AN ANCIENT AIR : A BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN STRINGFELLOW OF CHARD, THE VICTORIAN AERONAUTICAL PIONEER
Harald James Penrose O.B.E., CEng, F.R.Ae.S, A.M.I.N.A. ( April 12th, 1904 - August 31st, 1996 ) was born in Hereford ( Herefordshire, England ). His fascination with manned flight started at an early age when his father showed him pictures of Bleriot's monoplane. He first flew aged 7 in a man - lifting kite at the dizzying height of 10 ft. His first powered flight was in 1919, in a modified three seat Avro 504K, piloted by Alan Cobham ( 1894 - 1973 ).
When he left school in 1920, he was unable to find an apprenticeship in the aircraft industry, so on the advice of Frederick Handley Page he attended the Aeronautical Engineering Course at Northampton Engineering College, London University. During a visit to de Havilland, he flew in the prototype Moth as a passenger, piloted by Hubert Broad ( 1897 - 1975 ). As part of his course, he undertook industrial placements working for Handley Page Ltd and Westland Aircraft Ltd.
After graduation in 1926, Harald J. Penrose was employed by Westland Aircraft Ltd. He started work on the shop floor, later working as an observer for the Test Pilot Lawrence Openshaw, then as assistant to Captain Geoffrey Hill ( 1895 - 1955 ) supervising the construction of the Widgeon III prototype. In 1927, he took 3 months unpaid leave and learned to fly with Reserve of Air Force Officers ( R.A.F.O. ) at Filton. There he first flew Bristol P.T.M.'s and later a Bristol Jupiter fighter. During this training, he met Cyril Uwins ( 1896 - 1972 ) after the latter's encounter with control reversal in a Bristol Bagshot. Later, Cyril Uwins would mentor Harald J. Penrose in the science of flight testing and they would become good friends. On returning to Westland, he was employed working between the Works and the Design Office. Under the guidance of Westland's new test pilot, Louis Paget, Harald J. Penrose became involved in test flying. He gained his A - licence which allowed him to fly as a private pilot and he flew Widgeons at weekend air displays, eventually becoming responsible for all Widgeon testing.
As Westland's Chief Test Pilot ( after Louis Paget's accident in 1931 ), Harald J. Penrose established a number of unusual aviation records in the 1930's. Prior to flying the twin - engined fighter Whirlwind ( developed by Westland ), to get experience of aircraft with high wing loadings and retractable undercarriages, Harald J. Penrose flew the Spitfire prototype K5054, the Fairey Battle prototype and a Bristol Blenheim.
As a reserve officer in the R.A.F., he expected to be called up at the start of the Second World War. However, at 36 years old and with valuable experience of test flying he was turned down by the R.A.F.'s Personnel Department. Instead, he returned to Lysander and Whirlwind development. During the war, Harald J. Penrose was responsible for various aircraft test flying ( Whirlwind, Spitfire, Lysander and even a captured Messerschmitt Bf 109 ). In the summer of 1945, he flew a twin - engined jet fighter Gloster Meteor as a guest of No. 616 Squadron. He described it as " far easier and safer machine than that superb fighter the Spitfire ". But the experience was marred during landing by uncertainty that the undercarriage had locked down while simultaneously running low on fuel.
After the war, Harald J. Penrose led the flight testing of the Westland Wyvern ( which proved to be so lethal than any other contemporary aircraft ). In 1953, after 25 years of test, Harald J. Penrose retired from the role of Chief Test Pilot to take over Westland's helicopter sales.
He also demonstrated a talent for writing at an early age, winning his school's premier prize for literature. His early books drew on personal experiences, such as I Flew with the Birds ( 1949 ), No Echo in the Sky ( 1958 ) and Airymouse ( 1967 ). In his later works he wrote about the history of the British aircraft industry : Architect of Wings ( 1985 ), a biography of the Avro designer Roy Chadwick and a five - volume history of British aviation.
( source : Wikipedia )