FRANK McCLEAN: Godfather to British Naval Aviation

Book number: 91712 Product format: Hardback Author: PHILIP JARRETT

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Bibliophile price £4.75
Published price £25

Sir Francis Kennedy McClean died at the age of 80 in 1955. As well as being an aeronaut and a pioneer pilot, he ensured the initial success of Short Brothers as an aeroplane manufacturer, served as the company's first test pilot and, in the words of that great naval aviator Air Commodore Charles Rumney Samson, his generosity 'started the Navy flying'. In 1902 McClean became a director of the Cannock Chase Colliery Company, a post he retained until the company was nationalised in 1948 and on his father's death in 1904 he retired, aged only 28, with considerable independence enabling him to pursue his personal interest in astronomy. McClean was also a balloonist and pioneer aviator, flying with Wilbur Wright in France in December 1908. He provided the Royal Aero Club with one of the first flying grounds in the UK at East Church in Kent, personally purchased no fewer than 16 airplanes from Short Brothers before WWI, and acted as the company's unpaid test pilot. Convinced that aviation was destined to play a vital role in the nation's defence, he made his own aeroplanes freely available for training and ensured that the Navy had a suitable site on which to establish its first flying school. His flight up the Thames to Westminster on 10th August 1912, during which he flew between the upper and lower spans of Tower Bridge and passed beneath the other bridges, and his Nile expedition flight in 1914 caught the public imagination, but despite all these achievements he remained modest and reticent. He was happiest when he was flying at Eastchurch, well away from crowded public venues such as Hendon and Brooklands, and this meant that reports of his activities were sparce and much of his work was carried out quietly. When he did put pen to paper he was dryly witty and never afraid to have a joke at his own expense. He usually declined to take part in competitions and races, but ironically when he entered for the Around Britain Seaplane Race of 1913, his Short S.68 proved a troublesome non-starter. There is little doubt that the deaths of his close friends the Hon. Charles Rolls and Cecil Grace heightened his awareness of the increased risks entailed in flying competitively. Lavishly illustrated Seaforth publication, 184 large pages, rare images.

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ISBN 9781848321090

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