Tag Archives: Rolls-Royce Limited

13 September 1931

Supermarine S.6B S.1595 at the London Science Museum. (sciencemuseum.org.uk)

13 September 1931: Having won the previous two Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider international seaplane races, the United Kingdom was in the position of permanently winning the famous Schneider Trophy if it were to win a third consecutive race.

The 1931 race was the twelfth in a series of annual or semiannual races which were first held in 1913, specifically for seaplanes. Teams from several nations, France, Great Britain, Italy and the United States, competed with float-equipped airplanes built specifically for the races. The national team which won three consecutive races would win the series and take home the Trophy. Italy had won three times (1920, 1921, and 1926); the United States, twice (1923, 1925); and France, one time (1913). The United Kingdom had previously won in 1922, 1927 and 1929.

Royal Air Force High-Speed Flight, 1931. (Unattributed)

Having won the race in 1929, Great Britain was the host nation for 1931. Like the 1929 race, the 1931 race was held over The Solent, a body of water between the harbor city of Portsmouth, England, and the Isle of Wight. Instead of the four-sided polygon used previously, the 1931 race course was a triangle of 50 kilometers (31.07 statute miles). Competitors would make seven circuits of the course, with all left-hand turns, for a total distance of 350 kilometers (217.48 statute miles).

Competitors would fly seven counter-clockwise laps of the 50-kilometer triangular race course (FLIGHT)

Italy had been developing the Macchi-Castoldi M.C. 72 with its 3,100-horsepower, 24-cylinder Fiat AS.6 engine, but the airplane was not ready by the required date. The United States was unwilling to invest the required money and had not entered since the 1927 race. France also was not prepared to compete. Both France and Italy formally announced their intention not to compete on 4 September 1931.

This meant that only a single British airplane was required to complete the race course to win the race and permanent possession of the trophy. Three airplanes were ready, one Supermarine S.6 and two new S.6Bs.

Three racing aircraft of the Royal Air Force High-Speed Flight at RAF Calshot for the 1931 Schneider Trophy Race. Left to right, #7, Supermarine S.6B S.1596; #4, Supermarine S.6 N.248; and #1, Supermarine S.6B S.1595. (FLIGHT)

Postponed because of rain and fog on the previous day, the 1931 race started at 1:02:10 p.m., Sunday, 13 September, with the firing of the starting gun from HMS Medea. Flight-Lieutenant John Nelson Boothman, Royal Air Force, in a blue and silver Supermarine S.6B, number S.1565, taxied across the start line at 1:10:19 p.m.

Race rules required that competitors take off, circle and land on the water. They were then required to taxi on the water for two minutes, before taking off a second time to begin the officially timed race laps. Observers reported that Flight-Lieutenant Boothman’s performance of the preliminary test was flawless. He taxied into position for his second takeoff and was airborne with a 40 second run.

Flight-Lieutenant John N. Boothman (FLIGHT)

Boothman’s lap times were:

Lap 1: 552.15 kilometers per hour (343.1 miles per hour)

Lap 2: 551.5 kilometers per hour (342.7 miles per hour)

Lap 3: 547.1 kilometers per hour (340.0 miles per hour)

Lap 4: 544.5 kilometers per hour (338.3 miles per hour)

Lap 5: 546.5 kilometers per hour (339.6 miles per hour)

Lap 6: 546.1 kilometers per hour (339.4 miles per hour)

Lap 7: 543.5 kilometers per hour (337.7 miles per hour)

Overall average speed: 547.3 kilometers per hour (340.08 miles per hour)

Air Ministry,

9th October, 1931.

ROYAL AIR FORCE.

     The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Air Force Cross to the undermentioned officers of the Royal Air Force:—

Flight Lieutenant John Nelson Boothman.

In recognition of his achievement in winning the Schneider Trophy Contest, 1931.

Supermarine S.6B, S.1596. (BAE Systems)

S.1595 was Vickers-Supermarine S.6B Monoplane, designed by Reginald Joseph Mitchell, who would later design the legendary Supermarine Spitfire fighter of World War II. The racer was developed from Mitchell’s earlier S.4, S.5 and S.6 Schneider Cup racers, and was built at the Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers), Ltd., Southampton, on the south coast of England. There were two S.6Bs, with the second identified as S.1596.

Reginald Joseph Mitchell, C.B.E., F.R.Ae.S.

