Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Serge Dassault 1925-2018

Serge Dassault is a French senator as well as chairman and CEO of Groupe Dassault, an aerospace, software, and media company. He inherited the conglomerate from his father, Marcel Dassault, who founded Dassault Aviation, which manufactures aircraft primarily for military and business use and is publicly traded.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Rolf Dudley-Williams 1908-1987

Williams was born in Plymouth and educated at Plymouth College.He joined the RAF cadet scheme in 1926 and studied at the RAF college at Cranwell. He was gazetted in 1928 and appointed a Flying Officer in 1930. From 1933 he was stationed at the Central Flying School, but the next year an injury saw him invalided out of the service.
Deciding to go into business, Williams joined with fellow Cranwell pupil Frank Whittle and fellow ex-RAF officer James Collingwood Tinling to set up Power Jets Ltd in 1936 to develop Whittle's idea of jet engines for aircraft. In 1941 he was appointed Managing Director, and in 1944 he joined the Council of the SBAC and was made a Companion of the Royal Aeronautical Scoiety.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

George Hislop CBE 1914-2013


George Steedman Hislop was born on February 11 1914 in Edinburgh and educated at Clydebank High School. After serving an apprenticeship as a fitter and completing a Higher National Certificate in mechanical engineering, he attended the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, and took a First-class external degree from London University. He was awarded a James Caird scholarship in Aeronautics to pursue research at Cambridge, where he gained his doctorate and joined the University Air Squadron, training as a pilot.

In November 1939 Hislop joined the A&AEE, where he worked on the development of fighters and bombers operating at high altitude and the associated meteorological and physiological problems; he also joined many test flights as an observer. Hislop was first introduced to the helicopter during his wartime work at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down. In late 1944 the helicopter arrived there for trials, and he had his first flight in the basic Sikorsky R4.
Hislop transferred to Farnborough in April 1945 as a senior scientific officer, looking at the behaviour of aircraft flying at high speed, but was soon asked to carry out exploratory research work on helicopters.He flew regularly on test flights of the R4 . It was the beginning of his long association with rotary wing aircraftTwo years later he joined British European Airways’ research and long-term development department, which resulted in the formation of British Airways Helicopters.

Hislop was the senior assistant involved in the monitoring, programming and financial control of the unit. Initially, the main activity was a night postal service in East Anglia, but the long-term goal was carrying passengers between cities.

When in 1952 the Ministry of Civil Aviation asked for a large intercity passenger-carrying helicopter, Fairey Aviation’s proposal was accepted. A year later Hislop joined Fairey as chief designer (helicopters) responsible for building and testing the 40-seat Fairey Rotodyne. This complex aircraft was well ahead of its time, drawing a letter of intent from BEA; there was also interest from some American airlines. But when BEA pulled out of the project the Rotodyne was cancelled in 1962.
Hislop developed the ultralight helicopter, which was later developed into the highly successful Scout and Wasp military helicopters.
In 1960 Westland Aircraft took over Fairey, and Hislop joined the parent company. Two years later he was appointed technical director, later becoming managing director and, in 1973, executive vice-chairman. During this period he led the development and introduction into service of six types of military helicopter, including the Wessex and Sea King. He also played a major role in launching the production of the giant Anglo-French helicopter programme which led to the Gazelle and the Lynx, both built in large numbers — an advanced Lynx is still in operational service.
Hislop served as chairman of the council of the Helicopter Association of Great Britain and as its vice-president. He was president, in 1973, of the Royal Aeronautical Society, which in 1961 had awarded him the Simms Gold Medal . He also received the British Gold Medal for Aeronautics (1972) and the Royal Aero Club’s Louis Breguet Memorial Trophy.
He served as chairman of the Aircraft Research Association and of the Airworthiness Requirements Board.
He was appointed CBE in 1976.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Ronald Ashford CBE 1932-2008

