The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

The Hugh Gordon-Burge Memorial Award

The Hugh Gordon-Burge Memorial Award

Awarded to a member or members of a crew whose outstanding behaviour and action contributed to the saving of their aircraft or passengers.


2018 awarded to:  Flight Lieutenant Ben Wallis AFC RAF


As the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) Merlin Exchange Officer, Flight Lieutenant Ben Wallis was conducting a night instructional conversion course sortie on 16 March 2016 consisting of low level handling, navigation and landings and take-offs from confined areas.  On departure from a confined area within a forest, using 95-100% power and at 30 knots airspeed, the student declared “Safe Twin Engine”, at which point Wallis raised the landing gear and began setting up the navigation equipment and radios for the next phase of the sortie.  At this point the crew heard a loud bang, felt a jolt and the aircraft experienced a sideways yawing moment.  Wallis immediately lowered the landing gear, and as aircraft captain, took positive control from the student, who had been handling the aircraft until that time, and attempted to achieve a safe flying configuration.  The student pilot noted that the aircraft instruments displayed zero power reaching the aircraft rotors and a correspondingly low rotor speed, indicative of a complete and total mechanical failure of the drive to the main Ben Wallis - Cockpitgearbox from all three engines.  Wallis immediately recognised the severity of this catastrophic and terminal emergency and initiated an aggressive flare from only 80 knots and at just 120 feet above the trees. 

These prompt actions had a rapid and likely life-saving effect, increasing the rotor speed from below the minimum emergency limit back to within the normal range.  In addition, Wallis had the capacity and foresight to turn the aircraft to the right in an attempt to land in a clear area, despite being below the minimum altitude at which such a manoeuvre would normally be attempted.  In the final stages of the emergency, he displayed supreme calm and capacity by confirming once again that all three aircraft engines continued to read zero Hugh GordonBurge Wallistorque. With the ground only seconds away Wallis instructed his crew to brace, thereby allowing them to prepare for impact.  At just 30 feet above ground level, he straightened up the aircraft and conducted a full auto-rotative engine-off landing coming to rest on a downward slope after approximately 50 metres.  The Flight Data Recorder indicated that from onset of the failure to wheels down was just 15 seconds. An extraordinary display of airmanship at any time but particularly noteworthy given this critical emergency occurred at night and at low level.

Wallis’ almost immediate and accurate assessment of the situation, its severity and ultimately the terminal nature of events displayed capacity and captaincy of the highest order.  Likewise, his subsequent immediate and correct recovery actions, at night, and with a student pilot in the other seat, displayed exceptional handling skill and leadership under pressure.  Wallis’ considerable flying ability came to the fore in the most challenging of situations.  The fact that this emergency was an extremely rare occurrence, which occurred at night, over difficult terrain, and on an instructional sortie, makes his actions in saving his aircraft and crew truly remarkable.  To have the capacity and skill to take control from his student, from a ‘heads down’ position, diagnose the problem, carry out swift and correct recovery actions, issue a warning to his crew and conduct a safe landing in the space of 15 seconds is truly impressive.  Flight Lieutenant Wallis’ exceptional skill as a pilot, instructor and aircraft captain undoubtedly saved his aircraft and the lives of all the crew.  He is accordingly awarded the Hugh Gordon-Burge Memorial Award.

Previous Winners:

1974/75 G W Crawford Esq

1976 - 1978 Not Awarded

1978/79 Captain F H Benton

1980 - 1981 Not Awarded

1981/82 Captain E H J Moody

1983 - 1986 Not Awarded

1986/87 Captain Peter Saxton

1987/88 Captain Shornsteimer

1988/89 Captain Dave Cronin

1989/90 FO A Atchinson Purser J Heward Stewardess S Prince Steward N Ogden Steward S Rodgers

1990/91 Captain Alfred L Haynes

1992 Not Awarded

1992/93 Captain I Berglund FO M Emery Flt. Engineer T N Boone

1994 Not Awarded

1994/95 Flight Lieutenant A J Stacey AFC RAF

1995/96 Crew of G-TIGK - Captain C J Roberts Senior First Oficer L J Sole

1996/97 Captain Leul Abate

1998 Not Awarded

1998/99 Flight Lieutenant Geoffrey Sheppard AFC & Flight Lieutenant Ian Brosch MA BSc

2000  Not awarded

2000/01 Captain Bill Hagan & SFO Philip Watson

2002  Not awarded

2002/03 Lieutenant Commander Neale Hargreaves MBE - Mission Commander of Dolphin 43

2003/04 Captain Eric Gennotte, FO Steeve Michielsen, FE Mario Rofail

2004/05 Captain Mark William Hoey

2005/06 Thierry Fautrel & Marie-Pascale Bulle of Air France AF 358 at Toronto Airport

2006/07 Kevin (George) Francis

2008  Not Awarded

2008/09 Ultimate 21 Flight in Afghanistan

2009/10 Flight Lieutenant Alex Townsend RAF

2010/11 Crew of Flight QF 032 (AIRBUS 380 VH-OQA)

2011/12 Flight Lieutenant N McCready BEng RAF & Flight Lieutenant L D Flemington DFC MSc BAv RAF

2012/13 Lieutenant Bryan Peterson USN

2013/14 Captain Malcolm Waters and First Officer David Hayhoe

2014/15 "Ugly 52" - Major Nicholas George English AAC and Captain Charles William Russell AAC

2016  Captian Richard Alvarez

2017  Flight Lieutenant Karl A Kinsler RAF

2018  Flight Lieutenant Ben Wallis AFC RAF