Website maintenance

Apologies to anyone who couldn’t access the FSL website today.

We have had to move the website to a new website hosting company.  The old company was absorbed into a new one, but the users had to move their own data over.  Not something we chose to do!

It all seems to be working now, although it is a bit slow at the moment.  If it is still slow in a couple of days time, or you see any problems or missing bits, please reply to this post (below) or send an email to

Anyone remember the Dragon Rapide?

The Historic Flight Foundation near Seattle, WA, have just acquired G-AHXW, a De Havilland DH.98A Dragon Rapide, that was owned for some years in the 1950s and 1960s by Fairey Aviation and then Fairey Surveys.  They would like to hear about what sort of work it was doing, or any really interesting projects it may have been part of.

The museum has sent a couple of photographs of when the aeroplane arrived there on 31st March 2017, which are shown below.  A trawl through the internet also found a photograph of G-AHXW in Fairey Surveys livery at White Waltham in 1965 on the website Air Photographic International (, which has hundreds of great photographs of old aircraft for sale, all identified with type, registration, location and date.  Chris Knott, the owner of the website, has very generously allowed us to publish the photograph here.

If you have any information you would like to share, please reply, below, or send an email to, and we’ll pass on your details to the museum, or contact them direct at:


Fairey Surveys aircraft stories

The website has been contacted by Bruce Hales-Dutton, who has been asked by the monthly magazine ‘Aeroplane’ to write an article about Fairey Surveys.  The idea is to write about the aircraft, particularly the DC-3s, and to use the memories and stories of the Fairey Surveys staff who were involved with them, in whatever capacity.

Mr Hales-Dutton is a freelance aviation writer and journalist, whose name appears on at least one published aircraft book, about the Comet.

If you would like to send in a story to be used, or would like to talk to Mr Hales-Dutton, please leave a reply below, or send an email to and we’ll pass on your details to him.

There are a few stories already on the website, but there must be many more.  Rob Wallace remembers a search through the huge Enugu market in Nigeria for a special 5 foot long Pratt and Whitney spanner to change the engine on a DC-3.  Astonishingly, the search was successful, and the engine was changed, but the process, with much arm-waving and sign language, was pure entertainment.

Please let us know if you have any stories you would like to share.

Brian Corbin: RIP

John Tompkins has passed on the sad news that Brian Corbin died at Wexham Park hospital on Monday 30th January.  His daughter Kate Solomon was with him, and we also have a request from her.

This is probably the best photograph we have of Brian, at the West London Aero Club in 2012 with Adrian Workman, Graham Bridges and Geoff Milsom.


AW05 West London Aero Club monthly gathering













In their own words: John Tompkins

“This is a general message, so some of you already have heard, but here is
some sad news.Brian died at Wexham Park hospital on Monday Jan 30th his
daughter Kate was with him.
Via Graham Bridges and Geoff Milsom I have some information about the
funeral etc.
The service will be a non religious one to be held at Amersham
Crematorium (In a small private room) at 12.15 on Tuesday Feb 28th. There
will be a burial at Braywick Cemetery, followed by a wake at White Waltham
Flying Club where he and other ‘Faireys’ met monthly.
If you would like to attend the WWFC gathering please let me know in advance
so that I can inform Kate how many to cater for.”

Kate Solomon:

“I know how much the monthly visits to White Waltham meant to my dad and I believe you make many of the social arrangements for the Fairey Group.

Could I trouble you to advise the group of the sad loss of my dad and that the arrangements for his funeral on Tuesday 28th February are as follows:

Celebration Service at 12:15 at the Chilterns Chapel, Whielden Lane, Amersham HP7 OND

Braywick Cemetery, Braywick Road, Maidenhead SL6 1DJ for 2pm.

Back to White Waltham for a buffet etc.

It would be lovely for me to meet some of my Dad’s friends and to hear about his time at Fairey and Clyde Surveys, particularly as this is such a sad time. I know it is difficult but if you could gauge numbers that would be attending that would be great. Waltham have told me they can only cater for 50 and I haven’t a clue how many we should expect.

We have decided on a celebrant to take the service at the Chilterns as dad was not religious.  If at your gathering this weekend you have any amusing stories that we could use, I would be very grateful.”

Please let John Tompkins know if you would like to attend the wake at White Waltham, so they can cater for everyone. If you have a story or anecdote that you would like to share, but can’t attend the funeral or the wake, again please contact John, or post a comment here to share it with everyone.  If you don’t have John’s contact details, email and we’ll pass on the information.


Milestone celebration for Geoff Milsom

A little ceremony was held at White Waltham on Saturday 14th January 2017, to celebrate Geoffrey Milsom’s 70 years as a member of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators, (GAPAN).

A cake was supplied by Don Green and Bob Berriss, others in attendance were
Don Green, Bob Berriss, John and Carol Tompkins, Laurence Scott, Jean and
Ken Fostekew, two members of the Aero Club and Geoffrey of course.