Ronald Ashford was born in Wokingham, Berkshire, in 1932 and attended St Edward’s School, Oxford, from where he went to the De Havilland Aeronautical Technical School in 1949. As he served his apprenticeship, Ashford took flying lessons. Possession of a private pilot’s licence was professionally useful but flying was, for Ashford, also a leisure pursuit. He was an active private pilot from 1950 until 1997.
Ashford joined De Havilland in 1953. For his National Service he took an RAF short-service commission, returning to Hatfield in 1958. Over the next ten years he flew alongside test pilots with De Havilland and then with Hawker Siddeley when the two companies merged in 1959. Besides the Comet, he worked on test flights for the Trident and the DH125 corporate jet. He also worked on the Royal Navy’s DH110 Sea Vixen, an earlier model of which had crashed at the 1952 Farnborough air show, killing both crew and 29 spectators.
By the mid 1960s, Hatfield began to lose its lustre as an aerospace development centre. Ashford moved in 1968 to the Air Registration Board, the organisation responsible for setting and overseeing technical safety standards for British aircraft. He saw it rolled into the Civil Aviation Authority in 1972, becoming director general of the airworthiness division in 1983, and head of the operational safety division in 1987.
Ashford was involved in the investigation into the Manchester air disaster of 1985, in which 54 people died when a British Airtours Boeing 737 caught fire. Many of the deaths were caused by smoke inhalation and the accident prompted calls for aircraft to carry protective fire hoods for passengers. Ashford commissioned research into that idea and into cabin sprinkler systems together with the improvement of access to passenger exits. After research and testing it was concluded that the difficulties created by smoke hoods and sprinklers outweighed their potential benefits. However, much improvement in the access to and usability of exits was achieved and is now required as a standard.
At the ARB and the CAA Ashford worked with Concorde teams in the radical rethinking of standards that hitherto had applied to subsonic airliners. From the Anglo-French project there emerged close co-operation between European airworthiness authorities, eventually leqading to the Joint Aviation Authorities, based near Amsterdam. Ashford was the senior CAA member with the JAA from 1989, and on leaving the CAA in 1992 he was its secretary general, a full time office, until 1994.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Frank Piasecki 1919-2008

Piasecki, whose family came from Poland, became only the second American to design and fly a prototype helicopter in 1943, two years after the Russian-born Igor Sikorsky had flown the first. Unlike Sikorsky, however, Piasecki concentrated on helicopters with tandem rotors that could provide the capacity for troop transports and land and sea rescue missions. He never retired; even on the day he died his chief test pilot was flying his latest development, the Speed Hawk, which has a ducted fan replacing the helicopter's familiar vertical tail rotor to increase its speed and manoeuvrability.

The son of a Polish immigrant tailor, Piasecki was born in Philadelphia in 1919, he studied mechanical engineering at Pennsylvania University and by the age of 20 had gained an engineering degree from the Guggenheim school of aeronautics at New York University. With help from a few friends he then started a small company, the PV Engineering Forum, in the Philadelphia suburbs, which enabled him to build and, in April 1943, test-fly a single-person, single-rotor helicopter, designated the PV-2. At that stage, he had it in mind to satisfy what he thought would become a growing market of rich, individual customers.

Soon, however, he was exploring the twin-rotor concept, most successfully in 1945 with the PV-3 Dogship, which had 10 seats. The US navy, under wartime pressure from Congress to develop this new technology, gave Piasecki a contract, and within 13 months he had built and flown the navy's first helicopter, designated the HRP-1. These aircraft were nicknamed "flying bananas" because of the upward angle of the aft fuselage, designed to ensure that the forward and rear rotors did not collide.

When the second world war ended, Piasecki formed the Piasecki Helicopter Corporation, designating himself chief executive, chief engineer and chief test pilot. In addition to building helicopters for the US navy, air force and marine corps, he exported the models to the Royal Canadian air force, the French navy and the West German defence force. In 1953 he designed the world's first twin-turbine helicopter, the YH-16, capable of carrying a payload of 40 passengers. His tandem rotor technology led to the development of the CH-46 Sea Knight and the CH-40 Chinook, which played a critical role in Vietnam and all major conflicts after it.

In 1955, preferring to continue research and development, Piasecki left his own company, which was renamed the Vertol Aircraft Corporation - taking its title from the acronym for Vertical Take-Off and Landing. In its turn, this company was bought by Boeing in 1960 and became the Boeing helicopter division in 1987. Meanwhile, Piasecki reformed his company as the Piasecki Aircraft Corporation, "pioneers in vertical flight", which has continued to work on advanced helicopter technology, improved survivability and reduced operational costs. One of its most ambitious projects was what Piasecki called the "world's largest aircraft", which aimed to use four modified helicopters and a helium airship to carry exceptionally heavy loads.

