Gerry Sayer

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Phillip Edward Gerald Sayer
Born (1905-02-05)5 February 1905
Disappeared 21 October 1942 (aged 37)
North Sea
Nationality British
Occupation Test pilot
Employer Gloster Aircraft
Known for Piloting the first flight of the first British jet aircraft
Spouse(s) May Violet Ellen Wallace-Smyth (1929-1942, his death/disappearance)
Parent(s) Wing Commander E.J. Sayer MC. (father)
Military career
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1924–1930
Rank Flight Lieutenant

Flight Lieutenant Phillip Edward Gerald Sayer OBE (5 February 1905 – 21 October 1942), was chief test pilot for Gloster Aircraft as well as a serving RAF officer. Gerry Sayer flew Britain's maiden jet flight in Sir Frank Whittle's Gloster E.28/39 (Pioneer), an aircraft designed by George Carter, on 15 May 1941.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Colchester, the only son of Wing Commander E.J. Sayer MC. He attended St Joseph's College, Nainital in India and Colchester Royal Grammar School, in England.



Sayer joined the Royal Air Force in June 1924, obtaining a short-service (five year) commission, when on 23 May 1925, he became a pilot officer. He learnt to fly in an Avro 504K. Later he flew Sopwith Snipes, and became an RAF test pilot at RAF Martlesham Heath, the home of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment.

Test pilot[edit]

He resigned his commission in 1930 to be second test pilot with Hawker Aircraft, assistant to Group Captain P.W.S. (George) Bulman (who first flew the Hurricane on 6 November 1935). In 1934 Hawker took over the Gloster Aircraft Company and Sayer was appointed chief test pilot in November 1934.[1]

On 15 May 1941 at 7.45pm, he took off from RAF Cranwell, near Sleaford in Lincolnshire in the Gloster E.28/39 (W4041/G) powered by the W.1 engine and flew for 17 minutes, flying at over 500 miles per hour (800 km/h),[2] impossible for other aircraft at the time in level flight. That Gloster aircraft has been in the Science Museum since 1946. A second aircraft of the same type (W4046/G) would be later demonstrated to Winston Churchill on 17 April 1943, having first flown on 1 March 1943 and later crashed in June 1943.

On 21 October 1942 Sayer departed from RAF Acklington in a Hawker Typhoon to carry out tests of a gunsight involving gun firing into Druridge Bay Ranges, he never returned.[3] Test Flying Memorial site of British test pilots and engineers who died while test-flying (1940-1945 page). He was replaced as Gloster's test pilot by Michael Daunt, who would be the first to fly the Gloster Meteor (powered by two de Havilland Goblin engines designed by Frank Halford) on 5 March 1943 at RAF Cranwell.

The Germans had flown a jet aircraft, the Heinkel He 178, piloted by Erich Warsitz, on 27 August 1939.

Gloster E.28/39 memorial at Lutterworth

Personal life[edit]

He was made OBE in the 1942 New Years Honours List.

In January 1929, he became engaged to May Violet Ellen Wallace-Smyth daughter of the vicar of Bure, north Essex.[4] They were married on 7 June 1930 at Holy Innocents Church, Lamarsh in north Essex.[5]


  • Times obituary, 23 October 1942, page 7
  • Manchester Guardian, 7 January 1944, page 5

External links[edit]