The first test pilot of Concorde

The first test pilot of Concorde
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Welsh-born Brian Trubshaw described that maiden 22-minute flight from Filton near Bristol to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire on 9 April 1969 as "the highlight of my aviation career".

That career began as an RAF pilot in World War II and he likened being at the controls of the supersonic aircraft to "travelling faster than a rifle bullet".

His enthusiasm for Concorde continued even after last summer’s fateful crash near Paris, which killed 113 people.

He insisted that the plane was still safe to fly.

Born in Llanelli, west Wales, Mr Trubshaw died at his home near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, on Saturday.

His wife, Yvonne, said: "It was very peaceful, he hadn’t been ill."

The couple have a stepdaughter, Sally.

Mr Trubshaw very nearly followed his father and grandfather into the family tinplate business, but he entered the RAF as World War II started.

As it turned out, the Western Tinplate Works was swallowed up in a series of mergers.

Howard Berry, a spokesman for BAE Systems, who worked for Mr Trubshaw before his retirement in 1986, said: "He’ll be greatly missed in the world of aerospace."

Mr Trubshaw’s autobiography was launched the day after the Paris crash and his book opened with the sentence: "It is not unreasonable to look upon Concorde as a miracle".

Interviewed by BBC Television after the crash, he said: "It would be wrong for me to say I was astonished. It was an incident I hoped never would happen, but at the same time one has to be realistic."

"Being mixed up with aviation for as long as I have, one knew that one day we could be faced with this situation."

In his book, "Concorde: The Inside Story", he said he remembered the aircraft’s test day as if it were yesterday.

Crew members were issued with air-ventilated suits and parachutes and the pre-flight checklist took one hour.

Mr Trubshaw said: "We were off down the runway with extremely rapid acceleration."

He flew Concorde 002, the British prototype, again on 14 June 1969 in honour of the Queen’s official birthday, passing over Buckingham Palace at 1,500ft.

He was first inspired to become a pilot when at the age of 10 he saw the Prince of Wales’s aircraft land on the beach at Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, near where his family lived.

Prestigious career

He joined the RAF at Lord’s cricket ground in 1942 and trained in the US, learning to fly Stearman biplanes.

Qualification as a bomber pilot followed and he joined the prestigious King’s Flight in 1946, flying members of the Royal Family and attending private parties with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

He joined Vickers-Armstrong as a test pilot on V-bombers and tested the dropping of Britain’s first atom bomb.

The British and French governments signed an agreement in 1962 to develop Concorde and he was selected as test pilot.

The supersonic aircraft went into commercial service seven years after the maiden flight and Mr Trubshaw later said he had doubted whether it ever would because of political opposition.

2001 Brian Trubshaw died at the age of 77.

My Family Link with Concorde by Paul Townsend

I do have a family link with Concorde my grandfather’s brother (Great Uncle) was Sir George Edwards Aviation Pioneer and ex-chairman of BAC.

Guiding light in the postwar British aircraft industry whose achievements are an indelible part of world aviation history

When, in mid-career, Sir George Edwards was awarded the Guggenheim Gold Medal for Aeronautics in New York in 1959, he was described by the leaders of American aviation, never men to bestow praise lightly, as “one of the world’s foremost aircraft designers and administrators – an architect of the age of flight”. Such an expression of esteem showed well the regard in which he was held over the years, even by his competitors in world markets.

George Edwards was one of British aviation’s most accomplished and respected practitioners and one of its most stalwart and articulate advocates. Perhaps supreme among his achievements was the bringing to fruition and successive development of the world’s first turbo.prop airliner, the Vickers Viscount after 1948. But his career was studded with the names of famous aircraft, both civil and military – first at Vickers and then at the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) – in whose design he had a hand, or whose development he oversaw. Among these were the Valiant jet bomber of the early 1950s; the elegant VC10 military and civil jet transport of the 1960s; the revolutionary TSR2 strike aircraft which fell victim to politics in 1965; the Anglo-French Jaguar strike fighter of 1972, which is still in service; and the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner project, whose success owed so much to his tact and diplomacy.

Nor were his attainments confined to the aeronautical field. His interests and skills embraced a wide spectrum – from painting and cricket to small boat sailing, golf and Surrey University. Most of all, his successful line of a dozen different types of British civil and military aircraft – almost 1,500 of them built and sold in the home and export markets – made a major contribution to the United Kingdom’s coffers and prestige in aviation over more than 40 years.

George Edwards’s aircraft may not have had quite the elegance of line seen in the products of Sydney Camm, nor perhaps the wider variety of those built by Geoffrey de Havilland. But they had four supreme qualities. They were immensely robust; they were a delight to fly in both civil and military forms; they met well their customers’ requirements; and – most important of all – their performance was in the vanguard of technical progress.

