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Ron Flockhart's Sydney-London air record bid


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#1 Mike Jerram

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 12:15

I'm researching Ron Flockhart's ultimately fatal attempts on the Sydney-London piston-engined world airspeed record. What inspired him to go for that particular record? Anyone out there who flew with Flockhart? I remember him flying into Goodwood in his rare Bellanca Cruisair (subsequently destroyed by vandals after his death), but little else about his aviation activities prior to the accident in which he died. All leads gratefully received.

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#2 Vitesse2

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 12:38

Welcome to TNF, Mike.

You may or may not have tried the "Search BB" link: here are links to three threads which mention Flockhart's aviation activities - you can scroll quickly through and you'll see his name highlighted in red. The first one is specifically about Ron and his P51s:

http://forums.atlasf...light=Flockhart
http://forums.atlasf...light=Flockhart
http://forums.atlasf...light=Flockhart

:)

#3 Mike Jerram

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 13:09

Ah! New to posting here, and hadn't tried the search facility. Fascinating stuff! And not just about Flockhart, but about racing drivers who flew — another pet interest of mine. Indeed, I've bent Doug Nye's ear a time or two about the possibility of gathering some of the original aircraft (or representative types) flown by 1950s/60s drivers/team managers at the Goodwood Revival. I'm hoping to write an article about the Flockhart Sydney-London attempts when I've gathered enough. I have plenty of material on the accident itself, but little about his previous aviating, or the failed attempt in the first Mustang that was abandoned at Athens.

#4 Doug Nye

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 16:54

Mike - welcome to TNF!

Flockhart operated an Auster for a long time - flying it up to Folkingham or to Snetterton or Silverstone for example when testing there for BRM. He flew Jack Brabham around in it occasionally and really introduced Blackie to light aviation - Jack then taking to it like a duck to water since he'd been fascinated by flight since he was a very small boy, he had wanted to be a pilot when he first enlisted in the RAAF and it was a long suppressed ambition of his. The day after passing his general flying test and obtaining his PPL he set off to pilot himself to Portugal and back!

Here's a shot of Ron Flockhart with Jack and one of the Fairoaks Aerodrome flying instructors with the Auster in 1959

Posted Image

And here's a snapshot taken by John Cooper of Jack's third and final attempt to land his Cessna in the field behind Charlie Cooper's country cottage at Restronguet in Cornwall. Charlie had told Jack he had "a big field be'ind me 'ouse" in which he could land for sure. When Jack arrived overhead the marked field was a) tiny, b) clothed in long uncut grass, c) steeply uphill into wind, and d) ended in a row of tall trees. Jack didn't make it - but he did try - hard - several times...

:p - Oh yes, I should explain that I understand he had approached from right to left in this shot...

Posted Image


DCN

#5 Mike Jerram

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 17:21

Doug,

That's wonderful stuff. I've been trying to track down the identity of Flockhart's Auster for some time. Had no idea he'd introduced Black Jack to flying. I well remember Jack's Cessna 180, pictured, and the 310 twin he had later. Also recall that John Cooper flipped over his Piper Tri-Pacer (appropriately registered G-ARAG) landing at Fairoaks during a Press gathering, and Jack put the 310 down right alongside and rushed to his aid. That approach pictured was made right to left? And they say that motor racing is dangerous!

BTW, I caught your post on another thread about Flockhart maybe bailing out and striking the tail when the Mustang crashed. Don't think so. I have the official accident report and there's no mention of it. From the description of the circumstances he would have been too busy trying to regain control after losing it in cloud (he wasn't instrument-rated), and it happened with such speed that there'd have been no time.

#6 Tim Murray

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 17:57

Originally posted by Mike Jerram
Also recall that John Cooper flipped over his Piper Tri-Pacer (appropriately registered G-ARAG) landing at Fairoaks during a Press gathering, and Jack put the 310 down right alongside and rushed to his aid.


