Thursday, 20 September 2012

Test Pilot - John R Blatch

I recently exchanged a few tweets with Andre about the sale of XL164 at Gatwick. My father, John R Blatch, flew the jet in the 1960s and Andre asked me to write a brief blog about his time.

Flying Officer John R Blatch in front of his
Vampire Mk 9 (WR244) at RAF Deversoir circa 1953
Typically I suppose, I was rather dismissive of my father’s career when I was younger. Now, as an adult with my own children I look with some wonderment at his flying log books. After starting out as an apprentice mechanic, he became an RAF fighter pilot and went on to spend most of the 1960s flying pretty much everything the UK had as a trials pilot at Boscombe Down.

His log books would make most modern day RAF pilots misty eyed. I counted 8 different aircraft in ten trips in June 1959 alone. Types flown include 748, Anson, Argosy, B-47, Canberra, Devon, Dragonfly, Gannet, Gnat, Hastings, Hunter, Javelin, Fairey Junior, Lightning, Lincoln, Meteor, Tipsy Nipper, Oxford, Pembroke, Seahawk, Shackleton, Swift, Sycamore, Twin Pioneer, Valetta, Vampire, Venom, and of course the mighty v-force: Valiant Victor, Vulcan. That, believe it or not, is not a comprehensive list!


Two of his ‘V-Bombers’ Victor XA918 & Vulcan XM648
 from Boscombe Down circa 1965
Of the V-Bombers, he flew the Victor the least, but took up 10 different airframes, of which XH673 survives as a gate guard at Marham and the aforementioned nose section of XL164 is up for sale…




Victor XL164, Farnborough 1960s

His Victor trips include log book comments such as ‘Auto Pilot Stability’, ‘Handling – 180,000 lbs’ and ‘Window Drop’.








Vulcan XH534 at Farnborough 1960
I continue to trace the aircraft he flew, I have a pretty comprehensive list that shows most ended at the scrap yard, some were lost in accidents but a surprising number remain in tact, with one Harvard KF183, still in service I believe.

A more varied flying career it would be hard to find. Dad is still going strong by the way, now 81.



James Blatch

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