Captain David "Flash" Phillips

Sadly David has passed away, he was 91. David passed on 8th May 2016 and my sincere condolences to his family, friends and former colleagues. He is survived by his wife Eve, 3 children, 6 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren. Captain Phillips was born to fly and held a flying licence until his 80th birthday, accumulating 31,037 flying hours in a long list of commercial and light aircraft.

A service of Thanksgiving was held on 17th June 2016 at St James’ Church, Stedham, Near Midhurst in West Sussex.

David Remembered

From David Heal
I was sad to read that Captain(call me David)Phillips has passed away. I first met him in 1966 at BUA and for many years was responsible for his Monthly Flying Programme. We became good friends and in 1970 he recommended I take my Family to Dianni Beach near Mombasa where his Family and mine had adjacent Beach Huts.

He was a real character and was most people's idea of an Airline Captain. He was always courteous and smartly dressed and lived for flying of which interest he inherited from his Father who ran a Flying Circus. When I took early retirement he kindly presented with with a book about his Fathers Life in the pioneer days of Aviation in which David wrote some very kind things about our association. I will miss him very much but the memories will remain. Regretfully I will not be able to attend the Church Service as I will be in Dresden at that time.

From Bob Jones
On December 31 1962, I was the First Officer on a Britannia G-AOVE flying from Nairobi, via Khartoum to Stansted. David was normally a very relaxed pilot, but at 23.30 GMT he was getting somewhat agitated that we were still on the ground. Fortunately, from my log book, I note we got airborne at 23.40 Z. Still in the climb, he handed control of the aircraft over to me, went on the PA and exactly at midnight played Auld Lang Syne to the passengers on his mouth organ. The Senior Cabin Crew member came up to the flight deck to say some of the passengers were in tears but all in a party mood. For the record we landed back at Stansted, via Idris, at 11.15 Z having left Nairobi at 19.05Z. One long duty day. RIP David, you were a pleasure to fly with and I’m sure your flying hours will never be surpassed.

David William Phillips
24th November 1924 - 8th May 2016

Airline Pilot and Aerobatic Champion with over 31,000 flying hours
Captain David Phillips, who has died aged 91, was born with flying in his veins, and loved being airborne. He held a flying licence until his 80th birthday, accumulating 31,037 flying hours in a long list of commercial and light aircraft.

He was born David William Phillips on 24th November 1924, in St Austell, Cornwall, (His father ws the legendary aviator, Capt. Percival Phillips DFC, owner of a Flying Circus and the Cornwall Aviation Company).

Educated at West Buckland School in North Devon, David Phillips left school in 1940 to join the Bristol Aeroplane Company as a student apprentice in the Bristol factory. He then learned to fly Tiger Moths with the University Air Squadron at Cambridge, subsequently was attested into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and ultimately the Royal Air Force. He was duly posted to Canada to complete his training where he passed his 'wings test’.

Returning to the UK he became an RAF Flying Instructor on the Oxford Airspeed and in August 1945 joined 271 Squadron, ferrying VIP,s and ex prisoners of war all over Europe in Dakotas.  In 1946 he was posted to Cairo as a Captain to undertake calibration duties throughout the Middle East with 216 and 71 Squadrons. Various aircraft were flown including the Vickers Wellington, Airspeed Oxfords, Lockheed Lodestars, Arguses, Percival Proctors, and even a Beechcraft Staggerwing.  In Cairo he met Forces Broadcasting Announcer, Avis Candy, whom he married in 1948 and with whom he had two sons. Following dissolution of that marriage, he married Eve Shakerley in 1963 with whom he had one daughter.

Upon leaving the RAF David Phillips joined Kearsley Airways based at Stansted, quickly becoming Chief Pilot responsible for 3 Dakotas with a heavy involvement in the Berlin Airlift which designed to beat the Russian embargo on goods.  This often involved 4 return flights per day. Spare time involved giving joyrides over London in the DH Rapide.  On completion of the Berlin Airlift he joined Airwork Ltd based at Blackbushe Airport from where he flew scheduled services to Europe and West Africa in Vikings and Viscounts.  During long Safari flights, and prior to the days of In Flight Entertainment, he would play his harmonica over the aircraft PA system.  Airwork subsequently moved to Gatwick evolving into British United Airways, British Caledonian, and finally to British Airways.  During this period Capt. Phillips was fortunate to experience many commercial airline types including the  Bristol Brittania, VC10, Boeing 707, and finally the wide bodied DC10.  Following retirement from British Caledonian in 1984, he flew with a number of smaller airlines such as Euroair, Connectair, and Air Europe, mostly to European destinations in the Embraer Bandeirante, Short 330 and 360.  He ceased commercial flying aged 65.

