Neville Duke DSO, OBE, DFC & Two Bars AFC, FRAeS (1922-2007) Duke had a “remarkable record” as a World War II fighter pilot, flying Spitfires over France and later, North Africa and Italy. He became a test pilot for the Hawker Aircraft Corporation in 1948. He held the world air speed record in 1953 flying a Hunter but had to retire as a test pilot in 1956 following a serious accident. Nevertheless he continued flying to the day he died, aged 85 – and not as a result of an air accident. He wrote several books including Sound Barrier, Test Pilot, The Crowded Sky and The War Diaries of Neville Duke; and even endorsed a card game named after him in 1955!
Dunsfold was second home to a lot of people in the last 70 years. We hope to build a record of just some of those people that are a significant part of the history of the aerodrome. We will be adding more information over the coming months – additional information and corrections most welcome.
Dunsfold Chief Test Pilots in chronological order:
Wimpy Wade CTP on move to Dunsfold – 1951
Dick Whittington, CTP Follands– later Dunsfold Communication’s Pilot
On 7th September 1953, the sole Hunter Mk 3 (the modified first prototype, WB188) broke the world air speed record for jet-powered aircraft, achieving 727.63 mph (1,171.01 km/h) over Littlehampton on the South Coast, flown by Neville Duke.
The Hawker Hunter is a transonic British jet-powered fighter aircraft that was developed by Hawker Aircraft for the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was designed to take advantage of the newly developed Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engine and the swept wing, and was the first jet-powered aircraft produced by Hawker to be procured by the RAF. On 7 September 1953, the modified first prototype broke the world air speed record for jet-powered aircraft, achieving a speed of 727.63 mph (1,171.01 km/h; 632.29 kn).
The Hunter flying from Dunsfold
The Hunter in use with the RAF
The RAF Black Arrows formation team, 111 Squadron:
The single-seat Hunter was introduced to service in 1954 as a manoeuvrable day interceptor aircraft, quickly succeeding first-generation jet fighters in RAF service such as the Gloster Meteor and the de Havilland Venom. The all-weather/night fighter role was filled by the Gloster Javelin. Successively improved variants of the type were produced, adopting increasingly more capable engine models and expanding its fuel capacity amongst other modifications being implemented. Hunters were also used by two RAF display teams: the “Black Arrows”, who on one occasion looped a record-breaking 24 Hunters in formation, and later the “Blue Diamonds”, who flew 16 aircraft. The Hunter was also widely exported, serving with a total of 21 overseas air forces.
During the 1960s, following the introduction of the supersonic English Electric Lightning in the interceptor role, the Hunter transitioned to being operated as a fighter-bomber and for aerial reconnaissance missions, using dedicated variants for these purposes. Two-seat variants remained in use for training and secondary roles with the RAF and the Royal Navy until the early 1990s. Sixty years after its original introduction it was still in active service, being operated by the Lebanese Air Force until 2014.
The Hunter saw combat service in a range of conflicts with several operators, including the Suez Crisis, the Aden Emergency, the Sino-Indian War, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Rhodesian Bush War, the Second Congo War, the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, and the 2007 Lebanon conflict. Overall, 1,972 Hunters were manufactured by Hawker Aircraft and its successor, Hawker Siddeley, as well as being produced under licence overseas. In British service, the Hunter was replaced in its principal roles by the Lightning, the Hawker Siddeley Harrier and the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.
Primemeads is an early 17th century oak timberframed farmhouse, with a possible smoke hood and early diamond mullioned window. Brick house with decorative dentil course shows the house built in two phases. It was Listed by Historic England in April 2017. Home to the test pilot Neville Duke – in 1955 Duke set the world air speed record of 727.63mph flying the Hunter WB188.
WB188, the first P.1067 and Neville Duke’s record breaking aircraft