Lieutenant-Colonel Bob Smith obituary

Publié le par The Telegraph

The Telegraphpublished 11/07/2013 at 02:20 BST

Lieutenant-Colonel Bob Smith, who has died aged 92, was a pioneer in the establishment of VIP helicopter flying in Britain.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bob Smith

Lt-Col Bob Smith


In 1963 Smith became the chief helicopter test pilot for Ferranti . He subsequently built up a small fleet of dedicated executive and VIP machines, introducing standards which became a benchmark for the industry.

Smith helped helicopters to be seen as a glamorous mode of transport. The bodywork of the Ferranti fleet was finished in gleaming Dijon yellow and the interiors handcrafted in wood, leather and wool. Pilots wore uniforms tailored in mohair and wool. Their cap badge was handmade in silver and they wore white gloves.

On one occasion, having flown his chairman, Sebastian de Ferranti, to Sandringham, he showed the Queen around the helicopter. When she asked why it had blue tinted windows, Smith replied facetiously that they were to help pilots with pink eyes. “Surely not!” the Queen exclaimed. “No, Ma’am,” Smith reassured her, “in fact we operate a strict policy of eight hours from bottle to throttle.”

Among those he flew were Lord Mountbatten, Lord Snowdon, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and the American Ambassador Walter Annenberg .

Robert Smith was born on May 6 1921 in Edinburgh. He went to Holy Cross Academy and Leith Technical College before going up to Heriot-Watt University to read Analytical Chemistry.

Commissioned into the Royal Artillery, he served during the war in East and North Africa and Germany. While on active service in Burma, he was mentioned in despatches.

In 1945 Smith began flying as an air observation pilot and subsequently qualified as an Army and RAF pilot on light aircraft, advanced trainers, four-engined aircraft, gliders, sailplanes and helicopters.

After a spell at the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment, where he tested a wide variety of new designs, in 1950 he moved to the Directorate of Military Aircraft Research and Development at Boscombe Down as a test pilot and technical staff officer.

In 1954, after a year as manager of Army Developmental Flying, he left the Army and joined the company Christian Salvesen as chief pilot and general manager, and was responsible for four Westland Whirlwind helicopters engaged in whale-spotting exercises in Antarctica. The following year he served as the air search and rescue pilot for the Duncan Carse surveying expedition on South Georgia.

Smith then worked for the Bristol Aeroplane Company performing development test flying. During this time he was seconded to the German Air Force and the German Navy where he led training operations for flying instructors which included the development of air rescue operations in the Bavarian Alps.

In 1959 Smith moved to Vickers Armstrong and Rolls-Royce, where he participated in engine development flight tests. In 1962 he was seconded to the Royal Singapore Air Force, helping to establish an accident investigation department. He then became deputy chief test pilot of Westland Helicopters, with which Bristol had merged.

The Ferranti Helicopter Company was formed in 1970 with Smith as its managing director, to offer charter services based at Gatwick airport. Customers on long-term contracts included Wimpey and Rolls-Royce. The helicopters were used to ferry supplies and keepers to lighthouses in the Scottish isles and to make Royal Mail deliveries. Smith also piloted Michael Heseltine when he became Minister for Aerospace.

In 1979 Smith became a founding member of Aviation Consultants International . Between 1980 and 1982 he was personal pilot to the racehorse trainer, Vincent O’Brien, and to John Broome, the developer of Alton Towers. He was operations manager of a helicopter company in Tanzania from 1984 to 1986. He later settled in South Africa.

Bob Smith married, in 1949, Iris Light, who survives him.

Lt-Col Bob Smith, born May 6 1921, died May 20 2013

Publié dans Avis de décès

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