Test pilot George Aird - flying a English Electric Lightning F1 - ejected from his English Electric
Lightning F1 aircraft at a fantastically low altitude in Hatfield, Hertfordshire 13th September 1962.
In 1962 in Hertfordshire, England, a tractor driver working on a tomato farm heard a funny noise behind him, and turned round to look. A photographer was going to photo the tractor but got a better shot...
The aircraft is an English Electric Lightning F1. It was designed and created by the English Electric Aviation Company, who’d been contracted to develop a jet bomber at the end of World War II.
The aircraft in the photograph was XG332. It was built in 1959, one of 20 pre-production Lightnings. Alan Sinfield took a photograph of XG332 in 1960 at Farnborough:...
...However, the very last photograph taken of XG332 is deservedly the most famous one. How does someone manage to take a photograph like this? Planning, quick wits and a healthy dose of luck.
Jim Meads is the man who took the picture. He was a professional photographer who lived near the airfield, next door to de Havilland test pilot Bob Sowray.
So, the story goes: Bob Sowray mentioned to Jim Meads that he was going to fly the Lightning that day. When Meads took his kids for a walk, he took his camera along, hoping to get a shot of the plane.
His plan was to take a photograph of the children with the airfield in the background as the Lightning came in to land. They found a good view of the final approach path and waited for the Lightning to return.
As it happened, Bob Sowray didn’t fly the Lightning that day. The pilot was George Aird, another test pilot working for De Havilland.
George Aird was involved in the Red Top Air-to-Air Missile programme and seems to have been a well-respected test pilot.
But let’s get back to the story of the photograph on the 19th of September. That day, George Aird was in the Lightning doing a demonstration flight off of the south coast. He was approaching Hatfield from the north east when he realised there was trouble....MORE