The Supermarine S.6B was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane with two fixed pontoons as an undercarriage. It was of all-metal construction and used a high percentage of duralumin, a very hard alloy of aluminum and copper, as well as other elements. The float plane was 28 feet, 10 inches (8.788 meters) long, with a wingspan of 30 feet, 0 inches (9.144 meters) and height of 12 feet, 3 inches (3.734 meters). The wing area was 145 square feet (13,5 square meters). The S.6B had an empty weight of 4,560 pounds (2,068 kilograms) and gross weight of 5,995 pounds (2,719 kilograms).

Supermarine S.6B S.1596 (BAE Systems)

In an effort to achieve the maximum possible speed, aerodynamic drag was eliminated wherever possible. There were no radiator or oil cooler intakes. The wing surfaces were constructed of two thin layers of duralumin with a very small space between them. The engine coolant, a mixture of water and ethylene glycol, was circulated between these layers, which are known as surface radiators. The engine had a high oil consumption rate and the vertical fin was the oil supply tank. The skin panels also served as surface radiators. The fuselage panels were corrugated for strength, and several small parallel passages transferred lubricating oil from the fin tank to the engine, and further cooled the oil.

Supermarine S.6B S.1596 (BAE Systems)

S.1595 was powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 2,239.327-cubic-inch-displacement (36.696 liter) Rolls-Royce Type R single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine, number R29. The Type R was a racing engine with 4 valves per cylinder and a compression ration of 6:1. In the 1931 configuration, it produced 2,350 horsepower at 3,200 r.p.m. It used a 0.605:1 reduction gear and turned a Fairey Aviation fixed-pitch airscrew with a diameter of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters). A special fuel, a mixture of benzol, methanol and acetone with TCP anti-detonation additive, was used.

Lucy, Lady Houston, with the Royal Air Force High-Speed Flight, 1931. R.J. Mitchell, designer of the S-series racers, is standing at right. (Royal Air Force Museum)

There would have been no 1931 British Schneider Trophy Race team without the generous contribution of Lucy, Lady Houston, D.B.E., who donated £100,000 to Supermarine to finance the new aircraft. Lady Houston would later sponsor the 1933 Houston Mount Everest Flying Expedition.

The winning aircraft, S.1595, is in the collection of the Science Museum, London.

Supermarine S.6B S.1596 (BAE Systems)

John Nelson Boothman was born at Harrow, northwest London, England, 19 February 1901. He was the son of Thomas John Boothman, a railway clerk, and Mary Burgess Boothman. He  became interested in aviation while very young, and took his first flight at the age of 10, as a passenger of Samuel Franklin Cody, the first pilot to fly a powered airplane in England.

Boothman was educated at Harrow High School. In 1918, when he was 16 years old, Boothman volunteered as a driver with the Croix-Rouge française (French Red Cross), serving in the Balkans until World War I came to an end. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

On his return to England, he took flying lessons, and joined the Royal Air Force. He received a short-service commission as a Pilot Officer (probationary), 29 March 1921. He trained at No. 1 Flight Training School. He then joined No. 4 Squadron at Constantinople. On 22 March 1922, Boothman was confirmed in the rank of Pilot Officer. He was promoted to Flying Officer 29 September 1922.

Also in 1922, Pilot Officer Boothman married Miss Gertrude Andrews. They would have one son.

Flying Officer Boothman returned to England in 1924 and was assigned as a flight instructor at the Central Flying School. He was also a member of an aerial demonstration team.

After five years of service, on 1 January 1926 Boothman’s commission as a Flying Officer, Royal Air Force, was made permanent. He returned to the Middle East, joining No. 55 Squadron in Iraq, 21 September 1926. This was a bombing squadron, equipped with the de havilland DH-9A. Boothman was promoted to Flight-Lieutenant 1 July 1927. He served with the Air Staff before going on to No. 30 Squadron, which also flew DH-9As, as a flight commander, 24 February 1928.

Flight-Lieutenant John Nelson Boothman, Royal Air Force.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothman was assigned as a test pilot at the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment, Felixstowe, Suffolk, 10 February 1930. On 11 May 1931, he became a member of the High-Speed Flight at RAF Calshot.

