Oral history of British science

Higton, Dennis (Part 11 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 11: Remarks on subsequent jobs at RAE: measuring tail loads on Spitfires; working with John Charnley; need for engineers to measure, Frank Smith telling him off for mistake in measurements; using a slide rule. [04:00] Discussion on table of results in report, path from of instrumentation in test flights, via calculations to finished report results, calculating girls called 'computers', DH doing calculations himself if in a hurry on exciting jobs, such as set of perfect results obtained with Frank Smith [13:00 pause] Remarks on: Squire, drag expert; need to clear flies off wings to minimise drag; anecdote about Frank Smith cleaning wings with glass paper; dead flies damaging boundary layer, meaning they had to fly in early morning and shield wings on take-off; [18:00] 'Report on high speed aerodynamics at the Royal Aircraft Establishment 1942-45'; DH work excitement. [19:36] Remarks on: low salary; walking and cycling in outdoors for fun; postwar research aeroplanes, DH assigned to Bolton Paul [BP] Delta, flying himself to BP Wolverhampton. [21:29] Remarks about DH learning to fly at RAF Pangshanger, value of flight experience, DH difficulty solo spinning a plane. [25:00] Remarks: jobs being cancelled and research stopped at end of war; DH using a velometer on bomber turrets to help solve problems of glass misting up. [29:00] Remarks on: DH postwar work on BP Delta; Boscombe Down's Handel Davies for DH to transfer there, negative associations to going to Boscombe Down to join less prestigious boffins, John Derry crashing DH108 as DH was offered transfer; family circumstances; terrible problems with Supermarine Swift. [34:00] Remarks on Boscombe Down: nature of work testing planes and safety; lower status of Boscombe's Boffins; familiarity with pilots; problems with Swift wing; difficult period for DH; living in a prefab; poor communications between Farnborough and Boscombe; political problems with Swift; DH previous work at Boscombe; Handel Davies wanting him; staff problems. [38:20] Remarks on: going to Boscombe because his career needed a change; Joy liking the modern nature of prefab house; DH realising something was up on his first day at Boscombe; RAE director Morian Morgan writing a concerned letter to DH; bad behaviour of people at Boscombe; deep problems connected to Swift and need for someone to solve them; office politics at Boscombe. [43:20] Comments on vertical take off [VTOL] rig built by DH: background, importance of jet power; Hawkers approach of vectored thrust, used in Harrier; [46:35] DH developing rig to explore VTOL control on orders of Handel Davies; description of rig, built 1952; Handel Davies not enjoying practical activities; concept taken further in RAE and Roll Royce Flying Bedstead and control system on Harrier; [53:30] further description of rig; transfer to Boscombe; busy period of significant projects; Wayson Turner of Empire Test Pilots School. [59:00] Remarks on: term boffin, frowned upon at Farnborough, pride at being a boffin; keeping up flying; ejector seats improving safety. Remarks on: BP Delta, surplus aircraft at end of war, shape of aircraft, background to project, DH visiting firm; busy period of work postwar; description of Morian Morgan, anecdote about meeting him on holiday in Gunwallow; description of Handel Davies, with anecdote about DH getting Miss Bradfield's name mixed up at small wind tunnels, theoretical mathematician, skied and sailed with DH.

  • 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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