All this was achieved consistently through the years by design, construction, flight test and sales teams led from the front by GRE, as he was universally known at Vickers and BAC, in a direct and uncomplicated manner, always with skill and good humour and without a shade of pomposity.

In his 40 years in aeronautics – from 1935 to 1975 – he had to endure many frustrations, most of which arose from the political timidity or misconceptions of others. Besides the TSR2 there was the V1000 project, cancelled in 1955 just when it promised to achieve for Britain a lead into profitable trans.atlantic jet services. There was the “Three-Eleven” wide-body, 250 passenger “airbus” – ahead of its competitors but denied support in 1975. And but for General de Gaulle and the British Minister of Aviation, Julian Amery, Concorde might well have been killed off in 1964.

Edwards not only designed his series of remarkable aircraft but forged a new concept of “high-tech” international collaboration. As he remarked, with his dry and penetrating wit: “If you could colla.borate successfully on an advanced design such as Concorde with the French, then you could do it with anything and anybody.” Thereafter, the military collaborative programmes came along relatively painlessly.

George Robert Edwards was born at Highams Park, Essex, in 1908. He came into a family with its roots in the tech.nology and transport of the time. His father, Edwin George Edwards, was station master at Walthamstow on the Great Eastern Railway. Edwards’s mother, Mary Elizabeth (née Freeman), died when he was born.

Edwards first went to school at Woodford Green, then to the South West Essex Technical College and from there to acquire a degree in engineering at London University. For seven years from 1928 he was engaged as a budding structural engineer in such diverse projects as hydraulic machinery and steam tugs – the latter at Hay’s Wharf, near London Bridge.

In 1935 he joined the design office of Vickers (Aviation) at Brooklands, Surrey. Under the benevolent eyes of the pioneer aircraft designer Rex Pierson, he quickly mastered the peculiarities of aeronautical work, first on the Vickers G4/31 biplane, then on the Wellesley and Wellington bombers of Barnes Wallis’s geodetic “basketwork” construction.

In 1938 he was engaged on the preparation of four special long-range Wellesleys which, in November that year, won for Britain the world distance record of 7,158 nautical miles, flown non-stop by RAF crews from Ismailia, Egypt, to Port Darwin, Australia, in 48 hours.

For his part in that success Edwards was selected by Rex Pierson, early in the Second World War, to take charge of top-priority work to convert four Wellington MkI bombers as magnetic mine-sweepers against the menace to Allied shipping, laid by the Luftwaffe in coastal waters. The “degaussing” Wellingtons – with large electrically charged coils in hemispherical casings underneath – put an end to the magnetic mine problem, and earned for George Edwards the responsible job of experimental manager at the Vickers works in 1940.

His wartime tasks at Weybridge included the pressurised “crew capsules” for special high-flying Wellington MkVs – the first in British aircraft – and the prototype construction of the Warwick and Windsor bombers, and of Vickers’s last fighter, the prototype, twin-Merlin F7/41, high-altitude Type 432.

By 1945 Edwards was involved with Rex Pierson in the Vickers VC1 – first called the “Wellington Transport” – which became the Viking. It was a twin-engined, 27-passenger “DC-3 Dakota replacement” intended to lead the way to more advanced projects. Altogether 163 Vikings were built for British European Airways (BEA) and other postwar airlines.

On Pierson’s death in February 1948, Edwards was his natural successor as chief designer and chief engineer of the Vickers Aviation works. As such it fell to him to bring to fruition Pierson’s last design, the VC2, a pressurised, turbo-prop, medium-range airliner that was to become famous as the Viscount. Stretched successively from 24 to 47 passenger seats – and eventually to 70 – the Viscount became, under Edwards’s leadership, the most successful of British civil aircraft. In July 1950 BEA operated the world’s first, turbine-powered, commercial passenger air services between Northolt, London, and Le Bourget, Paris. In ten years Vickers built 456 Viscounts, 80 per cent of which were exported, including 147 to North American airlines.

Meanwhile, between 1946 and 1956, the piston-engined Viking and its military developments, the Valetta and the Varsity, of which a total of 589 were built, established Vickers under Edwards’s leadership as the first substantial British supplier of transport aircraft. From 1953 the Viscount brought Vickers and Edwards into the front rank of the world’s aircraft constructors.

That position was consolidated when the four-jet Valiant – first of Britain’s V-bombers – flew in May 1951. During ten years of service, from 1955, Valiants delivered Britain’s first air-dropped atom bomb at Maralinga, Australia, on October 11, 1956; dropped its first H-bomb at Christmas Island seven months later; saw action from Malta in the brief Suez campaign; and flew non-stop from Marham to Singapore – 8,110 miles in 15 hours at 525 mph – twice flight-refuelled on the way.

