Pioneer of Progress

A Company Plane before a Company Car! - Member Norman Wilson regales us with tales of his life with the Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Company (1939-65).

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A Pioneer of Progress

Norman Wilson’s life story continues to fascinate us all, especially when he talks about his career in aviation.  On October 13th. 2014, Norman reminisced about his time at the Sir W. G. Armstrong-Whitworth Aircraft Company between his apprenticeship in September 1939, until he left in 1965.

He described the first planes developed by the company – the first all-metal aircraft, the Siskin, and those he worked on when he returned from RAF service after piloting Sunderland flying boats (“still my favourite aircraft”) to be flight test pilot on Lancaster, Lincoln and York planes.  He recalled the world-first four-engined monoplane, the Atlanta, and the four-engined Ensign Monoplane, test-piloted fellow pilot by Turner-Hughes.  “He was very flamboyant, wore a bowler hat even when going out to his aircraft.  (Subsequently captured by the Germans in the British retreat from France, the Atlanta was re-engined by them and used by Hitler as his personal transport.)

In April 1949 Norman was flight test engineer on the development of the first Apollo airliner and later became Flight Shed Foreman in charge of the Meteor MK8, and later Mks. of the production aircraft.  He was production manager from 1959-62, ending as Works Manager (Armaments) at the Whitley works of what was then Whitworth-Gloster Aircraft Co., later Hawker Siddeley Dynamics.

We shouldn’t forget his other memories – the Shah of Persia flying in an early Apollo aircraft, how Armstrong Whitworth’s pioneering work on testing for metal fatigue helped to identify the cause of failure in the world’s first jet airliner, the Comet, the innovative AWA Flying Wing whose tail ends “flipped and flopped”, the first “prone piloted” Meteor (later copied by the U.S. and Russians) and how Armstrong Whitworth sold the first British airliner to get a certificate of Airworthiness from in the USA, before it received one on the UK.

Truly a Pioneer of Progress, Norman is the only person we know who had "a company plane before he had a Company car"!