascot and, using an LPO (Local Purchasing Order), bought up the front screen of a Hunter. £150 it cost...
Incidently, chevron; which ATC Squadron were you in? I was in 261 (Guildford) Sqn up to Nov. 1970, whence I went to OCTU at Henlow.

7th Oct 2008, 09:33
I was originally 2204 (Chesham) Sqdn (with Honey Monster) as cadet then adult staff, but about 4 years after I was commisioned, the Wing Staff officer came to me cap in hand and asked if I would consider taking over 1811 (Marlow) as it would have to be disbanded if I didn't. I did and fortunately inherited several keen staff members (one of whom was an AWO in the local CCF!) and an excellent CWO and together we re-vitalised the squadron within a few years.

20th Nov 2008, 00:16
I have only just discovered this forum, so please forgive me for going over old postings. As a young engineer I worked at RAE from 1966 to 1972 initially as a Technical Assistant in various departments and then in the Engineering Physics department as an Engineer III.

Back in September 2007, RETDPI mentioned that he heard a story that many aero engines were used as the hardcore for the Black Sheds concrete standing area. One of my jobs at Farnborough was to operate and run tests on the “Blower Tunnel” This was a freestanding tube with 2 Rolls Royce Merlin engines, including propellers, that was used to blow high velocity air and water into a variety of targets including airplane canopies and double-glazed windows. The tunnel was on a concrete pad out in the open next to a large hangar near the Pyestock entrance to the airfield. To keep the tunnel in good operating order, we had several brand-new crated Merlins for which we were constantly being pestered to sell them by outside agencies with plenty of cash. It was rumoured that there were many more crated engines that had been used for hard core for the foundations of the hangar at this end of the airfield but no one ever provided other than anecdotal information.

4th Dec 2008, 11:45
I was just reading the fascinating thread on Farnboro' RAE history (only 4 years late) when i saw a call for any memories of Mike Hawkins, tp, who was killed some 30 years ago, in Canada.
I have some memories of Mike and will share them if the request is still open.

Flying Lawyer
4th Dec 2008, 12:29
There are lots of posts about events and people going back to the golden years of British aviation, but always room for more - post away. :ok:

I thought/hoped when I started the thread that we'd get quite a few interesting reminiscences, but I didn't foresee the extent of the success it's become.
As you say, a fascinating thread.


4th Dec 2008, 12:41
This may be of interest:

The Life & Times of John Wheater(Farnborough, Wokingham, Downside, Bristol, Toronto, Farnham) (http://www.johnwheater.net/Farnborough2.php)


8th Apr 2009, 15:18
Madbob - saw your mention of Sqn Ldr MR Jace Alston and No 7 Course (1948); he unfortunately died in '56 flying a Canberra. I have a group photo of that year with all names present. I also have a list of final percentages.
I have a particular interest in following up Jock Elliot, who was Mackenna Trophy for that year. He was then posted to Aero Flight for the next three years where he was greatly involved in things transonic which was the great urgency of that particular time. Any possible memories of Jock would be treated like gold dust - - - - -
If you would like a copy of that photo then just get in touch and I shall be only too delighted to pass it on.
I am [email protected]

19th Apr 2009, 21:32
How sad to see Farnborough progressively dismantled ... so many memories, the sad times when the Atlantic Breguet took down one of the black sheds when turning left on a single engine final. The Sikorsky (about 1974 ish) falling out of a slow roll on to the 25 runway. The wind was so strong, the Carmichael fire engine foam wasn't reaching the flames.

'Twas my first public Enstrom display and I packed my allotted two minutes with what I thought was my very best manoeuvres for the display committee. As I vacated the active, I was more than dis-heartened to hear the ATC call "Was that it?" (rather like ones first attempt at sex) ... but they were the early days of light civvies.

The wonderful voice of commentator, John Blake and his incredible aviation knowledge.

Then Group Captain Chuck Charles at pilot briefing. "The occupant of number 23 Station Road, called to say that as much as he admired the Tornado's low-level run, the noise was frightening, so could the pilot be asked to move his display further away." Next morning briefing ... The owner of number 23 Station Road has called to say would we thank the Tornado pilot for his co-operation which was much appreciated. However, we took a call from the owner of number 25 Station Road .......!

Chuck Charles went through the many minor display violations of the 100 feet rule. "The Short Skyvan fly past had been made too low, the Piper Tomahawk had flown too close to the crowd line." He went on to list a few further transgressions, closing with ... "And now we come to the Enstrom. On several occasions it was seen to rise above 100 feet .. in fact we have received complaints from the rear chalet holders that they haven't yet see his show!"

My Enstrom parking spot was usually on the disused 19 threshold by the Airbus 320. It was from there, I witnessed my first helicopter loop performed by the MBB 105 flown by Ziggy Hoffman.

How well I remember (1958 I think) the 'Treble One Squadron' all black Hunters in a glorious loop, the venerable Ben Gunn making fast runs in the tiny all-yellow Boulton-Paul Delta, (P111 was it?) The Hughes 500 with Mike Smith on board G-HOOK, dropping a Renault from four or five hundred feet and never to forget Bill Bedford umpteen Hunter spins and the VTO 'ski ramp' lift-offs.

I could go on ... so many super memories of Farnborough, but am I getting old?

Best wishes to all ppruners,

Dennis K

19th Apr 2009, 22:30
DennisK. As you are able to give us such supurb, detailed, memories as that, you are not getting old ! just matureing, and realising that you have such a wealth of knowledge that you are able to pass on to others !
I think that is such a nice thing for those who were not there at the time.
Thank you !