The logical application of the experience of the Viscount and the Valiant was to set in hand, for BOAC and the RAF, a new generation of long-range jet transport aircraft for which there was an obvious demand. The Vickers V1000/VC7 was designed to carry 120 passengers, or equivalent military load, from London to New York non-stop, or to Australia with two stops. But despite an initial Air Ministry order for seven aircraft, this bold concept was frustrated in December 1955 by a political decision to scrap the project in favour of the turbo-prop Bristol Britannia. Thus a clear lead in the lucrative transatlantic jet business was lost,some 20 months ahead of the first version of the Boeing 707.

Ever philosophical, Edwards turned, first, to a new medium-haul, 130-passenger turbo-prop transport for BEA and Trans-Canada Air Lines which, as the Vanguard, went into service in February 1961. Sixteen months later the prototype four-jet, 115-passenger VC10 made its first flight from Brooklands, designed for BOAC and RAF Transport Command. Eighty-two were built.

The VC10 and its development, the Super VC10, with their excellent flying characteristics and superior passenger appeal compared with any of its contemporaries, would have sold worldwide in substantial numbers but for a decision by Sir Giles Guthrie, the chairman of BOAC in 1964, to standardise his fleet on the Boeing 707 instead.

By this time, in a coalescing of the 11 major British aircraft constructors into two major groups, Vickers joined with English Electric, Bristol Aircraft and Hunting to form the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), with its headquarters at Weybridge and Edwards as its managing director. One of the objectives of the Government in urging this, more or less shotgun, marriage was concentration of work upon an advanced, supersonic “tactical-strike-reconnaisance, weapons-concept aircraft” – the TSR2.

The first TSR2 flew on December 27, 1964, and went supersonic on February 21, 1965, clearly demonstrating that it could do its intended job. It was, however, promptly cancelled by the new Labour Government on April 6, 1965. This cancellation anticipated acquisition of the American F111 strike bomber which, however, was never delivered to the RAF. This second blow – strongly contested by Edwards – was taken by him in his usual stoic fashion. He turned instead to the much smaller and much less complicated BAC One-Eleven short-haul, twin-jet airliner with 99 passenger seats. A total of 234 One-Elevens were built by BAC and sold profitably in 62 countries, including the United States.

In 1968 BAC collaborated with Breguet in France to form a consortium to develop the Jaguar ground-attack aircraft. In 1969 it joined with West Germany and Italy in Panavia to develop and build the multirole combat aircraft which became the Tornado. In the design and development of this outstandingly successful aircraft, Sir Frederick Page and Edwards played a dominant part.

Meanwhile, the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic jet airliner had appeared on the scene, evolved from design studies by Morien Morgan of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), Farnborough, and A.E. Russell at Bristol. Edwards embraced the concept with enthusiasm and, by force of personality, the honesty of his approach and the attractiveness of his character, welded a warring, Anglo-French consortium into the semblance of a harmonious team. It was a triumphant technical and administrative climax to his career.

He retired from BAC as it became the nationalised British Aerospace in 1975. Then, not a little through his efforts, some half a million people were employed in the British aerospace industry and its supporting companies. He remarked that “the fundamental problem with aerospace is that the business is long-term and politics is short-term”.

Edwards was knighted in 1957 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1971. He was President of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1957-58 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1968. He was President of Surrey County Cricket Club, 1979-89, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Surrey, 1964-79 and Pro-Chancellor Emeritus thereafter.

Throughout his life, plagued by much ill health, Edwards remained steadfast in his beliefs, kindly in all his personal contacts and revered by his staff.

He married in 1935 Marjorie Annie (Dinah) Thurgood. She died in 1994 and he is survived by their daughter.

Sir George Edwards, OM, CBE, chairman, British Aircraft Corporation, 1963-75, was born on July 9, 1908. He died on March 2, 2003, aged 94.

See 1967 M4. Various shots on country road and section of M.4. of a large transporter carrying section of Concord fuselage from B.A.C. British Aircraft Corporation Filton to R.A.F. Farnborough for heat and stress tests.

www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=83219

See 1967 CONCORDE CONSTRUCTION BRISTOL – Colour video newsreel film

www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=72164

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2 Responses to The first test pilot of Concorde

  1. Patriciapye says:

    I do too Paul as my father worked in the drawing office for it and they flew over our school on that maiden flight !

  2. british fire rescue pics says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/67698532@N04] i do to as my dad was driving the range rover riv fire engine that shadowed concord on its 1st flight from filton

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