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Air Vice-Marshal D C McKinley (40125)


David Cecil                  b: 18 Sep 1913                     r: 26 Mar 1968                     d: 23 Apr 2002

CB – 1 Jan 1966, CBE – 1 Jan 1958, DFC – 31 May 1940, AFC – 1 Jan 1945, Bar – 7 Sep 1945, MiD - 20 Feb 1940, FIN - 1949.

Act Plt Off (P): 5 Sep 1937, Plt Off: 12 Jul 1938, Fg Off: 12 Jan 1940, Act Flt Lt: 1 - 8 May 1939,  Flt Lt (WS): 12 Jan 1941,  (T) Sqn Ldr: 1 Mar 1942, Act Wg Cdr: 17 Jul 1944?, Sqn Ldr (WS): 17 Jan 1945, Sqn Ldr: 25 Feb 1947 [1 Sep 1945], Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1947, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1954, Act A/Cdre: 22 Dec 1958?, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1960, Act AVM: 1 Jan 1962, AVM: 1 Jan 1963.

 5 Sep 1937:            Initial Officer Training

xx xxx 1937:            U/T Pilot, No ? FTS.

 7 May 1938:           Attended School of General Reconnaissance

15 Oct 1938:           Attended Flying Boat Pilot's Course, RAF Calshot.

16 Dec 1938:          Pilot, No 228 Sqn (Sunderlands - Pembroke Dock/Middle East)

xx xxx xxxx:             Pilot/Flight Commander, No 210 Sqn

xx xxx xxxx:             Attended Specialist Navigation Course, Canada

xx xxx xxxx:             Ferry Pilot

20 Nov 1942:          Staff Officer, Specialist Navigation (New Series) Course, Central Navigation School

xx xxx 1944:            Head of the Liaison and Investigation Department, Central Navigation School/Empire Air Navigation School.

15 Sep 1945:           Seconded to British Overseas Airways Corporation

16 Apr 1946 :           Appointed to Permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader (retaining rank current at the time). [wef 1 Sep 1945]

xx xxx 1946:            Attended RAF Staff College, Bracknell.

 9 Jun 1947:             Wing Commander - Organisation, HQ No 46 Group

24 Nov 1948:           Air Staff, HQ Transport Command

xx xxx 1952:            Air Staff, Directorate of Operational Requirements

xx xxx 1954:            Staff, RAF Unit, Royal Aircraft Establishment.

xx xxx 1958:            Attended Imperial Defence College.

22 Dec 1958:           Director of Operational Requirements (C).

1962                        ? (Christmas Island)

 1 May 1963:           AOC, RAF Malta

 1 May 1963 -  1 Nov 1965:            Deputy C in C (Air), HQ Allied Forces Mediterranean.

11 Jan 1966:            SASO, HQ Transport/Air Support Command.

Born in County Tipperary in Ireland he attended Trinity College, Dublin and started work as a radio engineer for Ferranti in 1935 but left to join the RAF in 1937.  Following his flying training he was posted first to the School of General Reconnaissance, for more advanced navigation training before training as a flying boat pilot at Calshot. Posted to No 228 Squadron at Pembroke Dock, he flew Sunderlands over the Western Approaches until the squadron was sent to the Middle East in 1939.  However, with the outbreak of war, the squadron soon returned to Pembroke Dock and continued its previous duties, for which he gained a DFC in 1940.

After No 228 Squadron he was posted to No 210, which then flying Catalinas from Oban in Scotland. In June 1941 he was selected for the special task of flying US President Roosevelt's special envoy, Harry Hopkins to Russia.  The flight to Archangel from Invergordon covered a distance of 2,000 miles and took over 20 hours across some of the most dangerous seas in the world, both from nature and from enemy fighters based in Norway, he made the return journey, with Hopkins, on 1 August.  After this epic, journey he attended a Specialist Navigation Course in Canada and then became involved in the ferrying of Catalinas across the Atlantic. 

