The book, published to coincide with 65 years of test flying from BAE Systems Warton Aerodrome in Lancashire, has been written by acclaimed aviation author Jim Longworth and covers military aviation at the leading edge from the First World War until the 1960s.
For Jim, who can regularly be found in our Heritage Department at Warton, the book has been nothing less than a labour of love. A long-standing promoter of Lancashire’s aerospace industry, the former head of the industrial development and promotion unit of Lancashire County Council, has already written a highly-praised history of aircraft in Lancashire called Triplane to Typhoon – but this new work tells the stories of the pilots behind the machines. It also explains exactly why Lancashire became a UK centre of excellence for aerospace manufacture.
Speaking from an airfield where 65 years ago this year ‘Bee’ Beamont first began test-flying Gloucester Meteors in Lancashire, Jim said: “ Ever since the summer of 1947 when Chief Experimental Test Pilot ‘Bee’ Beamont began an eleven month research programme with a borrowed aircraft there has been an unbroken continuity of aircraft manufacturing, final assembly and test flying in Lancashire. It is a fantastic heritage and has led today to us having one of the most advanced and technically competent aerospace manufacturing centres in the world.”
Jim’s book contains within it some remarkable stories – including tales of test pilots ditching in the sea and others surviving against incredible odds when testing the performance limits of innovative machines and new technologies.
The book also details how 54 years ago this winter a British pilot took a British aircraft to Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) for the first time flying from Warton in Lancashire setting the record just off the coast of St Bees Head in Cumbria.
As our current chief test pilot Mark Bowman said: “It is sometimes hard to fully comprehend and not underestimate the enormous significance of such feats and the real people behind them; people who all those years ago, were the first to push back boundaries of speed and altitude so that today’s combat aircraft can fully and safely exploit the edges of modern technology.”
Test Flying in Lancashire is available at branches of Waterstones (Preston) and local independents Silverdell (Kirkham) and Plackitt & Booth (Lytham), priced £9.99 per copy. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to BAE Systems supported local charities.