Maurice Hickmott FRAeS
11 July 1924 - 5 February 2017
Maurice Hickmott, who has died aged 92, was a life-long aviation professional. Joining the Royal Air Force as a pilot in 1942, he served until 1973, flying aircraft as diverse as the Lincoln, Washington, Single and Twin Pioneer, Canberra and Vulcan. He also helped form the Royal Malaysian Air Force. He subsequently worked in the flight simulation industry and was a founder member of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Flight Simulation Group, later serving as its Chairman. He enjoyed a very full life, and was never happier than when in and around aeroplanes and with like-minded people. He was devoted to his wife, Joan, and his children, enjoying country walks, fishing and messing about in boats. The quintessential English gentleman, he was unfailingly courteous and keenly interested in other people’s endeavours while very modest about his own exceptional experience and remarkable achievements.
Maurice Ernest John Hickmott was born on 11 July 1924 near Rye in Sussex. Growing up on a series of farms in the 1920s and 1930s was tough and physical and imbued in him a strong work ethic. Looking back on the depression, he said that he was lucky compared with people living in towns, as he always had fruit, vegetables, rabbits for the pot, and lots of fresh air.
In 1942, at the age of 17, during some of the darkest days of World War II, Maurice volunteered to become a pilot in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Awarded his wings in 1945 at No 4 British Flying Training School, Falcon Field, Mesa, Arizona, he was later to remark that his diet in Arizona had been flying, food, sunshine, fresh air and more flying, and the scarcest commodity was water, which ‘only came on Tuesdays’. He and his fellow trainees were looked after by the redoubtable ‘Daughters of the Empire’ - ex-patriot British ladies living in the area. He was never to lose his love for the USA, nor his steadfast courteousness to a host nation’s people when away from the UK.
After the War, Maurice flew Lincolns on No 50 Squadron and B-29 Washingtons on No 57 Squadron. In 1952, he married Joan, who was serving in the Women’s Royal Air Force and, until Joan’s death in 2008, they dedicated their lives to one another and to the service to others. In the late 1950s, Maurice returned to No 50 Squadron, on the Canberra and, in 1960, was posted to No 230 Operational Conversion Unit, to help introduce and later instruct on the Vulcan B2.
Maurice spent six years in Malaya and Malaysia. In 1953, during the conflict with communist guerrillas, he commanded No 1311 Air Transport Flight, operating the Scottish Aviation Pioneer on re-supply missions into small jungle airstrips. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his ‘ …. great skill, zeal and determination …. ‘. In the mid-1960s, Maurice returned to help with the formation of the Royal Malaysian Air Force and was a founding member of No. 1 Squadron Royal Malaysian Air Force, operating the Twin Pioneer. He instilled in his team the mantra ‘always listen to the locals’ and said that this ‘felt like coming home’. On returning to the UK, Maurice served initially in the Ministry of Defence and then, on his final tour, trained engineering apprentices at RAF Halton. He retired in the rank of squadron leader in 1973 after a long and distinguished service career.
After 1973, Maurice was able to make a substantial contribution to both the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators and to the Royal Aeronautical Society. He had joined the Guild in 1947, becoming a member on its Court (governing body) in 1971, and serving on its Technical Committee from 1969 until 1973 and on the Education and Training Committee from 1992 to 2007. Maurice had become a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1970; he was a founder member of its Flight Simulation Group in 1971 and, from 1984 to 1986, its Chairman. He also served on the Flight Operations Group for many years. He became a Fellow of the Society in 1998, remaining active until a few months before he died. He donated his very extensive personal archive, some personal effects and a number of relevant technical books to the National Aerospace Library in 2011.
After retiring from the Royal Air Force, Maurice continued to pursue his love of flying by joining commercial organisations associated with flying training. While with Singer Link Miles at Lancing, he was delighted to be able to travel abroad extensively, undertaking business trips to the USA and using visits to Arizona to thank those who had been so welcoming to him as a fledgling pilot. He was also sent to Malaysia to determine the potential market for flight simulators which provided him with an opportunity to meet old friends and use his lifetime membership of the Royal Selangor Club, his favourite place for hot food and cool drinks. After 1989, Maurice became an independent consultant in aerospace systems training.
While working, Maurice lived at over 40 different addresses. On retirement, he was delighted to settle in Bexhill, amongst excellent neighbours, to garden in the Sussex sunshine and lunch with friends, many of long-standing, in one of the local hostelries.
Maurice Hickmott was a Freeman of the City of London, a Liveryman of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (now the Honourable Company of Air Pilots), a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and, in 2009, a recipient of the Royal Aeronautical Society Flight Simulation Silver Medal.