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The Golden Jubilee 1952-2002

It's our working jubilee too!

Val Proudfoot
Les Henry
David Conn
Jim Kerr
Jack Shirvell
Tom Griffith
Lesley Eke
Audrey Hawkin
Dai Owen
Jim Dade
Sadie Jefferson
James Finlay
Jack Shirvell
Click to see interview...
Jack Shirvell has worked in the aviation industry for 61 years and has been flying planes for almost as long.

When he was 16-years-old, Jack joined a company called London Aircraft Productions which built Halifax Bombers. He was a junior technician for three years and joined the Air Training Corps while he was there.

"That gave me a great interest in aviation," says Jack. "Through the Air Training Corps I learned so much that I applied to become air crew in 1943 and was accepted in the capacity of pilot, navigator or bomb aimer."

Jack joined the Royal Air Force 15 months later and sailed to Canada to finish his training. However the war finished just before he got his wings and he returned to the UK.

Flying with the H-bomb

After being made redundant from the RAF in 1948, he began working at Heathrow Airport as a ground and flight operations officer. He joined the RAF volunteer reserve and re-enlisted when the Korean War intensified.

Jack has kept many photographs of the planes he has flown
"I flew many happy years in coastal command," says Jack. "I flew about seven different types of aircraft including the Lancaster. I actually flew the two hydrogen bombs which were exploded in Malden Island in the Pacific in May 1957."

When he returned to the UK, Jack started work as a pilot with a company called Air Charter, owned by Sir Freddie Laker. He stayed with the company until he reached retirement age. In this time he also saw the firm change its name to British United Airways and then to British Caledonian Airways.

Still flying

Now he works for American Airlines , training pilots to fly DC-10s on a high tech simulator. He's still flying as well he flies gliders in the UK and the United States.

Jack says technology has changed aircraft so much over the past 50 years that the job of a pilot is hugely different too. Conditions in the cockpit used to be very uncomfortable.

"In the old days, most of them had no proper heating and most were unpressurised. I flew aircraft without windscreen wipers, without automatic pilot. That has all changed and now we fly aircraft with hundreds of computers on board."

He thinks the development of the jet engine has also changed the job. Now planes can carry vast loads of fuel and fly thousands of miles at a time.

Variety is the spice of life

"Aircraft can now go long distances without stopping. When aircraft stopped that was when the problems used to occur. Now they can fly for 15 hours with two pilots and a back-up crew to relieve them while they have a rest."

Jack thinks the variety in his work has helped to keep the job interesting.

"I don't know how many aircraft I've flown but I've flown all types. And as far as I'm concerned I hope it keeps going."

And in his current training role, he thrives on the time he spends with other pilots.

"I deal with mainly overseas personnel. I get on very well with them and I feel I can offer them some experience which they often appreciate. And there's the fact that I'm with younger people which I hope keeps me mentally young as well."

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