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Air Commodore Ken Goodwin, CBE, AFC
Pilot 118 Squadron Jun55 to Oct57, Past President Jever Steam Laundry..
Magazine Flying Review's article about Ken - written in the 60s:

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   catches up with a fellow "Erk"...

FLY'-we told him

     "Never had I been so resigned to 'buying it' as when I did that manoeuvre."   That is how 32 year-old Flight Lieutenant Ken Goodwin, one of the RAF's finest solo acrobatic pilots, described to me his first attempt at planned aerobatics in a Meteor.

     During his flying training this well built, fair-haired, young officer, who is now engaged on tactical evaluation of the Lightning at the Central Fighter Establishment, had shown a marked interest in acrobatic flying and it was probably a remark to this effect on his document, that led to him being approached to do acrobatics officially.

     When, in 1949. he was posted to No. 92 Squadron, which was than commanded by the late Squadron Leader Ray Harries, DSO, DFC, he had only completed 30 hours on Meteors.   He was soon told that be was to be the squadron's acrobatic representative and he enthusiastically began work with a routine which included a roll at the end of the runway-immediately after take-off.   Although he had some misgivings about the manoeuvre, it was only after take-off that he realised that if there had not been a dip at the end of the runway he would not be alive to tell the tale - - but future flying feats suggest to me that Ken Goodwin was being a little too modest.

     During his stay with 92 Squadron he led their Meteor team but he never achieved a great deal of success with team aerobatics and he was not to find his metier as a solo acrobat until he was posted to 118 Squadron in Germany in 1955.   There he came to the attention of Wing Commander C. S. West, DFC, who was 0/C Flying and it is to him and to his squadron commander, Sqn. Ldr N. C. P. Buddin, that Ken Goodwin gives all the credit for encouraging him in his acrobatic displays.

Months of Perseverance

     Working with West he devised a 6¼ min routine flying a Hunter Mk. IV that, when perfected, was to be his standard display at over a hundred shows.   It took many months of perseverance to perfect the routine. with Wg. Cdr. West suggesting refinements to Goodwin whenever he returned to the ground.

     "All in all, it was fairly spectacular by the time I finished.' said Goodwin, adding, modestly. "at least I am told it was - naturally I've never seen it myself."

     The routine consisted of a roll Immediately after takeoff, straight into a roil off the top of a loop.   Another loop was completed, followed by a slow roll, two Derry turns, an inverted run and an inverted climb.   This was followed after a pull-through by a hesitation roll and an inverted break on to the downward leg for landing.

     This combination of manoeuvres soon came to be the star turn of acrobatic and displays all over Europe and Goodwin was called upon to perform at flying displays in Norway, Finland, Sweden, France and Germany.   The only deviation that he made from his routine was occasionally to fly with an acrobatic team.   Then it was still a solo performance.   He took off with the team, climbed far above them and when they reached their bomb-burst manoeuvre, dived to produce a sonic bang through the centre of their formation.   He admits to having obtained only partial success with this experiment.

     Although Goodwin has Press cuttings of his exploits in nearly every European language - most of which he cannot understand - not all of them salute his prowess.

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Both in Finland and in the Island of Sylt people were more than a little perturbed and statements and letters in the Press foretold all manner of disasters if the demonstration was allowed to continue.   However, a tactful invitation to watch Goodwin's performance assured the local dignitaries that the Hunter was in perfectly safe hands and the local Press had nothing but praise for his skill in subsequent issues.

"Marvellous Feat"

     The pride of his collection of cuttings is, however, one from a contemporary journal describing one of his displays as "a marvellous feat of timing."   At all displays, he explained to me, pilots are instructed to fly meticulously to their timetable in case of communication failure.   In any case, they were always working with marginal fuel states.

     "On this particular occasion," he said, "during my show; with 45 seconds left to me, I met the Italian aerobatic team over the centre of Ilsy airport.   I was inverted - all I remember was the four tightly-packed noses of the F-84G Thunderjets exactly head on to me.   I pushed the stick forward and climbed as fast as I could.   Perfect timing nothing - it was sheer panic !"

     Such an explanation is all that could be expected, Remarkable timing or not, it at least indicates the cool precision with which this young man had learned to handle his aircraft.