After winning the Schneider Trophy Race, on 3 October 1931, Flight-Lieutenant Boothman was assigned as a flight commander with No. 22 Squadron, a test squadron supporting the Aeroplane Experimental Establishment at RAF Martlesham Heath. During 1932, he became seriously ill and was removed from duty for several months. He returned to duty 13 August 1932 as a test pilot in the Experimental Section at RAE Farnborough. He then served as Chief Flying Instructor, Central Flying School.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothman attended the Royal Air Force Staff College in 1935. He was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader, 1 December 1935. From 4 January 1936, he was assigned to Air Staff, Headquarters, Coastal Command. On 26 March 1937, Squadron Leader Boothman was assigned to Air Staff, Headquarters, Royal Air Force, Far East.

Boothman was promoted to Wing Commander, 1 January 1939. In September he was placed in command of No. 44 Squadron at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. This was a light bomber squadron which flew Bristol Blenheims and Handley Page Hampdens.

During the early stages of World War II, Wing Commander Boothman was assigned to Air Staff—Directorate of Operations (Home), and Air Staff, Headquarters, Bomber Command. He returned to RAF Waddington in March 1940 as the station’s commanding officer. He was promoted to Group Captain (temporary), 1 March 1941, then sent to the United States as an adviser to the U.S. Army Air Forces. Boothman returned to England as commanding officer of RAF Finningley, South Yorkshire.

On 6 June 1943, Group Captain Boothman was promoted to the rank of Acting Air Commodore, and assigned as Air Officer Commanding, No. 106 Wing. The wing controlled all photographic reconnaissance units in the United Kingdom. In 1 December 1943, Air Commodore Boothman’s rank was changed from Acting to Temporary.

In July 1944 Air Commodore Boothman was assigned as Commandant, Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A. & A.E.E.) at RAF Boscombe Down, Wiltshire. In the King’s Birthday Honours, 1944, Air Commodore Boothman was invested Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Military Division (C.B.).

On 2 July 1945, was promoted to Acting Air Vice Marshal and appointed Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Technical Requirements). On 9 October 1945, The U.S. Army Air Forces awarded him the the medal of Commander, Legion of Merit.

Air Vice Marshal John Nelson Boothman D.F.C., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, is presented the Legion of Merit by General Carl A. Spaatz, United States Army Air Forces. (Smithsonian Institution)

Air Vice Marshal Boothman once again returned to Iraq in 1948 as Air Officer Commanding, Air Headquarters, Iraq.

On 4 September 1950, he was promoted to Acting Air Marshal, and Controller of Supply (Air), Ministry of Supply. On 15 November 1953, Air Marshal Boothman became Commander in Chief, Coastal Command and Commander in Chief (Air) Eastern Atlantic Area.

In the King’s Birthday Honours list, 7 June 1951, Air Marshal Boothman, C.B., D.F.C., A.F.C., was promoted to Knight Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (K.B.E.).

In the Queen’s Birthday Honours, June 1954, Air Marshal Sir John Boothman, K.B.E., D.F.C., A.F.C., was invested Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.).

On 1 October 1954, Sir John was promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal. He retired from the Royal Air Force in 1956.

Air Chief Marshal Sir John Nelson Boothman, K.C.B., K.B.E., D.F.C., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, died 29 December 1957 at the age of 57 years.

Air Vice Marshal Sir John Nelson Boothman, 1946. (Photographed by Walter Stoneman)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

14–15 June 1919

Vickers Vimy with Alcock and Brown aboard, departs St. John's, Newfoundland, 14 June 1919. (CF Photo)
The Vickers Vimy with Alcock and Brown aboard, departs St. John’s, Newfoundland, 14 June 1919. (CF Photo)
John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown, 14 June 1919. (Vickers PLC)
Captain Sir John William Alcock, KBE, DSC, and Lieutenant Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, KBE, before their departure at St. John’s, Newfoundland, 14 June 1919. (Vickers PLC)

14–15 June 1919: Captain John William Alcock, DSC, and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, both of the Royal Air Force, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, non-stop, aboard their twin-engine Vickers Vimy F.B.27A Mk.IV biplane bomber. This was the very first successful non-stop trans-Atlantic crossing by air.

They took off from Lester’s Field, St. John’s, Newfoundland, at 16:13 GMT (about 1:45 p.m., local time) and flew 1,890 miles (3,042 kilometers) to Clifden, County Galway, Ireland. The crossing took 16 hours, 27 minutes.

They encountered heavy fog, icing, snow and severe turbulence. Four times Brown had to go out on the wings to clear snow and ice from the engine intakes.

