Jim grew up around aeroplanes and learned to fly before he could drive, aged 18, at Clacton. At university he was taught again, but this time wearing a helmet, with the University of Wales Air Squadron. When the RAF were finally persuaded to take him on – after three unsuccessful applications – a whirlwind 20-year career in the RAF followed, Jim becoming in turn: a Harrier fighter pilot in time for Gulf War 2; the lead Harrier test pilot; the MOD’s principal fixed wing test pilot instructor; the MOD’s F-35 test pilot; and the wing commander in charge of UK F-35 requirements.
Jim has been lucky enough to fly over 100 types and a century of front-line fighters: Bristol Fighter, SE5a, Spitfire, Viggen, Jaguar, Harrier, Tornado, Gripen, Typhoon, F-15, F-16, F/A-18 and F-35. He was one of the first pilots to land an F-35 on a ship at night. His favourite aeroplane is generally the one he’s in, unless it’s a Jaguar.
Jim has remained true to his aviation grass roots, owning an RV-3 kitplane, flying for The Yakovlevs formation aerobatic display team for over 12 years and flying vintage aircraft for the Shuttleworth Collection and Boultbee Flight Academy. Jim is also a class rating instructor, flight test instructor and US flying instructor.
Since leaving the RAF Jim works as a freelance test pilot and flies for a major UK airline. He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and a father of two.
To read more, here’s a fantastic article that Ben Dunnell wrote for the October 2018 issue of Aeroplane Monthly magazine: