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Bitteswell Flight Testing (A History) PA1716/4 1946 - 1956

These documents are held at Coventry Archives

Contents:
In mid-1946 Mr BH Slatter was appointed Flight Engineer, directly responsible to Mr
WF Saxton, Chief Engineer. In this capacity he was given the task of forming the
Experimental Flight Section at Bitteswell for the flight development of engines installed
in flying test beds. The department consisted of five technicians, who were responsible
for analysing the performance records obtained as well as carrying out the actual flying
duties. At a later stage, due to the very greatly increased amount of development flying,
more technicians were employed and were divided into two groups. One based at
Bitteswell, mainly for flying duties and the other at Parkside, later Ansty, to carry out
more detailed performance analysis and the issuing of preformance brochures. Squadron
Leader Waldo B Price-Owen was appointed Chief Test Pilot in 1947 when the first
aircraft was ready for delivery to Bitteswell. This was Lancaster ND.784, which had a
Mamba engine installed in the nose by AST Hamble, and was delivered in October 1947.
Prior to this, a limited amount of development flying had been carried out on the ASK
engine installed in the belly of the same Lancaster operating from Bruntingthorpe. By
1951, six different types of engines were being developed at Bitteswell, using 10
different aircraft, this being the highest number of types used in one year. Engine flying
hours increased steadily until 1956 when a total of 2,433 hours was achieved. From then
until March 1959, a decrease in flying hours became noticeable, due mainly to the cuts in
the Defence Programme, but a reasonably high standard was maintained, principally on
the Sapphire and Viper engines. Mr W Wright formed the Instrument Section, which now
incorporates an electronic laboratory, which among other things, has been responsible for
producing a sensitive means of recording engine conditions in flight. The photographing
of intake de-icing, and vibration instruments, with the Siesmic generator and barium
titanate accelarometer type pick-up in flight. Three technicians were permanently
employed on liaison duties, and a flight section technician was always present during
initial engine installation, and initial flights of prototype aircraft at outside manufactures
establishments. Liason with the RAF and RN and in particular A & AEE Boscombe
Down, when aircraft were undergoing special trials was also the responsibilty of this
department. Technicians also accompanied aircraft abroad during tropical trials and at sea
during carrier trials. The department was sub-divided into two sections; Pure Jet under
Mr Bowers and Propeller Turines under Mr Bortkiewicz, until Mr Bowers resigned to
take up the position of Technical Sales Manager and Mr Bortkiewicz became
Development Engineer (Flight), covering both sections. The merger of Armstrong
Siddeley Motors and Bristol Engines on 1 April 1959 resulted in the Department moving
to Bristol. 1947 The first of the flying test beds arrived at Bitteswell in October. This was
Lancaster ND.784 with a Mamba engine installed in the nose.The aircraft was flown by
Squdron Leader Price-Owen. By the end of the year, a total 15 hours was flown.
Personnel had flown 22 hours during the same period. 1948 Flight testing for the year
was carried out of Lancaster ND.784 and Balliol VL.935, a total of 138 hours flying was
completed on the Mamba engine. The technicians completed 243 flying hours during the
same period. The installation of the Mamba trainer engines were installed in the Avro
Athena, and Bolton Paul Balliol aircraft. The prototypes of both aircraft were flown
initially towards the middle of the year. The Balliol prototype was delivered to Bitteswell
in October, after appearing in the SBAC show together with the Athena. Squadron
Leader JB Starky joined the company as Assistant Chief Test Pilot in September. 1949 A
further three aircraft were added to the fleet during the year, Lancaster TW.911 (Python);
Lancaster SW.342 (Mamba); and Dakota KJ.839 (Mamba). Technicians now numbered
15, the majority were on flying duties. A total of 292 hours were flown by the aircraft,
and the engine flying hours were 355. Technician flying time amounted to 498 hours.
Engines were installed in the Apollo, Gannet and Wyvern prototypes, and these aircraft
carried out initial flights during the year. A conversion to Mamba engines was also
carried out on a Marathon aircraft, which successfully completed its initial flights. 1950:
The strength of the fleet was made up to eight by the addition of Lancasterian VM.733
(Sapphire); Athena VM.132 (Mamba); and Wyvern VM.868. Engine flying time was 832
hours, utilising 539 aircraft hours. Technicians 915 hours. The first 1,000 hours
development on the Mamba engines was completed. In addition to the normal flight
development programme, anti-icing tests were commenced on the Mamba Lancaster
SW.342. Outside activities included initial flights of the Sturgeon WF.632 (Mamba);
Blackburn YB.1 WB.797 (Double Mamba); Meteor WA.820 (Sapphire); and Lancastrian
VM.733 (Sapphire). The Marathon G-AHXU was entered in the 'Daily Express' Air
Race, piloted by Mr Hugh Kendall, with Mr C Hanbury (Armstrong Siddeley Motors) as
flight engineer. The aircraft finished seventh of 67 starters. A Gannet and Wyvern made
the first deck landings ever to be made by Propeller turines on HMS Illustrious and this
was later followed by the Blackburn YB.1. Seven Armstrong Siddeley engined aircraft
took part in the SBAC show. These were a Meteor (Sapphire), Wyvern (Python),
Blackburn and Gannet (Double Mamba), and Apollo, Sturgeon and Marathon (Mamba).
