Oral history of British science
Hooper, Ralph (Part 8 of 11). An Oral History of British Science.
The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
Legal and ethical usage »
Interviewee's home, Richmond
Hooper, Ralph, 1926- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 8: Description of P1127 reaction control system: change from low to high pressure system with assistance of Bristol, valve and bleed system arrangements, [06:15] Robin Balmer and RH's creation of an engine testing schedule, arrangements to tap engine pressure, [10:00] measurement equipment, system outlets, complicated nature of equivalent system on Short SC1, limited consideration of alternatives, problems of hot air leaking inside aircraft if battle damaged, automatic nature of system. [15:15] Discussion on test pilots: skills required; links with services; P1127 test pilots BB and Hugh Mereweather [HM], who had a useful engineering background; Kestrel test pilot Duncan Simpson; valuable attributes in a test pilot; feedback and written reports. [21:05] Remarks on issues of VSTOL: rapid acceleration from ground to flight, with reference to 'The RAF Harrier Story'; need to get off ground quick to escape jet hot gas. Remarks on: Robin Balmer's work on Hunter development; changes to RH's role at end of 1950s. Comments on other VSTOL projects: Bell X14; RAE jet thrust Meteor; Short SC1, viewed by RH BB and HM; very limited help from RAE. [28:30] Remarks on issues after first flight: problems with outriggers; untethering of aircraft after early flights; problem of aircraft turning out of the wind; story about RL's reaction to BB unexpectedly suffering wind problems on a test flight; description of intake momentum drag with reference to a pair of scissors. [34:20] Remarks on problems with P1127 its development: wheels and brakes and problems with aircraft snaking on ground; improvements in reaction controls; shimmy on outriggers; Kestrel leaning over on one wing-tip and solution of the dead-leg, later patented by Douters; poor wing aerodynamics, later improved. [38:45] Discussion of wing design: tailoring of wing for military application not just as proof of concept; securing of ministry approval for changes; RAE Bedford acquiring prototype 831, where John Farley first encountered it before becoming a Harrier test pilot; interaction of aerodynamicists and structural engineers in airframe design; considerations in developing wing for a purpose; anecdote and discussion of different specialists' contributions to process. [46:15] Remarks on materials: reasons for not using Carbon Fibre, RAE invention, sold across the world, slow to get into British aircraft, first used by Americans; use of alclad aluminium alloy on earlier aircraft; use of titanium on later Harriers; different alloys for different parts. [50:30] Discussion of organisation of Hawker Siddeley with reference to sketch: RH becoming chief engineer in 1968; John Stamper's reorganisation to matrices working; comparison with earlier arrangement under SC. [56:45] Remarks on: split of test engineering between Dunsfold and Kingston; non-existence of a chief designer; RH's position on early P1127 work; development of plans from sketches to precise drawings; different offices in pre-1968 Hawkers and their roles; RH's position as P1127 project engineer, then chief project engineer, executive director and chief engineer from 1968; [1:01:05] Comments on P1154 saga: RAF Operational Requirement 345; NATO involvement through NBMR3; plans for supersonic P1150 and P1154, powered by more powerful Bristol engine with plenum chamber burning; development of new BS100 engine; [1:07:00] winning of NBMR3 competition, jointly with French Mirage IIIV for political reasons; problems between differing RAF and Navy requirements for a single VSTOL aircraft, meeting with Navy representatives, including Eric Brown; RH's scepticism leading to P1154 work being handed to others; cancellation of P1154 by Harold Wilson government, leading them back to the P1127; RH's strategy in writing a paper pointing out the problems with meeting Navy requirements; anecdote about BB discovering P1154 cancellation from minister Hugh Jenkins; anecdote about an awkward phone call with Jock Cohen before cancellation. [1:16:30] Comments on expected problems with hot gasses on the P1154, creation of a test rig still in use for Joint Strike Fighter work. Further remarks on P1154: signs that government was going to cancel, hot gas circulation problems, lengthy development. [1:21:45] Remarks on political issues, next generation British VSTOL fighter prevented by requirement for European collaborative effort, leading to Eurofighter instead; NATO NBMR3 competition, Dassault efforts and German VFW VAK 191B; RH continuing work on P1127 rather than enduring P1154 problems. [1:26:05] Comment on development of Kestrel from P1127, naming of Kestrel for marketing reasons.
Interview with aeronautical engineer Ralph Hooper