John Desmond Penrose was born 1st. May, 1930. He was educated at Loughborough College where he read aero.eng, graduating,with honours, in 1951.
In his final year he wrote a thesis on "The Science of Aircraft Flight Testing" (mainly mathematical
reduction) and designed and built a test bed for a RR Trent, the turboprop version of
the Derwent,as tested in a Gloster Meteor.
He was taught to fly at the Nottingham University Air Squadron (1947-8 winner Johnathan Cash Trophy), soloing on 14th April 1948. He was Commissioned in the Royal Air Force on 19th. September, 1951.
He flew with 208 (F.R.) Sqn, on Gloster Meteor F.R.9’s. He was on No 174 Course ,Central Flying School, (winner Clarkson Aerobatic Trophy), followed by time at Cranwell as a Jet Instructor. Whilst there he formed the Vampire Aerobatic Team. In 1958 he was selected for No 17 Course E.T.P.S and following that served 4 years as a test pilot at Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough.
In 1961, he was invited by John Cunningham to resign his commission and join de Havillands as a development test pilot. He was involved as project test pilot for the D.H.110/22. He also performed spinning trials on the aircraft (M.O.S. refused funding for spinning trials). He was the chase pilot for the maiden flight of the Trident. He displayed the Trident 3B at the S.B.A.C show at Farnborough with . John Cunningham in the right hand seat (the only time that he ever occupied the right seat at a Farnborough display).
In 1972, he piloted the delivery of the first and second Tridents to China ,planning the route which had to be approved by the Foreign Office. He spent three months in China training Chinese Crews.
He was a Shuttleworth Collection display pilot between 1964-2005. He has flown over 300 types. He restored two aircraft a 1932 Arrow Active, G-ABVE which was a racing and aerobatic biplane. He came 2nd in the 1980 King's Cup race ( in the only open cockpit, non wheel-brakes, non radio biplane) and owned this aircraft for 23 years. He also owned for 17years the 1936 Percival Mew Gull, G-AEXF, racing monoplane (which was famously flown by Alex Henshaw). He is Vice President: Historic Aircraft Association, Vintage Aircraft Club. On the 2nd October 2012, Loughborough University honored Desmond by naming their new Atrium of the Aeronautical Department after him.
In 2015 Loughborough University awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Technology
for "significant contribution to aviation safety''