Leonardo engineer co-pilots Dambusters Raid commemorative flight

17 May 2023

Yesterday, on the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid, Simon Shackell, an engineer at Leonardo, co-piloted a commemorative flight around the UK in honour of those who took part in the famous raid on German dams on 16-17 May 1943, and to raise money for the Royal British Legion.

The flight was in addition to Battle of Britain Memorial Flight commemorating the same anniversary, which took place yesterday evening with the BBMF Lancaster flying over Bomber Command bases in Lincolnshire.

Alongside his friend and fellow aviator, Jason Davidson, Simon embarked on a route around Britain, flying over several places associated with the Dambusters Raid, including the Dambusters Memorial in Woodhall Spa, and RAF Scampton, the war time home of 617 Sqn from where the raid was launched.

In total, the 620 nautical mile flight took five hours flight time, with Simon and Jason passing over eight locations – one for each decade since the raid. They also touched down at IWM Duxford near the midway point for rest and refreshment.

“This endeavour was not to simply commemorate the design ingenuity and brave actions of 617 Sqn, but also to reflect on the loss of life and horrors of war on both sides,” explains Simon. “The flight followed the rules of the Pooleys Dawn to Dusk Challenge. This meant flying during daylight, navigating by ‘dead reckoning’ and without GPS or other navigation aids. Should any prize money be awarded by Pooleys, it will be donated to charity.”

Simon, who is based at Leonardo’s Home of British Helicopters in Yeovil, has over 30 years’ experience working on a variety of aircraft; fast jet, rotary and airliners. His first stint with rotary platforms was in 1999 on Lynx production, before moving onto the AW101 Merlin in 2011. He is currently a Principal Engineer within AW101 Project Engineering. “During the Covid lockdown, I gave consideration to an ongoing urge to gain my fixed wing Private Pilot Licence. Restrictions allowing, I gained it in June 2021 and now plan to complete further ratings and promote a continuous improvement initiative throughout general aviation,” he adds.

Jason is a commercially qualified pilot and flight instructor with multiple ratings, who recently finished service with the Army Parachute Regiment as a Warrant Officer (Class 1).