Alec Lumsden

Stacks Image 547
March 2000
Taken by Carroll Johnson and Mike Stroud
ALEXANDER SABINE COURTENAY LUMSDEN - what a splendid name - died on November 21. Of Scottish descent, he was educated at Malvern. He first took an interest in aviation in the 1930s, when his family lived on the edge of Kenley Aerodrome and Alec was ever ready to enthuse about Gamecocks and Bulldogs.

He joined the RAF in 1939, was commissioned and learned to fly. He flew Spitfires with 118 Squadron at Ibsley and later in Malta. One of his Spitfires, a "presentation" aircraft, was paid for by the citizens of the Borough of Lambeth, and carried the badge of the borough on the nose. It also carried the name Bette, a tribute to his girlfriend at the time. That cockpit door survives and may still be seen today in the Imperial War Museum at Lambeth.

Alec was one of the small band of "Hurricat" pilots, and was proud to have survived (although injured) at least one live catapult firing from a merchant ship moored in Liverpool Bay.

He then spent a period with No 13 and No 224 Maintenance Units as a test pilot, clearing aircraft returning to service after rebuild or repair, an interlude of which he was intensely proud.

Alec was further injured in the bombing of Malta in 1942 and returned to duty as a Flying Controller in the UK.

After the war he was involved with the short-lived but well respected magazine Air Review published by Harborough, but when it ceased publication in 1948 he moved on to the British Air Line Pilots Association. In 1953 he joined Silver City Airways, where he fell in with the legendary Taffy Powell, and in 1956 he moved on again to the Royal Aeronautical Society as Assistant Secretary, remaining there until 1961 when he became the Aviation Secretary of the Royal Aero Club.

In 1963 he left academia for industry and joined Hawker Siddeley International, then the marketing arm of the HS Group. At the London office I shared with him we were at the daily beck and call of the Hawker hierarchy such as Sir Harry Broadhurst, Hugh Buckingham, Duncan Lewin, Sir Arnold Hall, Sir William Farren and, not least, Batchy Atcherley. And, even more exciting, were thrown into daily contact with some of our mutual test pilot heroes such as Eric Greenwood, Frank Murphy, Philip Lucas and Bill Humble.

After the industry cancellations of the mid-Sixties Alec went to Geneva to join the prestigious Interavia Air Review. He returned to the UK in 1968 to work for The Aeroplane, but eventually returned to the industry as a press officer with BAC at Weybridge.

In 1973, Alec and his partner Elizabeth, already a skilled photographer in her own right, formed their own public relations enterprise and, using their extensive and well-organised photo archive, began a further career in servicing the aviation writing and photography community.

Alec's personal masterpiece, the authoritative book British Piston Engines and their Aircraft, was published in 1994 and is recognised as the definitive reference source on the subject.

Despite increasing health problems, he continued to produce stimulating articles and letters right up to the last, mostly to correct half-truths and to demonstrate his unwillingness to compromise his high standards merely to be fashionable or politically correct.


Obituary appeared in Aeroplane Monthly, February 2002