HAIR-RAISING experiences and memories have been retold in a book written from the perspective of BAE Systems test pilots.
Test Flying In Lancashire has been written by aviation author Jim Longworth and covers military aviation at the leading edge from the First World War until the 1960s.
The book, published to coincide with 65 years of test flying from BAE’s Warton aerodrome, draws upon the test flight diaries of pilots spanning this era – which have not been seen by anyone until now.
Jim, a former Lancashire County Council worker who now lives in Grimsargh, has been a volunteer at BAE’s heritage department and has been searching the archives for the past five years.
Jim, a long-standing promoter of Lancashire’s aerospace industry, has already written a highly-praised history of aircraft in Lancashire called Triplane to Typhoon – but this new work tells the stories of the pilots behind the machines.
It also explains exactly why Lancashire became a UK centre of aerospace excellence.
His 220-page book contains some remarkable stories – including tales of test pilots ditching in the sea and others surviving against incredible odds when testing the performance limits of innovative machines and new technologies. It also has 190 photographs of test pilots and the aircraft they flew.
Jim said: “It has been a privilege to look into the professional diaries of the test pilots. It’s the first time they have been available to anyone.
“I’m very grateful to BAE Systems for opening up the archive that has allowed me to write this book. This information has been locked away in the heritage vault for many years and some items have been classified until recently.
“Ever since the summer of 1947 when chief test pilot ‘Bee’ Beamont began an 11-month research programme with a borrowed aircraft there has been an unbroken continuity of aircraft manufacturing, final assembly and test flying in Lancashire.
“It is a fantastic heritage and has led today to us having one of the most advanced aerospace manufacturing centres.”
The book, which is the first of three, also details how 54 years ago a British pilot took a British aircraft to Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) for the first time flying from Warton in Lancashire setting the record just off the coast of St Bee’s Head in Cumbria.
The book is available at Waterstones in Preston, Silverdell at Kirkham and Plackitt and Booth in Lytham, priced £9.99.
All proceeds will go to BAE Systems supported local charities.