Pilot who changed aviation training is remembered

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HE CHANGED aviation in Gosport and all over the world.

And now Major Robert Smith-Barry has been commemorated with a blue plaque.

The blue plaque

The blue plaque

Gosport Aviation Society was joined by the Mayor of Gosport, John Beavis, councillors and representatives from HMS Sultan to unveil the plaque at the Alverbank Hotel, in Stokes Bay.

Blue plaques celebrate notable figures and the newest addition to Gosport will remember Major Smith-Barry who established a system of pilot training still used today. He also developed the Gosport tube which helped instructors talk to their pupils while the engines of the aircraft were running.

In a small ceremony before the plaque was unveiled, chairman of the Gosport Aviation Society, David Reading, shared the life of Major Smith-Barry and why the plaque was wanted.

He said: ‘It was my idea, backed by the committee, to have the plaque installed to start the commemoration of the First World War in the borough of Gosport.

‘Smith-Barry developed the school of special flying which taught people to fly properly for the first time.

‘The idea was that you put the aircraft into danger and then extracted yourself.

‘This is still the basic flying training method used throughout the world today.

‘Smith-Barry was determined to change the training regime because new pilots were being sent out to the front line to fight mere days after learning how to fly.

‘This resulted in a high mortality rate which he wanted to change.’

Mr Reading added: ‘The second thing that Smith-Barry did was to invest his ideas in the Gosport tube.

‘This is a method of communication rather like a doctor’s stethoscope between a pilot and observer or a pilot and trainee. The Gosport tube was the first time that any communication could be done on an aircraft over the noise of the engine.

‘This is why we thought this particular year would be a good idea to install the plaque at the Alverbank Hotel, which was the Alverbank House in 1917 where Barry-Smith did most of his experimental work.’

The plaque has a plane engraved on it and also has the birth and death date of Major Smith-Barry and outlines his contribution to aviation.