Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
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Sunday, 23 January 2011

18 Jan 2011 - "From Everest to Prestwick"

A high turnout of members and around 17 guests enjoyed a very special presentation by Mr Dougal McIntyre who recalled the spectacular career of his father, David F. McIntyre, entitling his talk “From Everest to Prestwick.”  Although many of us were well aware of the memorial stained-glass McIntyre window in Alloway Church with its small aeroplane flying over Everest on its left-hand side, few knew in any detail the full story of this extraordinary man’s career.  Born in Govan in 1905, and moving to Ayr in 1918, David McIntyre grew up during the exciting formative years of Scottish aviation. However, he was discouraged from flying until 21,when his father funded him at the Beardmore Flying School in Renfrew where the Air Force (City of Glasgow) 602 Bomber Squadron was formed in 1925.  Two years later young David earned his wings and joined 602, followed there by his lifelong friend, Douglas-Hamilton, then Marquis of Douglas and Clydesdale.  By 1930, David was C.O. 602 Squadron’s B Flight and considered “an exceptionally gifted pilot.”

In 1933 after stiff competition, he was chosen as the pilot of the second Biplane on the British Expedition to fly over Mount Everest, his friend, Clydesdale, being offered the first pilot position.  It was fascinating to learn of the expedition pre-planning, of the hazardous flights and frequent refuelling stops made by the team en route to Karachi and the relief felt at the safe arrival of the crated aeroplanes to be used on the Everest flight.  In April, 1933, David McIntyre successfully flew over Everest making an aviation milestone – and we were privileged to see many of the old photographs taken at that time. What a mad, wonderful adventure to fly over the highest mountain in the world in a modified, normally open cockpit Westland Wallace biplane, wearing an oxygen mask dependent on refill oxygen cylinders needing in-flight repairs with a handkerchief and with only rudimentary aeroplane equipment!

How to follow that? The answer was simple if you were David McIntyre and had a dream of developing a lasting aviation business at Prestwick.  In 1935 the two friends successfully set up a flight training school there.  As Managing Director of Scottish Aviation Ltd, David was responsible for the running of the airport from its opening in 1936 until mid 1941 when it became a military airport.  Throughout these years Scottish Aviation was heavily involved in the modification of existing aircraft and in the repair of Spitfires in particular, while post-war years saw the company designing and building new aircraft e.g. the Pioneers.

Being convinced of the potential for the expansion of air routes, David McIntyre continuously strove to establish a future role for Prestwick as a major international airport.  A creeping nationalisation and protection of profitable international routes made the fifties an extremely difficult time for David McIntyre and his company.  His untimely death in a tragic air accident over the Libyan desert in 1957 was mourned not only by his family and friends but also by countless fellow Scots who never knew him but who have recognised that his lasting legacy to his country has been the expansion of aviation industry at Prestwick to the present day.

Our sincere thanks were conveyed to his son, Dougal McIntyre who gave us such a warm, detailed and inspired presentation of his father’s life and achievements.

Sheila Dinwoodie

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