|First flight in a Hind trainer
|Ron here recalls his memorable first flight in a Hind trainer with Ft Lt. R.C. Reynell – a Hawker Experimental Test Pilot from 1938 – 1940. Unbeknown to the young Ron, there was a tradition in the company of leg-pulling with those undertaking their first flights.
Ft. Lt. Reynell was killed in action in September 1940.
There was somebody called Flight Lieutenant Reynell ?
Flight Lieutenant Reynell. He was the gentleman that gave me my first flight. I must relay this to you.
So this is your first flight.
My first flight ever. I must have been about fourteen and I went to see Alf Fordham. And I said, “Mr Fordham, is there any possibility of me having a flight in one of the test aeroplanes?” “Yes” he said, “son you can have a test flight.” He said, “you deserve it.” For what reason I don’t know.
But there was a system that they had within the works of taking the ‘mickey’ out of people who had never flown before. I had to go to the stores where the storekeeper would fit you out with a set of overalls, a flying helmet, goggles. You would have to put all this on and they would adjust the parachute for you to make sure that it fitted everything. And it was one of these parachutes that you sat on, it wasn’t a clip-on, you sat on it. It was – the harness and everything was one.
So, you had this on and you was ready to go out. And they said, “Oh, now just a minute – have you had your lungs tested?” “No, what have I got to have my lungs..?”, “Oh, you’ve got to have your lungs tested.”
So this was a bright summers day and I was going to fly in a Hind Trainer. It was – you had to blow into this machine that they fixed up, it had a dial on it, which I don’t think ever worked. You had this mouthpiece and you had to blow in it. And when you blew in it you could feel the air going out of the side. Unknowing that what you were doing – you was blowing into graphite powder and this powder was coming all out and around your face. So this was done unbeknowingly.
So you waddled out with this parachute hidden under your legs and I was told, “Oh, go and sit out on the bench outside the hanger doors”. Well I sat out there – outside the hanger doors, brilliant sunshine, with all this clobber on. Of course you start to sweat, the graphite starts running all around you face and everybody in the hanger, including the pilots – not Mr Bulman though.
But the other pilots would come out and they would say, “Are you going to have a flight Ron?” Because everybody knew you by your christian name. And yes, yes, I said, “It’s hot.” And everybody from the factory coming out, “And – Oh, you’re going to have a flight Ron, going to have a flight?” And all they were doing was just stopping theirselves from laughing because the mess that you looked in was unbelievable.
And Flight Lieutenant Reynell came out and he said, “Right Ron, come on!” So we walked out to the aircraft and the boys helped me into the aircraft and, I will always remember that.
And he took this Hind – it was a Hind trainer – and he took it up and he said, “It’s the test flight you know son”. I said, “Yes sir.” And he flew that aircraft upside down, inside out, spun it, did everything to me.
I felt terrible. I was – Oh, I thought is this aviation? Anyway, when we came down I wasn’t actually sick because if I’d have been sick in that aircraft I would have had to have cleaned it up. That was one of the stipulations. And I went home and I went straight to bed because I felt terrible. But that was my first flight. It was a wonderful experience, I’ll never forget it.
I’m sure you’ll never forget it.
Other things that…..
So this is the well known Hawker tradition of …
First flights for novices
First flights for novices, of pulling- your- leg and …
Of pulling-you-leg and taking the ‘mickey’. It was, you know, you took it all in good fun, you know, it was a sort of esprit de-corps amongst everybody.
It was a sort of tradition and a rite of passage almost wasn’t it?
Yes, certainly, yes.