     But what of the aircraft?   Here again Goodwin gives credit to another factor than his own flying skill, - "The Hunter," he told me, "is one of the most beautiful jets to fly - and look at - that has ever been built.   It is a superb aircraft, which almost flies itself and is admirably suited to aerobatics."      Ken Goodwin qualified for his wings in 1949, since when he has never had a desk job.   During his acrobatic flying he appeared at a dozen international shows and at least 100 airfield displays, the best of which were at Battle of Britain open days at Biggin Hill and Coltishall last year.

     Since than the AOC-in-C of Fighter Command has called a halt to his aerobatic flying.   But it was the Biggin Hill display that was indirectly the reason for this article being written.   Shortly afterwards Anglia Television presented a feature on RAF Coltishall and I saw Ken Goodwin on the screen and recognised him as one of the intake that had to put up with me at RAF Padgate in 1946.

     In the four or five months I spent with Ken Goodwin I came to know him fairly well.   When I saw him again on television and realised that he had achieved his ambition of becoming a pilot, 1 felt I owed him an apology.

     In 1946, a year after the war ended, there were hundreds of raw recruits called up for "Duration of Present Emergency" who felt rather cheated that aircrew was seemingly an unattainable trade.   They were not too kind to their fellows who boasted the white flash worn by those regarded as potential fliers.

     Ken Goodwin was one of the few who had been unable to volunteer but who had passed a selection board at Hornchurch for eventual aircrew training.   I well remember there were four such recruits in my intake and each of them was subjected to the ribald remarks of we who "knew best".   "You'll never become aircrew," we told them.

     But Ken Goodwin was determined.   Although he, like the others removed his white flash whilst on recruit training, he stuck to his opinion that he would become a pilot despite the hundreds of redundant aircrew that littered every station.

     I well remember that he was almost fanatical in his efforts to make a good airman.   At square-bashing he persevered so that he could be posted to the Ceremonial Unit, which had only recently been formed at Halton and was regarded as a "cream" posting.   I too joined that unit - but for me it was just another posting: to him it meant that he had attained perfection in the first piece of training he had been given in the Royal Air Force.   In 1946 the total service with the Ceremonial Unit was eight weeks and in the time that Ken Goodwin and I were there contingents had to be provided for the Lord Mayor's Show, the Cenotaph Parade and the British Legion Service of Remembrance at the Albert Hall as well as a number of minor ceremonial occasions.   Ken Goodwin certainly learnt how to drill.   (I spent most of my time blancoing belts.)

     From that time on I lost trace of Ken until I saw him again on television some 14 years later.   The young man I had known to take his RAF career so seriously had made good.   True his rank was nothing startling but he had achieved what he set out to be - a first class flier.

     When I mot him again I asked him if he was just as fanatical as he was when he joined up in 1946.   He admitted that, in the same sense, be probably was not.   There were other ways of achieving the same object, but he was just as keen about his career in the RAF as he had ever been.


     He confessed to me that there had been one point in his career when he thought perhaps he would never make a pilot.   During his initial period at flying training school he was airsick every time he flew.   But once he started flying solo his sickness passed and has not recurred since.

     What is it that makes a pilot into a successful aerobat?   In Ken Goodwin's own words it is "the ability to plan carefully and to be spectacular without being dangerous.   When you are able to be master of the machine you are flying you have succeeded."   Ken did not give me this opinion of himself, but it is what came out in conversation after I had asked him what be would look for in a potential aerobatic pilot.

     The advantage to be gained from his experience is improved judgement.   That his own assessment and it seems amply borne out by the fact that he is now entrusted with the task of evaluating new equipment and new aircraft before they are put into squadron service.

     Undoubtedly flying has to be taken more seriously today than it was during the Battle of Britain.   The pilots are more highly trained and they have to have minds that work like computers.   I watched whilst members of the unit were practising in the Lightning simulator and my simple journalist's brain reeled at the thought of the calculations they had to do to "home" on their target.

