Ronald Thomas Shepherd

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Ronald Thomas Shepherd
Died1 March 1955, aged 59
NationalityUnited Kingdom
OccupationAviator and Test Pilot
EmployerRolls-Royce Limited

Ronald Thomas Shepherd OBE (1896–1955) was a British aviator and test pilot for Rolls-Royce.[1] He was the first person to fly an aircraft powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin aero-engine.[1]

Early life[edit]

Shepherd was born in Kensington, London in 1896[1] the son of Thomas and Agnes Shepherd, his father was a lithographic printer.[2]


At first he was employed by Vickers-Armstrongs in the manufacturer of guns but on the outbreak of the First World War he joined the Honourable Artillery Company.[3] Shepherd joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 where he flew with 102 Squadron and 37 Squadron.[3] He left the RFC in 1918 but re-joined in 1921 where he served in England and Egypt until 1929.[3]

Test pilot[edit]

After a few years as a civil flying instructor he joined Rolls-Royce in 1931. In 1935 he was appointed chief test pilot.[1] Shepherd was responsible for the first flight of many of the companies engines, including the Merlin, Kestrel and Griffon piston engines and the Nene and Avon jet engines.[3]

After a serious illness in 1951 he relinquished his chief test pilot role and became a flying consultant.[1] Although no longer flying full-time and aged 58 he made the first free flight of the unusual Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig a pioneering vertical take-off and landing aircraft on 3 July 1953.[1]

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1946 for his work as a test pilot and in particularly the development of the Merlin.[1] He died on 1 March 1955 at his home at Nuthall.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Capt. R. T. Shepherd Pilot Of The "Flying Bedstead"". Obituaries. The Times (53179). London. 2 March 1955. col E, p. 10.
  2. ^ 1901 Census of Wandsworth, RG13/464, Folio 12, Page 16, Ronald T Shepherd, 84, Ganden Road, Clapham, London.
  3. ^ a b c d Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers: Ronald T. Shepherd 1900-1955