Tag Archives: Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air

6 September 1952

de Havilland DH.110 WG236
de Havilland DH.110 WG236. (U.S. Naval Aviation News)

6 September 1952: At the Farnborough Air Show, an annual event held at the Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough, Hampshire, England, de Havilland test pilot John Douglas Derry, DFC, with flight test observer Anthony Max (“Tony”) Richards, put the prototype DH.110, WG236, into a supersonic dive from 40,000 feet (12,182 meters), pulling out just short of the airfield and the estimated 120,000 spectators.

John Douglas Derry, D.F.C. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Anthony Max Richards (Flight)

Derry then made a high-speed, low-level circuit of the airfield, and as he straightened out, the airplane broke apart and crashed onto Observation Hill.

Both Derry and Richards were killed, as were 29 spectators. Another 63 were injured.

Flight reported:

     This melancholy affair has, inevitably, received wide publicity, and several inaccurate reports have been printed. A member of the staff of Flight who witnessed the accident describes it as follows: “Two small white puffs of cloud appeared in a clear patch of sky north of the airfield, presumably showing where the D.H.110 had exceeded Mach 1 in its dive. After about a minute there were two loud reports in split-second succession. The lower part of the dive must have been near-sonic, for the aircraft appeared overhead—at about 1,000–1,500ft—at almost the same instant; the supersonic ‘bangs’ had scarcely overtaken the 110, although they had evidently been produced at least 12 miles away. The aircraft flew out of sight to turn and line-up for a low flight above the main runway, which it made from the south-west at a speed estimated as 600–650 m.p.h. It then turned left into the circuit and flew back over the northern boundary at about 400ft. The break-up appeared to begin just before a steep 90-degree turn towards the enclosures. Small fragments came away from the 110, which gained height as the two Avons and the nose became detached from the airframe. One engine fell on a crowded slope behind the caravan parks, causing most of the casualties; the other landed harmlessly farther south. The nose, following the same path as the power-units, hit the grass just in front of the packed enclosure parallel with the runway and broke up. A number of small pieces landed on the runway itself while the airframe, minus tail-unit, nose and engines, dropped comparatively gently into the north-west corner of the airfield.”

FLIGHT and AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 2277, Vol. LXII. Friday, 12 September 1952, at Page 344, Column 1

This image shows the de Havilland DH-110 breaking up in flight. One of the engines has fallen free and is trailing smoke. (Unattributed)
This image shows the de Havilland DH.110 breaking up in flight. One of the engines has fallen free and is trailing smoke. (Unattributed)

Film taken from the ground showed that as the airplane came level, the starboard outboard wing separated, followed by the port outboard wing. The aircraft pitched violently upward with an acceleration of more than 12 Gs, and the cockpit, engines and tail then disintegrated.

The DH-110’s swept wings placed the ailerons well aft of the airplane’s center of gravity. When the pilot began his bank to the right, away from the crowd, he also began to climb. This caused the wing outer panels to twist, placing unexpected stresses. The right wing failed in torsion. The resulting roll then caused the left wing to fail.

The flight crew was not faulted.

Changes were made in the location of the spectators and maneuvering aircraft at the airshow from that time forward.

John Derry's crash, as his D,H,plane hits the ground after breaking the sound barrier in flight, Farnborough air display, 1952 (Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
The de Havilland DH.110 prototype impact at RAE Farnborough, 6 September 1952. This photograph was taken by a spectator, Herbert Orr. (Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
de Havilland DH.110 crash site. (Unattributed)
de Havilland DH.110 crash site. (Unattributed)
The scene of the 1952 Farnborough Air Show disaster. (Coventry Telegraph)
The scene of the 1952 Farnborough Air Show disaster. (Coventry Telegraph)

The de havilland DH.110 was a prototype all-weather interceptor intended for operation by the Fleet Air Arm from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was a two-place, twin-engine swept-wing fighter capable of supersonic speed. WG236 was the first prototype, which made its first flight the previous year, 26 September 1951. At the time of the accident WG236 had flown approximately 125 hours. The second prototype, WG240, had been scheduled to fly the demonstration for the air show, but had to be replaced for maintenance reasons.

