Kingston Aviation
George Cottrell
Transcript: 8
The Flight Shed at Langley and Neville Duke

Working in the Flight Shed at Langley brought George into contact with the Hawker test pilots. Neville Duke was Hawker Chief Test Pilot – a wartime RAF ace, he became a nationally famous figure in the 1950s. He was particularly associated with the Hawker Hunter in which he broke the World Air Speed Record in 1953.

And then presumably you would also be working with test pilots in the Flight Sheds as well?

Yes. Oh yes we got to know all the test pilots. I mean the Chief Test Pilot when I was there was Neville Duke, Squadron Leader Neville Duke. And the second in command was Frank, Squadron Leader Frank Murphy, ’cause they was all out of the Air force.

Sorry, who was that, the second in command?

Frank Murphy.

Frank Murphy.

He had a ‘gammy’ leg but he could fly. And we used to – there was only one thing you had to do – with being all Ministry aircraft. You inspect, you inspect the aircraft was ready for flight, fully refuelled, everything’s ok. Then you go along with the record book, you take it to the A.I.D, which is the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, who had an office. You take that book in there and, you knew them all, and say, whatever the name was, ‘that one’s ready for flight’. ‘Do you want to come out and have a look at it’, ’cause they’re Ministry people you see. Nine times out of ten they would say, ‘no it’s all right, sign it off’. If you’d done it and they knew you, they’d sign it off. Then you’d just go down and put it on the clearance board, then ‘course it’s ready for flight then. So, no as I say, I spent some very happy times there.

But you met Neville Duke there?

Oh yes, yes.

What was he like, what was he like as a person?

A gentleman. And his wife was very nice too. As I say, he looked after his ground crew people. Frank Murphy was alright, he was a, you know – he didn’t mix with us of course. But Neville Duke did. No he was a gentleman. I respected Neville Duke.