Oral history of British science

Hooper, Ralph (Part 8 of 11). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Richmond

  • Interviewees

    Hooper, Ralph, 1926- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    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.

  • Description

    Interview with aeronautical engineer Ralph Hooper

  • Related transcripts

    Ralph Hooper interviewed by Dr 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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