20th Apr 2009, 21:37
Have read this thread with interest, as I work on the airfield itself these days.

I seem to be one of the few people who are a little bit sad at the removal of heritage, but to be fair to TAG a lot of that blame rests with the planning approval which effectively limits to total square footage of buildings on the site, so if they need to build something to make the airport work for today, they have to remove something first to provide them with the square footage to do that (hope that makes some sense!)

My office now is pretty much where The Dump was (any tip offs of radiation, that sort of thing, very welcome sooner rather than later!), and our engineering company moved recently from L-Shed (which I've now found out was essentially designed as a transportable hangar and thus came down pretty quickly once the work started) to A-Shed. Even as a kid I my parents used to take me to the Airshow (living about 200 miles away back then) where I used to get overexcited at the sight of the Red Arrows lined up outside the black shed and so now I still can't quite get my head around the fact that part of the company I'm with is working in them! Hopefully most of you will be pleased to hear that our engineering company is now in them and is maintaining aircraft - at least trying to keep some of the tradition alive.

The more I read about A-Shed and its history the more interested I become in finding out even more about the site. When we moved in it was already beginning to look like a museum piece there with all the stickers and zaps from airshows of the 70's and 80's all over the place, but it's being smartened up now, which will hopefully give the sheds (which remain in better nick than anything I've seen that's been built in the last 50 years) a good future. There is still the weighbridge in the floor too!

19th May 2009, 19:44
John - I was really interested to read yours about Dennis Higton’s work on the control rig for jet aircraft in the hovering mode. I am not the least bit surprised as Jock Elliot, then attached to Aero Flight, worked very closely with Dennis on the Boulton Paul P111 (VT935) in it's original form; this in ’50 – ’51, Altho’ the actual construction was by BP the design was RAE, and the spec, (E27/46), showed how early, and futuristic, was the vision to see the need to explore the concept. The original pointers came from Germany after the war. Dennis recalls how although S/Ldr Bob Smythe made the first flight, Jock soon took over and contributed greatly to all the work that was carried out. Many problems arose in the control circuit, giving rise to some nasty moments in the air, as well as some vigorous verbal exchanges on the ground after landing!. Early in the programme, NASA reported that shapes similar to the B P Delta had ‘tumbled’ when near or at the stall. As they were feeling their way in this flight region it made it extremely dangerous to press on with anything but extreme caution. The anti spin parachute was also used when landing, enabling them to proceed ‘a knot at a time’ until a clear a firm picture emerged of the stalling behaviour. The control system was by a 100% hydraulic non-reversible action, thus the input from BP with their virtually unrivalled experience with powered gun turrets built up during the war. The system incorporated a system of trimmable springs to allow for feel; this system functioned reasonably well at moderate speeds; however there was a value at fine settings whereby it was possible to move the stick without encountering the springs which at higher values became extremely dangerous. Jock said that at 500 kts IAS a 1/4 inch of stick movement gave an acceleration of 1 "g", and went on to comment that the potential for a catastrophic sudden reflex input was very real indeed. At a point when Jim Harrison pulled off a most commendable belly landing after an undercarriage hangup there was a strong line of thinking that the entire project should be shelved; however Jock came up with an idea which was a real conceptual breakthrough in that he outlined a proposal whereby light, self centring springs, allied to a system of variable gearing between stick and control surface would, relative to aircraft speed, allow stick forces to be maintained constant for steady conditions and should also maintain transient forces in a constant state; thus the feel of the aircraft would be retained in a constant state throughout the speed range. The point was made that the idea of variable stick/control surface gearing was not new; it had been considered in the early days of high speed monoplane design, although as a fixed variation, but “ . . . with trim changes which occur at high Mach numbers a continuously variable gearing would be more preferable. The basic proposal outlined was that the stick to control surface gearing should be continuously variable between a ratio of 1:1 and 4:1, thus allowing from 1:1 = full stick movement = full control surface deflection, and 4:1 = full stick movement = ¼ control surface deflection. His idea was presented in a paper at the RAE in December '51 and was unanimously accepted for flight trials in a Meteor, thence incorporated into the Delta, now as the BP 111a.
I see that Jock, accompanied by Dennis, had already journeyed to Wolverhampton, in Avenger KE 446, on 23rd Oct '51 to discuss the idea with the team there, including Chief Engineering Designer J D North,

Old Photo.Fanatic
20th May 2009, 00:24
My enduring memory of Farnborough was as a boy of 13 I was able to attend the 1954 Airshow on the Public Saturday.
I am at an age where "Senior Moments " often happpen, "her in doors" says you can't remember where your backside hangs sometimes.
But I can recall every moment of that Saturday Sept. 1954.
Still have the Programme and the"Times" Aviation Supplement.
I stood with a schoolfriend and his Father on Derry Hill.
There was a thunderstorm at the start which set the atmosphere for the rest of the show.
It was the last year that Aircraft were allowed to break the sound Barrier
as Public trials of the effect of the Sonic Boom.
I can picture now the Five a/c which broke the sound barrier:
Hunter(Neville Duke)/ Swift/Javelin/DH110/Supermarine 525 .
I remember there were multiple "Booms" from some of the a/c during the
"Dive" (As I understand starting over the Isle of Wight.)
Having broke the sound Barrier the a/c would arrive at very low level,
"Transonic".,cacooned in shockwaves enhanced due to the wet air from the thunderstorm. in "Pure Silence", the sound following some time after the a/c passed. Absolute Magic.
Other impressions, Prototype Vulcan, Famous picture of it top plan view "White" against the black thunder cloudes.
The Victor("2nd Prototype?) on its second flight, Maiden flight that morning
The Black Valient Mrk II (Pathfinder)
Olympus Canberra, What a take off and Display/The folland "Midge" et al.
Another memory was walking back to the coach park went past the
"Crash" dump saw remains of the Comet I crashes piled up!!

