Casualties

The Tragic Deaths of our two RAF pilot trainees:

Peter John Humphrey Blackgrove - 30th March 1962

Stuart Graham Pearce - 6th August 1976

 


It's a long way back from 2015 to 1957, trying to relive the close friendship between myself, Pete Blackgrove, Stu Pearce and the other trainee pilots of No. 25 Wings Course RNZAF. We'd come together at Base Wigram, Christchurch, in January of 1957; survived boot-camp, officers' school and four months of ab initio flight training on the Harvard, before Pete and Stu left for England and the RAF. Although both born in New Zealand, they'd volunteered for RAF service instead of remaining with the RNZAF. This had been a choice for all of us at the time of our Selection. Now, looking back with the knowledge of what the RAF offered in career opportunities and the aircraft they flew, I wish I'd elected to go with Pete and Stu. Their departure left a huge gap, in particular losing Pete Blackgrove who'd been my closest friend. As it happened, I would never see either of them again.

 

 

To the best of my knowledge [in 2015], Pete and Stu have been the only aircraft accident casualties within our original group of pilot trainees. Tragically, they both died in circumstances that were completely beyond their control: Mechanical Failure.

Pete Blackgrove was flying a Hawker Hunter FGA.9 on an Open Day demonstration at RAF Khormasksar, Aden on 30th March, 1962 when the tailplane trim ran fully nose down [short circuit in electrical wiring]. The result: diving into the ground supersonic. Pete would've been 22 or 23 at the time.

Stu Pearce had survived his time [12 years?] in the RAF as a Canberra pilot and later as a qualified RAF Test Pilot. In 1976 he was the Chief Test Pilot for the Government Aircraft Factories [GAF] at Avalon, Victoria in Australia. During a test flight in the controversial GAF N24 Nomad on 6th August, 1976, he crashed as a result of tab/tailplane flutter and the subsequent loss of control.

Only recently did I find out that Guy Pearce, the accomplished and brilliant Australian actor is the son of Stuart Pearce. This revelation led me to revisit the loss of these two close friends from 1957 and display photos of them taken during our fun times together. All so bloody sad!

 

Copyright©2015 Peter Tremayne, Reno NV

  • May 1957: Stu Pearce and Pete Blackgrove in our 25 Course Pilots' group photo May 1957: Stu Pearce and Pete Blackgrove in our 25 Course Pilots' group photo
  • May 1957: Pete Blackgrove and me doing the war movie show-off beside our Harvard steed May 1957: Pete Blackgrove and me doing the war movie show-off beside our Harvard steed
  • June 1957: Pete Blackgrove mounting his Harvard steed at Wigram June 1957: Pete Blackgrove mounting his Harvard steed at Wigram
  • Winter 1957: Pete Blackgrove on our magic ski tour near Arthurs Pass Winter 1957: Pete Blackgrove on our magic ski tour near Arthurs Pass
  • Winter 1957: Stu Pearce and Alan Papesch on our magic ski tour near Arthurs Pass Winter 1957: Stu Pearce and Alan Papesch on our magic ski tour near Arthurs Pass
  • Winter 1957: Stu Pearce tangled in his long boards on our magic ski tour near Arthurs Pass Winter 1957: Stu Pearce tangled in his long boards on our magic ski tour near Arthurs Pass
  • Winter 1957: Stu Pearce and Alan Papesch on our magic ski tour near Arthurs Pass Winter 1957: Stu Pearce and Alan Papesch on our magic ski tour near Arthurs Pass
  • Winter 1957: Stu Pearce overlooking myself and Mister Magoo - Arthurs Pass highway Winter 1957: Stu Pearce overlooking myself and Mister Magoo - Arthurs Pass highway
  • Winter 1957: Pete Blackgrove, Stu Pearce and Jim Haskill relaxing on our group car. Winter 1957: Pete Blackgrove, Stu Pearce and Jim Haskill relaxing on our group car.
  • Winter 1957: Jim Haskill, Stu Pearce and Mister Magoo - Arthurs Pass highway Winter 1957: Jim Haskill, Stu Pearce and Mister Magoo - Arthurs Pass highway
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