Ted Nance

Ted Nance (Large)


Ted–3rd from left


Wing Commander Edward ‘Ted’ Nance OBE, who was with 74 Squadron from 1958 until 1963, died on 23rd March.


He was born on 30th March 1936, the son of a mechanical engineer. He joined the RAF and entered the RAF College on the 71st Entry, passing out in December 1957. A year later he was posted to the Tigers flying Hunters . In 1963 Ted moved on to the Central Flying School at  Cranwell  as a QFI  on the Jet Provost. From 1965 he was in the States with the USAF on T-38 Talons, in 1968 at HQSTC (Ops), in 1969 at Staff College and in 1970 in Hong Kong (Ops Plans). In 1972 he refreshed on Lightnings prior to taking command of 11 Squadron. He was awarded the OBE on 12th June 1976. His final tour was to Air Plans at MOD from July 1976 before retiring from the RAF two years later and entering the world of civil aviation.

A memorial service was held at St Clement Dane in London on May 30th where Air Vice Marshal Graham Williams and John Portchgave eulogies, extracts from which are presented below.

 Graham Willams said: ‘Ted was one of my oldest and best friends – he was chivalrous and considerate man, one of nature’s gentlemen, but also a pretty tough old bird – in the nicest possible way.   We first met on January 5th 1955 as we gathered together as new cadets at the RAF College Cranwell for a 3 year sentence. Ted left St Paul’s School at the end of 1953, did a temporary job in a hospital before joining the RAF to do National Service and was then selected to go to Cranwell as a cadet.    Al Pollock was an old Pauline of exactly the same vintage and Ted always said that if it had not been for Al’s enthusiasm for the RAF and encouragement  he would never have joined the Air Force.   Fortunately he did not follow Al all the way and fly a Hunter through Tower Bridge  after which Al was invited to find alternative employment.  To say that we had a wonderful time at Cranwell was an understatement.   I don’t think we were meant to enjoy ourselves quite so much, but we did.  In 3 years I don’t think I ever heard a cross word from Ted – not even when 3 weeks before graduation he received a week’s extra orderly officer, to be served after graduation, for an illegal trip to London.   Amongst his other talents it is worth mentioning that he was a very good single handicap golfer and this and flying remained two of his passions throughout his life – the other being his family.

After Cranwell came the Hunter conversion unit at Chivenor.   I well remember the March day when Ted was over the Atlantic accompanied by Jock Heron doing air to air gunnery.   Suddenly his fire warning light came on, so he went through all the correct drills – flaming the engine out and pressing the fire extinguisher.  Unfortunately the light remained on and, although Jock had assured him that there was no sign of fire, the next correct action was to bail out.   But Ted looked over the side at the whitecaps of the Atlantic and realising that the sea was at its coldest at that time of year, decided that he preferred the warmth of the cockpit.   No doubt this decision was influenced by the fact that the same thing had happened some months previously and the pilot had bailed out only never to be seen again.   So he restarted the engine and flew calmly back to base and landed all in one piece.   It caused a slight furore amongst the instructors who felt that he had done the wrong thing.   But there, sitting on the dispersal, was one of the Queen’s jets that would otherwise have been at the bottom of the ocean.   Furthermore it turned out that the FWL had a wiring fault that had also prevented the extinguisher from working and the same fault was found on a number of other aircraft.   So Ted went from zero to hero in one easy step.

After Chivenor, we all went our separate ways and Ted ended up on 74 Squadron at Horsham St Faith and then Coltishall both close to Norwich, initially flying Hunters: then they were the first squadron to convert to Lightnings in 1960 and Ted was one of the first to convert to the new aircraft.   Apart from changing aircraft he also took on a new status when he married Miss Jane Scriven on the 8thOctober 1960, an event which delighted us all although I have to say that I missed it as I was away in the Middle East.   Ted appeared at the Farnborough Air Show in the Lightning in 1960, ‘61 and ‘62.   In 1961 he did manage to overcook the flypast at Farnborough and went supersonic at low level over the airfield and broke all the windows in the local pub, the garage showrooms and the control tower.   He said his hand slipped on the throttle – he was not top of the popularity poll!

From Lightnings to CFS to become an instructor ending up at Barkston Heath (Cranwell) on Jet Provosts, ending up subsequently on exchange with the USAF at Randolph Air Base flying T-38s.   He returned to the UK in 1967 to do penance as a staff officer at Strike Command in the HQ at High Wycombe followed by Staff College (where they crammed six months work into a year) in 1969.   His reward after Staff College was a much sought after job in Hong Kong which was a wonderful couple of years marred by the tragic boating accident at the end when his daughter Katy lost her life and Ted was very badly burnt to the extent that we feared for his life as well.    He was casevaced home and I well remember going to see him in hospital at Uxbridge and he was still very poorly but beginning to show signs of recovery.  And being a tough old bird he recovered, got his medical category back, went back to flying and took over as CO of 11 Squadron at Binbrook with Lightnings.    This is the peak of a fighter pilot’s ambition, to command his own squadron and stamp his mark upon it.  With his excellent leadership skills and exercising a light touch, 11 Squadron became one of the best in Fighter Command.   It was a highly successful tour which was so recognized with the award of the OBE. And then, finally, to MOD for his last tour before retiring from the RAF in 1978.   This was at a time when bus drivers were paid more than RAF pilots and morale in the RAF was at a pretty low ebb.   Ted, like many others, decided that there were better ways to earn a living and retired to Jersey to become Secretary of La Moye Golf Club – not that it lasted long before his love of flying returned .

