Oral history of British science
Coplin, John (Part 12 of 22). An Oral History of British Science
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Interviewee’s home, Derby
Coplin, John, 1934- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 12: Comments on RB211 team: all basically designers of different type; management arrangements, formal meetings; JC visits to team members to check and offer advice; innovations by individual team members; JC late night visits to production centres and test beds to meet shop floor workers and listen to their ideas; [07:40] credibility of JC enhanced by personal knowledge of different parts of process; anecdote about salary barely covering amount of overtime he did; anecdote about uncovering a problem. [10:10] Description of problem with engine surge related to heating in its pre-history, undetectable by Phil Ruffles' team, and possible factors in the operating regime; JC solution of redesigning steel rings around engine, [16:05] 1967 change in patent law leading JC to be personally rewarded, anecdote about Cyril Elliot having engine tested severely, improvement in fuel consumption appreciated by airlines but not commercialised by Rolls-Royce. [20:15] Remarks on: cu-sum engine performance measures applied by Phil Ruffles, demonstrating engine improvements. [21:25] Comments on state of RB211 when JC inherited it: Witold Challier's calculation for necessary improvements over Conway engine; Geoff suggesting three shaft engine, Jim Petie produced overview design; calculation of improvements over previous generation engine to determine launch point; modular upgrades to engines. [26:15] Comments on: Airborne Instrument Diagnostic System [AIDS], which revealed engine performance issues leading to modular upgrades; recall of engines after a certain time for analysis in case of problems; regular inspection of aircraft; [29:50] circumstances of Turkish DC10 crash; JC visit to Pan-Am, staying in the house of Pan-Am chief engineer, to understand airline operations better. [32:45] Comments on progression of RB211: potential problems with use of Carbon Fibre in fan blades and structures; loads on aircraft and engine mounts during flight; decision to make fan stator blades out of hollow steel, increasing weight but safe and workable; [38:45] JC explaining to chief executive David Huddie that engine would be heavier and more costly; problems of Carbon Fibre production and limitation of Adrian Lombard's ideas of carbon fibre use. [42:14] Remarks on: Phil Ruffles writing up RB211 story, limitations of documentation; subsequent development of titanium blades for RB211; JC responsibility for Conway improvements; JC responsibility for RB207 programme, involving other European companies such as SNECMA and Hispano; [47:25] JC meetings in schoolboy French; Rolls-Royce attitudes to losing competitions. [49:55] Comments on bribery and corruption problems: anecdote about his fax machine being tapped in Indonesia; British companies generally behaving well; methods for legitimately dealing with corrupt countries.
Interview with aeronautical and mechanical engineer Professor John Coplin