From Whirlwinds to Lightnings

The Cooch Memorial Lecture
From Whirlwinds to Lightnings – Living with Aircraft

Wing Commander G L Perry C.Eng MS Bsc(Eng) ACGI MRAeS RAF (Ret’d) – 13th November 2007

This was a very entertaining talk illustrated with a number of aircraft pictures Graham had taken during his career in the RAF and in Industry. While at school he had been inspired to become an engineer through his involvement with the Air Cadet Force. On leaving school he went to University to study aeronautical engineering and then joined the RAF at Cranwell for his Officer, Engineering and flying training.

It soon became apparent to him that ‘team work’ was the key to the successful and the safe operation of aeroplanes. His view was that most engineering decisions taken in the RAF were based on a consensus of opinions rather than by direct order as the best way forward and that this ethos was the one, which best described the way in which they worked.

He then went on to outline a number of amusing situations he became involved with while in charge of the repair and maintenance of a number of aircraft, starting with his first assignments on the Whirlwind Helicopter through to his later exploits with the Lightning fighter / bomber.

Communication between team members was paramount to ensure the aircraft were reliable in service and safe to fly. Unfortunately there were often ‘official difficulties’ to overcome in addition to those solely presented by the aircraft. This often meant that ‘economic solutions’ had to be found to quite serious engineering problems because the RAF budget would not stretch to the ‘obvious solution’. Some of these problems and their amusing solutions were outlined.

In flight refuelling was another challenge for him and during a four-year secondment to the USAF he was able to compare their technology and techniques with those employed by the RAF. His description of the in flight refuelling procedure in the USA and the UK with the need for extremely accurate flying was filled with light hearted commentary on the processes, the engineering problems and the demur of the pilots who undertake these operations.