Sqn Ldr Peter Thomas AFC
Peter Thomas was born in Wolverhampton on 21 February 1926. In the mid-1930s, he was taken to the
local ‘Three Counties Show’ and saw three Hawker Demons perform a low-level display. His interest from
that moment on, was focussed on all things aviation. His formal education was completed aged fourteen,
shortly after the commencement of the Second World War. He left school with one certificate – the ability to
swim 25 yards. His initial employment was in a large steel works, firstly as a runner and later as a wages
clerk. Peter enrolled on a night school class in engineering, and then discovered the newly formed Air
Training Corps (ATC). Peter joined the ATC in 1942, aged 16 and it was the training and experience gained
in the ATC that became the foundation for his 39 years of exceptional flying which were to follow. Peter
joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1944 and after disjointed flying training due to the Second World War,
he was awarded his RAF Pilots Wings on 18 February 1948.
He was posted to 201 Advanced Flying School, RAF Swinderby, to learn to fly Wellingtons, followed by 230 Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Lindholme to fly Lancasters. Peter joined 49 Squadron, RAF Upwood in 1949 as a Lancaster pilot and captain of a crew of 7, although he still held the rank of “Pilot 3”. He was still just 23 years old. Peter went through Officer training in 1950 and was commissioned on 6 June 1950, as a Pilot Officer. He was immediately posted to the Central Flying School, Little Rissington, to become a flying instructor. Peter spent the next 2 years as a Qualified Flying Instructor on 6 Flying Training School, Ternhill and was promoted to Flying Officer, then Flight Lieutenant. From 1952 – 1954, Peter was a Staff Instructor at the Central Flying School. That is, he taught pilots how to become flying instructors.
In 1955 Peter converted onto the Canberra bomber and was posted to IX Squadron RAF Binbrook where he soon became the Training Officer. This tour included "Operation African Tour," in
January 1956 where Peter was the solo aerobatic display pilot and performed ceremonial fly-pasts for Her
Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu and Ibadan.
In 1957 Peter converted onto the Vulcan bomber at 230 OCU, RAF Waddington and was posted to 617
Squadron at RAF Scampton as a Vulcan Captain and Training Officer. Peter was awarded the Air Force Cross
in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List 1958, for his service on IX Squadron. Peter then got some stability and
spent the next 7 years as an instructor at 230 OCU, Waddington & Finningley. He was promoted to Squadron Leader and became the Chief Flying Instructor.
Peter left the RAF on 31 December 1966, but due to the holidays, he was never formally dined out of the RAF. This was addressed in September 2013 when Peter was guest of honour and dined out of the RAF by ACM Sir Stuart Peach at the IX Squadron Reunion, RAFMarham.
Peter continued flying as a civilian, initially for Truman Aviation, then spent 11 years at British Steel
Corporation as their Training Captain, then 4 years as demonstration captain at British Aerospace. His final 4
years of flying was with the CAA as their Instrument Rating Examiner and Type Rating Examiner.
Peter was Vice President of Vulcan to the Sky Trust for many years. He flew the famous Vulcan XH558
32 times between 1960 and 1965. Uniquely, XH558 was the first and last Vulcan B2 that Peter ever flew.
Peter’s RAF logbook shows that he was rated as an exceptional Pilot on every operational aircraft he
flew. He completed successful forced landings, due to total engine failure, on the Percival Prentice,
Chipmunk and Piston Provost. All these aircraft returned to service.
Peter flew 35 different aircraft types and amassed 10,587 hours.
Sadly, Peter passed away on 5 November 2020.
Peter can be seen below in 2013.