On their arrival at Ireland, they touched down on the soft ground of Derrygimla Bog, just south of Clifden, at 8:40 a.m., and the Vimy pitched over on its nose and was damaged, but Alcock and Brown were not hurt.

Alcock and Brown's aeroplane after completing the first non-stop transatlantic flight, 1919. (Getty Images/Print Collector)
Alcock and Brown’s aeroplane after completing the first non-stop transatlantic flight, 1919. (Getty Images/Print Collector)

The following report was published in The New York Times:

Captain Alcock’s Own Narrative of His Flight From Newfoundland to Ireland

LONDON, June 16. (By telegraph from Clifden, Ireland.) We have had a terrible journey. The wonder is that we are here at all. We scarcely saw the sun or the moon or the stars. For hours we saw none of them.

     The fog was very dense, and at times we had to descend to within 300 feet of the sea. For four hours the machine was covered in a sheet of ice caused by frozen sleet; at another time the sleet was so dense that my speed indicator did not work, and for a few seconds it was very alarming.

     We looped the loop, I do believe, and did a very steep spiral. We did some very comic “stunts,” for I have had no sense of the horizon.

     The winds were favorable all the way: northwest and at times southwest. We said in Newfoundland we could do the trip in 16 hours, but we never thought we should. An hour and a half before we saw land we had no certain idea where we were, but we believed we were at Galway or thereabouts. Our delight in seeing Eashal Island and Turbot Island (5 miles west of Clifden) was great. People did not know who we were when we landed, and thought we were scouts on the lookout for the “Vimy.”

     We encountered no unforeseen conditions. We did not suffer from cold or exhaustion except when looking over the side; then the sleet chewed bits out of our faces. We drank coffee and ale and ate sandwiches and chocolate.

     The flight has shown that the Atlantic flight is practicable, but I think it should be done not with an aeroplane or seaplane, but with a flying boat. We had plenty of reserve fuel left, using only two-thirds of our supply.

     The only thing that upset me was to see the machine at the end get damaged. From above, the bog looked like a lovely field, but the machine sank into it up to the axle and fell over on to her nose.

The New York Times, 16 June 1919, Page 1, Columns 7 and 8

The “Vickers-Vimy-Rolls”

     The construction of the Trans-Atlantic “Vickers-Vimy-Rolls” was completed at the Weybridge Aeroplane Works of Messrs. Vickers, Limited.

     This aeroplane is practically similar in every respect to the Standard “Vimy” as supplied to His Majesty’s Government.

     Two standard 350 hp. Rolls-Royce engines are installed. The capacity of the petrol tanks has been increased to 865 gallons, and the lubricating oil tanks to 50 gallons, and with this quantity of fuel this aeroplane has a range of 2440 miles. The maximum speed is over 100 miles per hour. The span of the “Vickers-Vimy-Rolls” is 67 feet, and overall length is 42 feet 8 inches. The width of the planes is 10 feet 6 inches. A wireless telegraphy set capable of sending and receiving messages over long distances was carried, and the pilot and navigator wore electrically heated clothing. AIRCRAFT JOURNAL, Vol. IV., No. 25, Saturday, 21 June 1919, at Page 9, Column 3

"Vickers 'Vimy" aircraft of Captain John Alcock and Lieut. A.W. Brown ready for trans-Atlantic flight, Lester's Field, 14 June 1919, St. John's, Nfld." (Library and Archives Canada/PA-121930)
“Vickers ‘Vimy” aircraft of Captain John Alcock and Lieut. A.W. Brown ready for trans-Atlantic flight, Lester’s Field, 14 June 1919, St. John’s, Nfld.” (Library and Archives Canada/PA-121930)

Alcock and Brown’s airplane was a Vickers F.B.27 Mk.IV Vimy, serial number C105. The Royal Air Force registration was B9952. On 1 May 1919, it was assigned Certificate of Registration No. 18, with the civil registration G-EAAR. The owner of the aircraft was the manufacturer, Vickers Ltd. Contemporary photographs of the Vimy do not show any registration markings, however.

