On February10th, through the good offices of the Rev David Priddy and his Ashford Common Baptist Church, a Zoom session was set up for three Dunsfold test pilots to tell Members about their flying careers. There were 49 ‘attendees’.

    Our Chairman, Chris Roberts started the show. In 1963 at the age of 18 Chris joined the RAF and became a teenage jet pilot (went down well with the girls!) learning to fly Jet Provosts, completing his training at RAF Valley. He had always had a desire to fly Vulcans but this exposure to the Gnat fast jet changed his mind.

His first posting, in 1966, was to the Hunter OCU from which he went to 20 Sqn in Tengah, Singapore and then RAF Valley. When he was due to move on there were few good jet fighter opportunities so he volunteered to go to the Central Flying School to become a Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI), realising that being a QFI was a requirement for joining the Red Arrows which in due course he did after a year at RAF Valley on Hunters.

Following the Reds and after a Hunter reconversion and helicopter training Chris moved to the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) at Wittering where he stayed on for three years as a QFI and QWI (weapons). Next it was to the Empire Test Pilots’ School to qualify for his future profession, starting it with ‘A’ Squadron (fast jets) at Boscombe Down, the Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE). This brought him into contact with John Farley who offered Chris a position in the Dunsfold test pilot team; he moved there in late 1979...and the rest is history.

Chris enjoyed 30 years of fast jet flying, accumulating 5000 hours, with only three months out of the cockpit. Ready for a rest he achieved his wish to fly big jets by joining the airline industry and flying for ten years - a story for another day. (but see Newsletters 19 and 51.Ed).