My first Airshow was in 1952,(Colerne) and still attend major ones here and abroad.
But that Farnborough had a Magic not repeated to this day.
As I lived in Bath I had to sleepover the previous night and on returning the Sat Evening, as my friend lived in "Colerne."
I remember walking to my home on the Sunday Morning from the nearby Bustop ,walking on cloud nine.
It meant so much to me also because due to Circumstances it was a
hardship for my parents to afford the 5 Shillings (25p) cost of the trip!!!!
I would love to hear from anyone who might have been there on the same day, (Week End)
Now closing the Hanger Door.

20th May 2009, 08:48
1954: covered the 12.5p. entry price by picking up empty Coca-Cola bottles and handing them in, collecting the penny deposit. In 1952 went to Waterloo for the excursion train; the queue was endless so Ma took me to Battersea Fun Fair. Else, might have been on (to be) Derry Hill.

John Farley
20th May 2009, 09:09

Good stuff. Please check your PMs


20th May 2009, 10:22
DennisK: are you sure you displayed the Enstrom in 74? I ask beause in my recollection the 74 display was done by an american who'd come from Florida as I remember his words to me '24 hours ago I was in Florida and I'd never heard of Farnborough; I arrive here and the first aircraft I see is Concorde'
The S67 Blackhawk was definitely 74; it was my first airshow (of 17!!) and I had a close up view as I was in the control tower preparing the next day's display programme when it occured; it came out of an unrehearsed barrel roll all wrong and it was obvious from the blade slap that it wouldn't pull out.
That was also the show where I met John Farley. He had been tasked to fly Raymond Baxter in G-VTOL for a live tv transmission and needed to book a 'slot' to take him through it to find out if he (Baxter) could resist the 'technicolour yawn' syndrome, so he asked me (the most junior person!) to find the slot!

20th May 2009, 11:49
John - sorry - PMs?

Saab Dastard
20th May 2009, 13:08
PM = Private Message - link at top right of every page.


29th May 2009, 17:47
I have come to the conclusion that, rather than have me ramble on about the Delta and completely missing out the finer nuances which are the very nub of the work, it would be far more appropriate to post a paper written by Jock Elliot and presented by him at RAE in mid December '51.
It illustrates the state of thinking at that time in relation to the introduction of powered controls and the problems of feel by those who were trying to push out the boundaries of thinking. JF's contribution of Dennis Higton's rig for control in the hover mode shows the quite amazing levels of thinking going on at that time. I also feel that where possible the ground breaking work of those days should be recognised, altho' I'm not sure if Jock would have approved as he was most reluctant to be involved in exposure in any shape or form!.

John Farley
29th May 2009, 18:23

Did you check your PMs?


29th May 2009, 21:46
John - I clicked the number and clicked close the window at the bottom - is that the circuit secure?
Sorry that I am so inept with these finer points of electronic wizardry!.

John Farley
30th May 2009, 11:32
Hi Bob

Fear not we all have to learn until we actually climb into our coffin.

Private Messages are a secure way of us passing info.

I sent you a PM that I would like you to read.

To do this look at the top right corner of the PPRuNe page that you are currently using to read this where you should see a welcome box with your name in it and the date you last visited plus IN BLUE the words Private Messages which are underlined. Put your cursor over the words (which should then change colour) and do a single left click.

This should then get you into your private message log where you will find one from me that you can open and read. In it you will find my normal email address which you should use to answer my message.


8th Jun 2009, 19:21
Sorry to have been out of commission for the past couple of weeks but here as promised the paper by Jock E. It shows the state of knowledge at that particular time and the problems which were being raised. It would be interesting if anyone would like to tease it out and maybe think about other ways in which the probs might have been approached at that time.



Lt. J. Elliot, A.F.C., R.N.

