The ultimate type hunter
...as a passenger. We pay tribute to the late Edwin Shackleton, who set a record for rides in aircraft that will never be equalled
We are sad to report the death of Edwin Shackleton, who passed away on 7 September, aged 91. Edwin held (and will surely forever hold) the
Guinness Book of Records title for having flown in the most different types of aircraft – 879. His first flight experience was in March 1943 in a de Havilland Dominie when he was an Air Training Corps cadet. There followed trips in Miles Martinet, Bristol Beaufort, Lockheed Hudson and Ventura, and B-17 Fortress. Postwar, after a brief spell with Miles Aircraft and two years’ National Service in the RAF, he joined the Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton as a structural test engineer, serving for 38 years during which he worked on the Britannia, BAC 1-11 and Concorde (on the latter he was later to make a day trip to Cairo, riding on a camel that same day, thus experiencing two extremes of the transport spectrum!).
Edwin had been an aviation enthusiast since his ‘Spotters’ Club’ days during WWII, and was a regular airshow visitor, but did not become actively involved until 1973 when he joined the International Air Tattoo team for the first Greenham Common air show. He also helped organise the four Avon Air Days at Westonsuper-mare in the early 70s, took on the commentator’s role for the first Popular Flying Association Wessex Strut Fly-in at Henstridge, and this developed into a regular slot at the Badminton Air Days since 1981.
His extraordinary tally of aircraft flown in included his first trip in a helicopter, when he and his late wife Irene flew in a British European Airways Bristol Sycamore on a scheduled service from Southampton to Northolt. Subsequently he was to fly in fifty different types of rotorcraft, from Wing Commander Ken Wallis’s autogyro to a French Super Frelon. Homebuilts, gliders, balloons and airships were all fair game to Edwin, and included the bizarre Cameron D96 hot-air airship, Goodyear airship, Ballonfabrik K630 hydrogen balloon and Rupert Bear and Bertie Bassett special-shape balloons.
Aside from his wartime rides, among Edwin’s log of WWII aircraft were Lysander, Swordfish, P-51 Mustang, a rare two-seat P-38 Lightning, Curtiss Helldiver, Martin Marauder, B-29 Superfortress and Junkers Ju 52/3m, but the highlight was a trip at Badminton in 1985 in the two-seat Spitfire flown by the late Nick Grace. Military jets included Meteor, Vampire, Canberra, Jet Provost, Gnat, Hunter and Czech Delfin and Albatros jet trainers. From a much earlier era, the Avro Avian which Lang Kidby flew solo to Australia (not with Edwin aboard!) to commemorate Bert Hinkler’s 1929 flight, and a Vickers Vimy replica. Not all of Edwin’s flights were inside the aircraft or landed at airfields. He wing-walked on one of Vic Norman’s Yugo Cars-sponsored Stearmans, and landed in a B-N Islander aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, these, like many other of his exploits, recorded on film by his long -time friend and Pilot ‘OldTimers’ editor Peter March. And of course there was his namesake – a five-hour sortie over the North Sea in a RAF Avro Shackleton maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
Not content with aircraft, in 2009 Edwin set out to travel in or on as many different types of transport as possible, quickly reaching 100 to be dubbed ‘The Ton-up OAP’ by his local Bristol newspaper, and soon doubling that number.
Edwin’s son Michael perhaps sums his father up most succinctly. “He was always full of fun and laughter. He never took life too seriously and made the most of what he had.”
If there are any two-seat angels up there, by now Edwin will surely have cadged a ride.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: getting airborne in the Spitfire – ‘Edwin’s finest hour’; the one that caused Edwin to change his trousers – a flight in the CAF’S two-seat P-38J Lightning Scatterbrain Kid in 1992 left them soaked in hydraulic fluid, after the aircraft developed an hydraulic leak; unique takeoff and landing by Islander on HMS Hermes off the south coast; Edwin with his secondGuinness Book of World Records certificate after flying in an RAF Merlin helicopter in 2005; and flying in the sole surviving Avro Avian
Edwin and Vimy replica, 2006
Edwin flying with record breaker Ken Wallis in his two-seat WA122 autogyro
Not always in the cockpit – here 'wingwalking' on a Stearman in 1988