Oral history of British science

Wheeler, Ray (Part 6 of 13). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering; Space Science and Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewees home, Isle of Wight.

  • Interviewees

    Wheeler, Ray, 1927- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 6: Description of SR combined jet and rocket powered fighter aircraft: wing construction; development coinciding with RW returning to Isle of Wight to complete his thesis; delta wing design features; [04:48] RW work testing strength and sweep of box wing structure under RAE Farnborough contract. [06:10] Comments on: other projects at SR; ladder hydrofoil, built for Canada, problems of corrosion; SR53 jet and rocket powered fighter, developed into SR177, which was cancelled in 1959 after Duncan Sandys' defence review; [12:50] 1959 building of SRN1 hovercraft with Christopher Cockerell. [13:20] Further remarks on SR177: would have been a superb fighter; high power and purpose of Spectre rocket engine; split up of SR into Westland and Hawker Siddeley [17:00] Remarks on Black Knight rocket: research for RAE, contract awarded due to SR familiarity with high test peroxide; test site at the Needles and use in Australia; description of Black Knight; use in Dazzle re-entry trials in Australia; RW involvement in Black Knight doing preliminary structure work with John Underwood, who he had trained. [22:50] Remarks on working RAE on Black Knight: Harold Robinson, whom RW later worked with on, wings in ground effect [WIGS] vehicles in 1970s; structural engineer who had worked on Comet investigation; [26:05 Pause] differing opinions of RAE structural engineer and RW on Comet fatigue problems. [28:14] Comments on fatigue concerns: join between wings and fuselage; RW role in inquiry into a Viscount crash at Manchester, with description of fatal technical problem, [35:35 Pause] SR connection to Viscount. [35:55] Comments on role of stress office in building an aircraft. [38:20] Comments on Black Knight: marginal thrust to weight ratio; weight calculations; testing of rockets at Needles; arrangement of rocket nozzles; computer control system to test restrained rocket; RW too busy to see tests, feelings about working on rockets and combat aircraft; [46:30] RW knowledge of purpose of Black Knight. [47:15] Remarks on work on Shorts Belfast transport aircraft: work with Belfast based Shorts' stressman Wolf Kay; anecdote about a football match in Northern Ireland and RW encountering Guinness; journey to Belfast; Troubles in Northern Ireland c1960; [53:35] RW meeting Shorts managing director, who had lectured him occasionally at Imperial; cooperation and friendship with Bristol Aircraft's Lance Mossom; description of Shorts Belfast. [58:35] Remarks on computers: use of SR built analogue computers and flight simulators; pre-computer calculations. [1:01:15] Comments on SR177 cancellation: feelings of disgust, shortcomings of missiles, potential use aboard aircraft carrier, learning about cancellation, depressive effect on hard working company, staff leaving for jobs elsewhere. [1:07:25] Remarks on: SR branching out to other products, such as hovercraft and aluminium structures; proposal for nuclear powered flying boat, leading to senior engineers being taught nuclear engineering and a nuclear engineering subsidiary company; RW position as advisor to subsidiary companies; decline of UK aircraft companies; RW not wanting to join brain drain; [1:12:00] RW considering SR work of national importance; split of SR between Westland and Hawker Siddeley, RW working with Westland; RW opinions on split up, relationship with Westland; story about Shorts move to Belfast and Arthur Gouge's sale of SR.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Aeronautical Engineer Ray Wheeler.

  • Related transcripts

    Ray Wheeler interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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Wheeler, Ray (Part 6 of 13). An Oral History of British Science.

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