There are many different types and makes of aircraft flying in the world today, but it is doubtful whether any two of them feel exactly the same to the pilot; some of these aircraft are pleasant to fly whilst others are anything but. With the increasing trend towards fitting aircraft with irreversible power operated controls where synthetic "feel" must be provided it would appear logical to attempt to produce a "feel" which is universally liked and to make the feel of all aircraft of a given class as near identical as possible, thus reducing the problems of pilot conversion and training when changing from one type to another.
Although there are in existence at the moment only a few aircraft with purely synthetic feel, no two of them feel alike whilst at least three of them are reputedly unpleasant to fly.
Before more synthetic feel systems are introduced it is felt that nothing can be lost by having an informal discussion on this important feature amongst those most qualified to speak on the subject, in the hope that some concrete facts for the guidance of designers concerned with systems of this kind may emerge.
1. General
With high speed aircraft it is thought that the actual feel of the rudder is relatively unimportant and this note is devoted entirely to elevators and ailerons .
1.1 Definition of Feel
When the pilot of an aircraft moves his control column the aircraft responds in some way or other and eventually assumes (it is hoped) a steady condition; at the same time (with aerodynamically balanced controls) stick forces may vary as the aircraft responds and as a result the stick and control surface position may alter. The aircraft responds and the changing stick forces are noted by the pilot and are correlated to give him an impression which he calls the "feel" of the aircraft.
1.2 Aircraft
There is obviously a difference in providing "feel" for a large aircraft with high inertia and good damping as opposed to providing feel for a small aircraft with low inertia and little damping, and both have their problems. For the large aircraft 'g' restrictors etc. may provide the answer whilst for small aircraft other devices may be essential. There are, however, several pilots who are highly qualified to speak of large aircraft whilst the author's experience has been gained almost entirely on a small aircraft and the remainder of this note will be mainly concerned with this type only.
1.3 Transient Response
Whilst a suitable stick force per 'g' etc. must obviously be aimed at, it is not entirely on these steady conditions that the pilot will judge the feel of the aircraft but to a large extent on the transient responses of the aircraft to stick movements which for several reasons may differ very noticeably from the conditions. To-day these transient responses vary from type to type and although two fighter aircraft may have identical values of stick forces per 'g' at a given speed it will be most unusual if the elevators feel the same to the pilot.
1.4 Control Damping
In addition to the variation in transient response between different aircraft, different controls and control systems give different inertia and damping loads to the stick, and these also have a share in the pilot's impresion of feel and anyone who has flown with a small stick movement/high force spring feel system will appreciate that it bears little resemblance to the feel of an aerodynmically balanced control and in fact is exactly like a spring self-centring device, which is not surprising since that is what it is. If displaced and released the stick will fly back into the no force position with a suddenness which is totally unlike the centring of a good aerodynamic control whilst the general sensation of moving the stick is somehow different.
1.5 Present System
It appears that, with a few exceptions, the designers of synthetic feel systems have up to date concentrated on steady aircraft conditions and have provided reasonable stick force per 'g' and stick force per rate of roll (although some have not even got this far - no names, no pack drill,) coupled in some cases with q or V variations, but the results have not been very satisfactory.
1.6 What is Pleasant
Although perhaps slightly irrelevant, it is felt to be worth a mention that, in the author's opinion, the most pleasant form of control to be found today is the light spring or servo tab type balanced in such a way that centralising the stick gives a certain amount of momentary control surface overshoot (until the aircraft adopts the new steady condition) thus giving a positive control over the aircraft both on initiating and in stopping a movement (the latter being a point of some importance which is invariably overlooked).
2. The Small Delta Aircraft
This section describes some of the main snags in the feel system of the B.P. Delta research aircraft.

This machine has large and potentially very poweful controls (rate of roll for full differential elevon movement - full stick - at 500 m.p.h. has been estimated as 500°/sec.).
2.1 Control System
The Boulton Paul P.111 has two large elevons operated by irreversible hydraulic power units controlled by the pilot's stick. Stick forces are provided by fixed trimmable springs, no force variation with air speed change being made.
The control surfaces themselves have 23% aerodynamic balance which enables the aircraft to be flown without the power units operating, whilst an automatic trimmer tab on each elevon should ensure that the machine is at all times approximately aerodynamically in trim.When flying in "manual" the automatic tabs can (if desired) be operated by hand and the aircraft trimmed normally.
Stick forces are :- with springs trimmed central: full aileron either way 15lb: full elevator either way 35lb.
The stick force build up is linear with stick displacement.
Up to date the performance of the actual power units has been extremely good and the slightest stick movement gives a corresponding movement of the control surface(s) whilst a backlash is almost entirely absent.
Trouble has been experienced with the spring force system and with the automatic trimmers.
2.2 Automatic Trimmers
Although not really a feel problem as such it was thought that the trouble experienced with the auto- trimmer was worth mentioning. These tabs are caused to operate by force sensing devices in the elevon operating rods and should normally keep stick forces (if power control fails) within reasonable limits. At above 250 knots A.S.I., however, it was found that the aircraft was so heavy that it could hardly be flown without causing the tabs to operate and that due to their high rate of movement considerable overshooting took place and in fact complete control was lost on one occasion for some considerable time. It is hoped to rectify this trouble by reducing the rate of operation of the tabs (4½°/sec. to ½°/sec).
The aircraft has been flown in manual at 400 knots A.S.I. with the automatic trim system switched off and the controls were found to be very heavy.
2.3 Spring Forces
At low A.S.I. the stick force for steady manoeuvre, i.e. stick force for rate of roll, are considered to be reasonable satisfactory. For normal flying at low speed, however, there has been a strong tendency towards overcorrections, these in some cases becoming out of phase with the aircraft response and proving dangerous.

