28 January 1917 – Chief Test Pilot killed

Disaster struck at the Royal Aircraft Factory today when Chief test pilot Frank Goodden was killed in a flying accident. He was testing one of the first prototypes of the SE5, which he had designed with Henry Folland and John Kenworthy.

At the inquest a witness described how Goodden’s aircraft was seen to be making a slow turn when the wings on the left side appeared to collapse, the aircraft side-slipped, and then nose-dived vertically to the ground with the wings folded up. The coroner returned a verdict of Accidental Death. An inspection discovered that the wings had suffered failure in downward torsion. Plywood webs were then added to the compression ribs, curing the problem, and were standardized on all later versions of the aircraft.

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Frank Goodden Had joined the staff of the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough as a civilian test pilot on 7 August 1914, immediately after the declaration of war. He had previously been involved in balloon an heavier than air flying, getting his RAeC certificate on 3 June 1913.

He made the first flights of several aircraft, including the F.E.6 (14 November 1914), F.E.2a (26 January 1915), S.E.4 (25 June 1915), B.E.9 (14 August 1915) and F.E.8 (15 October 1915). In January 1916 he was appointed head of the Experimental Flying Department.

While remaining attached to the Royal Aircraft Factory Goodden was commissioned as a second lieutenant (on probation) in the Royal Flying Corps on 13 February 1915, and appointed a flying officer the same day. He was confirmed in his rank on 5 March. On 15 February 1916 Goodden, now a lieutenant, was appointed a flight commander with the acting rank of captain, and on 23 October 1916 he was appointed a squadron commander with the acting rank of major.

In the late summer of 1916, reports had filtered back to the Factory that the F.E.8 was involved in a series of spinning accidents and that the type was acquiring a reputation as a dangerous aircraft. To disprove this, Goodden deliberately spun an F.E.8 three times in both directions from an altitude of no more than 3,500 feet (1,100 m) and recovered by applying what has since become the customary control inputs.

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