Throughout his life David Phillips had to be airborne, be it ‘on’ or ‘off’ duty, with much of his leisure time committed to flying light aircraft for fun.  In 1952 he became interested in air racing and in 1957 joined the Tiger Club based at Redhill. In the same year he won the British Aerobatic Championship at White Waltham in a Tiger Moth. The Tiger Club held Air Displays throughout the summer months with Capt. Phillips making regular appearances, be it aerobatics, balloon bursting, formation flying, racing, or flour bombing. The Tiger Club had a variety of aircraft including , Hornet Moth , Condor, Jodel, Arrow Active and Rollason Turbulents. He duly became part owner of the historic single seater bi-plane Arrow Active 2, in which he raced and performed aerobatics.  In later years he owned a fixed wing Luscombe 8F Silvaire which he kept at Goodwood until age 80.

Capt. Phillips also loved village life and was one time Vice-Chairman of the Conservative branches, North of the Downs.  He was also past Chairman of the Midhurst Charity, Tandem, which provides support for the disabled and elderly, particularly the provision of transport.

by Chris Phillips

If you would like to leave a message in remembrance please drop me a line anytime

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From Tristram Llewellyn Jones
I was very sad to read of the passing of Captain David ‘Flash’ Phillips.  David, as he asked to be called, was one of my very first Captains as a young First Officer on the Shorts 360 in May 1989 when I had  just over 500 hours in my logbook. I was somewhat in awe of this character who was about 35 years older than me and 30,000 hours more experienced! I remember, rather nervously, asking him if he was the chap with all the flying hours. “Yes, dear boy,” he replied, “but if you do it for a lifetime it just adds up!”

“Weren’t you in the Royal Air Force?” I asked? “I was only a wartime pilot, you know” he replied.

I remember asking him what his advice was to a sprog airline pilot. “Two things”, he said. “First is to always be very gentle with the aircraft so that the passengers never feel your feel your control movements and, second is whenever you have a problem just do what seems to be the most sensible thing at the time”. Wonderful advice from before the days of autopilots and crew resource management.

‘Flash’ was the most amazingly smooth pilot himself. He could hand fly the aircraft in the cruise for half an hour at a time and keep altitude within 20 feet. It was amazing to watch. Lovely guy, great fun, archetypal airline pilot and a great role model for a young pilot. Sorry I cannot attend the Thanksgiving service and although it’s a sad occasion ‘Flash’s’ twinkle in the eye will be there  I am sure. Best wishes to family and colleagues.

From Dave Thaxter
In 2014 Captain Phillips shared his memoirs of a VC10 flight over the Andes on 18th June 1971. The flight encountered severe clear-air turbulence leaving the crew and passengers extremely shaken; the aircraft was later found to have been severely damaged.

Captain Phillips account can be read here
David & Eve Phillips onboard G-BEBM
David & Eve Phillips onboard G-BEBM
David & Eve with the crew of his last BCal flight
David & Eve with the crew of his last BCal flight
From Vic Ball
I first flew with David as his Flight Engineer in August 1962, on Britannia G-AXRA to Bombay and subsequently we would fly together on the VC10, B707 and the DC10.

So it was a privilege to fly with him when he operated his last commercial flight with BCal, Gatwick via Dubai to Hong Kong; leaving Gatwick on the 14th November 1984. Eve was with us and continued on to Hong Kong when we reached Dubai, presumably to see friends and to shop.

On David’s last night in Dubai the entire crew went down to the hotel’s disco where David collided with the elbow of Steve, our first officer, which left him sporting a lovely colourful black-eye which can be seen in the photos taken back at Gatwick. It did not detract though the nice buffet given by the company for David.

Other memories I have are during those quiet moments on the flight deck he would entertain us with his harmonica playing. I believe he played it over the PA too, he was very accomplished.

Before he and Eve moved to Rogate, my wife and I visited his home in Great Stedham; at The Old Rectory. I remember Eve telling me how happy they were over their long marriage. David’s study was an aviators dream, the photos, books and memorabilia of his career and of his fathers too. David’s father was an RFC Pilot and started Cornwall Aviation at Bodmin Airport I believe.

The photos were taken at Gatwick after we had operated the Dubai-Gatwick sector in DC-10-30 G-BEBM.
British Caledonian - A Tribute