Wing Commander Clive Rustin


ANOTHER NOTABLE Cold War pilot, Wg Cdr Clive Rustin, died on April 24 aged 86. He was one of the RAF’s most experienced test pilots who spent over 17 years working on experimental aircraft and the RAF’s front-line jet fighters. He was twice awarded the AFC for his service.

Rustin started flying with the Birmingham University Air Squadron in 1951 and during his national service converted to the Venom fighter before joining 145 Squadron based at Celle in West Germany. After deciding to remain in the RAF he converted to the Hunter and served with 56 Squadron at Wattisham, Suffolk. For a brief period he was attached to 111 Squadron (The Black Arrows) and flew in the formation of 22 Hunters that completed two looping manoeuvres at Farnborough in 1958.

After converting to the Lightning he was selected to attend the Empire Test Pilot’s School in 1961. He was awarded the McKenna trophy for the top student test pilot.

For the next five years he served as an experimental test pilot and then as OC Flying with the Aerodynamics and Research Flight at RAE Bedford. One of the highlights of this period was flying the supersonic Fairey FD2. He also tested the Kestrel, an aircraft that led to the development of the Harrier and this included the early trials on HMS Bulwark and the first Harrier landings on HMS Ark Royal.

In February 1971 he was posted to RAE Farnborough as OC Avionics Research Flight. This involved flying various types of aircraft, testing the early generation ‘fly-by-wire’ techniques and capabilities, in addition to assessing the latest avionic equipment such as terrain following radar, blind landing aids and new inertial navigation systems.

In September 1974 he was promoted to wing commander to lead the Fast Jet Test Squadron at Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, where he was responsible for the service clearance programmes and release to service for all the fast jet and training aircraft of the RAF, Royal Navy and the British Army. This included the Buccaneer, Phantom, Hawk and Tornado. On one occasion he was flying a Jaguar, which caught fire and he and his second pilot were forced to eject successfully at low altitude. For his final five years he served with the RAF Handling Squadron at Boscombe Down.

After leaving the RAF in 1987 he was an aviation consultant with the electronics company Ferranti. He continued with his love of aviation in retirement and was a regular on the airshow circuit flying vintage aircraft, including the Spitfire, Vampire and Venom. During his 55-year flying career, he amassed over 5,500 flying hours on 160 different types. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Clive Rustin
Courtesy of Rustin family