Awarded for an exceptional achievement or contribution, by an individual or team, to the operational assessment or development of a manned aircraft(s) or airborne system(s).
2020 Awarded to: Ben Lewis
Ben Lewis has provided exceptional leadership of the RAF Chinook upgrade programmes over 10 years, first as a Royal Navy pilot and latterly as the Deputy Chief Test Pilot for Boeing in the UK.
The Royal Air Force Chinook entered UK service in 1980 as the CH-47 HC Mk1; after an upgrade to the Mk2 in the 1980's, the fleet remained largely unchanged for the next 20 years. An additional purchase of 8 Chinook HC Mk3s occurred in the early 2000's, not being fully operational until they converted to Chinook Mk5s with the JULIUS glass cockpit and the Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS, pronounced Daffics). In 2010, the JULIUS cockpit upgrade testing commenced and was applied to the Mk2 fleet to upgrade those aircraft to Mk4s... which later received the DAFCS upgrade to become Mk6As. Finally, 14 additional aircraft were purchased, designated Mk6s.
Throughout the upgrades over the last 10 years, Ben Lewis has been a consistent and leading Experimental Test Pilot on the various test & evaluation teams involved. Supporting the JULIUS glass cockpit upgrade to Mk2s in 2010, he was instrumental in identifying safety issues with the standby flight display and testing a resolution to the issue. For the new Mk6 aircraft in 2011, Ben Lewis lead the UK Combined Test Team from the UK's Air Test & Evaluation Centre at MOD Boscombe Down alongside The Boeing Company in Phoenix, Arizona; his leadership was instrumental to the highly effective DAFCS-equipped aircraft entering service with the RAF on time and with a major safety improvement to landings in degraded visual environments. Ben continued to lead the UK’s Chinook upgrade testing as the lead test pilot on the Mk4-to-Mk6A DAFCS upgrades in 2015 and Mk3-to-Mk5 DAFCS upgrades in 2017; these trials introduced different challenges associated with the upgrade of an ageing fleet. Between 2015 and 2019 Ben has led the test team conducting production flying of the remaining aircraft in the fleet, while simultaneously conducting ship-aircraft flight envelope testing, plus additional avionics and defensive aid suite upgrades to enhance the aircraft capability.
In 2019 and 2020, Ben Lewis continued to play a leadership role in the test & evaluation of Chinook helicopter upgrades, providing his extensive “hot & high” experience to the Boeing team testing the next generation of Chinooks in Phoenix, Arizona, the Block II upgrade for the US military. This upgrade involves a new rotor system, transmission and avionics upgrades which are expected to be part of the next UK purchase of Chinooks in the 2020s.
Ben’s decade of leading Chinook upgrades and his ongoing contribution into the 2020s, first to the UK fleet of Chinooks and more recently to the global fleet upgrades, is a fundamental component of these safety-focussed test programmes, delivering a capability and safety improvement to a globally successful helicopter. His focus on testing safely and efficiently has seen him drawn into the global Chinook upgrade programme putting the UK, and UK requirements, firmly in the front rank of the future Chinook.
For his exceptional achievement and contribution to the operational development of the RAF Chinook fleet, Ben Lewis is awarded the Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown Memorial Trophy.
2018 Roger "Dodge" Bailey
2019 Test Pilots of the F-35 Integrated Test Force, Nathan J Gray, Lieutenant Commander Peter Wilson, Squadron Leader Andrew Edgell, Major Michael Lippert USMC
2020 Ben Lewis