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Last NCO Pilot entry?

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Last NCO Pilot entry?

Old 2nd Nov 2006, 19:08
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Last NCO Pilot entry?

G'day,

Following a question from my uncle, an ex-RAF Flt.Sgt. Pilot (Mosquitos), I'm trying to ascertain when the RAF stopped recruiting and training NCO Pilots. I have the feeling it was pre-Korean War, possibly 1949.

Anyone know/recall?

Whilst on the subject, anyone know when they stopped recruiting NCO Navs?

FFE
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Old 2nd Nov 2006, 20:08
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No firm corroboration, but Wiki suggests it was 1950.

This old PPrune thread seems to agree.
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 07:03
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I had a degree when I started at Cranwell (1984) so I was commissioned on the first day. I was also a Cpl (acting Sgt) until the Army discharged me on Graduation day, 18 weeks later.

Does that count?!
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 07:45
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We had a Sergeant Signaller on 152 sqn in Bahrain who was accepted for pilot training after his return to UK in 1961. He became an NCO chopper pilot.
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 07:53
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Brakedwell has just reminded me of the best QFI I ever flew with - Brian Skillicorn - the bio says "Brian joined the RAF as an apprentice in 1959 before becoming a Sergeant pilot getting his wings in 1963 and heading for the far east to fly helicopters with 225 and 103 Squadrons. Brian was commissioned and won the AFC in 1967...."
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 08:18
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Raf Nco Pilots

I had the dubious pleasure of being in the infantry and in 1965/1966 we were in the third division in Borneo supported by 110 Sqn RAF based at Nanga Ghat flying Whirlwind 10s. Their det had an NCO pilot called Fred Airies (spelling?). Just as we were about to leave in March 1966 Belevedere was introduced and we had spent the previous month increasing the size of all the HLSs (no mean feat!) in our area of operations. The first Belevedere flown in was piloted by a Warrant Officer whose name I never discovered.

So RAF NCO aircrew were still at the controls in 1966, of helecopoters at least.

Low Ball
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 08:56
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Warrant Officer "Taff" Walker was still instructing on the good old Wessex on 240 OCU at Odiham in 1979 and possibly a little after, I think he was the last flying RAF NCO pilot. I'm not sure when the RAF ceased recruiting NCO pilots though.
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 08:57
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There was a Master Pilot at Lyneham, albeit not on flying duties but managing an ops desk, in 1977. He'd flown everything, everywhere. Brigands were his favourite for stories.
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 09:03
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It's Fred Ayris Low Ball. He too was subsequently commissioned, but not before he'd got the AFM - not sure what for. He was also subsequently in the Whirlwind which flew into the hangar at Valley ..... but maybe Oldbeefer could tell us more about that.....

As for Navs,there were a couple still on 72 Sqn (Wessex at Odiham) in the early 70s, one was an aged Master (Warrant Officer) but one was a (relatively) young-looking Flight Sergeant. I'll dust off Vol 1 of the log books and see if I can find a name.

Taff Walker was indeed the last flying non-commissioned pilot in the RAF - for that he got his picture on the cover of Air Clues when he retired.

Last edited by teeteringhead; 3rd Nov 2006 at 09:45.
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 10:53
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NCO pilots

When I was on the Shack MOTU in 1964 one of the Sgt student pilots went away for a long w/e and came back as a Flying Officer. When I joined 210 at Ballykelly a little later my first crew had a very young Sgt pilot. He resisted all attempts to be commissioned and left to go to BOAC. Most of my flying training at Topcliffe was spent sitting behind or beside Master Pilots of varying nationalities and there were several Master Navs and a couple of F.S. navs and pilots as well.
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 10:58
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Originally Posted by airborne_artist View Post
Brakedwell has just reminded me of the best QFI I ever flew with - Brian Skillicorn - the bio says "Brian joined the RAF as an apprentice in 1959 before becoming a Sergeant pilot getting his wings in 1963 and heading for the far east to fly helicopters with 225 and 103 Squadrons. Brian was commissioned and won the AFC in 1967...."
Still flying, too, AFAIK. Occasionally rings me up to help out with formation stuff at North Weald - though I've never been able to oblige, and suspect that my formation skills are now rather too rusty to be relied upon! A fine chap, Skilli.

