Tuesday, August 26, 2008



26 Aug 2008 | Ref. 231/2008

Lancashire – BAE Systems has appointed a former Royal Navy Sea Harrier pilot as its new Chief Test Pilot – Combat & Training Aircraft for the company’s Military Air Solutions business.

Exeter-born Paul Stone served 21 years in the Royal Navy where he commanded both front line Sea Harrier Squadrons (800 and 801 Naval Air Squadrons). He also served as the UK test pilot for the Joint Strike Fighter X-32 concept demonstrator programme working in the USA. Before joining BAE Systems, he spent two years in the UK MoD defining the requirements for the Joint Strike Fighter, the F35 Lightning ll, parts of which are now being built by BAE Systems in Lancashire.

Since joining the company Paul has been working as an experimental test pilot in supporting Typhoon, Harrier and Hawk programmes. He said: “This job matters to me because it is an opportunity to use the skills that I have developed over the last 20 years to make a difference and to influence the future of military aircraft flight test.”

Paul still gets a ‘rush’ from flying, but says: “It is a very different rush from the one you get as a fresh faced fighter pilot on your first tour of duty. I think most aircrew would agree the absolute exhilaration you get as a youngster, doing things for the first time, is replaced by a more measured experience in test-flying. It means we can still draw on the excitement, but focus more on evaluating things like the weapon system in a professional and more dispassionate manner.”

With more and more emphasis now being given to pilotless planes, Paul says the future offers “a mixed journey for test pilots because everyone knows the future is more aligned to unmanned air systems and more automation in general - but this does not mean that test pilots can't add value.”

He said: “Even though the ability to assess handling qualities is now, argueably, less important, it will be a long transformation. We will continue to operate manned aircraft for some considerable time and these will need to be upgraded and tested. Aircraft weapon systems are evolving incredibly fast and this is still a major part of our work. As we move to unmanned systems the company can draw on over 150 years of combined military experience within our Flight Test Team aircrew who have served in every theatre of operations since the Falklands Conflict. “

Paul, who is married with two children, now lives in Lytham St Annes and has just completed an MBA at the Lancaster Business Management School.

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