by Michael P Sutton
A pilot's varied experiences with the RN Fleet Air Arm, De Havilland, JC Bamford, Lear Jet and Dassault 1943-73
In this entertaining account, Michael Sutton looks back on a long and varied career in aviation, first with the Royal Navy as a wartime pilot and postwar test pilot, then as a civilian test pilot, airline pilot and finally as a pilot of luxury corporate jets.
In 1943 Michael joined the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm to begin training as a Navy pilot and 1944/5 saw him serving with the British Pacific Fleet as a member of 887 Squadron, flying a Supermarine Seafire (the naval version of the Spitfire) from aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable.
He remained in the Royal Navy after the war, training to become a test pilot and serving in that capacity for several years before leaving the Service to take up an appointment as a civilian test pilot with the De Havilland Aircraft Company in 1951. For the following decade he was based at their factory in Cheshire, testing a variety of new aircraft, including various versions of the Vampire and Venom jet fighters.
In 1960 he was ready for a change and accepted a position as a pilot with earth-moving equipment manufacturers J.C. Bamford and Co (JCB), flying their corporate De Havilland Dove Mk.8 aircraft. Over the next five years he flew this aircraft, solo, to 147 different destinations throughout 23 Continental European countries; making 1,572 flights.
In 1965 he was offered a job as Director of Marketing and Chief Pilot with the European wing of The Lear Jet Company, based in Geneva. His activities with them included his first trans-Atlantic flight and attempting to sell a Learjet to President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. But when Lear later got into financial difficulty and closed their European office, Mike found himself once again looking for a job.
A succession of short-lived flying jobs followed, during which Mike became acquainted with the Dassault Mystère 20 corporate jet, also known as the Fanjet Falcon, and it was this aircraft that he would fly – to destinations
worldwide and for a variety of employers – during the remainder of his career, with many a tale to tell in consequence.
Mike is an articulate narrator whose recollections contain elements to amuse and entertain any reader and will be of particular interest to fellow aviators and aviation enthusiasts.