Oral history of British science
Higton, Dennis (Part 23 of 24). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee’s home, Shrewton, Salisbury
Higton, Dennis, 1921-2012 (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 23: Comments on career path: being sent to solve problems, with examples of assignment to Boscombe, Washington and London, which he disliked at first; favourite parts of career; developing skills for London job; [05:05] feeling useful as a boffin in London. Remarks on reasons for enjoying work: research at Farnborough; Boscombe not as rewarding as Farnborough, but enjoyed working with Navy. [08:10] Story about Buccaneer carrier trials in Gulf of Mexico to ascertain minimum launching speeds: Jeff Higgs and DH visiting Pentagon to borrow American aircraft carrier; DH technically being too senior to do work; warnings to DH from Patuxent River base commander Dick Hucksford; American technicians; [15:00] resolving catapult calibration problems; pilots Jeff Higgs, Derrick Palmer, David Eagles; catapult problems; potential criticism of DH if trails had failed; meeting technician Tommy Yammama in Washington later; [23:15] catapult launching considerations; DH feelings on task; DH still friends with Jeff Higgs and David Eagles. Comparison of boffin's role with David Cameron's recent 'you do the shooting I'll do the talking' comments to military; [26:45] Comments on differences of opinion between boffins and test pilots, with examples from Farnbrough and Boscombe, differences in pilots' flying styles, risks of testing new aircraft. [32:50] Remarks on approaching retirement: story about Boscombe arranging for him to have a final flight with Reggie Spears on his last day; feeling sad on leaving his office, first desktop computer; offered consultancy jobs by Lockheed and, Tornado component maker AMPEP, and board of packaging section; anecdote about Lockheed trying to recruit him; DH considering consultancy work a waste of time in retrospect; [37:45] reasons for missing job, friends and enemies, feeling appreciated; first office personal computer; description of DH's office being packed up around him on last day; [41:10] Remarks on staff difficulties: story about one of DH's subordinates being arrested for shoplifting; dealing with administrators; DH enjoying dealing with people; occasional stigma in London of DH's American service; DH authorising electricity for aircraft firms in 1970s power cuts; DH varied background suiting him to different jobs [44:30] Story about DH and colleagues calculating effects of 1970s power cuts on aircraft production, earning thanks of chief engineering of RAF. [46:50] Remarks on changes over course of career: change from working with industrials to scientific staff early in career at Farnborough; big changes of Boscombe and America; old fashioned methods in aircraft production departments; monstrous changes at each stage in career. [50:14] Remarks on work whilst at London: changes in job, staff cuts; DH becoming project director of Hawk, Harrier and Buccaneer whilst at London; management responsibilities whilst in London; visits to France and Germany for Jaguar, Tornado and helicopter work; DH duties as project director, with example of Buccaneer work, advantages of DH previous experience; problems with Jaguar. [57:25] Remarks on: problems with Buccaneer, DH coping with technical issues and acting as DG; DH having little to do with the Harrier, except for previous VTOL rig work and time in America; anecdote about arriving at Edwards Airforce Base after the loss of a US Harrier. [1:00:00] Remarks on staff cuts: effects at Farnborough and Boscombe; constant theme of career; anecdote about administration officer questioning need for boffins; meetings to discuss staff cuts; postwar cuts at Farnborough; lack of boffins in defence procurement today; value of boffins in keeping industrial firms on track.
Interview with aeronautical engineer Dennis Higton.