Oral history of British science
King, Julia (Part 6 of 9). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee's office, Aston University, Birmingham
King, Julia, 1954- (speaker, female)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 6: Story about placement with American Airlines: JK asked by boss Frank Litchfield after 2 years running materials labs; Rolls-Royce relationship with airlines, value of placements with airfields; previous experience of Litchfield with Cathay Pacific; JK spending time with maintenance teams at Chicago, at off-airport maintenance base, and with management team. Remarks on time working with maintenance teams: realising difference in focus between Rolls-Royce designers and and practical concerns of users maintaining engines [6:25]; anecdote about pilots' work to rule; maintenance work replacing micro-switches on Fokker aircraft after Lauda Air accidents, overnight checks, Airbus checks; overtime payment negotiations; realising difficulties of managing an airline; finding night-shift work fun; [12:10] relationship with other night-shift workers; anecdote about large supplies of airliner surplus soft-drinks; anecdotes about living in hotel whose staff thought she worked for 'Rose Royce'. [14:25] Comments on working at Dallas Fort Worth: discovering 'Dilbert' cartoons for the first time; Rolls-Royce reserved company culture compared to Boeing's close relations with airline staff; problems caused by shortages of Rolls-Royce RB211-535 HP turbine blades and poor Rolls-Royce team relations with airline; [19:20] advantages of being female for establishing good relations with airline staff and anecdotes about learning about them; JK not realising that she had been earmarked for promotion; communicating suggestions back to Rolls-Royce; compatibility of British and American technicians; anecdotes about maintenance bay's similarities with garage compared to Rolls-Royce veneration of products; anecdote about technicians spending most time with simple engineering problems than most complex components. [26:52] Comments on Rolls-Royce Industrial Power Group: interview; outline of group's various divisions in transmission, distribution, marine, materials handling; trying to apply Aerospace R+D to other aspects of business; JK running a bright team in Newcastle; previous history of industrial businesses in Northern Engineering Industries [NEI], Victorian engineer founders such as Reyrolle and Parsons, previously supplier to nationalised power industry; origins of marine business in marine gas turbines and Rolls-Royce and Associates; trying to inject new technology into declining industry. [32:15] Remarks on: grand NEI buildings; JK student contemporaries being happy to get jobs at NEI in 1970s; old fashioned building interiors; eventual demise of NEI; JK early impressions of Newcastle, arriving on day Kevin Keegan resigned, Marks and Spencer's heavy stock of Newcastle football cakes; JK closing International Research and Development laboratories. [38:45] Remarks on impact of privatisation of electricity industry on NEI: close relationship between NEI and CEGB, who had their own research facilities, limiting NEI's need to research; NEI limited research and development and lack of experience in competitive markets damaging prospects; problems with a Parsons turn-key power plant contract in India, Richard Maudslay's remarks. [43:45] Comments on Rolls-Royce operating businesses; organisation of Operating Businesses; JK role as Managing director of fan systems operating business; scale and operation of fan systems business; building up consultative teams, anecdote about being accused of poaching a finance director. [47:10] Remarks on: Rolls-Royce career path sending people round various jobs; JK enjoying changes of moving between jobs, but never finishing projects; long term work examples of fuel cells and re-powering process to enhance efficiency of coal plants; JK move to run operating business; open plan offices; anecdote about running business. [fire alarm]
Interview with materials scientist Professor Dame Julia King