If you’re fortunate enough to see a yellow Tiger Month bi-plane 2,000 feet above you in the Blackmore Vale performing death-defying stunts then you are probably watching local hero David Morgan DSC testing his flying skills to the limit.
And his life is as colourful as his plane.
Shaftsbury resident David was the most successful RAF pilot during the Falklands conflict, destroying four Argentine aircraft, including two Skyhawks which were attacking British landing craft.
The son of a Fleet Air Arm Seafire (the Royal Navy’s Spitfire) pilot, he trained with the RN as a helicopter pilot before moving to the RAF flying Wessex helicopters.
He then passed the highly-demanding course to fly supersonic Harrier GR3s and became one of the first Electronic Warfare instructors.
During the Falkland’s conflict David flew more than 50 sorties both ground attack and air combat patrol. His Sea Harrier was damaged by anti-aircraft fire over Stanley Airfield on the first raid but he skillfully nursed the stricken £20 million jet back to the unsteady deck of the carrier HMS Hermes, plunging in heavy seas.
He was credited with the destruction of two Argentine helicopters and two A4 Skyhawks which were attacking British landing craft, saving hundreds of lives.
For this skilled and dangerous attack David, known as Mog, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, only the second such award given to a RAF pilot since WWII – and making him the last RAF pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft. He also joined an attack sinking an Argentine intelligence-gathering ship, and flew several missions in a Wessex helicopter.
‘Every moment in the air counts,’ he says, ‘split-second decisions must be right, and that’s where the RAF’s superb training kicks-in. You cannot make a mistake. Once you’re off the deck of the carrier, you don’t have time to be frightened.’
After the conflict he was appointed to senior instructor roles, flying in 200 airshows, and became unit test pilot at Yeovilton, flying from the carriers Hermes, Invincible, Illustrious and Ark Royal.
David wrote a highly-regarded memoir of his Falklands service ‘Hostile Skies’, published by Orion, which is being translated in Spanish due to high demand in Argentina. It is also available as an audio-book.
David is married with two grown children and five grandchildren and now lives near Shaftesbury, in Dorset. He flew a total of 4,700 hours in the forces (2,500 on Harriers) and has recently retired from commercial flying as a Boeing 747-400 captain, with a total of over 16,400 hours in the air.
He now teaches aerobatics in his vintage Tiger Moth from Compton Abbas airfield, the UK’s highest private aerodrome, which welcomes visitors to its smart restaurant/viewing gallery and bar (Covid restrictions applying).
By: Andy Palmer