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Frontline and Experimental Flying with the Fleet Air Arm (Hardback)

Aviation > Aviation Biography & Memoirs Aviation > WWII Military > Biographies > Military Biographies WWII

By Geoffrey Higgs
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781848842625
Published: 5th July 2010



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The spectacle of Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus and the Fleet at anchor in Weymouth inspired the author’s lifelong passion for aeroplanes, flying and the Royal Navy. World War Two provided the opportunity to fulfil his ambition and at eighteen he volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot. Training in Canada began a Naval flying career that spanned thirty-years. Front line squadron service, embarked on aircraft carriers was followed by qualification as a flying instructor. Selection for the Empire Test Pilots School at Farnborough and qualification as an experimental Test Pilot changed the direction of his naval career. In all he flew nearly one hundred types of aircraft and carried out close to a thousand deck landings. Initial flight testing of a number of new naval aircraft, as well as research flying in support of the development of aircraft such as the English Electric Lightning and Concorde added to a unique career.

Such a long and varied period of flying was not without the inevitable mishaps. A near catastrophic catapult launch of a new naval aircraft, the jamming of the power control system in a research aircraft and hazardous flying through tropical storms at supersonic speeds to determine safety factors for Concorde’s intended Far East route were some of the dangers of flying at the cutting edge. As pilot, he flew the first Royal Naval aircraft to cross the Atlantic non-stop without in-flight refuelling or navigational aids. He describes the fascinating ten day flight from Croydon to Rangoon across Europe, the Middle East, Pakistan and India to deliver a Percival Provost trainer to the Burmese Air Force.

Follow Higgs from one cockpit/conference room/country to another. You'll be as surprised as he is that he lived to tell about some of these adventures.


This hefty hardback chronicles the life and times of the author, Geoffrey Higgs, and it is a life crammed with flying all types of aircraft, mostly shipboard, and the inevitable mishaps. There are endless anecdotes, tied in with the service action is an account of the peculiar life led by the service families. The social life is good, and the accounts of shipboard life visiting Australia highlight the stamina needed to stay the course. This is a good read, particularly for those of us who soak up anything to do with ships and aircraft. The shipboard accounts of catapult trials, amongst other sections, are gripping, and the times in Singapore and the Far East add to the appeal, as do the various accounts of life alongside the Americans. Geoffrey Higgs flew nearly 100 different types of aircraft in his career and his love of flying shines through the pages.

Alan Rawlinson

Frontline and Experimental Flying with the Fleet Air
Arm by Geoffrey Higgs. The first naval pilot to fly across the Atlantic non-stop (in a Buccaneer) describes his 35-year career in the Fleet Air Arm and as an Empire Test Pilot. He flew nearly 100 different types of aircraft including Lightnings and Concorde and carried out 1,000 deck landings.

Pennant Magazine
 Geoffrey Higgs
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