BAE Systems test pilot Graham Tomlinson has won the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators Derry & Richards Memorial Medal for his contributions to aviation, the company announced this week.
Flying for the first time at age 15, Tomlinson was in the Royal Air Force until 1986, when he joined BAE Systems. Since then, he participated in the company’s F-35 Lightning II program, getting involved in the flight of the F35B, initial STOVL lift system, short takeoffs and slow and vertical landings. This year, Tomlinson completed the first-ever vertical landing of a test plane, the short take off vertical landing variant.
“The first flight of any aircraft is undoubtedly the highlight in every test pilot’s career,” he said. “Mine was when we flew with the STOVL lift system engaged for the first time. First flights of any aircraft are full of uncertainties, and we had the additional complexities of a STOVL aircraft where you are operating in an area with partial support from aerodynamics and the remainder from jet thrust. It was remarkable that the aircraft felt so solid throughout this initial testing phase.”
Paul Stone, director of flight operations at BAE Systems, added: “Graham really has made an outstanding contribution to military test flying. In a career spanning 31 years of flight testing for the RAF and BAE Systems, it is fantastic to see those efforts being recognized by such a prestigious award.”