Just in case Doug is too bashful :lol: to retrieve his most excellent anecdote from an earlier thread:

I must, however, relieve myself of another JB fire story which you might appreciate... 'Flight' magazine wanted to produce a feature story on F1 racers beginning to take to the air, circa 1962. They arranged an air-to-air photo shoot at Fairoaks Aerodrome, just outside Woking, Surrey, home of McLaren today. The participants were to be Jack in his Cessna 310 twin, Colin Chapman in his Piper Aztec, Innes Ireland in his Beech Bonanza and John Cooper in his Piper TriPacer (I think) single.

John was last to go up to format on 'Flight's camera 'plane. He was a nervous pilot and liked to have company. On this occasion Colin Chapman - having done his bit - crammed into the back of the cabin, and a career 707 commercial pilot friend of JNC's took the right-hand front seat. Jack was still airborne, stooging around to watch. He saw JNC formate (loosely) on the camera plane, then break off and go round the circuit to land. It was a horrible, gusty, bumpy day, and the little PIper was all over the sky during final approach.

Evidently, just around the commit height, John suddenly panicked, bawled at his 707 pro pilot friend "Here, you take it!" and let go of the controls. His pal, taken by surprise, made a wild grab but it was too late. The Piper hit hard, bounced and nosed over, bending the prop and ending-up standing near vertically, tail in the air, wings crumpled.

As spectators rushed towards the wrecked 'plane, JNC, 707 pilot and ACBC all decanted onto the grass, and Jack - who had seen the whole thing from the air - landed and taxied across to the scene, being the first to reach them. He found a terrific row raging between Chapman and Cooper, which speaks volumes about each of them as characters...

Seeing fuel dribbling from a split tank seam, Colin's reflex action was instant:

"Quick John", he bawled, "SET FIRE TO IT!!!!" - "Claim the insurance!!!".

John obediently rummaged in his pockets, producing a lighter. Then he had typical second thoughts:

"No, no, I can't do that, we'd never get away with it...".

Colin:

"Go on, quick, you won't get a second chance! Quick before anybody else gets here!"

John, encouraged:

"Right, OK Colin, stand back everyone..."

He reached out with the lighter, towards probably 40 gallons of AvGas, then (wisely) had an awful but realistic second thought:

"NO! Hang on - I bet The Old Man hasn't paid the premium..."

And do you know...he was right.

DCN



#7 Doug Nye

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 18:03

Originally posted by Mike Jerram
Doug...your post on another thread about Flockhart maybe bailing out and striking the tail when the Mustang crashed. Don't think so. I have the official accident report and there's no mention of it. From the description of the circumstances he would have been too busy trying to regain control after losing it in cloud (he wasn't instrument-rated), and it happened with such speed that there'd have been no time.


OK Mike - this was Tony Rudd's recollection of the stories being passed around privately at the time of the accident. Presumably poor Flockhart was found still in the cockpit?

Re approach direction - yes right to left in the sense of flying over the photographer John Cooper's right shoulder towards the crest and that treeline, not from extreme right across the picture!

DCN

#8 D-Type

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 19:20

Sorry to drag this further off thread, but there's a tale or two in All Arms and Elbows about Innes Ireland's efforts.
Sorry I don't have a copy to hand as I'm at work
And even if I did, I can't type while laughing. :rotfl:

#9 Mike Jerram

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 20:18

Doug:

The Department of Civil Aviation report doesn't say that Flockhart's body was found in or with the wreckage, but it doesn't say that it wasn't, either. Had he jumped, and been struck by the airframe, I feel sure it would have been mentioned. The circumstances strongly suggest that he'd have had no chance to get out. Briefly, he'd radioed that he was unable to proceed visually and was planning to return to Moorabbin Airport, from which he'd taken off. Shortly afterwards he radioed that he was "in cloud...having trouble...lost my compass". The Mustang was seen to emerge from cloud in a rapid descent heading towards a hill. It entered a steep left bank, apparently in an effort to turn inside the range of hills, the nose dropped, it rolled right and hit trees pitched down at about 45 degrees, finally impacting the ground near vertically, with the engine burying itself about six feet. Classic loss of orientation in cloud followed by stall/incipient spin in attempted recovery by the sound of it. He had been trying to maintain a safe terrain clearance altitude of 3,000 feet. The place where he crashed was at 1,620 feet. I don't think there'd have been any chance even to think about jumping.

