John Cunningham: Second World War Night Fighter Ace and Test Pilot

Author(s): Philip Birtles 

ISBN: 9781781558713
$23.00 $33.00
 A comprehensive record of John Cunningham’s achievements in Second World War combat and pioneering jet airliner development.
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  • He made the maiden flight of the Comet, the world’s first jet airliner, on 27 July 1949 and led the flight development programme of the Comet 4

  • Cunningham made the first flight of the Trident in January 1962 and achieved certification of the first fully automatic landing airliner in all weathers

  • Gloriously illustrated with 114 rare and unpublished photographs, this is of interest to aviation and military historians, modellers and gamers such as IL-2 Sturmovik and War Thunder

John Cunningham’s illustrious aviation career began at the de Havilland Aeronautical Technical School while learning to fly with 614 Squadron at Hendon.

On completing his apprenticeship, he helped test fly the Moth Minor with Geoffrey de Havilland Jnr.

When the Second World War was declared, he was mobilised and started his RAF combat career pioneering the use of radar equipped Beaufighter and Mosquito interceptors. Cunningham completed his service as one of the youngest group captains with twenty confirmed kills at night and in bad weather.

Not wishing a desk job, he returned to his friends at de Havilland, initially as chief test pilot of the de Havilland Engine Company where his combat experience was invaluable in selling aircraft to overseas air forces.

On the death of his close friend Geoffrey de Havilland Jnr, Cunningham was appointed chief test pilot and led the flight development of the Comet, the world’s first jet airliner, and later the Trident, completing some 35 years of test flying. He died in 2002.

BOOK ISBN 9781781558713
FORMAT 234 x 156 mm
BINDING Hardback
PAGES 208 pages
PUBLICATION DATE 23 November 2023
ILLUSTRATIONS 105 black-and-white photographs



Philip Birtles started work as an engineering apprentice at the de Havilland Aircraft Company in September 1957. Following the completion of his training, he was appointed as PA to John Cunningham—the famous Second World War night-fighter ace. Philip held a number of marketing positions over the remainder of his career in the aerospace industry, taking early retirement when Hatfield Aerodrome finally closed at the end of 1993. He spent over forty years as a trustee of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum, and he has written over thirty-five books.