Test Pilot Tales

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    Next to speak was Heinz Frick who was born in St Gallen, Switzerland, in 1940. He had a rather unhappy childhood because his parents quarrelled and eventually divorced. An early interest in aircraft helped him through this period. However he was brought up (and introduced to alp climbing and beer!) by his grandmother, a very nice lady, until at the age of 12 he was invited by his remarried mother to join her in London. His grandmother gave him the money to go to a travel agent to buy a train ticket to Zurich and an air ticket to Heathrow where he caught the bus to the West Brompton Terminal to be met by his mother. He learnt English, went to school and was soon nick-named ‘Beans’.
    After ‘O’ levels Heinz wanted to join the RAF but he was too young so went to a technical college to study mechanical engineering. As soon as possible he applied to join the RAF and was accepted. His officer training was at South Cerney and he learnt to fly Jet Provosts at Syerston. An unfortunate affliction was air sickness but Heinz persevered with the help of an understanding instructor, going solo at Wymeswold. At Swinderby Heinz completed his training on Vampire TMk11s and was no longer airsick. Heinz wanted to go to a fighter squadron but the RAF was wanting V-Force pilots so Heinz started a cartoon campaign, drawing himself in a Hunter on every possible Chinacraft board on the station. With the support of his Wing Commander Flying he was posted to Chivenor to fly Hunters. Although only 21 Heinz was given permission to marry before he was posted to 20 Squadron at Tengah in Singapore but his wife, Rosita, had to wait for an indulgence passage. The Chinese had invaded north Thailand and one evening Heinz was surprised to be told that he was going to Borneo as number 2 in a four Hunter formation, leaving at 4 am; in the dark. After a formation take-off, keeping station with tiny Hunter navigation lights in pitch black conditions, with streaming eyes, the group landed at Kuching. Here border patrols were flown between North Borneo and Indonesia but with poor maps so Heinz, being the squadron artist, got the job of sketching the area to make maps for the pilots. In Labuan the squadron attacked a police station in Brunei which had been occupied by the Indonesians who withdrew in the face of the 30 mm canon. Heinz hurt his back when he ejected and spent some time in Changi hospital before returning to the UK and Coltishall, the Lightning OCU then, after a post hospital refresher, to 74 Sqn at Leuchars, still under 25 years old. Next was 5 Sqn at Binbrook then the ETPS and ‘A’ Squadron A&AEE where he was Harrier Project Pilot after some helicopter flying. Heinz also flew one of the first UK F-4 Phantoms and, in France, the Jaguar.
    His Commission running out, Heinz was asked by Roll-Royce to work at Filton with Harry Pollitt on engine development trials including the RB.199 under a Vulcan, the RB.211 in a VC.10 and the Scout helicopter in which Heinz did 100 hours. R-R decided to do all their engine testing at the manufacturers’ airfields so in 1979 he spoke to John Farley who invited him to join the Dunsfold test pilots where he did a lot of Hawk flying with Andy Jones, ski jump trials with Mike Snelling and many overseas delivery flights.
    In 1990 aged 50 Heinz retired from BAe and fast jets and joined Air Europe flying the Fokker 100. Sadly, after a short time the airline went bust making 450 pilots redundant. Now 51 and with low airline hours he found it difficult to get a flying job but did get to fly an HS 125 executive jet for a middle eastern business man for 3 years until this was ended after a take-off incident from Cairo where there was a loud bang and oil pressure reducing to zero. Undercarriage down with a full fuel load and no jettison facility, Heinz decided to turn back and go straight in for a forced landing, which was successful. However, his regional licence was withdrawn for landing overweight! (The left outer tyre had exploded and damaged the flap causing a hydraulic leak. Parts of the tyre entered the intake causing the engine to surge. The vibration caused the oil pressure transducer to fall out because Hatfield had failed to wire lock it.)
    So, Heinz decided to fly part-time for an air ambulance company at Goodwood, called Seegers, who used a King Air 200 with a doctor and nurse on board to collect patients from all over Europe. After that he started gliding from Parham and bought a share in a two-seater. But the Coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to flying - for now. (See also Newsletter 38 Ed)
    Bernie Scott was born in 1951 in Gosport where his father was a founder member of the Air Training Corps (ATC). The family lived between Gosport and Lee-on-Solent so schoolboy Bernie had plenty of opportunities to see lots of aircraft and become enthralled. He joined the ATC, had his first flight in a Dominie (the RAF Dragon Rapide) then learned to fly in a Chipmunk going solo from Tangmere, aged 16.    