The DH.110 used the twin-tailboom configuration of de Havilland’s DH.100 Vampire and DH.112 Venom fighters, but the wings were swept to 45°.

WG236 was 51 feet, 8 inches (15.748 meters) long with a wingspan of 51 feet, 0 inches (15.545 meters) and height of approximately 11 feet (3.35 meters). Its maximum takeoff weight was 35,000 pounds (15,876 kilograms).

WG236 was powered by two Rolls-Royce Avon RA.3 engines The RA.3 was a single-spool axial-flow turbojet with a 12-stage compressor section and single-stage turbine. It was rated at 6,500-pounds-thrust (28.91 kilonewtons). The second prototype used the more powerful RA.7.

The DH.110 had a maximum speed of 610 knots (0.924 Mach) at Sea Level, and 536 knots (0.936 Mach) at 40,000 feet (12,182 meters).

Planned armament for the production fighter was four 30 millimeter ADEN cannon.

De Havilland DH.110 WG236. (BAE Systems)

Both airmen were posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air.

CENTRAL CHANCERY OF THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD

St. James’s Palace. S.W. 1

12th September, 1952

     The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to give orders for the publication of the names of the persons shown below as having received an expression of Commendation for valuable service in the air:—

QUEEN’S COMMENDATIONS FOR VALUABLE SERVICE IN THE AIR.

John Douglas Derry, D.F.C. (deceased), Test Pilot, de Havilland Aircraft Company, Ltd.

Anthony Max Richards (deceased), Flight Test Observer, de Havilland Aircraft Company, Ltd.

For services when testing an experimental aircraft.

John Douglas Derry was born 5 December 1921 at Cairo, Egypt. He was one of four children of Douglas Erith Derry, M.C., M.B., Ch.B., Professor of Anatomy at the Government Medical School there, and — Ramsay Derry.

Derry was educated at the Dragon School, a preparatory school for boys in Oxford, England, and at Charterhouse, in Surrey. In 1939, he enlisted in the Royal Air Force as an aerial gunner and radio operator. He was assigned as a crewman on Lockheed Hudson bombers with Coastal Command, before being sent to Canada for pilot training in 1943. On his return to England he was “seconded” to the Air Transport Auxiliary.

Hawker Typhoon

Derry returned to combat operations in October 1944, flying Hawker Typhoons on close air support missions with No. 182 Squadron. Shortly after, he was transferred to No. 181 Squadron as a flight commander. In March 1945, Derry returned to No. 182 as the squadron’s commanding officer.

Distinguished Flying Cross (RAF Museum)

On 29 June 1945, Acting Squadron Leader Derry was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation, published in The London Gazette, reads:

This officer has participated in a large number of sorties as air gunner and later pilot. He has at all times displayed great determination and skill and his courage has been of the highest order. In April 1945, he led his squadron in an attack against enemy gun positions. Despite intense opposition the attack was pressed home with great accuracy. The success of this operation was due in no small measure to Squadron Leader Derry’s gallant and skillful leadership. This officer has set a fine example to all.

—Fourth Supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday, the 26th of JUNE, 1945, Numb. 37154, at Page 3405, Column 1.

Bronzen Leeuw

Her Majesty, Wilhelmina, The Queen of The Netherlands, awarded Acting Squadron Leader Derry the Bronzen Leeuw (Bronze Lion).

After No. 182 Squadron was disbanded 30 September 1945, Squadron Leader Derry was appointed commanding officer of the Day Fighter Leader School at the Central Flying School, flying the Hawker Tempest.

After being released from service, Derry became an experimental and production test pilot for Vickers Supermarine. In October 1947, he moved to de Havilland.

