|Former D.H. test pilot celebrates altitude record centenary|
|Monday, 27 August 2012 00:00|
At Sywell, Northants, on August 14, former de Havilland test pilot Desmond Penrose added the oldest flying de Havilland design to his logbook, in the form of the “Biggles Biplane” Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 replica, G-AWYI. The flight celebrated the centennial of a British altitude record set in August 1912, when designer Geoffrey de Havilland took the prototype B.E.2 up to a height of 10,560ft.
The altitude record was gained by the prototype B.E.2 during the Military Aeroplane Trials of 1912. The B.E. 2 was not officially entered in the competition, but de Havilland, with the Commandant of the Royal Flying Corps Maj F.W. Sykes as passenger, nonetheless took the aircraft two miles high above Salisbury Plain.
Geoffrey de Havilland, attired in a tweed suit, was said to have commented: “It was somewhat chilly at such heights.” He also admitted that having returned to a lower level, he and Sykes were “unsure of their position” until they followed a railway line to a station which they recognised.
Desmond Penrose served for four years as a test pilot at RAE Farnborough before joining de Havilland at Hatfield in 1961. He became project test pilot for the D.H.110, and was the chase pilot for the maiden flight of the D.H.121 Trident. He displayed the Trident 3B at the SBAC show at Farnborough and was heavily involved in Trident sales to the Chinese state airline in the early 1970s. He remains very much a current pilot with over 80 different types in his logbook.
The B.E.2 became de Havilland type number 28.