This was the title of Heinz Frick’s talk to the Association on
November 13th 2012. Members will remember Heinz as a Dunsfold test
pilot and Chief Test Pilot, succeeding Mike Snelling in this post.
Chris Roberts took over from Heinz.
Heinz was born in Switzerland in 1940. Sadly his parents divorced after which he lived with his grandmother for 4-5 years during which she introduced him to beer and took care of him. In 1952 his mother married an Englishman and Heinz moved to London where he completed his education and, always having been interested in aviation and the RAF, he joined up in 1959.
His primary training was on the second Jet Provost TMk3 course. His considerate instructor put up with Heinz’s proclivity for air sickness and he soloed in 10 hours. At the age of 21 after 110 hours on Vampire TMk11s, and a lot of hinting to his Wing Commander, (and getting married) he got posted to 20 Sqn flying Hunter FGAMk9s in Singapore.
The squadron was very busy and moved to north Thailand to ‘show the flag’ against a threat of a Chinese invasion. The USAF was there too, with F-105s, F-100s and F-101s so exercises were arranged where the “brilliant” Hunters and the USAF defended and attacked a feature alternately. The Hunters flew just above the weeds and the USAF dived from 40,000 ft so they never met. Eventually it was decided that all should fly below 10,000 ft but sadly one USAF pilot was killed so the events were called off. The squadron accommodation was all tented which in the Monsoon was very uncomfortable.T
An air show was mounted for the locals, 90% of whom had never seen
an aircraft or a pilot and wanted to touch them. “The world’s worst
fighter”, the Javelin, and Canberras also took part.
When Sukharno threatened Malaysia the squadron moved from Singapore to Borneo and were up against Badgers, MiG 15s and 17s and Mustangs. There were no maps so Heinz’s artistry was called upon to mark the blank charts with the frontier, mountains and so on.
The MoD had failed to provide adequate covers for the Hunters which
were parked outside in the tropical rain leading to a number of
accidents. Heinz was air testing a Hunter that had suffered from
asymmetric flap deployment, when, on lowering full flap at 10,000 ft
the aircraft entered a spin. Not having recovered by 5,000ft Heinz
ejected, and was subjected to the 22g acceleration of the Mk2 Martin
Baker seat resulting in two crushed vertebrae and a period in hospital.
The Straits Times reported that flying officer Frick had saved himself
by “ejaculating into a swamp”.
Next it was back to the UK and Lightnings at the Coltishall OCU (Operational Conversion Unit). Slightly awed by the aircraft Heinz had three dual trips then “never looked back”. Lightning weaknesses included the poor armament of just two missiles (the MoD would not fund underwing Sidewinders, for example) and the low fuel capacity of 7,500lb (at low level in afterburner the fuel consumption was 1,300 lb/min.). In 74 Squadron at Leuchars Heinz flew the Mk6 with the ventral tank which improved things.
From Coltishall Heinz moved to 5 Squadron at Binbrook. It was the
height of the Cold War and there were always two aircraft on QRA (Quick
Reaction Alert) to intercept Soviet Bears and Bison. Usually there was
20 minutes warning but on one occasion Heinz got from sleep to airborne
in 3 mins 57 secs thanks to the gang bar for setting the cockpit
switches and one push to start both engines. Whilst on the Mk6 Heinz
reached an altitude of 74,000 ft, zooming from M 2.2 at 40,000 ft into
At the Empire Test Pilots’ School Heinz flew piston engines for the first time, in the STO Twin Pioneer, and reacquainted himself with the Hunter, flying an erect and inverted spinning programme. At the Fighter Test Squadron he converted to the Harrier doing CA Release work including guns air-air and rockets air-ground weapon aiming. He found the weapon aiming system to be not the best it being necessary to stabilise the sight for 1 - 2 seconds before aiming. It took him six sorties to hit a towed banner target whereas he had managed that on his first Lightning sortie.
The Jaguar was “a test pilot’s delight - everything was wrong with it”. It was vastly underpowered. “Q: Why did it have two engines? A: If you lost one the other was just powerful enough to get you to the crash site”. The fuselage was soft; pull g and the rudder deflected; a 90 deg bank came after a 6g ground attack dive. Reheat and airbrake selection could both give a 2.5g pitch up.