On 12 April 1948, he flew a de Havilland DH.108 set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed over a Closed Circuit of 100 Kilometers without Payload, averaging 974.026 kilometers per hour (605.232 miles per hour).¹ The Royal Automobile Society awarded Derry The Seagrave Trophy, “for the most outstanding demonstration of transportation by land, air or water: The Spirit of Adventure.”

On 6 September 1948, Derry exceeded the speed of sound in the de Havilland DH.108. He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aeronautical Club.

     More than one member of Flight‘s staff was proud to know John Derry—a fine-looking young man and an inspiring personality—and on occasions to talk of flying and testing with him. We recall his cheerful unassuming manner, his completely straightforward and natural approach to any topic, and his firm opinion upon matters which he himself had studied and investigated. He was undoubtedly one of what we now call the new generation of test pilots, men who must be able to back their flying experience and skill as pilots with a full technical understanding.

FLIGHT and AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 2277, Vol. LXII. Friday, 12 September 1952, at Page 344, Column 2

John Derry was married with two children.

“I am never happier than when I am in the air.”

—Squadron Leader John Douglas Derry, D.F.C.

John Douglas Derry, D.F.C.

¹ FAI Record File Number 8877

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 June 1982

CGI illustration of British Airways' Speedbird 9 descending without power, surrounded by St. Elmo's Fire. (Anynobody)
CGI illustration of British Airways’ SPEEDBIRD 9 descending without power, surrounded by St. Elmo’s Fire. (Anynobody)

24 June 1982: British Airways Flight 9, a Boeing 747-236B, G-BDXH, City of Edinburgh, enroute from London, England, to Aukland, New Zealand, was cruising at 37,000 feet (11,278 meters) with 248 passengers and 15 crewmembers on board. The airliner was under the command of Captain Eric H. J. Moody, with Senior First Officer Roger Greaves and Senior Flight Engineer Barry Townley-Freeman on the flight deck. It operated with the call sign, “Speedbird 9.”

At 10:42 p.m., local time (13:42 UTC), approximately 110 miles (188 kilometers) south of Jakarta, Indonesia, the airliner’s number four engine began surging and then flamed out. A minute later engine number two also surged and flamed out. Then, simultaneously, engines one and three failed as well.

Mount Galunggung during a 1983 eruption. (R. Hadian, U.S. Geological Survey)

Volcanic dust from erupting Mount Gallanggung, a 7,113 foot (2,168 meters) stratovolcano located in West Java, 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Bandung, had been ingested by the engines and melted inside the combustion chambers, cutting off the airflow and shutting each of them down. The 747 had a glide ratio of 15:1. The flight crew turned Speedbird 9 toward Jakarta while they went through emergency procedures.

Captain Eric Moody, British Airways
Captain Eric Moody, British Airways (PA)

Captain Eric Moody made the following announcement to the passengers:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.”

At 13,500 feet (4,115 meters), the flight crew was finally able to get one engine restarted and soon after a second. Eventually all four engines were running and the 747 began to regain altitude, however Number Two again began to surge so the crew shut it down and they remained at 12,000 feet (3,658 meters).

On approach to Jakarta, though good visibility was reported, the flight crew could barely see the airport lights. It was later determined that the windshield was completely sandblasted by the volcanic dust. Speedbird 9 safely landed with no injuries. It was repaired and flown back to London where it underwent further, more extensive repairs.

The air crew was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air. Guinness Book of Records lists Flight 9 as the longest glide of any aircraft not designed for gliding.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 09.34.50

CENTRAL CHANCERY OF
THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD
ST. JAMES’S PALACE, LONDON S.W.I
11th June, 1983

Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service ribbon. (Wikipedia)

The QUEEN has been graciously pleased, on the occasion of the Celebration of Her Majesty’s Birthday, to approve the award of The Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air:

The Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service
in the Air

UNITED KINGDOM

Eric Henry John MOODY, Captain, British Airways.