     But to pilots like Ken Goodwin there is still enjoyment to he obtained out of flying.   There must be when after a week of flying at speeds in excess of the speed of sound he is content to spend his spare time at the weekend flying in Tiger Moths at the local aero-club.
Air Commodore Ken Goodwin
High spirited fighter pilot who thrilled crowds across Europe with his solo aerobatic displays

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     Air Commodore KEN GOODWIN, who has died aged 92, was a Cold War fighter pilot whose brilliant solo aerobatic displays attracted widespread acclaim.

     When he joined 118 Squadron in July1955, the squadron, based at Jever in northern Germany, had recently been re-equipped with the Hawker Hunter. His skill soon attracted the attention of his commanding officer, and he was encouraged to develop a six-minute individual display of aerobatics.

     This consisted of a roll immediately after take-off immediately followed by a loop.   After a series of turns and rolls he made a high-speed inverted fly-past and climb and, after a hesitation roll, he made an inverted approach before landing.

     "All in all, it was fairly spectacular by the time I finished," Goodwin commented: "At least I am told it was - naturally I've never seen it myself."

     His meticulous execution of the display resulted in his selection as the official acrobatic pilot for the whole of the Second Tactical Air Force in Germany.   Over the next two years he performed at displays across Europe, where he was heralded as a brilliant pilot in the many newspaper articles describing his exploits.

     After two years with 118 Squadron he was awarded the AFC in recognition of his achievements, and the widespread publicity for the RAF it had attracted across Europe.

     The son of a First World War veteran who had served in the Coldstream Guards, Kenneth Joseph Goodwin was born at St Pancras, London, on May 2 1928.   In August 1940 he and his two sisters were evacuated to the US, where they remained for five years in the foster care of Robert and Kay Fisher at their home in Pittsford, New York.

     Goodwin was determined to follow his elder brother, who had served throughout the war as a pilot.   Initially there was no requirement for new pilots, so Goodwin enlisted as an airman in 1946 and trained as an airframe fitter.   The seeds of the precision that would be the hallmark of his time as an aerobatic pilot were sown on the parade ground, where he excelled at drill.   He was selected to join the Ceremonial Unit at RAF Halton, regarded as a "cream" posting, and he was on parade at the Lord Mayor's Show, the Cenotaph Parade, and the British Legion Service of Remembrance at the Albert Hall.

     Finally, in July 1949 he was commissioned and began his training as a pilot.   After gaining his wings he joined 92 Squadron at RAF Linton-on-Ouse near York, which was equipped with the Meteor fighter.   He was soon selected to be the squadron's aerobatic pilot, and he later led the formation team.   He was to develop his skill as a solo acrobatic pilot when he was posted to 118 Squadron.

     Goodwin returned from Germany at the end of 1957, and joined the Central Fighter Establishment (CFE), where he and his fellow pilots devised tactics and evaluated a range of fighters.   When the Lightning entered service at the end of 1959, the CFE pilots were the first to fly the new aircraft and devise a training plan for pilots destined to join squadrons.

     He was appointed to the Lightning Conversion Unit.   Initially, there were no dual-control versions of the supersonic fighter so pilots making their first flight were "chased" by Goodwin and his fellow instructors.   In July 1962 the two-seat aircraft had arrived and was much in demand to fly senior officers and "celebrities" anxious to join the "Thousand Miles Per Hour Club".

     Goodwin developed a solo aerobatic routine in the Lightning.   After a 10-minute display in front of 140,000 people at RAF Middleton St George near Darlington, the Northern Echo reported: "The crowd gasped and gasped again with admiration as they were treated to the display of their lives."

     After a period in Bangkok, and at the HQ of the Far East Air Force in Singapore, Goodwin assumed command of 74 (Tiger) Squadron at RAF Leuchars in Fife.   Flying from their Scottish base, the squadron's Lightnings regularly intercepted Russian aircraft flying near UK airspace.

     On one occasion, during an exercise in Cyprus, the RAF station commander complained about the noise of the aircraft.   A few days later, he and his officers were at a local party to celebrate Christmas when one of Goodwin's pilots gave an impromptu flying display.   His finale, a rocket-like climb, could be heard across the island.