It is thought that this overcorrection is due to the powerful controls and low inertia and damping of this aircraft with the lack of damping on stick movement.
Initially the spring system fitted was trimmed by normal hand wheels and a large amount of backlash was present between the stick and the springs, this meaning that the stick (and controls) could be moved slightly without any stick force. At lower A.S.I.(up to 250 knots) this was not too serious but at higher A.S.I. it became most unpleasant.
At a later date an improved spring system was fitted (trimmable to no force by electric actuators operated from a button on the stick) which initially had very little backlash and flight up to 500 knots A.S.I.was found to be satisfactory in this respect, although the tendency toward overcorrection was still very much in evidence. Due to the continual loading of the springs in flight, however, the backlash in this new system is on the increase.
At high A.S.I. since no "q" or other variation system is fitted, stick movements for aircraft response (with as a result stick forces) fall to a very low value and in fact the aircraft can be flown in the backlash region (no force) and the impression is gained that flying is achieved by slight bending as opposed to stick moving. The danger of this becomes very apparent if a sudden motion is required when the tendency to make a large control movement followed by the most appalling overcorrection has been noted.
(lb./g at 500 knots = 2 lb. Stick movement/g at 500 knots = ¼".
2.4 Impressions Gained
The following is a summary of the impressions gained regarding the feel of this aircraft: -
1. At low A.S.I. the aircraft is considered to be reasonably “flyable” but the feel
is unsatisfactory in that although forces for steady conditions are satisfactory the stick forces for transient responses appear to be too low and there is a tendency to overcorrection.
2. At high A.S.I. the aircraft is considered to be dangerous and unpleasant to fly due to the tremendous amount of control available and to the small stick movements and forces normally required, together with the tendency toward overcorrrection.
3. With control power off the aircraft is satisfactory at low A.S.I. but at high A.S.I. the elevons are very heavy.

(Part 2 will follow in a few days.)

12th Jun 2009, 08:49
3. Remedies
At low A.S.I. with control power on it appears that as well as being slightly overcontrolled the machine lacks some form of damping on control column movement and it is hoped, by decreasing the available control angle slightly for the same stick movement and by adding a damper to the stick, to make the aircraft pleasant at those speeds.
It is thought that if stick movements and forces experienced for a given aircraft response at low A.S.I. could be retained at high A.S.I. then the aircraft would be pleasant at all speeds.
In order to provide sufficient control angle for all conditions of flight with the stick movement available, the stick movements actually required at high airspeeds are very small (¼" per 'g' at 500 knots), thus accentuating any faults in the spring feel system. It is felt that the provision of an entirely satisfactory spring system to cope with these tiny movements would be almost impossible. Thus to provide variations of spring force with airspeed (q or V feel) does not entirely solve the problem.
It has long been contended that although pilots have to date flown chiefly withreference to stick forces, there is no reason why this should continue, and if stick movements for aircraft response are made large enough it seems reasonable to supposethat a pilotwould fly quite happily with no stick forces at all. (This has in fact been confirmed on two power operated aileron installations.)
The provision of sufficient stick movement to meet this requirement is not likely to be desireable in aircraft with anything but very limited uses but there is no reason why a half way measure should not be adopted by using light self-centring springs and altering the stick to control surface gearing as speed is varied, thus keeping not only stick forces for steady conditions the same but it is hoped keeping transient forces constant as well, thus making the feel of the aircraft constant throughout the speed range (if desired of course the aircraft can be heavied up slightly with speed or otherwise).
This idea of variable stick/control gearing is not a new one and was considered in some detail when the first high speed monoplanes were designed and has been employed to a certain extent in some aircraft by using a fixed variation, i.e. a change in gearing with stick position. This latter may still offer an answer for some aircraft but with the trim changes which may occur at high Mach number a continuously variable gearing would probably be preferable.
By use of variable gearing not only will the high speed case under power control be catered for but in manual the forces at high speed will be reduced also.
4. Variable Gearing
A rough outline of the system which is being considered for the B.P. Delta is given. (With the use of elevons the mechanics of the system are somewhat more complicated than when dealing with a split control system and for ease of explanation the system is outlined here with reference to a single control.)
Firstly the basic (present) stick/control surface gearing is to be reduced and a damper is to be fitted to the control column; the stick to control surface gearing is then to be continuously variable from a ratio of 1:1 (basic) to 4:1 ( i.e. full stick movement = full control movement, to full stick movement = ¼ control movement) whilst in addition the control datum position (position of control with stick central) is to be made variable as the pilot wills.
At low speed the aircraft will be flown almost as at present but as speed is increased the amount of control movement for a given stick movement will be decreased. This necessarily involves a reduction of the total control angle available byuse of the stick but byoperating the control datum trimmer any range of control angle can be selected at will.
No spring trimming will be fitted and at any speed the pilot will trim the stick central (no force) by altering the datum of the control.
In this aircraft it is proposed that the gearing will be altered manually by the pilot (although if satisfactory a "q" system may be fitted) whilst the datum trimmer will be operated by means of an electrical actuator controlled from a button on the control column.
One of the more attractive features of this scheme is that it caters for both "power" and "manual" conditions whilst should either the gearing column or the datumn trimmer fail it should be possible to fly the aircraft quite satisfactorily by use of the remaining system.
5. Summary
5.1 It appears evident that the provision of satisfactory "feel" for aircraft with irreversible power operated controls is a problem of some magnitude, particularly in the case of the small aircraft. Since the "feel" of an aircraft plays a large part in whether the machine is liked (and hence used to it's best advantage) it is considered essential that this problem be solved.
5.2 With few exceptions, existing systems are unsatisfactory; they do, on the whole, provide suitable stick forces for any steady aircraft confition but do not cater for the transient responses which contribute largely to the pilot's impression of the "feel".
5.3 It is perfectly obvious that for an aircraft with a large speed range some variation in stick movement must be adopted (q or V variation etc.). This has been amply proved in the Boulton Paul Delta where stick movements (and hence forces) required to manoeuvre the aircraft have fallen to such a low figure at high speed that the aircraft is unsafe to fly.
5.4 In the case of the B.P.Delta it has been found that not only is the machine unsafe to fly at high airspeeds but that the control column movements have become so tiny as to make the provision of a suitable spring force system almost a mechanicalimpossibility; it is,however, hoped to achieve good "feel" by first fitting a damper to the control column (to reduce the rate of control application and thus overcorrections) and then, byvarying the stick tocontrol surface gearing with speed, to keep the aircraft response to a given stick movement and force constant throughout the speed range.
5.5 For the large aircraft, control column movements may not become so small as to make the provision of spring forces difficult, whilst in addition the sheer inertia of the machine will help to damp reponse; variation of stick force alone plus perhaps a "g" restrictor system may prove perfectly satisfactory; even so the adoption of variable gearing for aircraft of this type has many attractive features.
5.6 In conclusion it is pointed out that, except by accident, good aircraft "feel" will only be achieve if the pilot can express intelligibly to the technician exactly what he wants, for this reason the responsibility for the "feel" of future aircraft, be it good or bad, rests squarely on the shoulders of the pilots of today.


