Darrol Stinton (1927 – 2012) – Vice President
Darrol’s life in aviation began as an aeronautical engineering apprentice in 1944, with Blackburn Aircraft Limited of Brough, on the River Humber – a former builder of seaplanes, but by that time naval aeroplanes for the Fleet Air Arm. Blackburns taught him to fly.
Around 1950 he moved to De Havillands, at Hatfield, from where Darrol escaped into the RAF in 1953, via the RAFVR, the route into the Fleet Air Arm being closed for a time by the then government.
Aircraft, ships and water dominated Darrol’s interests and, while still in the RAF, he trained as a Ship’s Diving Officer RN. Urged by the team of RAF divers in the sub-aqua club, Seletar, Singapore, he used them to found the now large Royal Air Force Sub-Aqua Association – training the original team to work with the Navy in the event of aircraft accidents in water.
In 1959, Darrol had been accepted for the Empire Test Pilots’ School at Farnborough, and from there crossed the runway into experimental test flying at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, where the work was most varied, from pure research and development, to in-flight accident investigation, and being a guinea-pig for the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine.
After a spell in MoD(Air), he retired from the RAF in 1969 and joined the Air Registration Board, as a certification test pilot on light aircraft. The work was extensive and varied, from canard to conventional aeroplanes (singles and twins), landplanes and seaplanes, sailplanes, motor gliders and microlights. The work included several visits to the Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-in, at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. On the first occasion, he returned to the ARB, knackered, having tested 16 weird and wonderful homebuilts in the week.
The ARB later became the Civil Aviation Authority, but the work did not change, except that Darrol found himself flying more historic, classic and vintage types for Permits to Fly. The Chief Test Pilot, David P Davies, wanted reassurance by ‘good egg’ pilots, beyond reproach, that such aircraft were reliably fit to fly – and so Darrol, together with Duncan Simpson and a council of four others, founded the Historic Aircraft Association in 1978, to make appropriate recommendations to the CAA.
In 1982, with CAA consent and retirement in sight, Darrol formed his own company of aero-marine consultants together with his lawyer-wife. On leaving the CAA, he continued as a freelance test pilot, with the International Test Pilots’ School at Cranfield, lecturing meanwhile on aircraft design as a Senior Visiting Fellow at Loughborough University. Over the 25 years to the present, aeronautical consultancy has been dominated by flying accidents.
In 1964 Darrol was awarded the MBE for experimental test flying at Farnborough.
Inevitably, a lengthy professional career has become cluttered with technical qualifications, including a number of text books and technical papers, as a Doctor of Philosophy (for work on dolphin aero-hydrodynamics), Chartered Engineer, Fellow and past Vice President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Fellow of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, Hon Fellowship of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots in the USA, Liveryman of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators, and, many years before, membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Darrol died peacefully in hospital following surgery a few weeks after his 84th birthday on 6 January 2012.