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- 20 July 2003
Alexander James Heyworth. DFC and Bar. Mentioned in Despatches. FRAeS. Born 5 June 1922. St Edwards School, Oxford. Volunteered RAF 5 June 1940 for Aircrew Training. 12 Squadron. Squadron Leader. Test Pilot Rolls Royce 1944-1955. Chief Test Pilot 1955-1962.
After pilot training, he was posted to Bomber Command where he saw two tours of Operations with No 12 Squadron flying Wellingtons and Lancasters from Binbrook and Wickenby. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1942, was Mentioned in Despatches in 1943, and was awarded a Bar to his DFC in 1944.
He was seconded from the RAF to Rolls-Royce at Hucknall in 1944 in order to "develop a new type of power unit" which was, of course, the Whittle Unit; however, whilst detached, he remained in the RAF until de-mobbed in 1946. His first aircraft flown at Rolls-Royce was the Fairey Battle modified as a testbed for the Exe engine and his first experience of flying a jet-engined aircraft was the Wellington testbed aircraft modified to carry the Whittle W2B jet engine; he also undertook flight-testing of the Whittle engine, by now named Welland, in the prototype Meteor.
Over a period of 18 years as a test pilot with Rolls-Royce, he was involved in testing all Rolls-Royce turbo-jets, turbo-props, and fan engines and flew 82 different aircraft types. Notable amongst these were the Merlin-engined Mustang; the Lancastrian testbed fitted with Nene engines and later with Avons; the Nene-engined Vampire; the Avon-powered Meteor; the world's first propeller-turbine aircraft, the Trent-engined Meteor; the Meteor fitted with RB108 vertical lift engines; two years development of vertical take-off on the Nene-powered Flying Bedstead - precursor to the design of future vertical take-off aircraft e.g. the Harrier; the prototype Canberra fitted with Nene engines and the Canberra fitted with RA29 engines for the Comet 4 aircraft and also the re-heated Avon; the Nene-powered Avro Ashton testbed aircraft including that fitted with the Conway; the Lincoln testbed with a nose-mounted Tyne engine; the reverse-thrust Hunter; the Conway-engined Vulcan; the Dart Dakota; plus many more including Lancaster 111, Mosquito, Hurricane, the Griffon-engined Spitfire, Hornet, Clyde Turboprop Wyvern, Shackleton, Attacker, Sea Hawk, Swift, Valiant, Avro 707, Ambassador, Lansen, Javelin and Lightning.
Jim Heyworth was appointed Rolls-Royce Chief Test Pilot in 1955. In 1962 he ceased test flying and undertook various management jobs with Rolls-Royce, retiring in 1981 as Executive-Management Development. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1962 and in the same year was awarded the Thulin Medal by the Swedish Aeronautical Society.
At 81 years old, he is fit and well and living with his family near Chagford in Devon.
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