After a water soaking on the ground Heinz climbed to 36,000 ft where the ailerons became solid and unusable. However 1 degree of sideslip gave a roll rate of 60 deg/sec so Heinz flew back to Boscombe on rudder. On inspection it was found that the control run in the spine was frozen solid.
Gun firing caused engine surge. In the case of engine failure one
dry engine was not powerful enough for a circuit but with reheat it was
too powerful, so it was necessary to switch reheat in and out - but
lighting the reheat was unreliable. Stanley Hooker said that reheat was
the work of the devil!
Next came the Phantom. Heinz read the Pilots’ Notes over the weekend, climbed in on Monday with Tom Lecky-Thomson on the telebrief. Start-up was OK but he found he didn’t know how to close the hood - must have missed that bit, so he asked Tom. His first take-off was in a clean aircraft with full reheat. The Phantom was a poor handling aircraft but with a very good undercarriage and a superb weapons system (4 missiles and 11,000 lbs of bombs); and a back seater to work the tremendous radar. Unfortunately Speys in the UK version required bigger intakes and bulky afterburners making the aircraft slower than the off-the-shelf US versions.
Heinz flew the Lightning again and did air-ground firing of the ventral tank mounted Aden guns. It was windy on Larkhill Range so the 30 ft square hessian targets could not be erected and had to be laid in the ground. He came in low in a 10 deg dive, fired and pulled up. It took 2 ½ second to reach 5.5g and Heinz mushed to within 12 ft of the ground. Spinning on the Mk6, which had never been done before, was not bad. Initiated at 45,000 ft and 0.9M, stick hard back gave a spin similar to the Jet Provost with 2 ½ secs per turn and a positive recovery in 2 ½ turns, but 10,000 ft was needed for the pull-out.
Heinz did the cold weather trials on the Harrier at Cold Lake, Alberta, with temperatures down to -40 deg C. A problem was that when taxiing with nozzles deflected snow froze on the under-fuselage which prevented the undercarriage doors from opening. After flying a series of strenuous wind-up turns (WUT) on the first Harrier TMk2 at Boscombe some rivets in the tailplane needed replacing and Heinz observed that the tailplane moved when the rivet gun was applied. He judged that there was excessive play so requested a tailplanes change. Next day the foreman said, “come and look at this” and pointed out two cracks in the rear fuselage. On the next WUT the tail would probably have come off!
Sometimes Heinz flew the A&AEE‘s ‘calibrated’ Javelin, of which type he had a low opinion. It is said that a test pilot reported that “entry to the cockpit is difficult; I strongly suggest it is made impossible”!
Rolls-Royce at Filton needed a test pilot for engine work at Bristol and Heinz got the job so moved there and at a stroke doubled his salary. He flew many types including a Vulcan with an RB 199 under the fuselage, and a VC10 with an RB 211 on one side. He flew the RB211 relight programme in which the 211 was started by bleed from one of the Conways which reduced its thrust to 80%. So keeping the aircraft up on just two Conways at 80% and 100% thrust instead of four capable of 100% each was tricky. He also flew on the 211 bearing slip programme which called for 80 hours of flying at 10 - 12 hours per day.
On the Harrier he flew the manual fuel control system (MFCS) trial, it worked well but at high altitude the throttle was, naturally, very sensitive. Back in the Jaguar Heinz flew the part throttle reheat system allowing reheat to be used down to 80% rpm instead of only at 100%, which was needed by the reconnaissance pilots as the pod had a high drag. Another Jaguar Adour problem was that the engine had a habit of shedding carbon from its combustion chambers causing puffs of black smoke in the exhaust efflux. With a modification to stop the carbon build-up Heinz slammed the throttle closed and got an immediate flame-out. The red-hot carbon had been providing an automatic relight capability!