    He joined the RAF in January 1971 and did his officer training at Henlow whom he represented in target shooting at Bisley. Thence to Church Fenton for more Chipmunk experience and to Lynton on Ouse to fly Mk3 and 5 Jet Provosts. For fast jet training Bernie was sent to fly Gnats at Valley then to 45/58 Sqn at Wittering. Due to delays he had to return to Valley for a Hunter short course until he was posted to fly 79 Sqn Hunters for training at Chivenor. There were 18 Hunters so there was always something to fly. Also there was the entire Hunter stock of 68mm SNEB rockets and 30 mm Aden gun high explosive and ball ammunition for use on several nearby ranges. Firing four Adens produces high deceleration, lots of cordite fumes in the cockpit and causes numerous contact breakers to pop which must be reset downwind. Next, to the Harrier OCU at Wittering where Chris Roberts was a confidence builder, then a posting to No 1 Sqn with periods at Decimomannu, Norway and Belize where Bernie had to eject due to a fan blade failure. Back in the UK he became involved in air testing Harriers where he got useful advice from John Farley and Bill Bedford. Whilst in Belize Bernie had put in an application to join the Red Arrows and much to his surprise he was accepted and flew two years on the Gnat and the first year with the Hawk.
    Bernie was then given an exchange posting flying the F-16 with No.323 Sqn of the Dutch Air Force for which he learnt Dutch and used it all the time. Because of his experience with fly-by-wire (FBY) he was invited to join the ETPS specifically to attend the French test pilot school and fly the Mirage 2000, a FBY aircraft, to gain knowledge for the UK. So, now he had to learn French. The TP course was very hard, the French students being educated to graduate level. Nevertheless by dint of hard work Bernie passed all the exams.
    Back in the UK Bernie joined ‘A’ Squadron at the A&AEE where over four years he flew many types including the Harrier GR3 and GR5, Tornado F2 and IDS, Tucano, Grobb, Tristar, Hunter, Jet Provost, and Buccaneer. Bernie had flown Harriers at Dunsfold so when he left the RAF it was logical to accept Heinz’s offer of a test pilot position with BAe. The Harrier was rapidly maturing so Bernie was involved with the GR5, GR7 Night Attack and smart weapons programmes. Then he was seconded to Warton with the prospect of flying the Eurofighter but this never happened for hierarchical reasons; so it was the Hawk developments for Bernie. Back at Dunsfold on the Harrier programme problems with his back and neck came to the fore and he was no longer allowed to fly on ejector seats. This led him to retire from BAe and join Air Tours flying the airbus A320 and 330.
    BAe then invited him to non-flying work at Farnborough on Harrier GR9 developments. He accepted and luckily an opportunity arose (when a test pilot moved to Marshall’s) to fly on the Nimrod MRA4 (Maritime Reconnaissance & Attack) programme. There had been many problems with the aircraft but Bernie’s view was that at the time of cancellation the aircraft was ready for operational use immediately. This was a devastating blow to the Nimrod team that had solved the problems, so after flying BAe’s communications BAe 146 out of Warton to Saudi Arabia, Munich and so on, Bernie retired; only to return two years later until he got fed up with driving down the M6 on Fridays. Now he flies a Skyranger micro light which just about completes the weight and speed range. (See also Newsletter 39. Ed)
    Question time.
     Chris explained some of the frustrations of airline flying where the Operations staff (or even the cabin crew) can make decisions overriding what would have been the Captain’s choice in earlier times. For instance, which airport to return to after an aborted flight; the Captain had to consult Operations who always conformed exactly to the rules. On one occasion Chris’s A330 at Cancun was 100 kg over its 230 tonne max take-off weight. Many would have said “sod it” and go but that was unacceptable in case an unrelated incident occurred. The 330 was loaded with three tons of perishable mangoes and the approved choice was to unload either the mangoes (a profitable cargo) or some passenger baggage (unpopular with the pax). However Chris had the idea of draining off 120 kg of domestic water, which he had done, and set off back to Gatwick (without running out of water) only to be reprimanded for using an unapproved procedure! This kind of attitude eventually drove him to leave the airline.
    Heinz told a story of a Hawk live weapon aiming demonstration in Kuwait with a Kuwaiti officer in the front seat. Heinz established the dive towards the target when suddenly the Kuwaiti pulled up at 6g saying diving like that was too dangerous; let him demonstrate how to do it. So he flew an attack generally in the direction of the target, fired the SNEB rockets…and hit it! The Kuwaitis bought the Hawk.
    Chris explained that only about 20% of test pilot flying at Dunsfold was experimental, the majority being production aircraft flight testing, overseas deliveries, customer training and sales support and demonstrations.
    Bernie spoke about flying the F-16 in 1980. The Dutch aircraft weighed 22,500 lb with full fuel, loaded canon and a pair Sidewinders; maximum reheat thrust was 25,000 lb which conferred astonishing acceleration and climb performance. The pilot’s view was “phenomenal” and it had an outstanding radar giving the pilot the intercept geometry. Bernie saw 846 knots at low level over the sea when he pulled up, climbing to 60,000 ft to intercept a dart target being towed by an F-104 where the radar locked on and the canon destroyed the target. As a dog fighter it was “second to none” with amazing turning performance but had good handling qualities like a Hunter. However it had a ‘hard’ 9g limit which could be troubling at low altitude in ground attack - it was better to slow down and use the 22 deg AOA limit.        There were further answers to questions but there is not enough space to continue. The vote of thanks was given by Chris Roberts and the meeting was closed by Meetings Secretary Frank Rainsborough.