Appreciation: James Edward Tootell, military and commercial pilot

James Edward (Ted) Tootell
James Edward (Ted) Tootell
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James Edward (Ted ) Tootell. Born 25 September, 1935, in London. Died 29 September, 2016, in Edinburgh, aged 81

JAMES Edward (Ted) Tootell was born at King’s College Hospital in London and educated at Cedars Grammar School in Leighton Buzzard where he excelled in athletics.

Interested in aviation at a very early stage in life, he joined the ATC cadets at the age of 16 to learn to fly gliders. Shortly after, at the age of 17, he secured an apprenticeship with Handley Page Aircraft Ltd at Cricklewood in London to learn engineering.

Every evening before leaving, the apprentices had to sweep the floor before going home.They arrived in the dark and went home in the dark, receiving £4 per week. Ted spent his spare time and money on learning to fly powered aircraft at Elstree Airfield on Miles Magisters costing the princely sum of £1 per hour. Enjoying the freedom of the skies and despite his limited academic qualifications, he decided to apply to join the RAF. Much to his surprise and the delight of his proud parents he managed to complete the selection process at Hornchurch successfully and was accepted for pilot training.

Officer cadet training was completed at Cardington and Kirton-on-Lindsey where he attained the rank of Acting Pilot Officer then onwards to flying the Percival Piston Provost at RAF Ternhill.

On one daylight trip, having become “temporarily unaware of his position”, he managed to fly low enough to read the name of a railway station! After much sleight of hand he was now deemed suitable to be posted to advanced dual training on the Vampire T11 at RAF Oakington, followed by solo sorties on the Vampire T5 which concluded with the wings presentation and posting to Bomber Command and his first operational squadron to fly the Meteor MK 8 at 4FTS Worksop.The pace of training was unrelenting and his next posting was to the English Electric Canberra 231 OCU Bassingbourn complete with two navigators – so no excuses for getting lost now.

Joining 35 squadron at Upwood saw him flying some of the Canberras that he had helped to build back at Handley Page in his earlier apprenticeship. Now promoted to Flight Lieutenant in 1960 and with the start of the Cold War, Ted was selected for training on the V bomber nuclear deterrent, the mighty Vulcan B1, and posted to 230 OCU at RAF Finningley in Yorkshire which culminated in a posting to 50 squadron at RAF Waddington. This was followed with a transfer on to the Vulcan B2 on 83 squadron at RAF Scampton. As a crew they had progressed through the various training standards to “Select Star”, the highest crew rating, having been assessed as above average and achieved a “Master Green” instrument rating.

Privileged to be chosen as the Vulcan display pilot for the 1965 air display season, Ted and his crew demonstrated the Vulcan in many parts of the world, including a very memorable display over the Niagara Falls for the Canadian National Exhibition beside Lake Ontario.

After 12 eventful and enjoyable years Ted left the RAF in 1968 and successfully secured a job in the civilian airline BEA flying as a co-plot on the Vickers Viscount based at Manchester . He progressed to the BAC Super1-11, shortly followed by a move to the Hawker Siddeley Trident at London Heathrow .

Ted was promoted to captain on to the Trident 3b in the mid-80s and progressed to the larger, more modern Boeing 757 and 767 fleet, flying both long and short-haul routes. Retirement beckoned in 1990 when he commanded his last trip for the then British Airways to Munich and back with his son as co-pilot.

Continuing the theme of aviation in retirement, Ted rebuilt a 1945 vintage Auster aircraft and also built a Kitfox aircraft in his garage at home in Edinburgh. He became an active member at the Museum of Flight at East Fortune in East Lothian, helping to restore and rebuild exhibits assisted by his engineering skills.

He continued to enjoy flying both of his aircraft well into his latter years with both his son, grandson and various members of the local flying strut at East Fortune airfield. Having completed a 50-year-plus romance with aviation, he was extremely proud to witness his grandson graduate from his commercial flight training and to be successfully selected to join British Airways at the age of 19 years, thus making the unusual mark of three generations of pilots all employed by the one company, father, son and grandson.

In his latter years Ted bravely fought Parkinson’s ending his days in care, but always hankered to be airborne enjoying the freedom of flight.

STEVE TOOTELL