GEORGE ELLIS 1947-2019

George Ellis celebrates the first post-restoration flight of DH88 Comet G-ACSS at Hatfield on 17 May 1987.

Former Shuttleworth Collection display pilot George Ellis died on 28 May, aged 72, after suffering from cancer. Best-known for having made the first postrestoration flight of DH88 Comet Grosvenor House in 1987, George joined the RAF after studying civil engineering at King’s College, Cambridge, serving as a Lightning pilot with No 92 Squadron. He then went through the Empire Test Pilots’ School course and spent four years as a Royal Aircraft Establishment test pilot at Bedford. Not wishing to find himself in a desk job, George resigned his RAF commission in 1980 after 13 years and entered the civilian aviation world, becoming project development test pilot for British Aerospace on its 125 executive jet, and having involvement with the BAe 146. When the 125 programme was transferred to US manufacturer Raytheon, he went to work for them in Kansas. Returning home to the UK, he was an easyJet Boeing 737 captain between 2000 and 2007.

George started flying for Shuttleworth in 1978, during his time at RAE Bedford. He went on to become deputy chief pilot, and had flown almost all the aeroplanes the collection had by the time he retired in 2009. Guiding the tricky Comet through its early post-restoration test flying was a significant achievement; of its maiden flight on 17 May 1987 he told the author 30 years later, “I hadn’t actually intended to fly… I was going to do a slightly faster taxi than I’d done before, but it was getting quite difficult to control, so I put the tail up and just went for it”. A week later he took Grosvenor House to Mildenhall for its display debut. George was also a regular display pilot for BAe’s Mosquito, RR299, and on the second day of that event he had the unique honour of flying both the Comet and Mosquito in the same programme.

Retirement as a Shuttleworth pilot didn’t end George’s involvement with the collection, as he became a much-loved commentator at Old Warden displays. A delightful man, amusing and scholarly, he will be very sadly missed. Aeroplane sends its condolences to his family and friends.