Oral history of British science

Higton, Dennis (Part 10 of 24). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Shrewton, Salisbury

  • Interviewees

    Higton, Dennis, 1921-2012 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 10: Remarks on feeling delighted at end of apprenticeship, wartime meaning they remained at RAE. [1:55] Discussion of status within RAE: not having to clock on when he became staff; still being cast as an industrial; DH consciousness of differences between high quality of graduate scientists and industrials; elegance of staff in aerodynamics department AERO; not knowing what a university was; social adjustment in joining AERO; wife. [pause][07:35] Remarks on early RAE work: Ron Smelt wanting him in AERO, after teaching DH maths at night school; nature of work investigating high speed flight and carrying out urgent jobs; early job working on sand in carburettors, eventual report attributed to Ron Smelt and Higton; [12:00] Ron Smelt outlining problems of transonic flight; poor quality of instrumentation available; [13:59] Ron Smelt's problems with practical work, importance of industrials; DH experiments on captured FW190 for Ron Smelt; jobs based on intelligence; DH assisting Ron Smelt with maths; traffic between boffins and workshops; importance of DH workshop experiments for Ron Smelt. [19:00] Story about Ron Smelt introducing DH to Britain's first jet plane, Gloster E28/39, DH's difficulties inserting instrumentation into small E28/39, links with engine department, description of instrumentation, [24:55] smoothness of jet flight causing problems for instruments, status as first official flight tests of a jet aircraft. [26:24] Remarks on: RAE report 'Analysis of flight tests at the Royal Aircraft Establishment of the E28/39'; anecdote about John Charnley fitting instrumentation. [29:25] Comments about flight testing of E28/39: scepticism over jet propulsion, problems of melting heat and acceleration; DH first impressions of jet; test pilots, including Maloney or Martindale; E28/39 now in Science Museum; first official flights of jet aeroplane; [36:10] limitations of instrumentation, compared to other nations. [36:40] Discussion of instrumentation: space restrictions; adapting cockpit instruments into automatic observer; installation in aircraft; altimeter; superior system developed by Frenchman Obsnoever [?]; problem of lack of vibration in jet, DH fitting electric bell to vibrate equipment; importance of fitters [42:55] DH resourceful from background; anecdote about John Charnley probably thinking him mad. [43:40] Remarks on: pilots reactions to flying first jet; problems of limited engine life; development of Meteor and Vampires; secrecy of work on first jet; scepticism over jet engine, with remarks on high temperature; [48:00] Frank Whittle; use of jets shooting down V1s; anecdote about inspecting a V1 with Ron Smelt; jet hanger unguarded at night; aircraft now in Science Museum; [50:55] fitting of instruments; DH and John Charnley named on report. [52:55] Remarks about: Farnborough lacking suitable cameras for trials, leading to DH borrowing one from Boscombe Down; historic importance of E28/39; different view of failure at Farnborough and Boscombe Down; poor thrust of first American jet, importance of material improvements to jet development; early tests of new jet engines. Story about Dougie Davie crashing after a compressor failure; scepticism about jet engines leading to trials. Anecdote about Harry Plascott building a jet engine test bed on a trolley, for Baxter, which escaped its tethers. [1:03:18] Remarks on: Frank Whittle; speed record at Herne Bay; take off thrust.

  • Description

    Interview with aeronautical engineer Dennis Higton.

  • Related transcripts

    Dennis Higton 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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