(Delivered by Jock at RAE. 14/12/51)

14th Jul 2009, 10:08
I open up the box expecting to find the rich chat carrying on as usual, recounting the happenings of these days, of some 50/60 yrs ago, at Farnborough when so much was done to set British aviation up for the second half of the century and what do I find - nothing!!.
I don't think Jock would be happy about that - he was a guy who liked a bit of conviviality and enjoyed good chat. Jimmy Harrison, who was to say the BP Delta was his most unfavourite aeroplane, and the Vulcan Mk 2 his most favourite, told an amusing anecdote linking high level stab and drag research at high mach numbers set around the birth of his daughter Susan. It was at the time when the RAE had borrowed an F86 to carry out comparitive trials with the Hawker P1052 and the Supermarine 510. The setting shows Jimmy's wife Maureen in the Aldershot military hospital with Baby Susan at about visiting time when the area was subjected to the most resounding bang; there is no record as to the response of the all powerful Matron. Proud new father Jimmy arrives at the bedside, grinning gleefully and saying "That was Jock - dropping a supersonic bang to welcome the new arrival"!. Apparently that was the first occassion on which a supersonic bang had been recognised as such over the UK. Jimmy goes on to say the F86 needed a good 42,000ft with a 60 degree dive to produce and indicated of about M1.15.

All for today - am feeling somewhat lonely so let's have some chat!.

16th Jul 2009, 14:26
Regrettably I only arrived at Farnborough after most of the 'interesting' test flying had moved to Bedford. I was told that a 'supersonic' overland corridor still existed along the Bedford Levels where TPs could produce an overland bang (it was still in their FOB anyway)
My one and I believe only experience of a 'boom' was in the mid/late '60s when they were evaluating the effects of them over land prior to Concorde's first flight. I was at my parent's home in Chesham, Bucks when with a clear sky in the middle of summer, I heard what I thought was thunder. A few days later, I met Honey Monster, (we were in the same ATC Squadron) and he said did I hear the boom the other day. (Honey Monster by the way, was posted to Farnborough a few years before me.) Anyway he told me it was Farnborough's Lightning, which had been detailed to lay down a boom from Reading towards central London.

31st Aug 2009, 02:42
The tree IS in the new small museum on the site of the old Officer's Mess. I also wandered past it in the 50's when I was Scientific Assistant there. As I started in Aerodynamics, I also remember walking around the complete return circuit of the 24' Wind Tunnel.
The whole place is now a ghost of itself, but I have faith that enough people want it to continue...so continue it will. I'm only sorry I live too far away to be part of the help.

9th Oct 2009, 21:28
Relative to the sonic booms, I was at Farnborough as an RAE student apprentice back in the good old days when sonic booms were part of the annual show, but I never heard such ‘monsters’ as I did when camped in Utah in April 1968 when the SR-71 Blackbird was test flying over the area. I never even glimpsed the culprit – long gone before I could get outside and likely flying at altitude. There would be several booms every week, and each would almost send me through the roof of the camper.

I was in the apprentice hostel the Saturday Farnboro show of 1958 when Beaumont in the P1B hiccuped and sent a sonic shockwave into the control tower, breaking a number of windows. At the hostel there was no boom, but an awfully loud and sudden flypast.

BTW, at the ‘gathering’ before the opening of that show I, then an 19 year old lad fascinated by fast aircraft, wandered down to A shed tarmac when the P1B arrived and parked. While walking around it and poking (worshipping might be a better word) one of the FD-2s arrived with Peter Twiss aboard, holder of the then air speed record (1152mph) . Twiss climbed out and crawled underneath to open an access panel and check a leaking fuel pump – with me right behind to see what he was doing. We had eye contact but exchanged no words – he probably already knew what a nuisance the RAE apprentices could be. A short time later Fairey Aviation’s Dragon Rapide arrived with mechanics aboard. They removed the fuel pump and Twiss climbed into the Rapide and took off for Hayes with it – arriving at Farnboro with the world’s fastest plane and leaving with its slowest.

10th Oct 2009, 06:09
I have over 100 pictures which belonged to my step father from his time at Farnborough (Post War) including the Jet Tudor and 'Ghost' Lancastrian. I am in the process of posting some on the aviation world forum. Sadly many of the pictures are of poor quality and also being a met man, many are of the weather with aircraft in the far distance. I would post some but uploading photos on here is a pain in the jacksy, on the other you you can just upload them from your PC.

