Four test aircrew members who gave their lives to help create the famous Blackburn Buccaneer aircraft were remembered at a special service.
The service, took place in the museum’s chapel, saw the Blackburn Buccaneer XV168, recently donated to the Yorkshire Air Museum by aerospace firm BAE Systems, re-dedicated to the former Blackburn Aircraft workers who died as part of development and testing of the aircraft.
The family of Robert Blackburn, the firm’s founder, relatives of the aircrew members who gave their lives and representatives of the Blackburn Aircrew Association had been invited to attend the service at the museum in Elvington on 26th October.
The air crew, John G Joyce, Trevor D Dunn, ‘Sailor’ G R I Parker and Gordon R Copeman, died in three separate incidents while developing the aircraft between 1959 and 1963.
The XV168 was originally dedicated 20 years ago after it flew to BAE Systems’ site at Brough, East Yorkshire – the site of the original Blackburn Aircraft factory – which would be the first and last time a Buccaneer would land at the airfield.
Ian Reed, Director of the Yorkshire Air Museum, said: “The Buccaneer design underwent development trials at Elvington airfield and Blackburn Aircraft’s site at nearby Holme-on-Spalding Moor, close by, so the type has an historic connection to XV168’s new locality.
“XV168 complements the two other Buccaneers within the Museum’s collection, these being Blackburn Buccaneer S.2B XX901 and the Hawker Siddley (Blackburn) Buccaneer S.2 XN974, which was the prototype for the Fleet Air Arm Naval version of the low level strike attack aircraft, which is kept in ‘live’ ground operational condition.
“As part of the ceremony on Saturday, XN974 was powered up, as it stood with the others in a unique Buccaneer display.”
The recent redevelopment of the Brough site operated by BAE Systems led to the company donating the airframe to the Yorkshire Air Museum and Allied Air Forces Memorial this summer.
Brough site director Dave Corfield said BAE Systems had produced a new plaque to note the XV168’s new location at the Yorkshire Air Museum.
He said: “This Buccaneer stood at the Brough site for nearly two decades where it represented the heritage of world-class engineering this site is renowned for.
“Due to the recent changes at Brough, we agreed to donate the airframe to the Yorkshire Air Museum to add to its superb collection.
“It is fitting that not only the Blackburn family, who remain huge supporters of BAE Systems, but also relatives of those aircrew members who gave their lives in creating a fantastic aircraft will be present for the re-dedication service.
“BAE Systems is proud to continue to recognise our role in the strong aviation heritage of this part of East Yorkshire, as we continue to develop the future of world-class aircraft.”
The Blackburn Aircraft test aircrew members commemorated by the re-dedication service were killed during three separate incidents between October 1959 and February 1963.
October 12, 1959 – John Joyce, an experienced observer who had been with Blackburn Aircraft since 1953, died in an incident near Lyndhurst, Hampshire in October 1959, which saw the first loss of a first development aircraft (XK490).
The incident also claimed the life of pilot Bill Alford, a civilian employed by NASA as a test pilot for the US government which had part-funded a weapons development programme on the Buccaneer.
August 31, 1961 – Trevor D.Dunn, an observer with Blackburn Aircraft, died following an accident which occurred during a series of deck trials undertaken on HMS Hermes in August 1961.
The incident which saw the first loss of a development aircraft (XK529) at sea also claimed the life of Lieutenant Commander ‘Ossie’ Brown RN.
February 19, 1963 – Blackburn Aircraft test pilot ‘Sailor’ G.R.I. Parker and the company’s senior test observer, Gordon R Copeman, died during an incident at the company’s Holme-on-Spalding-Moor airfield, East Yorkshire in February 1963.
The incident involved a Buccaneer S.1 (XN952).
(Source: Flying the Buccaneer: Britain’s Cold War Warrior, by Peter Caygill.)