John Cunningham decided to become a pilot and aeronautical engineer
and at age 18 joined 604 squadron at Hendon. He became a renowned pilot in
both peace and war - the first to fly a jet airliner, and the first to perform
radar interceptions at night.
John Cunningham's "Cat's Eyes" were
the Airborne Interception (AI) radar developed by Bowen with which he, with
Sqn/Ldr Brown at the Sopley Ground Control Interception (GCI) radar, developed
the control techniques for the night interception of attacking aircraft. In May 1941 he shot down a
German Heinkel in sight of
King George VI who visited the station at
Sopley near Christchurch. The press gave him the nickname "Cat's
Eyes Cunningham - the pilot who can see in the dark". At the time
Interception radar was secret, so the Ministry of Information explained that
Cunningham ate a lot of carrots.
Airborne Interception radar
enabled the RAF to win the night battle that followed our success in the
Battle of Britain. This prevented the Germans from achieving the
air superiority they needed to mount an invasion of this country.
Born 27 July 1917, died 21 July 2002.