Bill Bedford Oral History

This set of 7 reels of audio interview was recorded with Bill Bedford at Brooklands Museum in 1989. Held at the Imperial War Museum.

British NCO served as pilot with 135 Sqdn, RAF in Burma and India, 1942-1944;

Served with 65 Sqdn, RAF in GB, 1945;

Served as instructor with Training Command, RAF in GB, 1945-1949;

Served as test pilot with Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, GB, 1950-1951;

Civilian test pilot with Hawker Aircraft Coy and Hawker Siddeley Ltd in GB, 1951-1967

Reel 1

Reel 1 30 minutes

Background in GB, 1920-1939: family; education; apprentice with Blackburn Stirling electrical engineering firm in Nottingham, 1936-1939. Aspects of enlistment and training as pilot with RAF in GB, 1939-1940: enlistment, 1939; soloing at 8 Elementary Flying Training School at Scone; flying Miles Master at Service Flying Training School, RAF Hullavington; first flight in Hawker Hurricane; initial posting to 605 Sqdn, RAF. Aspects of operations as pilot with 135 Sqdns, RAF in Burma and India, 1942-1944: posting to squadron; transfer to 135 Sqdn; voyage to West Africa; ashore in Iraq; flight to Burma; memories of commanding officer Frank ‘Chota’ Carey; bomber escort missions; move to RAF Dum Dum in India; injuries and hospitalisation from car accident, 25/12/1942; recuperation in India, early 1943; rejoining squadron at RAF Madras; converting onto Republic P47 Thunderbolt.

Reel 2

Reel 2 30 minutes

Continues: attending air-fighting course at Air Fighting Training Unit at Armarda Road; attachment as instructor. Aspects of operations as pilot with 65 Sqdn, RAF in GB, 1945: return to GB; operations to Norway; threat of anti-aircraft fire; flying fighters in aerial combat; lack of contact with enemy. Aspects of period as instructor with Training Command, RAF in GB, 1945-1949: reasons for decision to become instructor; loss of caravan home; movements and types of aircraft flown; obtaining place on Empire Test Pilot’s Course, 1949; period as tutor and instructor with Empire Test Pilots School at Farnborough. Recollections of period as test pilot with Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, GB, 1950-1951: background to appointment to Farnborough; work on spinning of swept winged aircraft; recovering from spin in Hawker Hunter; research work on gas turbines.

Reel 3

Reel 3 30 minutes

Continues: death of test pilots flying De Havilland DH 108; flying Avro Lancaster with power controls; development of power controlled aircraft; story of Tom Kerr’s solving problem of flutter with Hawker Hunter; loss of test pilot ‘Wimpey’ Wade, in P1081 1951. Recollections of period as test pilot with Hawker Aircraft Coy in GB, 1951-1963: move of company to Dunsfold; aircraft development work at Dunsfold from 1951; memories of Sir Sidney Camm; flying Hawker Cygnet; flying Hawker Hart; characteristics of Hawker Hurricane; early development of vertical take off and landing aircraft; role of Ralph Hooper in development of Hawker P1127; question of development of aircraft designs.

Reel 4

Reel 4 30 minutes

Continues: development of concept of vertical take off; training on helicopters for vertical take off; visit to use vertical take off simulator at Langley Field in US; problems flying Bell X14; lessons learnt from visit to Langley Field; flying prototype Shorts SC1; American contribution to vertical take off aircraft development; first engine run of Hawker P1127, 1960; characteristics of engine nozzles on Hawker P1127; description of jet reaction control system; control system of Hawker P1127; provision of wrist rest for pilot to control aircraft; development of nozzle control lever.

Reel 5

Reel 5 31 minutes

Continues: initial cockpit layout of Hawker P1127; effects of breaking leg; first tethered hovered flight in Hawker P1127, 21/10/1960; problems with lateral control in hover; testing hovers without tethers; use of puffer nozzles on wings; problems with undercarriage on Hawker P1127, 1961; direction control; further problems with undercarriage and solutions; initial problems encountered during flight tests in Hawker P1127; restrictions on flying Hawker P1127; improvements in aircraft’s controls; yaw problems with aircraft and solutions.

Reel 6

Reel 6 30 minutes

REEL 6 Continues: pilot who snapped undercarriage of Hawker P1127; problems encountered during development of Hawker P1127 and solutions; flying second prototype Hawker P1127; character of inflatable air intakes; flutter tests; ejecting from aircraft and reasons for malfunction; first deck landings on aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, 2/1963; attending Paris Air Show, 6/1963; performance of French vertical take off aircraft; incident of crashing at Paris Air Show, 6/1963; reasons for crash and lessons learnt; character of Hawker Kestrel developed for multi-national trials force; role of John Fozzard in development Harrier; effects of Government cuts on vertical take off landing development programme.

Reel 7

Reel 7 16 minutes

REEL 7 Continues: character of Hawker Siddeley Harrier; improvements to Hawker Siddeley Harrier from 1967; character of development programme of Hawker Harrier; leading players in the development programme; opinion of test pilot John Farley; memories of Sir Thomas Sopwith.

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