Oral history of British science
Hooper, Ralph (Part 4 of 11). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee's home, Richmond
Hooper, Ralph, 1926- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 4: Comments on visits to several aircraft companies whilst at Cranfield, including: Handley Page, Avro, De Haviland, where they were building Vampires, and Bristol where he saw the Brabazon. Comments on postwar British civil aircraft policy, including flying boats and Vickers' airliners. [07:15] Remarks on: reasons for optimism in postwar British aviation industry; a visit to Frank Whittle at Powerjets ; problems with the Rolls Royce Avon engine; propulsion lecturers covering jets at Cranfield; early jet engine design; view of future of jet and piston engines in late 1940; aircraft design project at Cranfield. [13:00] Comments on benefits of Cranfield course over previous education and learning to fly. Remarks on: benefits of flight experience for an aircraft designer; later experiences in jets and gliders; taking up skiing; Cranfield education. [19:50] Comments on a vacation placement at RAE Farnborough: working on a project involving strain gauges and a Meteor's tailplane. Description of working of a strain gauge, using strain gauges to do his thesis work at Cranfield. Remarks on other elements of course at Cranfield, including electronics using valves. [25:45] Remarks on time at RAE: convincing him not to be a civil servant; aero-elastic work on Brabazon wing, fatigue and cabin pressurisation work at RAE; abuse of signing in sheet. [30:50] Remarks on: career intentions after Cranfield; differences between experimental and production drawing offices at Hawkers. Comments on time in experimental drawing office: working on P1052 engine bay doors, later also adopted on Sea Hawk under Derek Campbell; transfer to work for Stanley 'Digger' Fairy [SDF] on P1048, which led to P1067 and ultimately the Hunter; [34:40] work on Hunter wing root gun mountings; working front to back on aircraft due to need to calculate loading from nose backward; work on mainframe, rear spar, booms in wing root, wing root spars, tailplane [short pause mic adjustment]; detailed remarks on work on main and wing spars. [40:00] Story about making a mistake in choosing elevator joints on the Hunter and working in the stress office on the Hunter tailplane, lack of time to recalculate tailplane skin thickness for production models leading to every Hunter having a heavier tail than needed. [46:30] Description of process of designing a tailplane, working with a draughtsman, scheming compared to drafting. Remarks on drawing office when he started, duties of others in SDF's section, such as Jack Simmonds, division of Hunter between different sections. [51:00] Remarks on career path within Hawkers: working on the P1083, a cancelled development of the Hunter; experimental drawing office switching to detailed production drawings; using 1083 engine installation ideas on Hunter Mark 6; escaping production drawing by working on a solution to a transonic bang problem with Roy Chaplin; [57:20] move to the Project office; development of the P1121, a private venture doomed by Duncan Sandys' 1957 defence white paper. Comments on work in the project office: background of manager, who left to work for Rolls Royce cars when aircraft technology moved on, and his replacement who had a background in flight testing; loss of wartime experienced staff leaving a small staff of individuals; [1:04:35] SC's reaction to losing manager to Rolls Royce [closed between 01:04:30- 01:04:32 and 01:04:58 - 01:05:11]; position of project office in aircraft development; RH preparing to work on flight control test rig and spinning model for P1121; changing fashion to designing aircraft as a weapons system rather than as an aircraft to be armed later, leading to RH being assigned by SC to become the weapons systems head, a job he wanted to escape.
Interview with aeronautical engineer Ralph Hooper