Gordon Bleasdale
MSc  DCAe  DLC  CEng  MRAeS
7 April 1926 – 7 June 2013

Tribute read by his son Roy at the funeral
at Lytham Methodist Church Friday 21 June 2013, 2:00pm

I live in Australia. So when I heard about my father, I had to immediately jump on a plane to get here. During the flight we encountered quite a bit of turbulence which to me it is just a reminder I am flying. I had every confidence the plane would stay in the air. But many people, including my wife Diane, do not share my confidence. But if she asked me to explain why the aeroplane was flying I could not tell her. But I knew a man who could, my father Gordon Bleasdale. He was passionate about aeroplanes and flying and would have been happy to talk about it, as long as you were willing to listen.

But first and foremost he was a loving husband to his wife Margaret for 56 years. It all started back in Flight Test at Warton where they both worked, and they went on to be married in 1956. They set up home in Greenhey where they would go on to spend the rest of their lives together and raise their two children, Roy and Catherine. Later they would extend a warm welcome to their in-laws Diane and Peter, and entertain their grandchildren Jonathan and Hazel.

Dad grew up in Alfreton, Derbyshire with his sister Margaret and two brothers Alan and John. During this time you would most likely find him upstairs, building with his Mecanno set, making his model aeroplanes or reading the adventures of Biggles, and sowing the seeds for his later career as an engineer. He went to Swanwick Grammar school where he must have been a dedicated student, as he not only went on to study aeronautics at Loughborough University, but later proved invaluable as a homework coach to his children. His ability to patiently explain things to us meant most school nights would find one of us perched on the arm of his chair. When Catherine had a school assignment on the Jet propulsion engine she did not have to go very far to find the answers. He was our own personal Google.

After Loughborough and a short spell of National Service in the RAF, he continued his studies at the newly founded College of Aeronautics, at Cranfield. Then in August 1950 he joined English Electric as an aerodynamicist in charge of the High Speed Wind Tunnel. This was the start of a career that would span 40 years at Warton. Where he helped design such famous aeroplanes as the Lightning, TSR2, Tornado and most recently the Eurofighter Typhoon.

When he wasn't designing aeroplanes he was flying them.

Dad had his first experience of flying in August 1944 at an Air Training Corps gliding school. After a series of 18 slides and low hops he gained his 'A' certificate with a flight lasting all of 35 seconds. A year later he was learning to fly a Tiger Moth as a member of the Nottingham University Air Squadron. He went onto gain his "wings" as an RAF pilot during National Service.

When Dad moved to Lytham in 1950 he joined the “Kite Club”, a gliding club without a glider, located at Squires Gate Airport. It took over a year before the club could afford a glider which was airworthy enough to actually fly! At this point gliding became a reality at Squires Gate and Dad became the first chairman of the flying committee, a position he held for the next 15 years. Over the next 60 years Dad spent many days out at the gliding field, doing what he loved, flying and instructing others, in the gentle art of soaring. He also shared this love by teaching Mum to fly. During that time he helped transform the club at the back of the airport, doing hops down the runway, to the present day Bowland Forest Gliding Club with its own club house and airfield.

One of our proudest moments was when Dad was asked to perform an aerobatic display to open the 1982 Manchester Air Show. The gliding skills he demonstrated that day left his family with an indelible memory of flying excellence.

Dad’s engineering talents were also applied around the home. He serviced our cars. He built his own Hi-Fi system, even our first TV. He helped me build my first radio. As children we believed if there was anything that ever needed fixing, all we had to do was say the magic phrase “Daddy Mend”.

During our family summer holidays in Wales we got to see a more sporty side of Dad. Where he taught us to swim and row, play golf and tennis and the fine art of snooker. In the evenings we would get to see him being led across the dance floor by Mum.

Anyone who has been on the family's Christmas card list will remember his skill as a photographer as well as his sense of humour. Each year the family would have to pose for photographs according to the selected theme. Then Dad would disappear into his darkroom to weave his magic and produce this year's masterpiece.

When Mum and her friends decided to make a model of one of the rides at the Pleasure Beach for a sugar craft competition they did not realise what they had taken on. It soon became clear to Dad they did not have a concept of scale or the laws of physics. So immediately he stepped in and offered his services. He drew up scale plans, designed structures that would stand up and applied his years of model making to the problem. From that moment on he became an honorary sugar craft member and consultant. He did not create things in sugar, except of course he once built a scale model of a glider. But he was happy to work behind the scenes, serving on the committee and providing technical support. He set up a TV camera so the whole audience at sugarcraft workshops
could see the techniques being demonstrated and not just the front row. He built Mum special boxes for carrying and displaying cakes. He even built a special stand to make it easier to ice cakes. He became Mum's chauffeur and travelling companion, driving her all over the country to exhibitions, sugar demonstrations and meetings. This way he became a well known throughout the sugarcraft guild.

I remember him once telling me how he enjoyed his service in the RAF. During the day the duty sergeant would send them off flying to practice circuits or navigation and in the evenings he would practice billiards and darts. But he said not only did the RAF train you to be a pilot officer but also to be a gentleman. I think that is one lesson he took to heart.

He always respected other people and behaved courteously towards them.

It was a rare day you would find Dad casually dressed in public. If while working on the car he discovered he needed to buy a spare part, he would always change out of his overalls and slip on his jacket and tie before driving to the garage.

Dad had a reputation for being careful with his money. Never one for unnecessary expenditure.

But in truth he was always generous with both his time and money.

He was always willing to help out where ever he could, whether it is was as treasurer of a Bonsai society, or as executive consultant to the sugarcraft guild.

Whenever visiting our great aunts we would have hardly got through the door before we would hear the call “Did Gordon happen to bring his tool bag with him?” And of course he did. He always did. He never went there without first placing his tool bag in the boot of the car before we left. Just in case there was a problem he could help fix.

At the end, the surgeon told us he was a pleasure to treat and care for, and the nursing staff thought he was a true gentleman.

But to Mum, Dad was simply the best friend anyone could hope to have!

Roy Bleasdale
June 2013