Oral history of British science

Charnley, John (Part 11 of 23)

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Camberley

  • Interviewees

    Charnley, John, 1922- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 11[1:33:59] Comments on problems of low speed aerodynamics, with reference to Vulcan delta wing and Joe Morrall's work on Avro 707 at Farnbourough. [04:30] Comments on: moments of success arising when apparently insurmountable problems beaten, with reference to work of TP on processing in autopilot; Vulcan Autoland test pilot's [Tony Blackman] differences in view over Autoland equations with TP; lists other individuals involved in Autoland; [09:40] JC being more familiar with TP's autopilot work than radio guidance, with reference to change of guidance work to ILS improvements rather than leader cable system and change to microwave rather than VHF systems, such as proposed system for London City Airport; system progressing after his departure. [17:15] Description of Autoland system in operation. [27:33] Comments on: pilot telling JC that Autoland allowed airlines to operate like railways; need for correct ILS system; airline desire for satellite based autonomous system instead of ILS system, useful in underdeveloped areas. [31:35] Comments on RAE management structure: changes with establishment of RAE Bedford; BLEU answering to RAE Deputy Director Equipment [DDE] Frank Follett whilst at BLEU, but Deputy Director Aircraft [DDA] MM after move to Bedford; Bedford facilities and departments, Twinwood wind tunnels; BLEU treated fairly despite being small compared to other RAE departments. [37:58] Comments on researching information displays for pilots: working with applied psychologists; later work on heads-up displays; working with instrument department.; importance of a fully automatic system to avoid confusing pilot with intermittent information from gaps in fog. [41:23] Remarks on decision to use a fully automatic system: convincing pilots; JC disagreement over automatic systems with American scientist from Bell Aerospace, Freddy Powell; Ron Howard's work at GEC Marconi in analysing failure analysis continuing work of TP and Frank Gill; TP disagreements over details with Ron Howard. Comments on differences between American and British approaches to automatic landing systems: US use of radar and keeping pilot-in-loop; limited use of head-up displays in civil aircraft; complications with non-automatic US system; anecdote about talking with son about pilot and passenger safety. Remarks on American systems: FAA representative Al Winnick promoting US work; JC needing to demonstrate his capability in electronics and systems to be accepted outside aeronautics; US approach to work through private companies such as Bell, Collins, Bendix and Sperry; Federal Aviation Development Evaluation Centre [FADEC] trials on DC aircraft. Story about transfer of DC4 and US crew to RAE Bedford for trials of Smiths' Autoland with favourable results, save for American dislike of cricket, Joe Morrall later making a trip to the USA. [59:15] Remarks on: Americans supporting system; uptake of system internationally; early discussions with BOAC and BEA around time of 1957 demonstrations. [1:04:29] Comments on BOAC and BEA: airlines assignment of pilots to test systems; BEA pilot Frank Ormenroyd's insight into system and support from Ken Wilkinson, chief engineer; BOAC seeing less benefit of system, except for support of pilot Michael Magendie. [1:08:28] Comments on BOAC's Michael Magendie, Group Captain Andrew Humphrey responsible for requirement for Vulcan Autoland at Ministry, and JC's early meetings to devise civilian Autoland and ongoing support after Michael Magendie left to work at Smiths. [1:13:28] Comments on importance of personal relations in driving development of systems: example of working with Geoffrey Trevelyan and Clarkson at De Havilland over DH108 and Vampires; JC different perspective from Gloster chief aerodynamicist Duggie Hough, but working well with test pilots such as Bill Waterton, Zurakowski, Dickie Martin, to convince them of validity of RAE perspective. [1:19:50] Further comments on personal relations: importance of wives getting on for a good working relationships with colleagues, such as George and Hazel Hough, Michael Magendie, Ken Fearnside, Geoffrey and Gillian Trevelyan, Bill Bedford; RAE social activities; importance of mixing socially within industry but importance of recognising dangers and drawing a clear line around activities; [short pause phone] friendships avoiding secret areas; playing cricket with teams from industry, such as Sperry; sensitivity over industry hospitality. [1:26:57] Comments on social life at the RAE: active if you wanted it; sporting, cultural, social activities; technical, film and dramatics societies; enjoying social side throughout his varied 25 year career at different RAE sites. [1:31:41] Story about JC and Mary unexpectedly meeting Group Captain Leonard Snaith, who he used to play rugby with at Farnborough.

  • Description

    Interview with aeronautical engineer and government scientist, Sir John Charnley

  • Related transcripts

    Sir John Charnley interviewed by 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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