He also converted to helicopters for a Gnome programme, tested the Viper in the HS125, and the VFW-Fokker VF 614 with over-wing M45H engine pods. “Why over-wing? If they were underneath the wheels wouldn’t reach the ground!”. The advantage was that the flight test engineers could watch a surge from the windows. Heinz also flew the Hawk for Adour relight tests
The Concorde had a surge problem where an outboard engine would surge which would cause the inboard to surge so the aircraft would yaw causing the two engines on the other side to surge as well. The way the surge was observed was to film the unstable flame in the jet-pipe from a Gnat with a camera on its fin. When Heinz was flying the Gnat close behind and below he watched the Concorde wing flexing during a surge at 500 kn and 10,000 ft with the undercarriage doors open.
. In 1978 Roll-Royce decided for reasons of economy to carry out engine tests at the airframe manufacturers airfields and cut back their Filton operation so Heinz accepted John Farley’s offer of a test pilot job at Dunsfold. His first flight at Dunsfold, because John was unwell, was a Sea Harrier demonstration for a visiting Chinese delegation. Unfortunately the navigation system platform tilted soon after take-off leaving Heinz lost. However, Dunsfold ATC steered him home.
He flew the Sea Harrier at the Paris Air Show and Hawk Red Arrows
smoke system development trials. Ground tests at Dunsfold were carried
out at the eastern end of the airfield near JohnYoxall’s, the Works
Manager’s, cottage, pointing the Derv and Biro ink-laden exhaust into
the bushes to stop it spreading. Unfortunately John Yoxall’s cat used
to hunt in these bushes and John was not at all please by the inky paw
prints all over his sofas. It is necessary to keep the Adour RPM up for
good smoke which is why the Red Arrows fly with the airbrake out at low
Heinz went to Edwards Air Force Base for AV-8B relight testing which was a great experience. Every flight had to be chased and often the chase pilot would not be at the briefing so didn’t know what was going on. Also, the usual chase aircraft was a Phantom; if it had drop tanks it was too slow, if it didn’t its duration was too short. At West Freugh in the Harrier GR5 Heinz dropped six 1,000 bombs, all within 10 metres of the target; high accuracy. During 25mm Aden gun air firing trials on the GR5 Heinz fired 20 rounds from the left gun and saw a group of black dots going past. Back on the ground damage was found on the left wing; the aircraft had flown through a cloud of 25mm projectiles - a narrow escape. The cause was rapid wear of the gun barrel rifling causing unstable projectile flight; they ‘stood up’ and slowed down.
On a GR3 flight on New Year’s Eve, to ensure payment that year, the engine surged at 35,000 ft and would not relight without surging. All diversions were closed
so Heinz had no option but to glide to Boscombe Down for a forced landing. The place was deserted so he climbed out down the wing and walked to a police box. The policeman reported to his superior, “There’s a bloke here dressed as a pilot. I’ve told him the fancy dress party isn’t ’til this evening”.
Interesting sidelights were demonstrating the GR5 at Paris and overseas delivery flights. At Jamnagar the runway couldn’t be found - it was camouflaged - and it was covered in vultures.
Time-to-height records were set at Filton with an uprated Pegasus
11-61 powered GR5 with Chris Roberts and R-R test pilot Andy Sefton.
Post flight the engine was run on the test bed only to suffer an oil
gallery failure leading to a seized engine; all this just two minutes
running time from post-flight shut down. Trials to
show the feasibility of Heinz’s invention, the ‘Skyhook’, were flown at
Dunsfold using G-VTOL. Regrettably it wasn’t taken up. The idea allowed
the weight of a Sea Harrier to be reduced by 1,500 lb (no undercarriage
needed) to 11,000 lb empty, so with the 23,500 lb thrust Pegasus 11-61
capability off the Skyhook would have been very good.
In 1990, aged 50, Heinz had to retire from fast jet flying and got a job with Air Europe as a First Officer but after becoming a Captain after a year’s training the firm went bust.
Next Heinz flew an executive jet throughout Europe and the Middle East for a Yemen-based businessman and finally as a professional, flew an Air Ambulance returning patients to the UK.
After a flirtation with a scale Hawker Fury biplane, which he helped
finish and test flew from Dunsfold - the last test flight from there -
he settled for a share in a glider in which he has so far achieved a 3
½ hour flight.
This concluded a wonderfully evocative and entertaining talk by an aviator who had had a number of ‘lucky escapes’, but as Chris Roberts said when giving the vote of thanks, the more skilled you get, the luckier you are.