Mr T Pickett was appointed test pilot, bring the strength up to three. 1951 Fourteen
aircraft were utilised on development flying. The additional ones being Balliol VL.892
(Mamba); Hawker P.1072, VP.401 (Snarler); Meteor WA.820 (Sapphire); Blackburn
YB.1, WB.797 (Double Mamba); Canberra WD.933 (Sapphire); Wyvern VW.882
(Python); and Lincoln RE.418 (Python). 1054 engine flyings hours; 678 aircraft flying
hours were achieved. Technicians flying time 1107 hours. The section was now operating
five different types of engine on normal development programmes; Mamba, Double
Mamba, and Python. Adder and Sapphire. Successful flights were made with the P.1072
fitted with the Snarler rocket for extra thrust. Anti-icing tests were continued on the
Mamba engine in the Lancaster SW.342. An Adder engine was installed in the tail of
Lancaster SW.342 and flight -tested prior to its installation in the Australian Pika, a
piloted version of the Jindivik. Another application for the Adder was the Saab Draaken,
and both the Pika and Draaken made initial flights during the year.Flight testing of engine
controls ans components was also carried out. A jet pipe temperature control system was
installed in the Mamba in Lancaster SW.342. A lot of time was devoted to the
development of engine starters. Also flying were the Javelin (Sapphire), Canberra
WD.933 (Sapphire), and Lincoln RE.418 (Python). Armstrong Siddeley engined aircraft
in the SBAC flying display were: Canberra (Sapphire), Meteor (Sapphire), Gannet
(Double Mamba), and Marathon (Mamba). Sqd/Ldr WB Price relinquished his position
as CTP in March and was succeeded by Sqd/Ldr JB Starky. Mr P Aked and Mr T
Morrison joined the company as test pilots. Mr T Pritchard in the Sapphire-powered
Meteor WA.820, attained a height of 12,000 metres/39,360 feet in 3 minutes 7 seconds.
1952 Twelve aircraft were operated during the year. Lancaster ND.784, Balliol VL.935
were disposed of during 1951. Canberra WV.787 (Sapphire) and Gannet VR.557 (Double
Mamba), arrived during the year. 1063 engine hours utilised 708 aircraft hours.
Technicians flying 935 hours. The first 1,000 hours development flying on Sapphire
engines was completed. The flight development of Sapphire engines was again
responsible for 50% of the total flying carried out. Sa.Mk.2 and Sa.Mk.3 in the
Lancasterian VM.733 and Sa.6 in the Canberra WD.933. The initial flight of the Adder
engine, with reheat, was carried in Lancaster SW.342. Artificial icing tests were also
continued on this aircraft on the Mamba engine. Propeller de-icing was carried out on the
Marathon. A jet pipe temperature control system was fitted and flight tested on the
Mamba engines in the Dakota. Python engines were installed in the outboard engine
positions in 4 Lincolns for special high-altitude bombing tests by the RAAF. One of these
Lincolns RE.418 was delivered to Bitteswell for flight testing before leaving for
Australia. A flight development programme was carried out, consisting of timed climbs at
various aircraft weights in order to determine the maximum operating ceiling of the
aircraft. An altitude of 38,000 feet was achieved with an all up weight at take-off of
58,300 lbs and 35,000 feet at 69,000 lbs AUW. Three Armstrong Siddeley engined
aircraft took part at the SBAC show: Javelin (Sapphire), Canberra (Sapphire) and Gannet
(Double Mamba). In September Sqd/Ldr JB Starky resigned as CTP and was replaced by
SqdLdr L DeVigne. Mr BM Slatter was made Cjief Engineer to Mr WH Lindsay and Mr
TG Daish took over the section. 1953 Three additional aircraft were delivered: Wyvern
VZ.517 and Wyvern VZ.747 and a Meteor VZ.517. Five aircraft: Lancaster TW.911,
Athena VM.132, Hawker P.1072, VP.401; and Wyvern VW.882 were disposed of,
bringing the total number of aircraft utilised to ten. 963 engine hours utilising 641 aircraft
hours were completed. technicians flying time amounted to 768 hours. Twelve
technicians were now employed on flying duties. The normal engine development
programme contiued on Sapphire, Mamba, Double Mamba, Python and Viper. Additional
development work included testing of a stall recovery system on the Mamba engines in
the Dakota and cartridge starting on Python engines in the Wyvern. Further de-icing tests
were carried out on the Lancaster. The first 1,000 hours development flying was
completed on the Double Mamba. A Gannet completed warm weather trials at Malta, and
a Wyvern completed tropical trials at Khartoum. Three Gannet took part in the
Coronation Review at Spithead and a Victor took part in the Coronation fly-past.
