Oral history of British science

Hooper, Ralph (Part 10 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 10: Remarks on: Hawk project director Dickie Dickinson [DD] and deputy John Wright [JW] at St Giles Court, formerly of Boscombe Down; Boscombe Down seeing the whole aeroplane more than RAE specialists; Hawk fixed price contract; meetings between DD, JW, Gordon Hudson and RH, where time was bought to solve problems before ministry involvement; Harrier requirement much more bureaucratic; commercial success of Hawk compared to Harrier. [04:25] Comments on daily work activities in 1960s [closed between 05:05 - 05:08]: back of envelope schemes; mainly doing calculations for two seater Harrier report himself; use of computers for statistical calculations; instrumentation; working on several tasks at once; decision for Harrier production; delay producing two seater; experimental and production design offices' roles in preparations for production; merging of design offices into one after 1968; early history of the Hawk. [12:20] Comments on becoming executive director and chief engineer in 1968: reorganisation of Hawkers; SC's death 1966, chief engineer Barry Laight's transfer to board giving RH a free hand; demise of time consuming technical work in favour of semi-political side of work; ceasing close involvement with the development of the Harrier after the two seater in favour of work on Hawk; Hawk contract details, on which they beat maintenance requirements and made a healthy profit due to inflation. [18:35] Comments on overseas Harrier sales: RH taking part in sales to USA and in Harrier trials on Spanish aircraft carrier D├ędalo with JF, but not taking part in sales to Italy and India; test flights by US Marines leading to RH and BB taking a specification to the USA for secret meetings with US Marine Corps, RL touring USA to find US partner in shape of MacDonald Douglas. [24:55] Remarks on subsequent development of Harrier: American carbon fibre wing; short sighted transfer of technology to USA; late 1960s change in official British view to order more Harriers; decision to buy American AV8B update as the Harrier GR5 rather than develop new British version; interaction between Hawker and MacDonald Douglas on developments. [30:00] Remarks on export sale of Hawk to Finland: marketing men John Crampton and BB; agents Machinery OY; chief Finnish Air-force engineer Colonel Piippo; Colin Chandler's role finding offset sales, difficult before the mobile phone industry; RH making three visits, mainly dealing with Finnish Air-force on engineering issues; anecdote about hunting knives presented meal at Fairmile Hotel after sale, Bjorn Schonberg. [36:40] Remarks on: BB HM involvement with Royal Navy Harrier carrier trials; trials aboard HMS Ark Royal, where RH was impressed by catapult launch of Phantom; early naval attitudes toward Harrier; mixed RAF reaction to Harrier at first after several accidents; Ken Hayr's command of first squadron. [41:30] Remarks on circumstances of John Fozard's [JF] involvement in Harrier: requirement for VSTOL naval aeroplane; visit to Hawker by Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown and naval officers; JF responsible for common RAF-Navy P1154; JF transfer as P1154 chief designer whilst RH was busy with Kestrel. Remarks on: RH surprise at becoming chief engineer in 1968, with Bob Marsh as assistant; expected succession of Roy Chaplin after SC; RH enjoyment over P1127 work; nationalisation and Tony Benn. [50:45] Remarks on JF: role as chief designer Harrier; subsequent career as marketing director; capable mathematician, but never did time in design office; good at pushing projects; worked extensively with USA; became divisional director special projects but transferred to Smithsonian Museum before retirement; developed single seater Harrier whilst RH worked on two seater with Jack Simmons and Stan Stapleton; JF becoming deputy to RH in 1968, and executive director in 1972. [56:35] Comments on designing the two seater Harrier. Remarks on: Harrier acquiring electronics intended for P1154 and TSR2; contact with Plessey, Ferranti and Smiths over electronics; post 1968 establishment of systems office under Stuart Tailor; [1:02:30] working to ministry requirements. Remarks on: interaction between Hawker and Bristol over engine development: extreme temperatures in modern jet engines, fan blades, cooling requirements, incremental improvement of engine; informing RR of MacDonald Douglas advances in engines, leading to RR RB422 for P1216.

  • 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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