Joe L’Estrange AFC AFM

Sadly we have to report Joe’s passing on 14 January 2018, following illness. He had been active up until the autumn but his illness finally took its toll.

Joe had a distinguished career with the RAF. After joining in August 1944, training initially as an Air Gunner on Wellingtons and Lancasters, he went on to retrain as a pilot in 1950. This led him to fly Hornets, Vampires and Venoms, as well as many other different aircraft throughout the 1950s. Joe also flew naval aircraft from the aircraft carriers Ark Royal, Albion, Centaur and Victorious during a two-year exchange posting with the Fleet Air Arm.

In 1962 Joe was posted to 230 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) at Finningley to begin his 21-year association with the Vulcan. He joined 35 Squadron at Coningsby in May 1963 and gave the first of many Vulcan displays at Honington in July the following year. After four years as a Vulcan QFI, he was posted to the Vulcan force at Akrotiri in 1969. Returning to the UK with 101 Squadron in 1975, Joe began a second spell with 230 OCU and, in June 1979, led the Trooping of the Colour Flypast over Buckingham Palace, a task he would repeat in the following three years.

Joe was a vastly experienced Vulcan pilot, with 6,102 hours on type. He was renowned as a display pilot, something which put him in demand for air displays and other ceremonies. He flew our own XL426 many times, including displaying 426 at 50 Squadron’s disbandment ceremony at the end of March 1984, which marked the withdrawal of the Vulcan from operational service. He also captained Vulcan XM655 for its delivery flight to Wellesbourne Mountford, where she is now cared for by the 655 Maintenance & Preservation Society.

After leaving the RAF, Joe continued flying, holding a Private Pilot’s Licence for many years. He continued his connection with the Vulcan through his Honorary Membership of the Trust and was at XL426’s controls for taxy-runs at London Southend Airport on a number of occasions.

Joe was a thoroughly nice man who was always willing to share his memories of his career in the RAF, in particular his time on the Vulcan, with anyone who was keen to listen.