Fighter Test Pilot: From Hurricane to Tornado

Fighter Test Pilot: From Hurricane to Tornado

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160 pages, well illustrated (some in color), cloth, DJ, very good. From Wikipedia: "Wing Commander Roland Prosper "Bee" Beamont CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar (August 10, 1920 — November 19, 2001) was a British fighter pilot and test pilot for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, and the years that followed. Born in Chichester, Sussex, he was educated at Eastbourne College. Beamont's operational career began in 1939, flying Hawker Hurricanes with No. 87 Squadron RAF stationed at Lille in France with the air contingent of the British Expeditionary Force, scoring 3 'kills' against German aircraft. With the withdrawal of British forces from the continent following the fall of France he took part in the Battle of Britain, claiming 3 more 'kills', after which he was involved with nightfighting trials with the Hurricane. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in June 1941, and was posted to No. 79 Squadron RAF, although he was court-martialled for transporting a WAAF to a dance at another RAF station in his single-seat Hurricane, and was severely admonished. In December 1941 he was attached to Hawker's at Langley as a Production and Experimental Test Pilot. In July 1942 he was back on operational flying, joining No. 609 Squadron RAF flying Hawker Typhoons and subsequently promoted to Squadron Commander. As Commanding Officer of one of the first Squadrons to operate the new and technically troublesome Typhoon, Beamont was instrumental in arguing for keeping the aircraft in RAF service against increasing establishment resistance while he assisted Hawker's in resolving the type's airframe and engine problems. His confidence in the Typhoon was vindicated as the aircraft eventually became the RAF's most successful ground-attack aircraft during 1944-5. In 1943 he returned to Hawker's as a test pilot, performing experimental testing of the Hawker Tempest alongside the Hawker's test pilot, Bill Humble. In 1944, prior to D-Day, he again resumed operational flying, this time forming the first Tempest Wing (No. 150) with the rank of Acting-Wing Commander, the Wing accounting for three Me 109s over the invasion beaches shortly after D-Day without loss, two credited to Beamont. At this time the Wing were switched to intercepting V-1s over Kent, shooting down 638, Beamont accounting for 32 of the unpiloted-flying bombs himself. On October 2, 1944, now based on the continent at Volkel, Holland, he achieved his ninth and final kill of the war when he shot down a Fw 190 near Nijmegen. On October 12, while attacking a heavily defended troop-train near Bocholt on his 492nd operational mission he was shot down, becoming a Prisoner of War. Confined firstly to Stalag-III at Sagan, near Breslau, then to Stalag III-A at Luckenwalde, near Potsdam, he remained a PoW until the end of the war in Europe, being finally repatriated in late May 1945 after being further detained with the other former POWs by the Russians. With the end of hostilities his planned transfer to the Far East in command of a Wing of Tempest IIs was cancelled and he applied for a permanent commission. The eventual offer of a permanent commission coincided with his being offered a position as a test pilot; he resumed his career as a test pilot, performing the initial test flying of many notable aircraft, including the Canberra and Lightning (see radio interview details below), as well as the later-cancelled BAC TSR-2. In 1948, while visiting the US to fly the North American B-45 Tornado bomber, he was able to persuade the US authorities to give him permission to fly one of the only two XP-86 Sabres then built, based at Muroc Field. Briefed by test pilot George Welch, Beamont flew the XP-86 in May of that year, breaking the sound barrier (exceeding Mach 1) on his one and only flight in the aircraft, the third person to do so in the XP-86. He subsequently went on to become a director of the Warton division of BAC, later BAe, as a Director of Flight...