Alex Henshaw (1912 – 2007) – Vice President
Alex Henshaw MBE was a British test pilot. During World War II, he was chief test pilot flying Spitfires and Lancasters at the Castle Bromwich aeroplane factory in Birmingham, run by Vickers Armstrongs, where he personally flight tested over 3000 of the 3700 Spitfires manufactured there. The factory made more than half of the Spitfires ever built, plus 350 Lancaster heavy bombers.
He famously, albeit briefly, took the controls once again in a rare two-seater Spitfire flown on the seventieth anniversary of the flight of the first prototype on 5 March, 2006 at Southampton Airport. He was the only pilot known to perform a barrel roll in a Lancaster Bomber, a feat that was considered reckless and impossible due to the aircraft’s size and relatively low speed.
Prior to the war he had made a name for himself in air racing, winning the blue riband of air racing The Kings Cup in the fastest ever time in 1938 in his Percival Mew Gull. In 1939, in the same aircraft, he flew from Gravesend to Cape Town and back in 39hrs 36mins, a distance of 12,754 miles over desert, sea and jungle, setting a solo record for the trip which still stands. His account of this epic feat is given in his book “Flight of the Mew Gull” in which he describes hazardous landings at remote bush airstrips, battling through a tropical storm and overcoming extreme exhaustion on the return leg. The aircraft he used, G-AEXF, remains in flying condition and can be found at Breighton Yorkshire having been restored to its Cape flight configuration.
After the war he went to South Africa as a director of Miles Aircraft, but returned to England in 1948 and joined his family’s farming and holiday business. He wrote a book recounting his experiences at Castle Bromwich called “Sigh For A Merlin”, the title referring to the aero engine of the same name. Alex died peacefully at home in 2007 aged 94.
A full obituary may be found at www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1544023/Alex-Henshaw.html