In 1942 he was appointed to the Central Navigation School at Cranage and the following year undertook the first of a series of long distance flights when he led a liaison visit to the Middle East (26 Sep - 16 Oct 1943).  Between 1 - 5 December 1943 he carried out a radar survey of the sea off Iceland using a Wellington.  After the CNS moved to Shawbury and was renamed Empire Central Navigation School, he continued to undertake such flights, including being the captain of Stirling, LK589, which left Shawbury on 2 June 1944 for a 14 day tour of Canada and arrived back at Shawbury on 26 June 1944.  From 21 October 1944, he also captained Lancaster PD328 'Aries' which carried out a 53 day tour of the USA, Pacific area and the Middle East, thereby completing the first circumnavigation of the Earth by an RAF aircraft and setting a new England to Australia record of 72 hours.  However, there was a practical purpose to the flight, that of preparing the route for RAF aircraft to make the long journey to the Pacific planned for once the war in Europe had ended.  In May 1945 he again captained ‘Aries’, in a trans-polar flight to establish the exact locations of both the geographic and magnetic north pole, followed by further flights around the Arctic from Canada, covering a distance of 17,720 miles in total.  What made the flight even more remarkable was that the auto-pilot failed shortly after take off and McKinley had to fly most that distance on manual.

He attended the RAF Staff College in 1946, but I have been able to determine his postings after that until 1952, when he joined the Directorate of Operational Requirements at the Air Ministry.  Two years later he was posted to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and in 1958 he attended the Imperial Defence College, before returning to the Air Ministry as the Director of Operational Requirements (C).  In 1962, he was sent to Christmas Island and then took command of RAF Malta in 1963.  Returning to Britain in 1966, he was appointed SASO, HQ Transport Command, which became Air Support Command in 1967.  He was made a Freeman of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in 1959 and in 1984 he moved to Alderney in the Channel Islands.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

McKINLEY, David Cecil, F/O (40125, Royal Air Force) - No.228 Squadron - awarded as per London Gazette dated 31 May 1940.  Public Record Office Air 2/9413 has recommendation and citation.

"This officer has shown outstanding devotion to duty as captain of a flying boat.  Since the outbreak of war he has carried out very long and arduous patrols, many of which have been completed in exceptionally bad weather."

(Source - Air 2/9413)

Citation for the award of the Air Force Cross

McKINLEY, David Cecil, A/W/C, DFC (40125, Royal Air Force) - Empire Central Navigation School - awarded as per London Gazette dated 1 January 1945.  This citation was drafted when he was a Squadron Leader and had flown 4,000 hours (420 in previous six months).

"This officer is on the specialist navigation staff of the Central navigation School and is at present employed in command of the Liaison and Research Flight.  Previous to his present employment he completed two operational tours in Coastal Command, during which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and was later employed on trans-Atlantic ferrying.  During the past 18 months Squadron Leader McKinley has taken a most prominent part in preparing and performing many overseas liaison flights.   His organizing ability and his careful planning and determination, resulted in every flight being completed on schedule.  This officer’s work has had a most beneficial effect upon air navigation techniques and has contributed much towards the war effort."

(Source - Air 2/8959)

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Air Force Cross

McKINLEY, David Cecil, W/C , DFC, AFC (40125, Royal Air Force) - Empire Air Navigation School - awarded as per London Gazette dated 7 September 1945.

"Wing Commander McKinley is a brilliant pilot who has captained the Lancaster aircraft "Aries" on two of the most outstanding missions ever undertaken in aircraft of the Royal Air Force.  In October and November 1944, he conducted a liaison and good will flight to New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea and the South West Pacific in the course of which he faultlessly maintained an intricate and exacting schedule of visits.  The flight was the first full-length circumnavigation of the globe undertaken by the Royal Air Force and the return flight from Australia was made in the remarkably short time of 72 hours, almost halving the previous record.  This officer has since captained the same aircraft on the first exploratory flight ever made by the Royal Air Force to the North Pole, which was reached on May 17th, 1945.  By the time Wing Commander McKinley had landed again at Reykjavik he had flown 28 hours out of a period of 30 3/4 hours, having been previously forced back owing to severe icing.  On May 20th, 1945, he carried out a flight from the Labrador coast to the Boothia Peninsula, where the North Magnetic Pole is at present charted.  As he failed to locate it there he proceeded northwestwards to verify certain calculations of the Astronomer Royal, which he was able to corroborate before returning to Montreal.  Finally, on May 26th, Wing Commander McKinley flew non-stop from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to Shawbury, passing over the North Magnetic Pole and well into the Arctic regions, a distance of 4,100 miles, thus accomplishing a practical demonstration of the possibilities of exploiting Polar air route.  In all, the aircraft "Aries" was flown 25,300 miles on the expedition.  By his latest flights this officer has attracted world-wide admiration of, and confidence in, British aviation, and by his exceptional prowess and gallantry he has materially contributed to the prestige of the Royal Air Force.  It is indicative of his perseverance and skilful pilotage that these flights have been accomplished almost entirely under manual control, the automatic pilot having failed very soon after leaving Shawbury on both occasions."

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