"Vickers imt, 1919. Alcock & Browns tranatlantic aircraft crossed teh Atlantic between St. John's, Newfoundland and Clifden, Ireland between 14 an 15 June, 1919. The aircraft in the Vickers factory at Weybridge." (Getty Images/Science & Society Picture Library)
“Vickers Vimy, 1919. Alcock & Browns transatlantic aircraft crossed the Atlantic between St. John’s, Newfoundland and Clifden, Ireland between 14 and 15 June, 1919. The aircraft in the Vickers factory at Weybridge.” (Getty Images/Science & Society Picture Library)

The Vickers Vimy F.B.27 (named after the World War I Battle of Vimy Ridge) was a twin-engine, three-bay biplane night bomber built for the Royal Air Force. Its construction was typical of the time: a wooden framework covered with fabric. The engines were in nacelles, each supported by four vertical struts, midway between the upper and lower wings. The horizontal stabilizer/elevator were also biplane, and it had two vertical fins/rudders.

The Vimy was 43 feet, 7 inches (13.284 meters) long with a wingspan of 68 feet, 1 inch (20.752 meters) and height of 15 feet, 8 inches (4.775 meters). The bomber weighed 7,104 pounds ( 3,222 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 10,884 pounds (4,937 kilograms).

The Vimy was powered by two 1,240.5-cubic-inch-displacement (20.3 liter) water-cooled Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII single overhead cam 60° V-12 engines, rated at 350 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 360 horsepower at 2,035 r.p.m. (five minute limit). The engines drove four-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propellers through a 0.60:1 gear reduction. It used four Rolls-Royce/Claudel Hobson carburetors and four Watford magnetos. Fuel consumption at normal power at Sea Level was 23 gallons (87 liters) per hour. The engine weighed 847 pounds (384 kilograms).

Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII aircraft engine. (NASM)
Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII water-cooled V-12 aircraft engine. (NASM)

The Vimy had a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers per hour) at 6,500 feet (1,981 meters) and 96 miles per hour at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). In standard configuration, the bomber had a range of 900 miles (1,448 kilometers). Its service ceiling was 7,000 feet (2,134 meters). Vimy C105 was modified by Vickers to carry 1,050 gallons (3,975 liters) of gasoline for the transoceanic flight.

After their historic flight, Captain Alcock and Lieutenant Brown were invested Knight Commanders of the Order of the British Empire by King George V. They also had won a prize of £10,000 offered by Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, owner of the Daily Mail, and which was presented to them by Winston Churchill, the future prime minister. The pilots insisted that £2,000 go to the Vickers and Rolls-Royce mechanics who had prepared their airplane.

The Vimy was repaired by Vickers and Rolls-Royce, then donated it to the London Science Museum, where it is displayed near Amy Johnson’s DH.60G Gipsy Moth, Jason. Its civil registration was cancelled in May 1920.

Alcock and Brown's Vickers Vimy at the Science Museum, London. © Science Museum
Alcock and Brown’s Vickers Vimy at the Science Museum, London. © Science Museum

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

5 March 1936

The Vickers-Supermarine Type 300, K5054, during its first flight, 5 March 1936. The pilot is Captain Joseph Summers. (Supermarine Aviation Works)

5 March 1936: At 4:35 p.m., Vickers Aviation Ltd. chief test pilot Captain Joseph (“Mutt”) Summers took off on the first flight of the prototype of the legendary Supermarine Spitfire, K5054, at Eastleigh Aerodrome, Southampton, England. Landing after only 8 minutes, he is supposed to have said, “Don’t change a thing!”

The Vickers-Supermarine Type 300 was a private venture, built to meet an Air Ministry requirement¹ for a new single-place, single-engine interceptor for the Royal Air Force. The airplane was designed by a team led by Reginald Joseph Mitchell, CBE, FRAeS, and was built at the Supermarine Aviation Works, Southampton, Hampshire, England.

Vickers-Supermarine Type 300, K5054. (Supermarine Aviation Works)

R.J. Mitchell was famous for his line of Schneider Trophy-winning and world record-setting Supermarine racers of the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Supermarine S.4, S.5, S.6 and S.6B.² Mitchell was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire  (Civil Division) (CBE) in His Majesty’s New Year’s Honours, 2 January 1932, for “services in connection with the Schneider Trophy Contest.”

Reginald Joseph Mitchell, CBE, FRAeS. (20 May 1895–11 June 1937)

The Vickers-Supermarine Type 300 was 29 feet, 11 inches (9.119 meters) long, with a wingspan of 36 feet, 10 inches (11.227 meters) and overall height of 12 feet, 8 inches (3.861 meters). Its empty weight was 4,082 pounds (1,151.6 kilograms) and loaded weight was 5,359 pounds (2,430.8 kilograms).