D-Type: I have 'All Arms...', and never tire of re-reading it, not least for the episode in which an old chum of mine, former Royal Aero Club racing and competitions secretary John Blake (and his dog), visited Innes in his hospital ward. Priceless!

Tim: So too is that account of John Cooper's little trip-up. Many thanks. The aeroplane survived until 1970, when — unlike Jack in the Cessna — it failed to clear trees at a short strip in the west country.

#10 cooper997

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 04:29

In a good way you can blame Simon Taylor (or his editor) for this. In a recent C&SC column of his (Jan 2016), he wrote about Ron Flockhart. As he no doubt wrote it from his comfy chair in England - for accuracy it's worth getting the accident site correctly placed.  

 

Today is 54 years since Ron Flockhart's fateful flight and ultimate sad demise in the Dandenong Ranges in the outskirts of Melbourne. The Ranges shadows where I currently live and the actual site is about 1.5km from my dad;s Monbulk family home at the time of the accident and about 3km from where I spent the first 7 1/2  years of life as a car mad kid. Simon's feature places the site "south of Melbourne" when it should state "south-east of Melbourne". So no great sin, but not quite accurate.

 

Where the site is on Monbulk Rd, there's 3 picnic grounds in close succession, where as kids we would sometimes play. My earliest memory relating to this is in the late 60s playing in and around these picnic grounds where the Sassafras Creek meandered. Kids and mud!! I still recall mum telling us not to go too far because there's been a plane crash in the bush. Well we eventually grow older (as opposed to growing up!!) and we find interests, Mine became Mini Coopers and Flockhart features as part of that in Australia. Being the first to actually race a 'Cooper-Mini' (as they were known early on) in Australia during the weeks preceding 12 April 1962.

 

Cutting to the chase and the site is laden with tall timbers and dense ferny undergrowth in the valley Monbulk Rd & Sassafras Creek follow. Probably more so than 54 years ago when Ron's Mustang came down within its expanse..Today was worth going to visit the site to spend a minute of quiet time remembering Ron. The Autumn weather even turned on a 12 April 1962 day as cloud encased the Ranges and rain droplets fell on my scone as I stood in the bush remembering the man who helped  BMC Australia decide to bring (and assemble) Mini Coopers to Australia.

 

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Ron_Flockhart_02_TNF.jpg

Sassafras Creek

 

Ron_Flockhart_01_TNF.jpg

One can hope that the slippery bush track that also meanders through there may have other people walk through today, but I suspect I may well be the only one remembering Ron as they do so.

 

Stephen


Edited by Vitesse2, 12 April 2016 - 06:08.


#11 Ray Bell

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 04:45

I recall reading somewhere, perhaps in a US magazine, that Ron would have loved the powerful V12 engine (Merlin?) of the Mustang (?) in which he died.



.


Edited by Vitesse2, 12 April 2016 - 06:09.


#12 cooper997

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 06:05

Thanks Ray. I have access to a lengthy bit of research, but no permission to post at this stage.

 

Stephen



#13 Philip Whiteman

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Posted 13 April 2016 - 17:55

There's a good, well-illustrated piece on Ron's final flight in the latest issue of The Aviation Historian - a superb quarterly produced by the old Aeroplane Monthly crew



#14 David Birchall

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Posted 14 April 2016 - 03:07

Cooper 997: Thank you for that!