     Goodwin, in full dress uniform, was summoned to see the station commander, but luckily the commander-in-chief, an Army general, was attending a party nearby and had seen the performance; he immediately contacted the RAF commander, congratulating him on the "bloody good show from the RAF".

     In May 1967 74 Squadron was reassigned to RAF Tengah in Singapore.   On June 4 Goodwin led the first section, and over the next few days, all 13 aircraft flew via staging posts, in company with Victor air-to-air refuelling tankers, arriving in Singapore to provide air defence for the region.

     Goodwin's high spirits and occasional irreverence often brought him into conflict with his senior officers.   A fine pianist, he was always game for a party, and he soon established a special relationship with the local Tiger Brewery, which was equally anxious to embrace the arrival of the RAF's "Tiger" squadron as a marvellous promotional opportunity.

     After two successful years, Goodwin left the squadron in March 1969.   At his farewell dinner he was presented with a beer tankard with an inscription of his trademark catchphrase, "Don't Worry About a Thing".

     In 1972 he was appointed to command RAF Wattisham in Suffolk, the home of two Lightning squadrons.   He was hugely popular with the officers and airmen, and he remained fully current as a fighter pilot.

     After appointments at RAF Strike Command and as Air Adviser in Ottawa, he became the Deputy Captain of the Queen's Flight.   His final appointment was as Air Officer Commanding Air Cadets, a period he enjoyed immensely. He was appointed CBE.

     After retiring in July 1982 he was the commander of the south-west region of the Air Training Corps.

     Goodwin was a great motivator and an excellent mentor who ensured that his charges made the very best of their abilities.

     He enjoyed golf and was captain at the Burnham and Berrow Club.   He was president of the 74 Squadron Association, and the Jever Steam Laundry", whose aim is "to promote the irreverent camaraderie that epitomised the vigorous approach to both professional excellence in the fighter role and to the riotously enjoyable living at RAF Jever during the golden age of jet fighter operations".

     Ken Goodwin married Sue in 1961.   She died in 2019, and he is survived by their son, a former RAF Tornado pilot, and daughter.

Ken Goodwin, born May 21928, died September 5 2020

(Thanks to the Daily Telegraph).

Eulogy given by Ian McBride at Ken's Funeral

          Ken Goodwin was a legendary aerobatic display pilot in the Hunter and Lightning eras and also one of the most charismatic leaders of his time.  Whilst in Germany during the 50's he was one of the instigators of a Pythonesque company known as the Jever Steam Laundry whose aim was to promote camaraderie, professional excellence in the air and a riotous style of living.  This statement epitomised Ken's approach to life from there onwards. He achieved great success in his operational duties and was at the centre of many social events which would often feature him energetically playing the piano or appearing in wild fancy dress.

          I had the pleasure and honour of serving under Ken continuously at RAF Leuchars in Fife and then at Tengah in Singapore.  Ken was blessed with a number of strengths which characterised his career from a basic tradesman to Commandant of RAF Air Cadets.   The first was his motivation and determination to succeed which earned him a place on the prestigious; cadet Drill Display Team, shortly to be followed by selection for elevation to officer rank and training as a pilot.  No mean feat when you remember that the RAF was awash with officers and pilots after WW2.  They clearly recognised a good un who they wished to retain and develop.

          When he graduated with his wings in Jan 1950 he was categorised as being Proficient which in simple terms meant that he was unlikely to kill himself in the near future.  A mere 5 years later he was considered the best aerobatic pilot in RAF Germany and probably the RAF as a whole.  An astonishing trajectory.  Nor was he a one trick pony because he was also exceptional in gunnery and all the other skills that defined the day fighter pilot of that era.  It was these skills which led to him being selected to play a pivotal role in the introduction of the Lightning into service and performing solo aerobatics at Farnborough and the Paris Air Shows in this exciting new aircraft alongside the RAF formation display team, mounted by No 74 Squadron.

          When Ken resumed his connection with the Tigers in 1966 it was to take command of a unit which had just been equipped with the latest and most capable version of the mighty Lightning.  It was also the period when Soviet air forces were starting to appear around UK and the Tigers - within weeks of Ken taking charge - managed to pull off a well photographed interception of these aircraft.  So great was the excitement around the UK that the BBC, in what would now be called fake news, broadcast a report of the event using aircraft and (worse still) crews from RAF Wattisham rather than the Tigers.  Ken, seeing an opportunity to be exploited, mounted a sortie from Leuchars to Wattisham and back during which he dropped leaflets over the station debunking the impression that Wattisham had done the job.  His style was beginning to surface as he prepared his squadron for a major event, namely the deployment of the Tigers from Scotland to Singapore.

          As part of the build-up to the deployment the squadron was sent to Cyprus to gain experience in another theatre.  Part of our duties was to hold Quick Reaction Alert during daylight hours.  On Christmas Eve Ken and most of his aircrew were enjoying a party at Episcopi, the headquarters of the Middle East Command, made up of mainly Army and RAF staff.  As the sun set in the west somebody thought it was the perfect setting for a Lightning fly-past.  Ken, without hesitation, scrambled the duty Lightning which shortly thereafter laid on one of the most memorable and noisy displays seen for a while.  Surprisingly the Air Commander gave it a massive thumbs down and instituted a disciplinary procedure to start on Christmas Day.  However this process turned into farce when the Army Commander-in-Chief congratulated the Tigers on the splendid display.

          The journey to Singapore was a major event, the first time that an entire squadron had deployed to the region with air refuelling support.  On his final sector from the Maldives to Singapore Ken's ability to make rapid decisions in the air was tested.   A tanker malfunction during the last refuelling bracket should, according to the rules, have resulted in a diversion to Ceylon.  As the formation was turning in that direction, Ken evaluated the situation and over-rode the approved decision, setting course for Butterworth near Penang which they reached with reasonable fuel margins.  A diversion to Ceylon would have caused chaos and a major delay.  Ken arrived in Singapore a few hours late and the final wave arrived on time a few days later, a great success.  His bold decision had been crucial.

          The subsequent period at Tengah was a triumph for Ken.  He led the Tigers from the front and achieved the performance goals set for him.  We worked hard but, again with Ken in the van, we played hard too.  Visits to Singapore city were regular and memorable excursions, slackening off slightly when the squadron Land Rover, our primary means of conveyance, was stolen when parked in one of the seedier parts of the city.  From time to time Ken would get clearance to take a Lightning on a solo flight - in his words 'to blow away the cobwebs!'  After a short delay he would reappear inverted over the airfield in the first manoeuvre of an immaculate aerobatic display thus showing us all how he had earned his distinguished reputation in former years.  However all good things have to come to an end, and he moved on to further stages of his career leaving us in awe at the personality and skill of this charismatic leader.

          In his appointment as Commandant of RAF Air Cadets his devotion to the RAF imbued the girls and boys of Air Cadet units throughout the Kingdom with the ethos of the parent service and highlighted the attractions of making a career in the RAF.  The energy and excitement that he brought to his own life would have been powerful motivational forces in the performance of this his last tour in the RAF.  The legend that was Ken left the scene to those for whom political correctness was more important than the lifestyle which he and his many admirers enjoyed.

          If you had polled members of the Jever Steam Laundry on Ken's likely path through the RAF they would almost certainly have been wide of the mark.  Few, if any, would have predicted that he would have filled posts requiring political sensitivity and the highest standards of decorum required by royal appointments, notably to the Queen's Flight and the High Commission in Canada.  It was the mark of the man that he again distinguished himself, albeit not in the rough and tumble of the fighter world where taking a horse to a party in the officers mess or being driven home whilst playing a piano in the back of a Land Rover were par for the course.

          Significantly Ken was an excellent mentor ensuring that his charges made the very best of their abilities and grew in well-founded confidence.  He was also a very caring man and invariably tried to lift the spirits of those with concerns, usually by employing his trademark injunction "Don't worry about a thing."

          His drive, enthusiasm, stamina and compassion for his fellow man endeared him to all who had the honour and joy of working for him.  He enjoyed a full life, and his positive influence on those put in his trust was immense.  At a reception to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tigers I was talking to one of his former senior NCO's and as we watched Ken in animated conversation with others who had served under him, my comrade said "That Mr Goodwin was a grand squadron boss, the best, but he is also a lovely man."   Not a bad epitaph.

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