K5054 was powered by a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,648.9-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Rolls-Royce Merlin C (“ramp head”) single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine, serial number C9 (Air Ministry serial number A111,139), which had a Normal Power rating of 1,029 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at an altitude of 11,000 feet (3,353 meters), with +6 pounds per square inch boost (0.41 Bar). The engine turned a Watts two-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propeller through a gear reduction drive (possibly 0.420:1). (K5083, the prototype Hawker Hurricane, was also equipped with a Merlin C.) An improved 1,035 horsepower Merlin F engine, serial number F21 (Air Ministry serial n8mber A115,73 ), was later installed.

The prototype Vickers-Supermarine Type 300, K5054, in light blue lacquer paint. (RAF Museum)

The Type 300 had a maximum speed of 349 miles per hour (562 kilometers per hour) at 16,800 feet (5,121 meters). It could reach 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) in 5 minutes, 52 seconds. The prototype had a service ceiling of 35,400 feet (10,790 meters).

A report summarizing the flight testing of K5054 stated, “The aeroplane is simple and easy to fly and has no vices.” Visibility was good, the cockpit was comfortable, and it was a stable gun platform.

 K5054 after crash landing at Matrlesham Heath, 22 March 1937. (Solent Sky Museum)
K5054 after crash landing at Martlesham Heath, 22 March 1937. (Solent Sky Museum)

On 22 March 1937, K5054’s engine lost oil pressure and the pilot made a belly landing on Marlesham Heath. The Spitfire was damaged, but was repaired and returned to service.

The prototype Spitfire stalled on landing at RAE Farnborough, 4 September 1939. After several bounces on the runway, it nosed over. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Gilbert Stanbridge (“Spinner”) White, was severely injured. He died 9 September.

K5054 was disassembled and scrapped.

The Air Ministry ordered the Spitfire Mk.I into production before K5054’s first flight, with an initial order for 310 airplanes. The first production fighter was delivered to the Royal Air Force 4 August 1938. Between 1938 and 1948, 20,351 Spitfires were built in 24 variants.

Captain Joseph Summers

Captain Joseph Summers, CBE, was born 10 March 1904. He was the older brother of Group Captain Maurice Summers, who was also a test pilot for Vickers. In 1922, he married Miss Dulcie Jeanette Belcher at Sculcoates, Yorkshire. They would have several children.

In 1924, Summers received a short-service commission as an officer in the Royal Air Force. He trained as a pilot with No. 2 Flight Training Squadron, at RAF Duxford. He was hospitalized for six months, which delayed his training, but he graduated in 1924 and was assigned to No. 29 Fighter Squadron. Summers was considered to be an exceptional pilot, and with just six months’ operational experience, he was assigned as a test pilot at the Aircraft and Armaments Engineering Establishment (A&AEE) at RAF Martlesham Heath. He remained there for the reminder of his military service. In June 1929 he became a test pilot for Vickers Ltd. (Aviation Department). He became the company’s chief test pilot in 1932.

During his career as a test pilot, “Mutt” Summers made the first flights of 54 prototype aircraft, including the Spitfire, the Vickers Type 618 Nene-Viking, the Vickers Type 630 Viscount four-engine turboprop airliner, and the Vickers Type 667 Valiant, a four-engine jet bomber. He flew more than 5,600 hours in 366 different aircraft types.

“Mutt’s approach to test flying was much more in sympathy with the knee-pad than with the complicated automatic observers which nowadays are an indispensable part of test flying. He vigorously defended the feel of an aeroplane as measured by his hand or by the seat of his pants, and I believe was always suspicious of the scientific approach. . . One learned never to regard his criticism or advice lightly. In a world of science and instrumentation his judgement and horsesense often threw an unscientific but accurate light on some dark problem.” —Sir George R. F. Edwards, OM, CBE, FRS, DL, Executive Director of the British Aircraft Corporation, quoted in Flight and Aircraft Engineer, No. 2357, Vol. 65, Friday, 26 March 1954, at Page 355, Column 2.

Joseph Summers, Esq., was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Civil Division (OBE), in His Majesty’s New Year’s Honours, Wednesday, 9 January 1946. He was promoted to Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Civil Division) (CBE) in Her Majesty’s Coronation Honours, Monday, 1 June 1953.

Summers died 16 March 1954 at the age of 50 years.

