Duncan Simpson

Duncan M S Simpson OBE

Simpson joined Hawker in 1954 and became Hawker’s Chief Test Pilot in 1970. He flew the P.1127 as well as making the first flight in a Hawk. In 2011, the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators awarded him the Guild Award of Honour in recognition of his outstanding lifetime contribution to aviation: “for his long record as a particularly accomplished pilot, his outstanding contribution to experimental test flying, his intimate involvement in bringing three iconic British Fighters – the Hunter, Harrier and Hawk – into service and his exemplary commitment to British aviation generally”.

Duncan centre frame in this group shot of Hawker test pilots

A comprehensive account of Duncan’s flying time is here.


Duncan Simpson (middle) with Harrier Team at Dunsfold 1969

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One Reply to “Duncan Simpson”

  1. A great pilot and a great man.

    To add a little detail to Duncan’s accident in the first two-seat Harrier;

    at that time the complex fuel and filter system of the Harrier was prone to Foreign Object Debris blockages ( a system was soon developed to overcome this, the ‘ Manual Fuel ‘ lever in the cockpit allowing the pilot to bypass the filters and pump fuel straight into the engine ) – it was such a fuel blockage which caused Duncan’s problems.

    As relight attempts failed – and he hadn’t much altitude to start with – Duncan pointed it to the unpopulated Salisbury Plain and with true Test Pilot courage stayed with it as long as possible – he commented later ‘ a two seat Harrier full of fuel is not the best glider ‘ – he trimmed the aircraft to give the softest landing / crash possible to save the evidence of what had gone wrong and only ejected – the first use of the Martin Baker Mk 9 seat – very late at around 100’, momentarily risking landing in the fireball.

    As mentioned in the DAHS piece above, at that time protruding cutter blades beside the seat headbox were thought to be sufficient to punch through the thick canopy; they weren’t, and Duncan’s neck was broken and his throat badly injured.

    The surgeon who operated on Duncan was his own father – after his recovery Duncan always spoke in a hoarse whisper.

    Duncan’s time at Dunsfold was a little before my joining there as a photographer, but I met him a few times subsequently, always finding him friendly and willing to make time to chat; a true Gentleman of the Old School, RIP Sir.

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