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It was sad news to hear of the loss of life at the Shoreham Air Show on Saturday, 22nd August 2015 when a Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed while looping the loop.

Early reporting said that the Hawker Hunter had only been withdrawn from service in 1993.  I thought that that can’t be right as I remember Neville Duke breaking the world air speed record in one when I was a child still reading Biggles.  Biggles was a fictional airman who carried out daring deeds and was depicted in books and a comic strip. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biggles

Squadron Leader Neville Duke DSO,OBE,DFC&two bars,AFC was a real life Biggles. He was the most successful pilot in the Mediterranean Theatre in WWII credited with the the destruction of 27 enemy aircraft despite being shot down twice himself.

After the war he became Hawker’s chief test pilot and flew a Hawker Hunter at Farnborough Air Show on 6th September, 1952 in spite of the fact that an aircraft at the same show had just broken up in the air killing the crew and 28 spectators on the ground.

There have been no fatalities involving spectators on the ground and within the confines of an airshow since that day.

In 1953 he became the holder of the World Air Speed Record when he flew a Hawker Hunter at 727mph.

At one time he was a member of the Black Arrows, the predecessors of the Red Arrows.   In 1958 the Black Arrows looped the loop in a formation of 22 Hawker Hunter aircraft and that is a record that is still unbeaten.

Another feat unlikely to be beaten occurred on 5th April, 1968 when Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollack flew his Hawker Hunter through Tower Bridge.  It was a protest that the Royal Air Force had failed to celebrate 50 years since its foundation with any flying displays.

P1020216 (Large)An Air Investigation Branch enquiry will determine the cause of the crash at Shoreham but they will be unable to draw on the expertise of Neville Duke who died in 2007.

 

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