¹ Air Ministry Specification F.37/34 High Speed Monoplane Single Seater Fighter

² FAI Record File Number 11833, World Record for Speed Over a 3-Kilometer Course: 364.92 kilometers per hour (226.75 miles per hour). Supermarine S.4, Henri Biard, 13 September 1925.

FAI Record File Number 14999, World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers: 531.20 kilometers per hour (330.07 miles per hour), Supermarine S.6, Henry Richard Danvers Waghorn, 7 September 1929.

FAI Record File Number 11831, World Record for Speed Over a 3-Kilometer Course: 655 kilometers per hour (407 miles per hour), Supermarine S.6B, George Hedley Stainforth, 29 September 1931.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

13 December 1918

Handley Page V/1500. (Royal Air Force)
Handley Page V/1500. (Royal Air Force)
Archibald Charles Stuart MacLaren.
Archibald Stuart Charles Stuart-MacLaren, Squadron Leader, Royal Air Force.

13 December 1918: Major Archibald Stuart Charles Stuart-MacLaren, Captain Robert (“Jock”) Halley, DFC, AFC, accompanied by Brigadier General Norman D.K. MacEwan (later, Air Vice Marshal Sir Norman Duckworth Kerr MacEwen CB, CMG, DSO, RAF), who would be the new Air Officer Commanding in India, left Martlesham Heath, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, for India aboard a Handley Page V/1500 heavy bomber, J1936, HMA Old Carthusian. Also aboard were Flight Sergeant Smith and Sergeant Crockett, fitters, and Sergeant Thomas Brown, rigger.

N.D.K. MacEwan, Lieutenant Colonel, Royal Air Force
N.D.K. MacEwan, Lieutenant Colonel, Royal Air Force

The route of flight was Rome, Malta, Cairo, Baghdad, and finally, Karachi. They would arrive on 15 January 1919.

2nd Air Mechanic Archibald Stuart Charles Stuart-MacLaren was issued Aviator’s Certificate No. 1310 by The Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, 4 June 1915. He trained in a Caudron Biplane at the British Flying School, Le Crotoy, France.

Group Captain Robert Halley, RAF, had been a cyclist with the Royal Highlanders. He requested flight training and was accepted as a probationary Flight Officer. He was trained at RNAS Vendome. During World War I, he flew more than twenty long range night bombing missions over Germany, for which he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

On 24 May 1919, during the Third Afghan War, Halley flew Old Carthusian through the Khyber Pass in pre-dawn darkness with observer Lieutenant Ted Villiers and the three sergeants, Smith, Crockett and Brown. The Handley Page V/1500 was armed with a bomb load of four 112 pound (50.8 kilogram) and sixteen 20 pound (9.1 kilogram) bombs. The target was the royal palace of Amanullah Khan in Kabul. The bombs were released from an altitude of 700 feet (213 meters) and did little damage, but with the resulting panic, the Khan surrendered. The single bombing raid is credited with ending the war.

Cockpit of a Handley Page V/1500.
Cockpit of a Handley Page V/1500.

The Handley Page V/1500 first flew 22 May 1918. The designation comes from the original name, Type 5, combined with the total horsepower of its engines. It was a three-bay biplane with four engines mounted in two nacelles between the upper and lower wings. The bomber was 64 feet, 0 inches (19.507 meters) long with a wingspan of 126 feet, 0 inches (38.405 meters) and was 23 feet, 0 inches (7.010 meters) high. Empty weight was 17,600 pounds (7,983 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 30,000 pounds (13,608 kilograms).

The engines were water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,240.536-cubic-inch-displacement (20.329 liter) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12s, each rated at 360 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. Maximum engine speed was 1,900 r.p.m. The Eagle VIII had a propeller gear reduction ratio of 0.6:1. Two of the engines were at the forward end of the nacelles in tractor configuration, and two were at the rear in pusher configuration. The propellers were two-bladed units with fixed pitch.

Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII aircraft engine (serial number 5272) at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

The V/1500 had a maximum speed of 99 miles per hour (159.3 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and its service ceiling was 11,000 feet (3,353 meters). It carried fuel to remain airborne for 17 hours. Maximum range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The V/1500 was armed with three .303-caliber Lewis machine guns. The maximum bomb load was 7,500 pounds ( kilograms).

Handley Page built 63 V/1500 bombers. J1936, being constructed primarily of wood and fabric, finally succumbed to termites.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather