* FLYING REVIEW'S DERRICK JOLLEY
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.
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.
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.