4th Nov 2009, 18:02
Thanks to all for these fascinating Farnborough memories.
I arrived there in 1951, after Met Office jobs at Lyneham and Aldergrove. Not at the RAE proper, but the Institute of Aviation Medicine, which was (is?) at the Queen's Hotel end, near ETPS. I occasionally had reasons to visit some RAE department, and took the opportunity to browse in the library, where there were some interesting German publications on gliding and light aircraft between the wars.
The IAM climatic lab, with a large closed-circuit tunnel, had just been opened, and work on air-ventilated suits was going on, among other things. They were designed to keep aircrew warm or cool, by blowing air at a suitable temperature through a network of plastic tubes. I don't know if they were ever much used in regular service.
My first powered flight was at Farnborough, in a friend's Aeronca 100, G-AEWU. He gave me a lift to Lasham in it, where I later had the privilege of being instructed by Derek Piggot and Tony Deane-Drummond, among others. Sadly the Aeronca was squashed a year or two later, when the canvas-roofed hangar where it was kept collapsed in a heavy snowfall.
Near the IAM lab there was a small building or Nissen hut containing a lot of aviation junk, including what seemed to be things from German aircraft taken to Farnborough at the end of the war. The place was unlocked, and apparently anyone was free to help themselves. I picked up an Askania air-driven turn-and-slip, thinking it might be useful for a glider. I still have it, and offered it for free on this site a year or so ago, but got no takers. If anyone can make use of it, let me know: aj.buntingATbtopenworld.com

23rd Oct 2012, 21:57
Such a fascinating thread , with all this info you could put a book together.All we need is one in the other RAE sites.Going to search out some if my info now and add it hopefully to here. Great posts;)

1st Mar 2013, 20:54
It certainly brought back some memories reading all the posts here..... I too was b@!!@<{£d on several occasions by Reg W and Dougie B in my apprentice days...... I still remember the talking to that I received about my log book and the answers I gave at the time, and my amazement to be presented with the Apprentice Logbook Prize that year by a certain Mr J Farley!
I went to the FAST Museum the other week and that was like a trip down memory lane..... some of the great planes I worked many happy hours on are stood there on display.

John Farley
3rd Mar 2013, 11:59
The other day somebody asked me something about July 1966 which I could not remember without getting out my logbook. I post the summary page for that month not in any bragging sense but to remind people what it was like to work at RAE then.

I say again how lucky my generation was to be allowed to do our jobs without the sort of restrictive approvals and oversight today’s pilot's talk about.


Brian 48nav
3rd Mar 2013, 13:30
Seeing that story about Boscombe's 111 on Military Aircrew must make you weep?

3rd Mar 2013, 17:16
At Farnborough, Flt Lt Ken Mills could captain the Comet, BAC 111, Hastings and Andover. One day after morning briefing, in the minibus taking us across the airfield to his aircraft for the morning, he was heard to be muttering 'two props and a nosewheel, two props and a nosewheel' in order to remind himself which aircraft to get into!
Ken was the only pilot who could land the Comet '914 without any discernable puff of smoke from the tyres.
It was quite normal for the 'fast jet' specialists to be current on Hunter, Jaguar, Buccaneer, the Devons of Transport Flight and Wessex helicopter, and one of the IAM pilots, a USAF doctor who normally flew the Hunter, was an authorised co-pilot on the BAC111.

7th Jul 2016, 20:03
I'm just here to put people's minds at rest. I'm a security worker 2016 at the airfield and the building G21 (the sheds at the end of runway 24) still holds all the archives for the Rae. No skips etc. I could lose myself in there if I had the equipment to convert everything to digital format..... Reels of film. Negatives and finally the hand written notes of test pilots. Become a trustee of the farnborough air sciences trust or FAST and gain access and help share all this stuff. After all its farnborough's history that we all love. That's why you googled it :-) much love, Albert out

10th Jul 2016, 01:23
I'm just here to put people's minds at rest. I'm a security worker 2016 at the airfield and the building G21 (the sheds at the end of runway 24) still holds all the archives for the Rae. No skips etc. I could lose myself in there if I had the equipment to convert everything to digital format..... Reels of film. Negatives and finally the hand written notes of test pilots. Become a trustee of the farnborough air sciences trust or FAST and gain access and help share all this stuff. After all its farnborough's history that we all love. That's why you googled it :-) much love, Albert out
Just to clarify, is that the 'old' fire station building?

21st Jul 2016, 22:36
the black sheds in question are the ones by G29 gate (not sure if this was the old fire station) they are right under the final app to 24 and inside the fence. If driving past the Aviator on the perimeter road so that its on your right there is a gated turning on the left, these are the sheds talked about, if you see the small pond on your left you have gone too far !

22nd Jul 2016, 12:32
You must be referring to what used to be called South Gate; it has a small guardroom there next to what used to be a roundabout.
When I first started work in N1 building (the now demolished control tower), there were two of these 'black sheds' known colloquially as 'K' Shed until one of them was found to be in a poor condition in (I think) the early '80s and had to be demolished. I didn't know the remaining one had archive material stored there, but I know the display line markers and the 'greenhouses' for the commentator and Flying Control Committee were kept there between airshows and it was the fire station until the present one at Jersey Brow was built.
I can remember a scene for the TV series 'Soldier Soldier' being filmed there mid/late '90s when it was fitted out as a parachute training room.

22nd Jul 2016, 16:24
The black shed/old fire station houses BAE Systems' historical archive; I don't know where FAST's archive collection is held.