Geoff Milsom cutting the cake, with l-r: Lawrence Scott, Jean Fostekew and Carol Tompkins








With thanks to Ken Fostekew for the information and the photographs – click on the photographs to enlarge.

Fairey gatherings

With thanks to Ken Fostekew for the contribution:

The FSL reunion held at W/W Cricket Club 10th July was a
great success. Many thanks to John and Carol Tompkins for the hard work that
they put to make another memorable evening.

A gathering of a few FSL/Fairey Aviation Folk at White Waltham on Saturday
11th July for the scattering of ashes of the late Ron Neal. Ron’s widow
Sylvia travelled from her home at Lydd and the ceremony took place around
the ATA memorial behind the West London Aero Club.
Ron, was of course an ATC Cadet attached to ATA and accrued many flying
hours as pilots assistant with all the well known pilots of the day. As an
added bonus the Battle of Britain Memorial Spitfires and Hurricanes were
still at White Waltham after their display over London the day before and on
their departure two Hurricanes and one Spitfire did a low level flypast. Ron
would have loved it.

In attendance were…Geoff Milsom, Bob Berris, Don Green, Mr and Mrs Paul
Singleton, Derek Minter, Tony Bamford, John Tompkins, Ken and Jean Fostekew
and of course Mrs Sylvia Neal.

Pension issues: FSL, Clyde & Engineering Surveys

There have been some reported issues with the FSL/Clyde/Engineering Surveys pension.  If you have one of the pensions, and have any concerns, could you look at the notes attached – passed from Peter Timbrell to John Tompkins.

PT pension notes

If you are coming to the Fairey Surveys re-union on 10th July at White Waltham Cricket Club, would you consider bringing with you copies of your pension paperwork, and any letters you have received, so that those affected can compare notes and discuss options available.





Alex Copeland

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Alex Copeland passed away on 16th April 2015.  He had lived for over 30 years in Adelaide, South Australia, running the ground geophysical survey company Search Exploration Services with his partner Gerry Bown.  His funeral and the gathering afterwards were held in Carrickalunga, about 100 km south of Adelaide.  It is here that Alex and Gerry have their beloved beachside ‘shack’, and where the Union Jack flies every day except Anzac Day and Australia Day.











Alex started at Fairey Surveys as a draughtsman, but over the years became involved with airborne and ground geophysics, working all over the world.  He was always cheerful, always helpful and very hardworking.  Alex lived life to the full, and made lasting friends wherever he was – things were definitely not boring when he was around.

One of Alex’s old friends, Kim Frankcombe, was at the funeral and the wake, and has sent the obituary, and a copy of the memorial service booklet, which are attached, and some personal notes from the day:-

“The funeral and wake went well with a lot of old familiar faces there, both from my geophysics and rugby past. The church held 80 and both Alex and Gerry had wanted a quiet affair but it was standing room only. The public event at the British Hotel later that night had even more people.

With a large rugby crowd there was plenty of support for the two hymns, the Welsh and English rugby teams’ hymns. Apparently they were a late change as Alex had originally wanted “Always look on the bright side of life” which would also have been very appropriate.

In Nick Sheard’s Eulogy he told the story of bailing Alex out of the Cobar police station after he was caught drink driving after he and Nick had spent three hours with an Eski of beer watching a mechanic weld up his old Hilux. He decided to give the arresting officer the benefit of his thoughts which resulted in him being held for the night. He claims to have spent the night dragging a tin mug across the bars of his cell to let them know he was still there.

There was also plenty of support for Alex being a scary driver from all those who he’d taken for a ride in his E-Type which is now in SA with Gerry.”

Memorial booklet:  AC_Memorial                     Click on the title to open the file (if it displays sideways, download and open with Adobe Reader, then click on View, Rotate)

Obituary:               AlexCopeland_Obit            Click on the title to open the file

Many of Alex’s friends and old colleagues will have their own stories about him (and possibly his cars!) – please send them in on the Comments page, or by email to


Ron Neal

New has come in from Ken Fostekew that Ron Neal has passed away.  Ron was one of Fairey Surveys’ well known and loved pilots.  More details will be posted when they arrive.

The Crew

Ron is fourth from the left in this photograph from Len Sellwood of the crew from a Nigeria survey in 1974

Request for photos or memories of John Owen Penrose (Pen)

An email has been received from Mrs Sarah Paddison, the daughter of John Owen Penrose (Pen) a former pilot for Fairey Surveys, until the late 1960s or early 1970s:


I would be very grateful to know if anyone has any memories or photographs of my father John Owen Penrose (Pen).  I recently made my first trip back to White Waltham aerodrome but could not find anything other than the company logo in the Flying club bar.
My first memories of the airfield are getting up early, walking across the road from our house to pick mushrooms with Dad, for breakfast.
Any information would be much appreciated, thank you


If anyone has any information or photographs to share, please leave a comment, and we’ll pass on your details to Mrs Paddison.