Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Austin Robinson Goes 'Solo'

To commemorate Austin Robinson's first solo flight exactly one hundred years ago today his grandson David Jeffrey has kindly contributed the following post using information gained from Austin's RNAS flying log book.

"Austin was up early on Wednesday, 30th May 1917 for this was the day he had dreamed of since joining the Royal Naval Air Service some four months previously ... the day he was going to fly solo.

At the time, he was based at RNAS Chingford and the plane he was going to fly was Grahame White 8785, the type of bread and butter machine used by the RNAS for the first-time trainee pilots.

Austin Robinson around 1917

A Grahame White trainer aircraft of around 1916

Austin had first reported for training as a pilot officer at RNAS Crystal Palace on 4th Feburary 1917 and after three weeks of induction training moved on to RNAS Chingford to be taught to fly.

RNAS Crystal Palace which gave basic training on the
naval air service and the rudiments of flying

RNAS Chingford around 1916
For the first three weeks at Chingford he received ground-based training and then first took to the air on 31st March with Flt. Cmdr. Jackson, an experienced trainer, at the controls. Over the next few weeks, he flew 23 sorties, on various Grahame White aircraft, gradually building up his flying competence. Then on 22nd May, for the first time, he flew alone but just hopping off the ground and back again, all in a straight line. On 27th and 28th he continued practising this in preparation for his first solo flight.

His big day, Wednesday 30th May, began at 5.15 am when he practised straight hops on his own. In his pilot's log, see below, he wrote '... rather bad drift. Landing very poor.' He had another practice at 5.55 am and remarked '... lost prop which could not be started' ... perhaps meaning that he had dug the propeller into the grass. There was then a gap, maybe to sort out the damage, till another practise at 7.46 pm after which he remarked '... much better. With F.C. Jackson for 1/2 circuit before solo'.

Everything was now ready and at 8.00 pm he took off solo and flew for 50 minutes (by far the longest time he had ever been in the air) and getting up to 2500 feet (more than twice the height he had every experienced before).

He must have been totally elated but his log book remarks are typically Austin, analytical and reflective 'First solo. Bumpy till 1500 feet. Rather rough on controls.'

Robin Jeffrey
17th April 2017