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Library Reference Number: 164

The Flying Career of an RAF Test Pilot

It has always been necessary to find pilots of sufficient calibre and skill to fly new and modified aircraft in specific manoeuvres, allowing the results to be measured and the design to be evaluated. Testing military aircraft in particular, is regarded as the most challenging and risky flying conducted in peacetime, and is therefore the pinnacle of military aviation. Risks have decreased thanks to the development of technology, better ground testing and simulation. However, flying experimental aircraft remains more dangerous than most other types of flying. The following account follows the progress of one RAF Test Pilot, showing the large variation in types of aircraft tested.

Squadron Leader George John McIntosh, AFC
Test Pilot RAE Farnborough, 1967; RAE Bedford, 1984; Chief Test Pilot GEC Ferranti, Edinburgh, 1992.

Service Experience:

1954-56 Joined RAF at No.1 ITS Kirton in Lindsey, then to No.2 FTS Hullavington for pilot training Provost T1, thence to No.4 FTS Middleton St.George and Worksop on Vampire T11 and FB5.

1956-57 After operational conversion at No.233 OCU Pembrey on Vampire T11 and FB5, joined No.249 (Gold Coast) Squadron flying Venom FB4 from Cyprus, Libya, Malta, Kenya, Oman.

1957-59 Operations Wing, RAF Khormaksar, Aden.

1959-62 Operational training on Valiant B1 at No.232 OCU Gaydon, afterwards joining No.90 Squadron at Honington as co-pilot on Valiant B1. Returned to Gaydon for Captain’s Course, continued on No.90 Squadron as Captain on Valiant B1 (K) Tankers.

1963-04 Having left the RAF for a year, rejoined for RAF Refresher Flying at Strubby on Meteor T7 and F8, followed by Flying Instructor’s Course at Central Flying School, Little Rissington, on Jet Provost T3 & T4 & Gnat T1.

1964-66 Qualified Flying Instructor at No.4 FTS Valley on Gnat T1.

1967-67 Graduated from No.26 Course, Empire Test Pilots’ School, Farnborough.

1968-71 Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough on various programmes involving test flying on Canberra T4, B6, PR7, B(I)8 and Buccaneer Mk 1 and Mk 2, Lightning T5 and Shackleton Mk 3 and 4. Programmes included weapons development for BL755 cluster bomb, Concorde escape systems, structural testing for Concorde involving Max Mach No/ IAS in Lightning, and Low-Light TV testing in Buccaneer and Shackleton. Flew Canberra B(I)8 WJ643 t West Freugh on Harrier Nav/Attack System trials, and, after modification to LRMTS configuration, conducted clearance flights on aircraft.

1971-72 Buccaneer Simulator Acceptance Team. Posted as OC Buccaneer Simulator at No.237 OCU Honington.

1972-75 HQ 1 Group Bomber Command, Bawtry on Operations Staff.

1975-75 After Refresher Course at CFS Little Rissington on Jet Provost T3A and T5A, undertook Conversion Course on Dominie T1.

1975-78 OC Advanced Squadron, Examining Wing, CFS Little Rissington, Cranwell and Leeming examining RAF Instructors on Hawk T1, Gnat T1, Hunter T7, F6 and FGA9, Hastings, Varsity and Jetstream T1. Also carried out examining visits to foreign air forces e.g. Malaya, Singapore, Oman, Sri Lanka and Ecuador. During tour, flew 13 different jet types and 9 piston types from singles to 4-engined aircraft.

1978-80 Assistant Defence Attache (Air), Helsinki, Finland.

1980-83 Ministry of Defence (PE) London, Flying Operations, Directorate of Flying (PE).

1983-84 Hawk T1 Refresher Course, No.1 TWU, Brawdy, Buccaneer S2 Refresher, No.237 OCU Honington.

1984-89 OC Radar Research Squadron, RAE Bedford, responsible for development work for airborne and ground-based radar systems. Projects included Foxhunter Radar (for Tornado F2/3) development trials in a modified Buccaneer S2, flight clearance of BAC1-11 ZE433 fitted with Blue Vixen, synthetic aperture radar trials in a Canberra.

1989 Retired from RAF.

Commercial Experience:

1989-92 Commercial Flying Instructor at Air Service Training, Scone, Perth, training pilots for commercial licences and instrument ratings. Became Chief Flying Instructor on Cessna 150, Piper PA28 and Cessna 310.

1992-2000 Joined GEC Ferranti Defence Systems at Edinburgh Airport to fly BAC1-11 ZE433 leased from MOD after modification and clearance by RAE Bedford for Captor Radar Trials for Eurofighter. Chief Test Pilot for Edinburgh Flight Trials Unit until retirement in 2000. Flew BAC1-11 and HS125 for the company (which became GEC Marconi thence BAE Systems Avionics during period).

Awards & Achievements:

1978 Awarded Air Force Cross after tour on Examining Wing, CFS.

George McIntosh died on 21st October,2008. He was a member of the Scottish Saltire Branch of The Aircrew Association and lived in Peebles. The above details were carefully recorded by George shortly before he died. We acknowledge our gratitude to George’s family for agreeing to the above record appearing on our website. This allows us pay tribute and gain an insight into the commitment displayed during the flying career of an RAF Test Pilot.

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