Interview with Air Vice-Marshal Don ‘Pathfinder’ Bennett CB CBE DSO

In the fourth of the RAF Centre for Air Power Studies rarely-seen before historic ‘leadership’ themed videos, Air Vice-Marshal Don ‘Pathfinder’ Bennett CB CBE DSO is interviewed by Group Captain (later Air Vice-Marshal) Tony Mason CB CBE DL at the RAF Staff College, Bracknell, December 1980.

During the interview, Air Vice-Marshal Bennett discusses his experiences in the field of aerial navigation which eventually led to the formation of the legendary Pathfinder squadrons during WWII. Air Vice-Marshal Bennett transferred to the RAF from the Royal Australian Air Force in 1931 in order to broaden his flying experience. Although a gifted pilot in single-seat fighters, he had the ambition to fly large aircraft and subsequently transferred to Calshot to fly the Southampton, then the largest aircraft in the RAF.

During his time on the Flying Boats, he developed a passion for navigation, becoming an instructor before leaving the RAF to join Imperial Airways where he helped to develop many of the pioneering techniques that would later become commonplace. He re-joined the RAF in 1941, going on to command 77 Squadron, 10 Squadron and subsequently No. 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group. When he was promoted to Air Vice-Marshal in December 1943 he was the youngest person ever to hold the rank. He was considered by many to be ‘one of the most brilliant technical airmen of his generation: an outstanding pilot, a superb navigator who was also capable of stripping a wireless set or overhauling an engine’.

His book, The Complete Air Navigator: Covering the Syllabus for the Flight Navigator’s Licence, was considered by many to be the seminal text on the subject of aerial navigation when it was published in 1936. Viewers are asked to make allowance for the 1980s video quality as the subject matter is outstanding and adds significantly to the understanding of the history of the RAF.

Source – RAF YouTube site

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Group Captain Leonard Cheshire interview

In the third of the RAF Centre for Air Power Studies rarely-seen before historic ‘leadership’ themed videos, inspirational wartime leader and world-renowned humanitarian, Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire VC OM DSO** DFC is interviewed by Group Captain (later Air Vice-Marshal) Tony Mason CB CBE DL at the RAF Staff College, Bracknell, February 1978. During the interview Group Captain Cheshire discusses his now legendary record of achievements throughout his service during WWII.

Group Captain Cheshire received a commission as a pilot officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on November 16th 1937. Although he demonstrated considerable prowess in training as a single seat pilot, by a vagary of the system he was destined to be posted to Bomber Command. During the War his command appointments included 76 Squadron, 617 Squadron, and RAF Marston Moor and he was, at one time, the youngest group captain in the RAF. By July 1944 he had completed a total of 102 missions, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. His citation simply states: ‘Cheshire displayed the courage and determination of an exceptional leader’.

After the war, Cheshire founded the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability and devoted the remainder of his life to pursuing humanitarian ideals. His obituary in the Independent (1992) declares that ‘LEONARD CHESHIRE was one of the most remarkable men of his generation, perhaps the most remarkable’.

Westland Lynx HMA.8 & Westland Sea King ASaC.7 at RNAS Culdrose Air Day 2016

A selection of images of a Lynx HMA.8 and Sea King ASaC.7 in the static display during a misty RNAS Culdrose Air Day 2016.

All photographs kindly contributed by Dave Taskis (please take time to visit his blog by clicking here).


Lynx HMA.8 ZF562/404 appears to be having something of an identity crisis. It is wearing Iron Duck nose art of HMS Iron Duke but has HMS Monmouth titles painted on the radar fairing.


Sea King ASaC.7 ZE422/192 of 849 NAS perfectly camouflaged against the misty backdrop in the static display at RNAS Cudrose. The Sea King ASaC.7 – known throughout the Navy as Baggers – are the ‘eyes in the sky’ of the Royal Navy, searching for aerial threats to the Fleet with its powerful radar or suspicious movements on the ground in support of land forces. They are the among the last examples of the ubiquitous Sea King in British service.

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If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to defencerealmyt@gmail.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.

Vickers FB27 VIMY Replica ‘NX71MY’ at Brooklands Museum

A collection of pictures of Vickers FB27 VIMY Replica ‘NX71MY’on display at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey.

All photos were taken on April 5th 2016
Photos: Tony Wilkins


The Vickers Vimy on display at Brooklands is a replica aircraft built in 1994 as part of a project led by Peter McMillan the aim of which was to re-enact three long distance flights carried out by the type between 1919 and 1920. The aircraft first took to the air on July 30th 1994 in California hence the US registration.

Not long after it flew it carried out an incredible flight to Australia crewed by McMillan and Lang Kidby on the 75th anniversary of the original flight. Five years later it successfully flew to South Africa with Mark Rebholz and John LaNoue at the controls. To complete the “hat trick”, in July 2005, the Vimy successfully re-enacted Alcock & Brown’s historic trans-Atlantic flight from St Johns, Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland, making the flight in just under 19 hours.

In 2006 ownership passed to the American ISTAT Foundation and the aeroplane was maintained to airworthy standards at Dunsfold Park by Brooklands Museum volunteers. It was finally donated to Brooklands Museum Trust on 26th August 2006.

For more images of British military equipment and museums please visit the Galleries sectionor follow Defence of the Realm on Instagram

If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to defencerealmyt@gmail.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.

 

Scottish Aviation Jetstream T.1 XX499 at Brooklands Museum

A collection of pictures of Scottish Aviation Jetstream T.1 XX499 on display at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey.

All photos were taken on April 5th 2016
Photos: Tony Wilkins


The Jetstream was originally conceived by the Handley Page company but in 1970 the company went bankrupt. Production continued however thanks to a consortium being formed out of companies that had been subcontracted to build parts for the Jetstream before Handley Page went bankrupt. Chiefly among these were Scottish Aviation who received an order for 26 Jetstream 201s from the RAF where they were designated Jetstream T.1 (the ‘T’ indicating its training role).

XX499 was delivered to the RAF in 1976 for use as a multi-engine trainer. It was withdrawn and delivered to Brooklands in 2008.

For more images of British military equipment and museums please visit the Galleries section or follow Defence of the Realm on Instagram

If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to defencerealmyt@gmail.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.

NEWS: Watchkeeper drone cleared to fly in civil airspace

Watchkeeper British Army drone UAVUK defence firm Thales recently flew its Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in civil airspace for the first time having been granted clearance from the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The drone took off from West Wales Airport on a three-and-a-half-hour flight of which around one hour was through civilian airspace with the craft being managed by air traffic controllers on the ground. This is the first time a UAV has been flown in non-segregated airspace along with commercial aircraft in the UK.

The test run has been hailed as a success with operators saying it brings the UK one step closer to using unmanned aircraft for various applications including border security and search and rescue roles. Thales believes this first foray into civilian airspace will lay the foundations for developing the required operational and regulatory conditions to allow widespread use of UAVs in UK air space.

The flight was good news for the Watchkeeper program which has come under criticism in recent years for being well behind schedule.The drone is based on the Elbit Hermes 450 UAV and in March of last year the Ministry of Defence finally granted Watchkeeper a Release of Service enabling the British Army to commence flight training with the aircraft. However the program has been further delayed by reports that there aren’t enough operators being trained to keep the drone at an operational level although the Army has said it is addressing this problem.