#15 cooper997

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Posted 15 April 2016 - 02:42

There's a good, well-illustrated piece on Ron's final flight in the latest issue of The Aviation Historian - a superb quarterly produced by the old Aeroplane Monthly crew

 

Phiilip, is that title English and if so the exact issue date and/or number please? Why I ask is it may not be available in Australia and if it is it will be 2 or 3 months away at any rate..

 

Stephen



#16 Vitesse2

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Posted 15 April 2016 - 05:24

Issue 15. I doubt it would be available via news outlets in Oz, but you can order a single copy direct from the publisher:

 

http://www.theaviati...st-of-world.htm



#17 Nick Savage

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Posted 15 April 2016 - 06:46

Philip,

I second that. I read the article in 'The Aviation Historian' last night. It is a lengthy, detailed exposition of Ron's various attempts, about which I was previously unaware. For anyone interested in the more obscure by-ways of aviation history, this magazine deserves your support. Well worth the sub.

Nick



#18 cooper997

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Posted 15 April 2016 - 22:55

Thanks to Vitesse2 for the lead on the magazine and merging this thread a few of days ago.

 

As much as I'd like to support 'The Aviation Historian' 17 quids worth to Oz is currently not an option. So hoping there's a friendly enthusiast who can send an electronic version please?

 

Stephen



#19 Philip Whiteman

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 09:12

Ahem: see the August 2017 edition of Pilot magazine now on the newsstands for a fresh edition of The Aviation Historian's excellent piece on Ron's bold flights and sad demise - I thought the article deserved a wider airing!

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#20 TJJohansen

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 11:30

Or you can read it here:

http://www.pilotweb....-race-1-5160524

 

There was also an in- depth article on Ron Flockhart's two Mustangs in US magazine Warbirds International's special issue Mustangs International Spring 2017. Info here:

http://warbirdsintln.../MIspr17TOC.pdf

 

T J


Edited by TJJohansen, 25 August 2017 - 11:32.


#21 cooper997

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Posted 12 April 2022 - 09:01

Remembering Ron... 60 years today.

 

 

Stephen



#22 MarkBisset

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Posted 12 April 2022 - 11:34

6-F1279-FF-92-BB-47-BD-ADFD-A579-A3-EC61

 

yes indeed Stephen. Here on his way to winning the Lady Wigram Trophy in 1959, BRM P25 (Classic Auto News)
 



#23 d j fox

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Posted 12 April 2022 - 15:45

This on Mark Bisset's excellent Primotipo site covering Flockhart's flights and racing

 

https://primotipo.co...kharts-flights/


Edited by d j fox, 12 April 2022 - 15:45.


#24 cooper997

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Posted 12 April 2022 - 23:11

In 2005 my uncle, Geoff Sands published his history of the Monbulk Fire Brigade. With a chapter on Ron.

 

Go-to-Blazes-TNF.jpg

 

 

Stephen



#25 cooper997

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Posted 13 April 2022 - 10:15

I'm no surveyor or google earth expert, however recent access to period Flockhart information brings me closer to the exact site than previously known. This photo taken on 12/4/16 when the earlier photos (within this thread) were taken brings me to this photo highly likely having the site within the frame.

 

I know the site number and how far from the creek meandering between the 2 rows of ferns it is. Just not where the peg marks for the block begin and end. Alas 145 feet up the hill from the creek on private land.

 

RF-site-area-TNF.jpg

 

 

Stephen



#26 Ray Bell

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Posted 13 April 2022 - 10:37

There's some pretty country around there...

 

I've always enjoyed driving through that part of the world having left the highway at Violet Town and 'gone bush' for the rest of the trip to Phillip Island.



#27 cooper997

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Posted 15 April 2022 - 00:59

John Ellacott has kindly shared his photo of Ron at Warwick Farm. The BP and Air India stickers clearly masked up.

1962-Warwick-Farm-RF-Lotus-18-Ellacott-T

 

 

Stephen