Oral history of British science
Hooper, Ralph (Part 5 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 5: Comments on childhood memories with an engineering bent: an encounter with an immovable plant; launching balloons at an optimum angle. Comments on systems approach compared to previous practice of designing an aircraft and adding equipment later, SC's assignment of Hooper as the weapons systems cell. [05:45] Remarks on: other duties connected with the P1121; [short pause] free flight spinning models; escaping weapons systems work in January 1958 to work on the P1127. Comments on P1127 work: first work in 1957; earlier work on jet deflection Meteor and Short SC1, with reference to work of Rolls Royce on small engines and RAE concern about controlling VTO aircraft; wider context of VTOL, including French, German and American work; [13:00] SC's knowledge of Armstrong Siddeley's sale of engines for the Bell X14 vectored thrust aircraft, and of Rolls Royce's activities; SC's communications with Stanley Hooker at Bristol on engines, with reference to Neville Quinn and Gordon Lewis [GL]. Remarks on Michel Wibault's work on optimising jet thrust angle; Hawker's Chris Hansford realising it was little applicable to Hawker designs; origins of directional thrust idea; Wibault's links with Bristol and importance of NATO funding arrangements; GL realising optimal arrangement would be rotating jet thrust nozzles. [20:55] Anecdotes about SC and Hooker's communications, PS17 engine brochure, SC's visit to Gerry Morell at the Le Bourget air-show. Remarks on RH's early aircraft planning work around PS17 proposal, limitations of available power, Hooker's assurance of more in future, origins of P1127 in engine availability. [26:15] Remarks on: 'The RAF Harrier Story'; limitations of thrust leading to idea to produce small three seat transport, SC's influence on producing a proper military aircraft. Comments on adding thrust vectoring to back end: RH's idea when expanding original design; Bristol's wide net patent arrangements allowing them to claim it; GL and other Bristol and Hawker engineers not caring much for patents. [30:40] Comments on other ideas to increase thrust: adding water injection; counter rotating engine spools. [35:00] Comments on rear thrust vectoring: patents; Lewis and Wibault's work, with reference to 'Pegasus' by Andrew Dow; origins of ideas on vectoring rear thrust, with anecdote about GL and Sir Arnold Hall and remarks on mindset for invention. [41:10] Remarks on: division of work between Bristol and Hawkers; origin of rear thrust vectoring in need for more power; relations with Bristol, mainly by telephone with Lewis; early cold testing on rear nozzles; working closely with Bristol. [44:40] Comments on SC: very variable personality; originally wood worker interested in model aircraft; humble origins; early career as draughtsman; wedded to wooden construction methods; little formal education; anecdote about his being impossible to work with but brilliant; complicated character, dominated team by personality; cautious with innovation; worked till death; [51:10] cautious management style but could be generous with salaries; reduced secretaries to tears, rectified by Roy Chaplin; held team together, apart from post war exodus of staff; shy; interested in light-weight bicycles and golf; knew what he disliked; cared about detailed design; [56:15] anecdote about equal balance between positive and negative comments on SC in literature. [57:25] Remarks on: SC pursuing P1127 because of P1121 cancellation; switch of staff to work on P1127 by Frank Cross; VTO presenting fun problems to occupy him with; launch of first brochure and sending to Colonel Chapman in Paris of the NATO mutual weapons development fund.
Interview with aeronautical engineer Ralph Hooper