Rockfist gets his Wings - foreword by Andy Cubin

Ralph Rutherford was my Geography teacher at high school during the late 1970s. He had a caring side that set him apart from most of his peers and I enjoyed his lessons because I liked him.

Having discovered that Ralph “Rockfist” Rutherford had been a fighter pilot in the RAF and with me becoming interested in aviation around that time, our conversations inevitably drifted to flying and Ralph’s memories of his adventures in Meteors and Vampires. These conversations I would have gladly listened to for hours but I don’t believe he took my own ambitions too seriously.

In 1994 I ran into Rockfist at North Weald Air Show where I was the RAF Jaguar display pilot. It was a thrilling reunion not least on my part, since I was quietly indebted to this man who enthused me to follow a career path which turned out to be so very successful. It was also the same weekend I met the woman I later married.

About ten years later I flew a group of veterans from Kemble to Elvington in support of Operation Propeller which is a gathering of flying veterans on an old airfield to celebrate… them! With a couple of hours to kill I was wandering about minding my own business when Rockfist appeared on the path in front of me. “Rockfist Rutherford, stand to attention!” came out of my mouth. That stopped him in his tracks and raised his eyebrows!

The intervening decade disappeared as Ralph invited me for tea and cake at the hospitality area, which he kindly let me pay for. By then I was an airline Captain which meant tea and cake had become a daily ritual, something else we seemed to have in common.

I’ve not seen him since then, but we stay in touch via email. He still likes to reminisce about his fighter days and I still wish his tales would last longer than a few words on the internet. Perhaps, with this book, it is time.

Sqn Ldr Andy Cubin MBE RAF Ret’d

RAF Jaguar Display Pilot 1994-1996

RAF Red Arrows 1997-1999