Scroggs
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 11:15
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teeteringhead

Yes, Fred was up front, but the aircraft was flown by Mike Ramshaw. Whoops, I said I'd never tell anybody!
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 11:37
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I thought M.R. preferred attacking the hangar roof from above ....
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 12:58
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I remember the Unit Test Pilot, at Tern Hill and Shawbury, at least from 1975, quite clearly - well, all but his name - Oh, It's just come to me...
Master Pilot Alec Riddoch!
I remember refering to him as "Mister" Riddoch, a term he seemed to like very much!
Often, he would put his Flying Jacket on to do Flight Tests - Not a Flying Suit - Just Blues and his Jacket would do, as he probably needed somewhere to put his Chinagraph. He had a Flt Lt working alongside him, who was obviously tollerated by Alec up to his retirement (though the Flt Lt was quite a good UTP too!).
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 13:08
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I remember an RAF Cpl going through the Army Pilots course in the late 90s. Believe he had to transfer to the army before he recived his wings. Cant have RAF NCO with wings bad show what what what!

Floppy
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 15:18
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Originally Posted by Rossian View Post
When I was on the Shack MOTU in 1964 one of the Sgt student pilots went away for a long w/e and came back as a Flying Officer. When I joined 210 at Ballykelly a little later my first crew had a very young Sgt pilot. He resisted all attempts to be commissioned and left to go to BOAC. Most of my flying training at Topcliffe was spent sitting behind or beside Master Pilots of varying nationalities and there were several Master Navs and a couple of F.S. navs and pilots as well.
The Ancient Mariner
I seem to remember that there was a Master Pilot around BK at the same kind of time

Last edited by old developer; 3rd Nov 2006 at 15:20. Reason: typo and capitals
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 15:30
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Raf Nco On Army Pilots Course

Floopy,

If this is the man I know I thought it was a bit earlier that you suggest. IIRC I was the CFI at Wallop at the time. He completed the course as an RAF NCO (SGT IIRC) in the event he failed he would have gone straight back to the RAF without having reduce a rain forrest to rebadge him from the Army! Anyway good for him he passed and got his wings dressed as an AAC SGT. Initially he flew helicopters and somewhere down the line took up fixed wing (Islander) and got a commission. Then low and behold he transfers back into the RAF and ended up as captain of a C130. Not sure where he is now. He is called Allan and I don't recall his surname. It was all very interesting as I had first met him at Bessbrook as a Puma Crewman 76/77. The whole thing was very much a 'one off' as the RAF felt there might be a flood of NCO Crewmen who would follow in his tracks, that caused some angst if I recall.

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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 16:25
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Airborne artist:

Brian Skillicorn?

That brings back memories! Bedford circa 1973 and a much modified scout. Listening in the tower to an engineer discussing on the RT how much strain was being put on various bits of said aircraft, and some very laconic responses.
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Old 3rd Nov 2006, 17:26
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Low Ball

The 'Alan' you are thinking of transferred across in the very early 80's and ended up as my bosss on Islanders. Yes he did transfer back to the RAF and ended up as a C130 captain. He has now left the Military and flies civvy planks.

The other guy referred to in the thread was very much later and I think he went through Barkston in '95 or thereabouts.
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Old 4th Nov 2006, 12:00
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There was, indeed, a re-introduction of NCO pilots in the mid 60s. It was a short term measure, presumably because of recruiting pressures. Tony Stafford and ????? Jones spring to mind from Valley/Tern Hill days. 'Nobby' Clark was still operating as a QHI at Valley and we had another M/Plt come through on SAR training. He had been on piston engine Whirlwinds some years previously - his computer-out flying was noticeably smoother than computer-in and his rotor rev control was immaculate!!!
The last days of the previous era of NCO pilots was the usual RAF nonsense in (as it then was) Transport Command. We had two M/Plts at Dishforth, one was a double A cat on Bevs AND Hastings and the other on Hastings. 'On High' dictated that its nice shiny aircraft could not be captained by lowly NCOs and, in order to preserve this stupidity, there was introduced the category of 'Training Captain' - not a 'proper' Captain, you see!!! Eventually both these high quality professionals were forced to go to the Rupert factory to do the knife and fork course and told that they would NOT fail!!
So much of my flying time was in the company of these proper professionals although Skilli was in elevated mode at Boscombe! I've flown with at least three of these 'retreads' in both their primary and commissioned versions - surprisingly their later elevation did nothing to change their skills - either as pilots or people.
My advanced flying training was done at Thorney in the mid 50s and there was almost a preponderance of NCO pilots there - a lot of brass eagles on left breast pocket flaps!!! they had been there ... and a lot of them showed the scars - literally. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be
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