It is difficult if not impossible to succeed in the RAF without the 100% support of one’s family, especially one’s wife, and that is what Ted had in spades.  His daughters were extremely proud of and grateful to their father who was ever a rock in a storm, provider of sage advice and common sense and a compassionate man par excellence.

If Ted was standing here today, his warm smile would be evident and he would want to reassure us that the world will go on as usual, that this memorial service is nothing out of the ordinary and that, in fact, all is well.’

John Portch, Line Training Captain with Flybe, spoke of Ted’s time in civil aviation : ‘not content with having led such a distinguished career in the Royal Air Force, Ted soon set about doing exactly the same in the airline world.  Having moved over to Jersey after leaving the RAF he took up a career in airline flying and in April 1980 he joined Guernsey Airlines. At first he was based in Guernsey as the company had no routes out of Jersey at the time, and spent much of his time flying between Guernsey and Gatwick or Manchester, and was also involved in oil support work, flying out of Aberdeen or Sumburgh. Like everybody starting at an airline Ted had to start at the bottom and his first position with the company was as a First Officer on the Viscount, a huge change from his role as a Wing Commander in the RAF but one that Ted took completely in his stride. A year later he moved onto the Shorts 360 and was very quickly promoted to Captain. Very soon after this Ted became a Training Captain, a role that he would go on to fill for the rest of his career: in fact he held the rank of either Senior Training Captain, Fleet Manager or Chief Pilot for every airline he was involved with until his retirement.

In April of 1984, Guernsey Airlines was taken over by British Air Ferries. This was a particularly difficult time for Ted as holding the additional role of base manager he had to contend with strained employee relations which are inevitable with any such take over. Ted acted as a buffer between his pilots and the airline management and managed what must be regarded as the virtually impossible feat of maintaining morale and discipline whilst at the same time being scrupulously honest and straight forward with both employer and employee.

One of his most memorable trips with British Air Ferries was a ferry flight of a Shorts 360 from Arkansas to Prestwick. Ted was accompanied on this trip by Captain Andy Blake and two other pilots. The plan was to fly the aircraft back to the UK through North America, Canada , Greenland and Iceland . Unfortunately when they arrived the aircraft wasn’t ready. In fact it would be some three weeks before it was and here the fun began! Arkansas is a dry state: however it didn’t take long for our intrepid aviators to discover that the Golf Club was one of the few places you could get a drink. Both being keen golfers you can imagine where they headed for. The golf club was also the venue for the local Line Dancing Club meetings and Ted was obviously fascinated by this, but the truth as to whether he ever participated or not, will any of us ever know ? In characteristic style however and never being able to sit still for long, he discovered that the agent who was handling the aircraft deal was married to a chicken farmer – and Ted spent the remainder of his time chicken farming whilst waiting for the aircraft to be readied for delivery.

In early 1988 the airline was taken over by Aurigny. A quiet period then followed until a takeover by Air Europe Express in mid 1989. Again a quiet spell in Ted’s career although he continued as a training captain until Air Europe unexpectedly went bankrupt in March 1991. With the demise of Air Europe the routes from both Jersey and Guernsey to London Gatwick became available and Jersey European Airways stepped in to fill the breach, a route they are still operating today, 21 years later, and this is in no small way due to the efforts of Ted. He moved across to Jersey European, as did a lot of the Air Europe Express pilots based in the islands and initially flew the Fokker F27 and Shorts 360. This was the beginning of a period of large expansion for the airline which subsequently became British European Airways and finally Flybe.

Ted was without question one of the single greatest influences in the expansion of the airline. As others provided the ideas and finance for expansion Ted provided the sheer determination and drive to see all of the projects through. One of his greatest achievements was to almost single handedly bring the company’s first jet, the British Aerospace 146, into service in 1993. The initial fleet of 3 aircraft was expanded to 7 by 1995 and even further to a total of 12 by 1998. Throughout this period Ted worked tirelessly as a Captain, Training Captain, Chief Training Captain and at times Chief Pilot, and the huge success the British Aerospace 146 proved to be must be regarded as one of his greatest achievements with the airline. If that wasn’t enough he also managed to oversee the introduction of the Bombardier CRJ into service and did much work behind the scenes with organisations such as the European Regional Airlines Association. Ted finally retired on 28th March 2001.

As a Training Captain Ted had the unique ability to not only teach but to be able to understand the difficulties experienced by those he was teaching and to successfully help them overcome those difficulties and succeed in their chosen career. It is a great tribute to him that virtually every British airline, and for that matter airlines around the world, have benefited from and still benefit today from pilots that were trained by Ted. Despite all the various pressures Ted may have been under whilst undertaking his various roles within the airline he always had time for those he worked with, not only the flight crews, engineers and ground crew, but also those involved in the day to day administration and running of the company. Hence he was always affectionately referred to as Uncle Ted .

Andy Blake, whose career through the airlines ran side by side with Ted’s, says of Ted. ‘My most abiding memory is of an absolute professional, a totally reliable friend and confidante and a man who was held in the very deepest of respect and affection by all who knew him. His influence will be felt in the industry for many years after his passing.’