Supplement to the London Gazette, Supplement 49375, Saturday, 11th June 1983, at Page B28

Also receiving this honor was Cabin Services Officer Graham Skinner.

Volcanic ash accumulation on turbine stator vanes from one of Speedbird 9’s Rolls-Royce RB211 engines. (British Airways)

Captain Moody served with British Airways for 32 years, retiring in 1996 with over 17,000 flight hours.

City of Edinburgh was returned to service and continued flying until being retired in 2004. It was scrapped at Bournemouth Airport, Dorset, England, in 2009.

British Airways’ Boeing 747-236B, G-BDXH, City of Edinburgh, landing at London Heathrow, 11 September 1994. © Javier Rodriguez

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 November 1954

Fairey Aviation Co., Ltd., Delta 2 WG774. (Unattributed)
Fairey Aviation Co., Ltd., Delta 2 WG774. (Wikipedia)
Lieutenant-Commander Lionel Peter Twiss, OBE, DSC and Bar. (The Telegraph)
Lieutenant-Commander Lionel Peter Twiss, OBE, DSC and Bar. (The Telegraph)

17 November 1954: Lionel Peter Twiss, Chief Test Pilot for Fairey Aviation Company Ltd., was flying the company’s experimental supersonic airplane, the Fairey Delta 2, from the aircraft test center at RAF Boscombe Down. This was the FD.2’s fourteenth flight. When about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the airfield and climbing through 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), the airplane’s fuel supply was interrupted and the engine flamed out.

Unwilling to lose a valuable research aircraft, Twiss decided to stay with the Delta 2 rather than ejecting, and he glided back to Boscombe Down. Without the engine running, the aircraft had insufficient hydraulic pressure to completely lower the landing gear and only the nosewheel strut locked in place. The FD.2 touched down at 170 miles per hour (274 kilometers per hour) was seriously damaged. It was out of service for nearly a year. The wings had to be replaced and those which had originally been built for structural tests were used.

For his effort to save a valuable research aircraft, Peter Twiss was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air. Notice of the award was published in The London Gazette, 22 February 1955, at Page 1094:

Lionel Peter Twiss, Test Pilot, Fairey Aviation Company Ltd. (Hillingdon, Middlesex.)

     For services when an aircraft, undergoing tests, sustained damage in the air.

Her Majesty and Prince Phillip look over the Fairey Delta 2 with Lieutenant-Commander Peter Twiss.
Her Majesty and Prince Phillip look over a Fairey Delta 2 with Lieutenant-Commander Peter Twiss in 1956. (Daily Mail)

On 10 March 1956, Phillip Twiss flew WG774 to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 15km/25km Straight Course at an average speed over a 9-mile course, flown between Chichester and Portsmouth at and altitude of 38,000 feet (11,582 meters). Two runs over the course were made, with first averaging 1,117 miles per hour (1,798 kilometers per hour) and the second, in the opposite direction, was 1,147 miles per hour. (1,846 kilometers per hour). The FD.2 had averaged 1,822 Kilometers per hour (1,132 miles per hour)—Mach 1.731. (FAI Record File # 8866)

Twiss had broken the previous record of 1,323.312 kilometers per hour (822.268 miles per hour) which had been set by Colonel Horace A. Hanes, USAF, flying a North American Aviation F-100C Super Sabre over Edwards Air Force Base, California. (FAI Record File # 8867)

Test Pilot Peter Twist shakes hands with Robert L. Lickey, designer of the Fairey Delta 2. (The New York Times)
Test Pilot Lieutenant-Commander Lionel Peter Twiss, DFC and Bar, shakes hands with Robert Lang Lickley, Chief Engineer of Fairey Aviation Co., Ltd., and designer of the Fairey Delta 2. (The New York Times)

Peter Twiss was the first British pilot, and the FD.2 the first British airplane, to exceed 1,000 miles per hour (1,609 kilometers per hour) in level flight. Twiss is also the last British pilot to have held a World Absolute Speed Record.

