Tuesday, October 23, 2012
He was Sean Connery’s James Bond stunt double, helped search for Lord Lucan and the Loch Ness Monster and created what he claims is the world’s smallest working pistol.
But when wing commander Ken Wallis steps on stage at an award ceremony at London’s Guildhall today, it will be his 75 years of “exceptional service and devotion to aviation” being honoured.
He was born into a family of aviation pioneers in Ely in 1916 – his father and uncle constructed the Wallbro Monoplane in 1910 – and now at the age of 96 he is considering attempting his 35th world record for autogyros from his home in Reymerston Hall, near Dereham.
He flew nuclear-armed B36s during a posting with American Strategic Air Command in 1956-58 – “It was creepy; it was always a relief not to get the order to use the bomb” – but it was an encounter with the Bensen B7 Gyroglider which started his association with the machines that made him famous.
Using “back of the envelope” calculations he adapted and improved the design, forming his autogyro company after leaving the RAF in 1964.
Ironically, he was working on an Italian Bond spoof in Brazil when he was asked to pilot Sean Connery’s autogyro for the helicopter battle scene in You Only Live Twice in 1966.
He had never seen a Bond film before.
He said: “I think it was a good film. People say it must have been fun to film but it was 85 flights and 46 hours in the air to make seven minutes on screen.”
Between 1968 and 2002 wing cdr Wallis set 34 world records for the autogyro and now he is limbering up to break his own 207.7kph record over 3km.
He said: “I often think that at my age I really shouldn’t fly any more, but I like to have a reason. I ought to be thinking seriously about this world record again, but I don’t know if I will do it.
“You have got to get the paperwork and official time keepers and a good day. Doing the flight is the easy bit, but getting people in the right place at the right time is rather more difficult.”
Wing cdr Wallis will receive the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators’ Award of Honour from Admiral Sir George Zambellas, fleet commander and deputy chief of the naval staff.
For more on this story, see today’s Eastern Daily Press.