Mark The Clerk

15.04.21 The Clerk

Clerk’s Notes April 2021

On 19th April 1945, the first flight took place of the De Havilland DH103 Sea Hornet F20, the Royal Navy’s first twin-engined single-seat fighter. Designed around the successful wooden construction principles of the De Havilland DH98 Mosquito, the DH103 Hornet was powered by a pair of 2,070hp Merlin engines driving opposite-handed propellers which during initial trials enabled the aircraft to reach an astonishing maximum speed of 485mph at 22,000ft. It was also reported to possess ‘superb handling characteristics’, particularly in respect of its high rate of roll.

The F20 marinised version of the Hornet was first flown by none other than the late Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown CBE DSC AFC RN, prolific test pilot with 487 aircraft types in his logbook and Liveryman of the Coachmakers’ Company. In his book, “Wings on my Sleeve”, he explains that he was poised to return to Germany in the spring of 1945 to fly and evaluate various German aircraft as they fell into Allied hands, when at the same time he was tasked to test and evaluate the Sea Hornet and the Hawker Sea Fury. With regard to deck landing characteristics, each aircraft had teething troubles that he had to help resolve while at the same time fitting in trips to Germany; and then he was tasked to test the Seafire 46. He was a bit busy.

In mid-August 1945 he went on to take the Sea Hornet through its first deck landings and was very impressed. Describing the aircraft as “a real flying fish, bred to the sea” he had no doubt in his mind that the Hornet had set a standard for twin-engined naval aircraft that would be hard to beat. In fact towards the end of his book he lists the top 20 aircraft he had ever flown and the Sea Hornet sits at No. 4, described by Captain Eric as “overpowered perfection”.

Nevertheless, the Hornet was not a long-lived aircraft, either ashore in RAF service or afloat with the Fleet Air Arm. This was mainly due to the limitations of glue bonded wood being incompatible with hot and humid conditions in the Far East where much of its frontline service was carried out, and the challenges of the salt laden maritime environment. The final operational sortie of a Hornet was in mid-1955 and none of the 209 aircraft of the various marks built remain today. If you want to read a bit more about the Hornet follow these links:

Future events

Looking ahead, so far the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown is being followed as planned and if that continues to be the case 21st June will see the lifting of almost all Covid restrictions in England. It is hoped that the “roadmap” continues to be followed, in which case the Coachmakers’ Summer Court and Reception may be able to go ahead as planned at Salters’ Hall on 8th July. Under ‘normal’ circumstances I would not be thinking about such an event this far out. However, given the need to take account of any residual measures that might remain in force, the fact that it will be the first physical event for more than 15 months and the as yet unknown appetite for such an event, planning will commence shortly. Details will be promulgated as the plan evolves.

Hampton Court Concours of Elegance – Sunday 5th September 2021

Liveryman Christopher Tate has asked me to remind you that if there are any people out there who still would like to apply to be considered for selection to the Livery’s own 10 classic car display on Sunday 5th Sept at Hampton Court, now is the time to tell him. He can be contacted at Details of the event are at: and there will be a discount promoted soon for spectator access to the days at Hampton Court, 3/4/5 September so look out for that.

HAC Concours – 9 & 10th June 2021

Liveryman Tate has also asked me to point out that there is a code to obtain discounts to attend the HAC Concours show on Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th June in the City. The discount code is: LC21CM. Details of the event are here:

City news

The Lord Mayor and the City Corporation are working to develop a number of activities planned for the week commencing 21st June and they are keen for the Livery to be involved; more detail will be sent out when it is available. For now, plans are being made both for a United Guilds Service later in the spring, and for a Common Hall for the Election of Sheriffs on Thursday 24th June. Arrangements are still being worked out but further details will be shared with Livery Companies when they are finalised.

Many of you will know that with other Livery Companies, the Coachmakers supports an organisation called the Livery Schools Link. This in turn provides support to schools and colleges mainly in and around London. Please click here to view a copy of the electronic booklet published by Livery Schools Link which reflects all the information they have gathered from the Livery Companies and Guilds about the work and support they give to schools, colleges and universities across the country.

Shiny stuff

Spring thus far has been a mixed bag with regard to the weather but the sun has shone at times even though the air temperature has made a trip to the local beer garden a physical challenge akin to a short Antarctic expedition. However, if you want to read about another form of shiny stuff in the comfort of your own home in front of your unseasonal roaring log fire follow this link.

In conclusion

So what is a “marinised” version of an aircraft? In short, it is an aircraft that is originally designed and built specifically to operate to and from shore-based airfields that is modified to operate to and from the flight deck of a ship at sea. Why is this a big deal? Well, the salt laden atmosphere over the oceans can quite literally dissolve an unprotected aircraft, flight decks are much smaller than runways, and they move. This means that the airframe and sensitive mechanical and electronic components need to be protected from the ravages of salt. Also, the navigation equipment needs to be appropriate to enable the crew to find their way back to the ship from which they launched, quite often some hours later, in the dark and in all weathers, taking into account that a ship is not always in the position that it was agreed it would be at the flying briefing. Most importantly however, the marinised aircraft must be strong enough to withstand a flight deck landing.

The marinisation process therefore will almost inevitably require beefing up the landing gear and often require some strengthening of the airframe. An aircraft specifically designed to operate from ships has all this stuff included in the original design spec but during the marinisation process of a shore-based aircraft it can add weight and therefore affect performance of the original aircraft so the final version can sometimes be less capable than the original. However, following the work done earlier in 1945, Captain Eric did write in his book that the Sea Hornet’s performance during those first deck landings was very good and required only minor modifications to make her “almost perfect”.

But what’s so special about a flight deck landing? Every landing is a controlled crash as the aircraft transitions between controlled flight and gravity induced contact with the ground. When the surface on which the landing is made is fixed in space and time, a number of significant variables are removed, not least of which is unpredictable movement of said landing surface. Given that flight decks are much smaller than runways, to overcome the problem and the associated risks of the unpredictable movement of the surface, the “crash” bit of a deck landing is just a bit more noticeable than it is ashore; commensurately it also has to be made more positively to avoid the risk of it turning into a real crash. Ergo the landing gear and associated airframe fittings need to be strong enough to withstand higher G forces than for shore-based variants of the same airframe.

So to answer the gentleman at the back who has just suggested that it must therefore be easy to land an aircraft, fixed or rotary wing, on a flight deck at sea if all that’s required is to “crash” it on deck, I would say no. It is very easy to crash an aircraft onto a flight deck while attempting to land but it requires great skill to safely land on a flight deck by means of a controlled crash when said flight deck is pitching, yawing and moving forwards all at the same time, at night, in a force seven gale and while it’s pouring with rain.

If no other more interesting topic comes up between now and the next edition of Coachlines, I’ll tell you about my first experience of deck landing training.