Here is Duncan
Simpson's personal recollection of a flight with Eric Rubython...
To us at Dunsfold Eric Rubython appeared a rather distant
senior director at Kingston. He rarely visited the aerodrome and
aeroplanes were somewhat of a mystery to him; flying was to be avoided
if at all possible.
But came the day
that Eric was completing a difficult week closing down Hawker factories
in the Midlands when he wished for transport back home to Wonersh as
'rapidly' as possible. It so happened that I was available on 25th
March 1965 and was persuaded to fly our de Havilland Rapide to
Bitteswell to pick up the Commercial Director and take him to Dunsfold.
So, I set off knowing that an active cold front
lay up the west coast of England, but provided we returned on time
there was no cause for concern. However, at Bitteswell my concern began
to increase as time passed waiting for my busy passenger, and by the
end of two hours the front, a very active line squall, was itself
Occurrence At Upper Heyford
I explained the situation to Eric when he arrived and we climbed
aboard. After about ten minutes airborne heavy rain and turbulence hit
us. I confess that I had not expected such extreme conditions and
decided that I must land and wait for the front to go through.
I caught sight of Upper Heyford runway - just one end of it - and
called the USAF for landing clearance. An aggressive American
controller replied "What's your praablem?". I said I was now declaring
an emergency landing and would explain matters when on the ground.
The final approach in blinding rain, considerable crosswind and
turbulence was not easy and we were lucky to keep straight and not
burst a tyre.
We came to a halt
in the middle of the airfield and were immediately surrounded by Jeeps
carrying armed US military police, 'whitecaps'. I called back to Eric
(a rather pale Eric) to let me do the talking. I shall never forget him
descending from the Rapide to be greeted by a 'whitecap' holding a gun
to his left ear.
Upper Heyford was a USAF Strategic Air Command base and the boss,
General Curtis Le May, was in the habit of sending in test cases to
catch them out on security. And here was a gaily painted, antique, twin
engined biplane, a man in flying overalls, and an immaculate gentleman
in a natty pin-stripe suit complete with brief case claiming, to be a
Director of a major aviation company.
Within minutes we were in the guardroom, a bare cell with three chairs.
Could we identify ourselves, asked the MPs? "Ah, yes" says our
Commercial Director, opening his bulging brief case; but it contained
not one piece of paper bearing his name or position. We suggested that
they 'phoned Kingston and after two hours under guard we were
eventually released. Then, a hire car to Wonersh.
The following day I received a charming letter from Eric thanking me
for saving him, saving the aeroplane, and saving me.
That was the end of our favourite DH 89A Rapide, G-AHGC, and we took
delivery of a new, modern, de Havilland dove airliner, G-ASMG.
Footnotes. I collected the Rapide from Upper Heyford the following day.
Sure enough the starboard engine harness was saturated and the Gipsy
Six ran rough until we were over Oxford. Shamefully, the Rapide was
dismantled and unceremoniously dumped on the Dunsfold's November 5th
bonfire! Following many protests it was removed, rebuilt and flown to
the Channel Islands.
Rubython was a 'people person' relating to all levels of the Company
and many of us remember various acts of kindness, although from time to
time he had his other moments - don't we all! He was, in his spare
time, a keen gardener, golfer and fisherman and maintained an interest
in all sports.
He leaves a
widow, Joan, in the USA to whom we offer our condolences. Typically he
left his body to medical science depriving us of the opportunity of
paying our last respects to a much respected colleague and leading
figure in the aircraft industry. There was a sad lack of written
appreciation in this country which these few inadequate words seek to