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The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Bedford

The Cumberbatch Trophy

The Cumberbatch trophy was created by Miss Alice Martha Beatrice Cumberbatch in 1931 and has been awarded by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (GAPAN) since 1936. It is considered to be one of the Guild’s most precious possessions.

The Trophy is awarded to an individual, a team, group or organisation for an outstanding contribution to air safety, whether by the development of techniques contributing to safer flight, by improvements in ground equipment and services or by improvements in aircraft and component design.

It was awarded to BLEU in 1963.

I was wrought in utmost faith and hope by command of Alice Beatrice Martha Cumberbatch in the year of Our Lord 1931 for the promotion of reliability in Civil Aviation – to the memory of those who have gone before and encouragement to those to come.

The BLEU team with the Trophy in front of Varsity WF417 – 3rd March 1964

The Cumberbatch Trophy 1963 Citation

The Court of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (GAPAN) have this year awarded the Cumberbatch Trophy, for the development of aids for safe flight, to the Blind Landing Experimental Unit. The Trophy was received jointly by Mr. Charnley and Mr. Shayler on the Unit’s behalf from the Grand Master, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, at a Guild Banquet on Thursday February 27th 1964. The citation for the award reads as follows:-

“In 1955 the research programme on blind landing at Martlesham Heath progressed from component parts flying in experimental ‘hack’ aircraft to complete systems for Service aircraft. In 1957 the Blind Landing Experimental Unit moved to Bedford and in the next four years many thousands of fully automatic landings were achieved in Canberra, Varsity, and Vulcan aircraft. This work laid the foundation for the system subsequently installed in the DC-7 aircraft of the United States Federal Aviation Agency. The fact that all this experimental flying was achieved without any serious incident is to the great credit of the Blind Landing Experimental Unit and its Flight Teams, so ably led by the two successive Superintendents. Their work has paved the way for the new systems now being installed in Trident, VC10 and Belfast aircraft, and therein is likely to make an outstanding contribution to the safety of future civil air operations.”

The Trophy on the port engine and wing of Varsity WF417

Other RAE Winners

Other winners of the Cumberbatch Trophy include:

  • E S Calvert Esq BSc ARSc in 1952
  • E S Calvert Esq OBE & J W Sparks Esq in 1966

For their work at RAE Farnborough on approach lighting systems for low visibility operations.



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