Oral history of British science

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

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Richmond

  • Interviewees

    Hooper, Ralph, 1926- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 11: Remarks on: limited involvement with Harrier post two-seater work, mainly non-technical; Sea Harrier work under JF and Gordon Hudson; Harrier two seater accidents involving Duncan Simpson and Barry Tonkinson, eventually traced by Bristol to fuel system contamination of Dowty components wrapped in polystyrene; [05:00] Comments on P1127 crash at an Air-show in France, leading to changes in filters and valves [sneeze] [09:30] Comments on Harrier after his involvement: Sea Harrier development; ski jumps, which they had considered before the involvement of Commander Taylor, and which had been used on early aircraft carriers used in Second World War, as featured in 'First Light'; growing RAF enthusiasm in 1970s, leading to P1216; Sea Harrier performance in Falklands War; American developments of Harrier; Harrier use by US Marines and RAF in Iraq and Balkan wars [19:10] Remarks: efforts to support the Harrier in the Falklands campaign; Navy disagreeing with RAF Harrier involvement; surprise at high serviceability; RH working weekends to show willing. [23:20] Remarks on Hawk: links with RAF Training Command, learning of expected capability gap between high-performance Jaguar and limited Jet Provost trainers; project office scheme for a trainer being touted to RAF Training Command squadrons, prior to Air Staff requirement; early debates over an Adour or Viper powered trainer; 1972 decision to award contract to Kingston rather than Warton; [30:00] fixed price contract; easy flight tests; design process; engine vibration and nose wheel shimmy; Gordon Hudson's role as chief designer, RH continuing to oversee project office activity; RH pressure to keep design simple, with reference to fuel tanks positions and material choices; chief engineer's influence over a project; [35:50] decision to choose Adour engine. Comments on overseas contracts: competition with Macchi designs and Alpha-Jet, Finland export contract. [40:20] Comments on changes in aircraft design process over his career: growing number of specialisations; computerisation, spreading from science into administration work, terminals and hand-held computers; use of computers on Hawk, with reference to draughtsman's drawing practice. [48:10] Remarks on: few problems with Hawk development; role as executive director; few formal board meetings before nationalisation; meetings with trade unions. Comments on nationalisation: parliamentary passage of nationalisation on a technicality, with reference to Michael Heseltine; expecting nationalisation; change in company for the worse; extent of contact with other sites before nationalisation, such as former Hamble and use of RAE and former De Haviland wind tunnels; [58:35] aircraft companies involved in mergers; subsequent friendly rivalry between personnel of formerly different companies , such as between former De Haviland and Vickers over Airbus; feelings over nationalisation; limited influence of nationalisation over design of aircraft. [1:03:05] Comments on not getting involved with committees outside the company much: technical director John Stamper getting him involved with Royal Aeronautical Society helicopter committee and Society of British Aircraft Constructors research committee, which included Ray Creasy from Warton [1:07:45] Comments on: enjoying nearly all of his job; disliking repetitive jobs but knowing the necessity; enjoying working exhilarating environment. [1:10:35] Remarks on later Kingston projects: P1216 for supersonic VSTOL fighter; anti-helicopter light fighter; Admiral Raymond Lygo closing Kingston Future Projects Office; separation of Harrier and Hawk work between Brough and Farnborough. Comments on P1216: designed to meet an RAF requirement; existing Kingston work on supersonic aircraft; favouring of P1216 over Warton proposals; Margaret Thatcher's comments on a visit to the mock-up; design features, such as twin boom fuselage; progress slowed by work on American Harrier development; project cancelled by decision to develop Eurofighter; [1:19:25] twin boom design; hot gas recirculation problems; expectation of P1216 performance, with remarks on P1154 and limited rough basing options compared to Harrier; stealth considerations, with reference to cooperation with Americans and British development work in the field. [1:25:00] Comments on winning contract to supply US Navy with Hawk trainers: visit to US with JF and Colin Chandler; collaboration with McDonald Douglas; winning contract in spite of US preference for twin not single engined aircraft; modifications to design; [1:33:00] role of engineer and test pilots in marketing aircraft; gradually suspecting that aircraft had won the contract; help of British embassy. [1:35:45] Remarks on wrapping up P1216 work with brochure, with reference to later Joint Strike Fighter work. Comments on resignation from BAe: deteriorating situation, not seeing he could be of more help; BAe reorganisation of Weybridge division and prospects of closing Kingston to avoid costs of London area; division of Kingston design team. [1:41:05] Comments on Raymond Lygo: dislike of Kingston, possibly relating to P1154 troubles; story of unofficial visit to Kingston and announcement that he was closing the site; visit to Dunsfold. [1:45:10] Comments on: resignation; change at Kingston site over his career, computing and other facilities; transfer of equipment to Dunsfold; arrangements for testing Hawks built at Brough; changes in dress and appearance over career; anecdotes about SC complaining about him wearing braces with a jacket, SC allowing people to wear plus fours on Saturdays. [1:51:40] Comments on: most interesting periods of career, two decades immediately postwar, work on Hunter and P1127; awards for work, such as British Silver Medal and RAeS Gold Medal, OBE, Fellowship of Royal Academy of Engineering, Newbold Award, also awarded to GL. [1:58:00] Remarks on: post retirement life, gliding; Hawker Association; Harrier's reputation and books. Comments on this interview: doubts over purely audio interview; need to coordinate with other interviews; teamwork aspects of work, with reference to making of a good team and SC's financial control over new equipment; disliking E.E. Lightning's design.

  • 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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