On 12th July Lt Cdr Nicholas Kidd spoke to the Association about his
career in aviation which started with an RAF flying scholarship for
thirty hours flying. He completed the course plus five hours for a
private pilot’s licence flying Cessna 150s. A 45 minute flight in a
Naval Wasp helicopter at low level around the Solway Firth prompted him
to leave school and join the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm. Whilst at
Dartmouth College he trained on Chipmunks at Church Fenton and Hiller
helicopters at Culdrose followed by advanced and operational training
on the Wessex.
From 1970 to 1990 he was a Naval helicopter pilot flying commando operations, search and rescue, small ships flights, instrument examiner, naval standards flight, test pilot and test pilot instructor. He flew the Wessex from ships around the world, including Belize, sometimes armed with rockets, SS12 anti-tank missiles or Mk44 torpedoes. He was based at RNAS Culdrose flying Whirlwind 9s on search and rescue; RNAS Portland on Wasps as instructor, and flight commander on various frigates; RNAS Yeovilton on Wessex 5s and on HMS Bulwark, Albion, Intrepid and Fearless. The Wasps were armed with Mk44 torpedoes, depth charges, AS12 air to ship missiles and sometimes with a 600 lb nuclear depth charge for attacking Soviet nuclear submarines which the torpedoes couldn’t reach.
During the Falklands war he was senior pilot of a commando squadron flying six Wessex and two Chinook helicopters on board SS Atlantic Conveyor. They picked up 12 Harriers from Ascension which were flown off in the South Atlantic and then the helicopters started operations. On 25th May Atlantic Conveyer was attacked by Super Etendards which released two Exocet missiles at 25 miles range and the ship was hit just above the water line. After four hours Nic and the rest of the crew abandoned ship.
In 1984 Nic graduated from the Empire Test Pilot School, Boscombe Down, where, amongst other aircraft he flew the Edgeley Optica, which stalled at 35 kn, and the Airship 500 whose long cable runs made the controls heavy. Also he was sent to the US Navy Test Centre at Patuxent River, Maryland to do his ETPS Preview evaluation on the twin rotor CH-46 helicopter notable for high vibration and noise levels.
Nic then spent more than two years with the Experimental Flying Squadron at RAE Farnborough flying the Puma, Lynx, Wessex, Sea King and Gazelle testing electro-optics, helmet mounted displays, laser weapons, situational awareness systems, ‘hele-tele ball’ mounted low-light TV, infra red cameras and line scanners, night vision goggles-compatible cockpit lighting, Lynx flight control laws and, in collaboration with NASA Ames, helmet mounted displays exploring low level flight using different aids.
His last job in the Royal Navy was as Senior Naval Tutor at the US Navy Test Pilot School, Patuxent River. There he flew a large range of aircraft including the Bell Cobra with the teetering rotor system. However at less than 1g flight there is the possibility that the rotor can collide with the airframe and depart so it was replaced with the HH65 Dauphin. Other rotary wing types flown were the CH-46 again, the very manoeuvrable Black Hawk with a stabilator which was self programming with air speed, the Jet Ranger for water landings where height judgement was difficult requiring a radar altimeter, the Kaman Husky with intermeshing, contra rotating twin rotors, so no tail rotor, giving high performance, the very agile Bolkow 105, the Apache using a monocular helmet mounted display, the huge Sikorski Skycrane, the Kaman Seasprite and Alouette 3, the CH-53 minesweeping at 40 kn, the MD500 Cayuse, the Bell 222 and the V-22 Osprey simulator. Col Harry Blott of AV-8A VIFFing fame, after whom the power lever called the Blottle was named, was the project manager. Fixed wing types included the F-18 and T-38 which tutors could use at weekends, for example to fly to Colorado for skiing, the T-2 Buckeye, King Air, Bolkow 105, P-51, Pitts Special which flew at minus 5 g in an outside loop, the Sea Fury T20, Harvard and Alphajet which was used for inverted spinning demonstrations.
After the Pax River posting Nic retired from the Royal Navy as a Lt Cdr having belonged to 12 squadrons, operated from nine ships and completed operational tours in Northern Ireland and the Falklands. From 1990-99 he was chief pilot and chief test pilot for McAlpine Helicopters at Hayes and Oxford, developing Aerospatiale Squirrels and, later, MBB EC 135s and Dauphins and other types variously for police, ambulance and fire brigade operations with special systems and equipment, as well as VIP aircraft, and for TV and filming tasks. Nic also did charter operations, introduced four new helicopters to the UK market and converted 250 pilots on to seven different helicopter types.
In October, 1999, having flown more than 100 different types of rotary and fixed wing aircraft, he was invited to join the Queen’s Helicopter Flight employed directly by Buckingham Palace as the Flight’s Chief Training Captain. Some 10 years ago the royal household purchased a Sikorsky S76C+ helicopter to replace the Wessex helicopters operated for them by the RAF. The civil S76s are solely for use by the royal family. The flight of two aircraft is manned by five pilots, four site managers and an operations officer, and tasked by the Royal Travel Office at Buckingham Palace.
After 40 years flying 140 types, clocking up 10,600 hours on helicopters and nine years of royal flying involving 1,760 royal flights, Nic was invested by the Queen as Commander of the Royal Victorian Order for services to the Queen’s Helicopter Flight.
Nic, as well as holding an Air Line Transport Pilots Licence, and being a senior examiner for the CAA, a type rating instructor and examiner, an instrument rating examiner, a flight test instructor and a Category A test pilot, now runs his own company providing flight instruction and examining, test flying, consulting and safety management.
In his introduction, our Chairman, Chris Roberts, noted that Nic was a keen windsurfer and that that activity had led to this talk through his windsurfing friend, Colin Flint, who, sadly has died from cancer.
The vote of thanks was given by the editor who thanked Nic for an absorbing and brilliantly illustrated talk which had opened the audience’s eyes to the world of helicopters. He remarked the Ray Searle and himself had flown in a CH-46 from Beaufort SC to the USS Guam and could confirm that the CH-46 was indeed horrendously noisy with high vibration levels!