Duncan Simpson 23rd December 1927 – 7th December 2017
We very much regret to announce the death on 7th December of Duncan Simpson OBE CEng FRAes FIMechE
Duncan was at the forefront of UK military aviation for many years. He played a key role in the development of the Hunter fighter, the Harrier and Sea Harrier, and led development of the Hawk advanced trainer also flown by the Red Arrows.
His link with Dunsfold is inextricable – Simpson joined Hawker in 1954 and became Hawker’s Chief Test Pilot in 1970, notable that he flew the P.1127 as well as making the first flight in a Hawk. He was Master of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in 2002, and in 2011 received the Guild’s Award of Honour in recognition of his outstanding lifetime contribution to aviation. He was also a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
Latterly he served with distinction as the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum’s Honorary President from 2007 until 2013.
His son John contacted the Heritage Society to inform us of his father’s passing: “He died peacefully at his home on Thursday 7th December 2017 having endured severe ill health since early 2015. We are aware of the highly valued relationship he had with all those at Dunsfold. We would very much appreciate it if you could please pass on this message to others who remember him. Any former colleagues or close friends we would very much like to hear from. A Memorial Service is being held at St Clement Danes WC2R 1DH on Tuesday 24th April at 11am and after at the RAF Club W1J 7PY. Any donations please to the RAF Benevolent Fund.
A Memorial Service to celebrate his life will take place at St Clements Dane’s on Tuesday, 24th April 2018″
Frank Bullen joined the Hawker Aircraft Co. in July 1949 and was engaged in testing all the companies aircraft, Sea Fury, Seahawk and Hunter. He was appointed Hawker’s Chief Production Test pilot in 1955. He retired from test-flying on September 30 1960.
David Lockspeiser who has died aged 86, was a leading test pilot and an innovative aircraft designer and engineer who designed and built the Boxer utility aircraft, an “Aerial Land Rover”. Originally named the LDA-01, or Land Development Aircraft, the Boxer was intended as a multi-purpose aircraft for developing and agricultural regions. A single-seat monoplane of metal and fabric construction, it had a canard foreplane, which was the same size as each mainplane mounted at the rear of the box structure fuselage, itself fitted with a four-wheeled landing gear.
Hugh Merewether FRAeS(1924-2006) Merewether was appointed Deputy Chief Test Pilot at Dunsfold in 1956. He was the second pilot to fly the P.1127. In 1963, he was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air for crash landing the P.1127 rather than ejecting and thereby saving the machine to be examined to locate the fault. He became Chief Test Pilot in 1967.
Bill Bedford OBE AFC FRAeS (1920-1996) Bedford was a World War II pilot, flying Hurricanes and Mustangs. From 1956 until 1963 he was Hawker Aircraft Ltd.’s Chief Test Pilot, “and then chief test pilot for Hawker Siddeley Aviation at Dunsfold from 1963 to 1967. He worked on the development of the Sea Hawk, the Hunter and the P.1127, Kestrel and the Harrier aircraft, making the first flights of all of the last three aircraft.” During this time the family lived at Primemeads Farm on Dunsfold Aerodrome. Primemeads Farm, used as wartime flight offices by 180 Squadron, is an historic building in its own right, dating from 1685.
With Sea Harrier jump-jets landing on the carrier Hermes in Portsmouth, Frederiksen, who had been testing aircraft at Boscombe Down, inveigled his way aboard as an additional pilot in 800 Naval Air Squadron, under the command of Lt Cdr Andy Auld. A month later he was in the thick of war.
On May 1 Hermes entered the Total Exclusion Zone which Britain had declared around the Falklands, and Frederiksen led a bombing strike by three Harriers on the airfield at Goose Green. After taking his aircraft at wave-top height down the Falklands Sound, Frederiksen flew low over a range of hills and, completely surprising the air defences, destroyed one enemy aircraft as it was taxiing and damaged two others.
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”.
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!