Alan Derek Piggott’s outstanding career in aviation spans over seventy years and includes over 5,000 hours in 153 types of powered aircraft and over 5,000 hours in 184 types of glider.
An active aero-modeler as a boy, he joined the RAF in 1942 and made his first solo in a Tiger Moth after only six hours dual.He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in 1943. After training as a multi-engined instructor, he volunteered as a glider pilot and flew Horsas, Hotspurs, and Hadrians. He was then posted to India and then Burma, flying DC-3 Dakotas. Back in the UK he trained instructors and flew Harvards, Balliols, Athenas, Meteors, Spitfires, Mosquitos, and Lancasters.
At the Home Command Glider Instructors’ School he trained civilian instructors for the Air Training Corps and as Chief Flying Instructor developed improved training methods, for which he received a Queen’s Commendation award in 1953. While flying with an ATC cadet in an open-cockpit Slingsby T-21 in the National Gliding Championships he established a British two-seater altitude record of over 17,000 feet in a thunderstorm.
Leaving the RAF as a Flight Lieutenant, Derek joined Lasham Gliding Society as Chief Instructor in 1953.In 1961 he became the UK National Aerobatic Glider Champion and later set several national gliding records, including the single-seat altitude record of over 25,000 feet in a Skylark, again in a thunderstorm. As a member of the BGA’s glider test group, he flight tested a number of prototype gliders, and once had to bail out of a Bocian and joined the Caterpillar Club after making a successful parachute descent. His research on sub-gravity sensations threw light on a mysterious phenomenon that may have caused a number of fatal gliding accidents.
Taking time off from his Lasham assignment, Derek began a new career as a movie stunt pilot, beginning with The Blue Max in 1965. He planned and flew dogfight and other stunt sequences in a total of nine films, includingThose Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, The Red Baron, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. For a TV program in 1973 he flew a replica of Sir George Cayley’s first heavier-than-air flying machine, and did so again in 1985 for the I-Max film On the Wing.
The FAI’s Lilienthal Medal is only the latest ofDerek Piggott’s awards. In 1987 he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). In 2007 he was awarded the Royal Aero Club Gold Medal. He is the author of eight books and four monographs on gliding, and has made a significant contribution to gliding training throughout the world.
In 2003, at the age of 81, he completed a 505 km task in a Me7 12.7 meter gliderin a time of7 hours 14 minutes at a national competition! At age 86 he remains an active gliding instructor and competitor.
Thanks, Derek! Your example is an inspiration to us all!