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February 2011 Meeting Report

Life as a Test Pilot for Marshalls of Cambridge

Our second meeting in 2011, on February 10th was also given by one of the well established SVHS members, this being a memorable talk given by Doug Page on his experiences as a test pilot for Marshalls of Cambridge. After leaving the RAF with a very distinguished record he became a co pilot to fly Vickers Viscount airliners which were built at Brooklands where the famous race track was. He was reuired to deliver some of these to Air Canada in Montreal which entailed refuelling in Greenland where it was usually very cold. So much so, the temperature often fell as the plane descended. On one occasion, due to the extreme cold and because the plane was left outside during the night, the tyres were flat in the morning!

After joining Marsalls, which had got a contact to rebuild 8 Canberras he volunteered as Chief Test Pilot to fly these to Peru, for the Peruvian Airforce. As the Senior pilot he was required to carry out the plane inspections, often made more difficult because of the noise the plane made when starting. On one of these flights he needed to make an unauthorised landing in Caracas, Venezuela. This resulted in him being ordered, at gunpoint, to explain this to a senior official, who accepted some bottles of whiskey as an adequate explanation! The Canberras had to be landed at Lima, and while there had the opportunity to admire the Aztec ruins. By way of compensation for the cramped and uncomfortable conditions in the Canberras during the long flight to Lima he was often allowed to take a return flight by first class. It appears that the itinerary for the return flights were quite flexible as he was able to break his journeys in such places as Nassau where he stayed in the most expensive hotel on the island the first time there. On seeing a mouse scurrying around the dining room he never stayed there again! On another occasion he stayed over in Manaus, in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, where he saw a huge sloth slowly climbing down a tree.

On another occasion he was forced to make a landing in a violent rain storm when he could not see a thing outside the window apart from the vague outine of the runway immediately before the wheels made contact. He was very fortunate in being able to snap up the offer of a return flight from New York to London. He commented on the poor air conditioning, not helped by people smoking the cigars being offered FOC!

He was often also a glorified taxi driver for his boss, Sir Arthur Marshall which resulted in an overnight (or two) stay in Nice. Here here could not resist buying a fold up bike at a bargain price. Asked to justify the expense of this and transporting it back to the UK Doug told Sir A that it paid for itself by the saving on taxi fares.

During his flying career at Marshalls, spanning 30 years, Doug has flown a wide variety of aircraft, including a Meteor, Belfast, Valient, Vampire, and an autogyro and during this time clocked up 20,000 flying hours, carefully recorded in 13 log books.

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