In the 1930s Saunders-Roe (SARO) on the Isle of Wight helped Dorothy Spicer to become the first woman in the world to gain all four Air Ministry licences in Aircraft Engineering. She already had ‘A’ and ‘C’ licences, as did several other women. But SARO allowed her to train for the ‘B’ licence, against an unwritten rule that reserved advanced licences for men. The following year, against the odds, she gained the ‘D’ licence at Napier Engines, London.This licensed her to repair and certify an aeroplane after service overhaul. Flight magazine announced, ‘Miss Dorothy Spicer now has the distinction as the only woman holder in the world of these certificates.’
In working partnership with pilot Pauline Gower, Dorothy maintained their Spartan aircraft in a successful flying business called Airtrips Ltd.
During the war Dorothy worked for the Air Ministry at Farnborough, along side her husband Richard Pearse.
Dorothy and Richard died in 1946 in an airliner crash near Rio de Janeiro. They were passengers travelling there to start a new life. Their daughter Patricia survived them.
The aviation world was shocked by their deaths, and created a Dorothy Spicer Memorial Award to perpetuate her memory. Memorial donors included SARO and Sir Alliott Verdon-Roe, de Havilland Aircraft, Sir Alan Cobham, Fairey Aviation, Percival Aircraft, and Mr. A.C. Jack, (chief engineer of SARO).
Noted Spicer Award winners included David Pettit Davies, chief test pilot for the Civil Aviation Authority. Davies tested the ‘Comet’ jet airliner and the supersonic ‘Concorde’. Also Freddie Laker of cut-price air travel ‘Skytrain’ fame.
The Spicer Award ceased in the 1980s, due to cumbersome administration. Now the new Isle of Wight Studio School, in Grange Road, East Cowes, is to revive the Spicer Award, as a special prize to an outstanding student.
The school devotes itself to the future careers of 14 – 19 year olds, offering GCSE, A Level, vocational qualifications and employer-led real work projects. With close connections to Isle of Wight employers, the objective is to ensure every student gains the skills they need to get the best jobs
Some of the employers committed to the development of IW Studio School are modern aviation companies GKN Aerospace and BAE Systems (Cowes). GKN Aerospace is situated on the old SARO aircraft site in East Cowes. Dorothy Spicer’s daughter, Patricia, is delighted that the IW Studio School is to honour her mother’s achievements, by reviving the Spicer Award. Dorothy’s nephew, Timothy Spicer, is equally pleased that 2015 will see a young, aspiring student become the first to receive this special award.