John Cochrane

JOHN COCHRANE Concorde test pilot

Born: 27 July, 1930, in Ayr. Died: 4 November, 2006, in Cyprus, aged 76.

JOHN Cochrane was a senior test pilot from the very earliest days of the supersonic aircraft, Concorde. He was an unflinching supporter of its advanced technology and argued strongly that it should never have been scrapped. Indeed Cochrane lobbied that Concorde should remain operational and called on Sir Richard Branson to buy it for his Virgin stable. In a BBC interview, Cochrane commented: "So much was achieved, and to throw that away before it is necessary is getting close to obscene."

He was at the controls when Concorde went through the sound barrier for the first time, in 1970, and was on the operational flight when Concorde reached its highest speed.

John Cochrane attended Strathallan School, in Perthshire, and then read engineering at Paisley Technical College. He left early to become a cadet at the RAF College, Cranwell, where he qualified as a pilot in 1952, winning the Philip Sassoon Memorial Prize.

He went straight to No 617 Squadron to fly Canberra bombers and Valiants - the RAF's first V-bomber.

Cochrane then saw service in the Suez campaign (1956) and flew bombing raids on Egyptian airfields. By 1960, he had reached the rank of squadron leader and was selected to attend an advanced test-pilot's course at Farnborough. In 1962, he was given permission to resign his commission to enable him to join Vickers Armstrong as a test pilot.

Once at Vickers, he was principally involved with working on the VC10, but by 1966 he was asked to join the Anglo-French Concorde project as a project test pilot. Cochrane was given overall responsibility for the engine intake systems and this involved him in much high-pressure flying. It necessitated, for example, Cochrane flying the supersonic aircraft to the maximum of its technical capacities. Cochrane then had to write detailed and technical reports that were to become instrumental in Concorde's gaining its certificate of airworthiness, in 1975.

On 9 April, 1969, Cochrane was in the co-pilot's seat when the chief test pilot, Brian Trubshaw, took off in Concorde 002 from Filton, near Bristol. An ecstatic Raymond Baxter announced to millions of viewers on television: "She's flying. Concorde is flying," as the mighty bird made its maiden voyage to Fairford.

The pressure to succeed was considerable. The French Concorde had had a successful maiden flight the previous week. In 1968, Cochrane was deputy chief test pilot at British Aircraft Corporation's commercial division and remained working on the aircraft until the end of the rigorous test programme, in 1980.

He was given the honour by British Airways of flying one of the three Concordes that flew over Britain on Concorde's final flight. The three planes landed majestically in quick succession at Heathrow on October 24, 2003.

Cochrane then joined Cyprus Airways where for a time he was their test pilot prior to the introduction of the Airbus 310. On his 60th birthday, he retired with his colleagues wheeling him out of the cockpit and along the runway in a wheelchair.

Cochrane continued to live in Cyprus and is survived by his wife, Julie, and their son and daughter.