Armstrong Siddeley engined aircraft at SBAC show: Wyvern (Python), Javelin, Vulcan,
Hunter (Sapphire); Gannet (Double Mamba); Seamew (Mamba). Prototypes to make
initial flying were Seamew (Mamba); Hastings and Vulcan (Sapphire); and Jindivik
(Viper). Mr E Griffiths took over as CTP from Sqd/Ldr DeVigne. Mr L Griffiths and Mr
A Wittridge joined the company as test pilots. Mr BR Tribe was appointed Engineer-in-
charge at Bitteswell, directly responsible to Mr Saxton. 1954: Thirteen aircraft operated
during the year. Three Gannets, two Wyvern and one Hunter were added to the strength.
Two Gannets and Meteor WA.820 were disposed of. 1,098 engine flying hours utilised
706 aircraft hours. technicians flying time was 770 hours. Twelve technicians employed
on flying duties. Sapphire 7 development commenced in August, but was temporarily
discontinued in November when Canberra WD.933 was force-landed on the airfield and
written-off. Sapphire 6 reheat development commenced in Canberra WV.787 in March
and continued throughout the year. A Wyvern was, fitted with a fuel recuperator system,
and was delivered to RAE Farnborough for catapult tests. A total of 2,000 hours
development flying on Sapphire engines was completed during the year. Prototype
aircraft to make initial flights during the year were: English Electric P.1 (Sa.5); Midge
and Provost (Viper); and Canberra WV.787 (Sa.6 reheat). The long-life Viper made its
initial flight in Lancaster SW.342. A record number of Armstrong Siddeley engined
aircraft appeared at SBAC show: Vulan, Victor, Javelin, Hunter and Canberra (Sapphire);
Provost and Midge (Viper); Gannet (Double Mamba); and Seamew (Mamba). In May, an
unfortunate accident to Wyvern VZ.747, resulted in the death of Mr E Griffiths. His
duties were carried on by Sqd/Ldr JB Starky. Mr SJ Bartlam was appointed test pilot.
1955 Eight additional aircraft were delivered furing the year: Two Canberras, two
Hunters and one Javelin (Sapphire); a Jet Provost (Viper); and two Gannet (Double
Mamba). Ninteen aircraft were utilised. A total of 1,481 engine flying hours utilizes
1,031 aircraft hours. Technicians flying hours 1,040, their strength was now 17. A total of
3,000 development flying hours was reached on the Sapphire engines. The Blackburn
YB.1, two Gannets, two Wyverns, one Canberra and a Hunter were disposed of. Double
Mamba development flying continued to rise steadily, but a gradual fall-off of Python
development was shown. Sapphire development showed an increase over the previous
year and again accounted for more than half the development flying. The initial flight of
the Viper 8 engine in Provost XD.674, Canberra WK.141 (Sa.7) and the Swiss P.16
fighter aircraft (Sa.6) were carried out. Anti-icing tests commenced on the Lancastrian
VM.733 (Sa.) in December. Armstrong Siddeley were again well represented at the
SBAC show: English Electric P.1, Javelin and Victor (Sapphire); Provost (Viper); Gannet
(Double Mamba) and Seamew (Mamba). Mr TP Frost was appointed CTP in June, taking
over the duties of Mr P Aked, who had been acting CTP since November 1954. Mr BH
Slatter became Chief technician and the section under Mr J Marlow. Mr TG Daish
retained his position as Development Engineer (Flight performance); and Mr Bowers and
Mr Bortkiewicz were Assistant Development Engineers. 1956 Engine flying hours 2,433
utilising 1,554 aircraft hours. Technicians' flying time 1,390 hours, the highest yearly
total. Fifteem technicians were on flying duties. On completion of the anti-icing tests on
Lancaster VM.733, the aircraft, which was the last of the four-engined test-beds, was
disposed of. The initial installation of the Sa.7 12% reheat was completed, but the aircraft
Javelin XA.560 did not fly this year. Special vibration tests were carried out on two
Hunter aircraft Hunter WN.889 and Hunter WP.114. The initial installation and flight the
D.8 engine in Gannet WH.345 was carried out. Intensive flying on Gannet WN.340
accounted for 20% of the total flying carried out at Bitteswell during the year. A
substantial rise in the Double Mamba and Sapphire engine development accounted for
well over 50% of the total flying achieved. A system of top temperature control was fitted
to the Sa.7 engines in Canberra WK.141 for flight testing. Deck landings aboard HMS
Bulwark and HMS Warrior were completed successfully by Gannet aircraft. Sapphire
Sa.5 reheat was first flown in the English Electric P1 WG.760 and the Trident prototype
(Viper) completed its first flight. Mr J Pollitt joined the company as a test pilot. A total of
4,000 hours Sapphire and 2,000 D.Ma development flying time was reached during the
year. 1957 Three Javelins and one Provost were added to the fleet at Bitteswell, the
number of aircraft utilised during the year was 14. 1515 engine flying hours were
achieved in 1090 aircraft hours. Technician flying hours amounted to 990. And the
number of technicians engaged on flying duties was 15. 5,000 hours development flying
on Sapphire engines was reached during the year. Javelin XH.707 (Sa.7) qas allocated on
Bitteswell for investigation of overspeeding after the booster pump failed. Investigation
of vibration was carried out on Javelin XA.711 (Sa.6) and Hunter WP.114 (Sa.6). The
initial flight of Javelin XA.560 (Sa.7) 12% reheat, was carried out. Development flying
on the Sa.6 engine was reduced and Hunter WN.889 (Sa.6) was disposed of. The
reduction in flying hours was due mainly to defence cuts. Gannet WN.395 was engaged
in anti-icing investigation and propeller vibration investigation. Armstrong Siddeley
Motors engined aircraft appearing at the SBAC show were: Victor, Javelin, English
Electric P1 (Sapphire); SR 53 and Provost (Viper); Gannet (Double Mamba). In addition
to these aircraft, 15 Gannets took part in a fly-past by the RN and 5 Javelins were
included in the RAF fly-past. A re-organisation of the department took place in January.
M Daish was confined in his duties to performance analysis and prediction. Mr Bowers
and Mr Bortheuz were appointed development and engineers flight, on jets and propeller
turines respectively. 1958 Four aircraft were added to the strength of the fleet at
Bitteswell in the year. Ashton WB.494, Javelin XH.753 (Sapphire); Gannet XA.396
(Double Mamba); and Jet Provost G-AOUS (Viper). A total of 1,529 engine flying hours
was achieved with a total of 14 aircraft flying 1,195 hours. The strength of technicians on
flying duties was 15 accounting for a total of 830 flying hours. JPT control and fuel
system development associated with the Victor was carried out on the Sa.7 engines in
Canberra WK.141, and towards the end of the year, this aircraft was used as a flying test-
bed for performance assessment of the Viper 3 engine to Jindivik standard. Sa.7 reheat
development was continued on Javelin XA.560 and Javelin XH.746. Special
investigation was continued into the malfunctioning of the reheat system were carried out
on Javelin XH.753 for a limited period. Low pressure filter bowl and engine de-icing
tests were carried out on the Ashton WB.494 with Sa.7 engine mounted pod in the belly.
500 hours endurance flying on Viper engine Provost XD.694 was commenced in
September. It was engaged on performance assessment and investigation of governor
resetting, negative creep characteristics, noise and vibration level and engine blow-out
checks. 1,000 hours development flying on Viper engines was reached. A Provost G-
AOUS was delivered in December for performance assessment of the Viper 11 engine.
Flight-testing of Plessey overheat controls for the Dunlop mat surfaces of the anti-icing
system were carried out on Gannet WN.395. This work was also carried out on Gannet
WN.345, which was also engaged on tested with heater fuel, performance assessment,
endurance flying and vibration measurement of the D.8 engine. 2,000 hours development
flying on Double Mamba engines was reached. Armstrong Siddeley Motors aircraft at the
SBAC show were: Victor and Javelin (Sapphire); Provost (Viper); Gannet (Double
Mamba). In addition, a fly-past of 45 Javelins was carried out by the RAF. The Macchi
Trainer made its initial flight. Mr Bowers left the section in September and Mr
Bortkiewicz became Development Engineer with Mr Curtis Assistant Engineer (Pure
Jets); and Mr P Field Assistant Development Engineer (Propeller Turbine). 1959 A total
of 743 engine flying hours, utilising 551 aircraft hours was achieved up to 31 March
1959. Technician flying hours 270 and the number of technicians on flying duties 10. The
greater part of the total flying hours was carried out on the Provost XD.694, which
completed 500 hours flying on one engine (Viper 8). This was a notable achievement as
much of the flying was carried out in atrocious weather conditions. Shroud and zone
temperature investigations were carried out on Javelin XH.746, and from these tests, the
final CA released standard was confirmed. At the end of March 1959, the fleet of aircraft
held at Bitteswell comprised of: Javelin XA.560, Javelin XA.557, Javelin XH.746;
Canberra WK.141; Procost XD.694, Provost XM.353, Provost G-AOUS; Gannet
WN.345, Gannet WN.395