22nd Jul 2016, 22:18
4 years ago when i was inside it was empty shell apart from the pidgeons :bored: I was told back then that is was in a bad state, last week when passing airside I noticed what looked like models on the windowsill facing the runway, couldnt tell what from the distance but def models. Perhaps the rumours of skips in the area came from people seeing the workmen refurbishing the shed as opposed to historical gumph being skipped !

22nd Jul 2016, 22:22
Chevvron, I have seen an aerial photo of that area (cant find it now..doh) which shows the entrance to the RAE site that goes down between FAST and the Swan, now a dead end. Coming in that way the sheds would be on your left and the ornamental pond on your right....now if only I could find ta picture !! lol

22nd Jul 2016, 22:58
Not the pic I had in mind but in the pic top right of the wiki page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Aircraft_Factory,_c.1915.jpg the sheds can be seen runing left right at the bottom, they are white/silver in this 1915 shot and there are 2 of them instead of just the one thats in situ now

23rd Jul 2016, 02:14
I think that ornamental pond is new, although there was another in the grounds of the 'Staff Mess' a bit further towards 'The Swan' at the bottom right of the photo. It contained a large number of koi carp which were transferred to a static water tank on the airfield just behind 'C' Shed ie near the present control tower, C shed also having been demolished. I remember going out on the airfield with Tony Knight, the airfield engineer, before the new tower was built and we made a 'special' stop there where he threw in a handful of fish food.
In the picture it was the right hand one of the two 'black' sheds which has already been demolished.

23rd Jul 2016, 03:48
re the present fish pond, its small and circular with paved/slab edging, its outside the boundy fence and is obviously looked after, does seem a strange place to have one though !

yes we are talking about the same sheds now...lol

23rd Jul 2016, 04:21
Can anyone help me with a picture of the once beautiful, wrought iron gates with RAE emblazoned on them? Gone - where? However fondly remembered.
sorry, replying to a post thats 9 years old here !!! I saw some black wrought iron gates with RAE picked out in flaking gold paint around the back of FAST leaning up against the building a few years back, could be the same ones

24th Jul 2016, 19:40
These ones I guess? They were still there in October 2015.


Proof Reader
26th Jul 2016, 15:16
Dear Dockwell

It is OK because I am getting on a bit but still here! It is very kind of you to remember and thank you to Jhieminga for putting up a picture.

14th Aug 2016, 20:41
I have happy memories of Farnborough because they loaned me Dove to do my civil instrument rating. I was based at Bedford which a sub station.To get to Stansted where all instrument ratings were done then we had to fly east from Farn and then transit under the approach at Heathrow, they too were very kind about it

14th Aug 2016, 22:58
re the present fish pond, its small and circular with paved/slab edging, its outside the boundy fence and is obviously looked after, does seem a strange place to have one though !

This could be the Busk Memorial Pond:

Busk Memorial, R.A.E. Small lily pond and fountain with memorial plaque. In memory of Edward Teshmaker Busk, killed in a flying accident 5.11.1911. SU 869 545 0802 35

Hampshire Treasures: Volume 3 ( Hart and Rushmoor), Page 221 - Farnborough (http://www.hants.gov.uk/hampshiretreasures/vol03/page221.html)

A bit about ET Busk here: http://www.airsciences.org.uk/FAST_Briefings_10_EdwardTeshmakerBusk.pdf

There was another rectangular lily pond, either outside the medical centre or the nearby building the RAF used. Both were near the old control tower. I also recall being told there were fish in the large cooling(?) pond by the five metre tunnel, as well as some more in another pond on the Pyestock site.

With regard to the RAE gates, they weren't considered imposing enough when Nevil Shute's 'No Highway' was being filmed, so some more ornate ones were created. After filming, these gates were installed at the RAE Sports Ground, where the retail park is now by the A331.

15th Aug 2016, 05:11
This could be the Busk Memorial Pond:

Hampshire Treasures: Volume 3 ( Hart and Rushmoor), Page 221 - Farnborough (http://www.hants.gov.uk/hampshiretreasures/vol03/page221.html)

A bit about ET Busk here: http://www.airsciences.org.uk/FAST_Briefings_10_EdwardTeshmakerBusk.pdf

There was another rectangular lily pond, either outside the medical centre or the nearby building the RAF used. Both were near the old control tower. I also recall being told there were fish in the large cooling(?) pond by the five metre tunnel, as well as some more in another pond on the Pyestock site.

With regard to the RAE gates, they weren't considered imposing enough when Nevil Shute's 'No Highway' was being filmed, so some more ornate ones were created. After filming, these gates were installed at the RAE Sports Ground, where the retail park is now by the A331.
The 'new' pond is north of the site where the medical centre used to stand. I vaguely remember a lily pond outside the medical centre, but I don't think this was deep enough for fish. The rectangular pond in the grounds of the staff mess (which contained a lot of fish) was possibly the Busk memorial Pond.
The gates in the photo above were once I believe, at 'South Gate' which was the gate nearest the staff mess in RAE Road and not far from the FAST Museum.

John Farley
15th Aug 2016, 14:31
The gates pictured above in position at the South Gate entrance.

The Control Tower is in the background


15th Aug 2016, 15:40
It appears that the place has change a lot since I used to fly a Tiger Moth there on week ends to tow the R.A.E gliding club machines. No landing fee back then!

John Farley
16th Aug 2016, 10:27

The sign as errected over the entrance for the film.