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Up, Up and Away

Beamont in Lightning cockpit
A new book published by the BAE Systems Heritage Department is now available detailing the history of test flying from Warton and Samlesbury.

Recently published by the BAE Systems Heritage Department at Warton, this new book researched and written by Heritage Department member and local aviation author James Longworth, is the first in a series telling the story of test flying carried out by BAE Systems and its predecessor companies British Aerospace, the British Aircraft Corporation and English Electric in Lancashire.

Dealing with the period from the First World War up to the 1960s, the first book describes the test flying origins of an industry that in Lancashire alone employs some 15,000 people directly, as many again indirectly in support and supply chain companies, and twice those numbers again in the North West as a whole. From flight trials of Felixstowe and Kingston flying boats from the Ribble estuary during WW1 and the 1920s, aircraft made at Preston and Lytham by Messrs Dick, Kerr & Co and the English Electric Co, it goes on to describe the test flying from Samlesbury of nearly 3,000 Handley Page Hampden and Halifax bomber aircraft during WW2 and over 1,300 de Havilland Vampire jet fighters in the late 1940s/early1950s.

Publication of this first in a series of books coincides with the 65th Anniversary of Beamont’s first experimental test flight from Warton in 1947. Flying early jet aircraft in those days was to enter previously unexplored realms of speed, altitude and the dreaded ‘sound barrier’, flying at the absolute limits, with often unknown effects on aircraft handling and structural integrity.

Future volumes to be published next year will cover the periods 1960s to the 1980s and 1980s to the present day, covering aircraft such as the TSR2, Jet Provost/Strikemaster, Jaguar, MRCA/Tornado, EAP, Hawk, Nimrod MRA4 and Eurofighter Typhoon.