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Hunstanton columnist looks back at the RAF career of Squadron Leader David Jones

In his weekly Turnstone column, John Maiden looks back at the RAF career of his friend Squadron Leader David Jones...

The RAF career of a very good friend of mine, Squadron Leader David Jones, was highlighted in the July edition of ‘Aeroplane’ magazine, as part of a special feature on the Cold War, including the important part played by the English Electric Lightning F1. This was a twin-engine, swept-wing, single-seat, supersonic fighter, developed to bring the RAF into the supersonic age. The Lightning was able to fly at twice the speed of sound and was an incredible leap forward in performance and technology. In fact, it had such a power-to-weight ratio that it could stand on its tail and exceed the speed of sound in a vertical climb.

These facts are derived from an article written for ‘Aeroplane’ by Denis J Calvert, based on a comprehensive interview with David Jones, covering his experience as a Lightning pilot. Prior to this David had flown Hawker Hunters with No 74 Squadron at RAF Coltishall. Also based there was the ‘Air Fighting Development Squadron’ (AFDS). In December 1959 it was announced that No 74 Squadron was to be the RAF’s first frontline Lightning unit. Before Christmas 1959 the first Lightnings arrived at Coltishall for the AFDS, whose task it was to convert No 74 Hunter pilots to fly the Lightning F1.

According to his log book, David’s first Lightning flight was on September 23, 1960, when he flew for just under an hour, taking off and climbing to 36,000 feet, the standard operating height for a Lightning. On his second trip, the next day, he increased his speed to Mach 1.6, so that when he landed he became a member of the exclusive 1,000 mph club.

David recalls that the enormous shove in the back experienced on take-off was something new, but not too startling. The thing that amazes me is the speed with which a Lightning pilot’s mind must have worked to cope with the speed of the aeroplane. This must be especially true when it comes to formation flying, which is well illustrated in the article. When I think about it, this probably explains why David always seems to have time to spare and, unlike me, is always on time.

He will be asked to check a draft of this column before it appears in print, but it has been a seemingly impossible task to do justice to his achievements, or to those of Denis J Calvert.

As a footnote I will just add that David will be at Duxford today, August 8, probably sharing some memories of the Lightning with his second son Adam and grandson Sam. May the weather be kind to them, especially since without David’s Lightning they will be unable to climb over it at 36,000 feet!

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