For his services as a test pilot, Lieutenant-Commander Lionel Peter Twiss, D.F.C. and Bar, was appointed Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, 13 June 1957.

Fairey Delta 2 (FD.2) WG774. (Unattributed)
Fairey Delta 2 (FD.2) WG774, 13 March 1956. (Unattributed)

The Fairey Aviation Company, Ltd., Delta 2 WG774 (c/n F9421) is the first of two single-place, single engine delta-wing research aircraft which had been designed and built to investigate transonic and supersonic speeds. It first flew 6 October 1953 with Chief Test Pilot Peter Twiss in the cockpit. In its original configuration, the FD.2 is 51 feet, 7½ inches (15.735 meters) long with a wingspan of 26 feet, 10 inches (8.179 meters) and overall height of 11 feet (3.353 meters). The wings’ leading edge were swept to 59.9° with an angle of incidence of +1.5°. Ailerons and flaps were at the trailing edge and acted in place of elevators. In its original configuration it had an empty weight of approximately 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms) and the all-up weight at takeoff was 14,109 pounds (6,400 kilograms).

The FD.2 was powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon RA.28R afterburning turbojet engine which produced 9,530 pounds of thrust (42.392 kilonewtons), or 11,820 pounds (52.578 kilonewtons) with afterburner (“reheat”). This was a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet with a 15-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. The RA.28 was 10 feet, 3.0 inches (3.124 meters) long, 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,869 pounds (1,301 kilograms).

WG774 and its sistership, WG777, were used for flight testing throughout the 1960s. WG774 was modified as a test aircraft to study various features of the planned British Aerospace Concorde. The landing gear struts were lengthened and the fuselage extended by six feet. It received a “drooped” nose section for improved pilot visibility during takeoff and landings. New wings were installed which had an ogee-curved leading edge. With these modifications WG774 was redesignated BAC 221. In this configuration, WG774 was tested to Mach 1.65 at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters).

WG774 was retired in the early 1970s. It is on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset, England.

Fairey Aviation FD.2 WG7774. (Unattributed)
Fairey Aviation FD.2 WG774, 2 September 1955. (Unattributed)

Lionel Peter Twiss was born 23 July 1921 at Lindfield, Sussex, England. He was educated at the Sherborne School, a prestigious boarding school for boys in Dorset. He briefly worked as a tea taster following school, but in 1939 enlisted in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. He was trained as a fighter pilot.

Temporary Sub-Lieutenant (A) Lionel Peter Twiss, R.N.V.R., was assigned as the pilot of a Hawker Hurricane Mk.I with the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit. (Hurricanes could be launched by catapult from merchant ships to defend against Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor reconnaissance bombers.)

He next flew the Fairey Fulmar fighter from HMS Argus (I49) in support of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. Twiss is credited with shooting down one enemy fighter and damaging a bomber. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, 22 September 1942. He and his squadron transitioned to the Supermarine Seafire aboard HMS Furious (49) and were in action during the invasion of North Africa. He was awarded a Bar, denoting a second award, to his D.F.C.

After returning to England in 1943, Twiss was trained as a night fighter pilot and flew the de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito with an RAF night fighter unit on intruder missions over France. In 1944 he shot down two more enemy airplanes.

Twiss was in the third class of the Empire Test Pilots’ School and after graduation was assigned to Fairey Aviation. With the end of World War II, Lieutenant-Commander Twiss left the Royal Navy and continued working as a test pilot at Fairey.

Peter Twiss ended his career testing aircraft in 1959, having flown more than 4,500 hours in nearly 150 different aircraft. His autobiography, Faster than the Sun, was published in 1963.

Lieutenant-Commander Lionel Peter Twiss, O.B.E., D.F.C. and Bar, died 31 August 2011 at the age of 90 years.

Peter Twiss with a scale model of the Fairey Delta 2. (The Teegraph)
Peter Twiss with a scale model of the Fairey Delta 2. (The Telegraph)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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