In 1986 President Ronald Reagan awarded Piasecki the US's highest technical honour, the National Medal of Technology, and when the Berlin wall fell in 1989, President George Bush Sr asked him to return to his country of origin to help Poland re-establish its aircraft industry. In 2005, he received the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum lifetime achievement award. Some of his early helicopter designs are displayed in the museum.

Known as Pi to his friends and staff, Piasecki was a demanding and occasionally table-thumping boss, but knew all his staff personally, and admired those who stood up to him. He had continued as chief executive, his mental abilities undiminished despite several disabling strokes.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Ernest G. Stout 1913-1995

Ernest Stout, design engineer of the Convair Company. His firm produced one of the American Navy's two V.T.O. turboprop prototypes; in addition he has pioneered the Sea Dart hydro-ski fighter which is land-based, but which uses water (or snow or ice) for take-off and landing.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Anne Burns 1915-2001

Champion glider pilot who risked her life investigating air disasters

Anne Burns was an eminent aeronautical scientist and a champion glider pilot; she also played a key role in investigating the causes of some of Britain's most serious aircraft disasters.

In 1954, two BOAC Comets broke up over the Mediterranean, one over Elba and the other above the island of Stromboli. Both planes had been flying at more than 25,000 ft. Coupled with an earlier disintegration over Calcutta, these disasters jeopardised the future of British civil aviation. Anne Burns had been appointed principal scientific officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in 1953, and the following year she took part in months of tests which eventually led to the detection of metal fatigue in the Comet jet airliner.

The only woman in a team of 20, she would spend hours at a time in an unpressurised cabin, often at an altitude of 40,000 ft, probing for solutions which had to be found speedily if BOAC was to restore passenger confidence. "We just flew about," she later recalled, "waiting for the windows to fall out."

The conditions were, in fact, extremely hazardous and when an inquiry was later conducted into the Elba crash, Sir Lionel Heald, who was representing the Crown, praised Anne Burns's bravery, describing how on each of her experimental flights, designed to produce the actual conditions of the crash, "no one knew what had really happened or what danger there was". In 1955 she received a Queen's Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air in recognition of her considerable contribution to aircraft safety.

She was born Anne Pellew on November 23 1915, the daughter of Major Fleetwood Pellew whose forebear Sir Edward Pellew was a naval hero of the Napoleonic Wars. Anne was educated at Abbey School in Reading and aged 12 made her first flight in a Gipsy Moth from Woodley aerodrome. She later went up to St Hugh's, Oxford where she took a First in Engineering Science. As an undergraduate, she owned a noisy sports car in which she would career around the city until, fearing the worst, the proctors impounded the vehicle. However, she directed some of her enthusiasm and prodigious energy to sport, winning a hockey Blue and squash Half Blue.

Following research work under Professor Richard Southwell at the university's engineering laboratory, she joined the RAE in 1940. There she qualified for a pilot's licence in a de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane trainer, and was involved in flight test programmes for RAF and Fleet Air Arm aircraft of many types. At the RAE she also met her future husband, Denis Burns.

As a member of the RAE's structures department Anne Burns was mainly concerned with the measurement of structural loads in flight and the effect of such loads on the fatigue life of aircraft. For some years she also conducted an investigation into atmospheric turbulence in relation to aircraft structure, pilot performance and flying procedures. She played a leading role in the testing of the English Electric Canberra - Britain's first jet bomber - flying at low levels in Britain and North Africa and at high altitude in Australia and the United States.

Her contributions to reports on turbulence were of great significance. She became an expert on CAT - clear air turbulence - the rare natural phenomenon sometimes encountered by airline captains of flying into a "brick wall" in the sky. Her interest in this area led her to buy an ultra-light French-built RF-4, which was, in effect, a glider with an outboard engine capable of being switched on and off. In this rather fragile plane she would fly over the Pennines and the Welsh mountains looking for "brick walls". "Luckily," she explained, "my husband is both a scientist and a glider pilot and we have no children. He doesn't worry. In a way it's rather exciting - like skiing in the sky - quite apart from the thrill of scientific discovery."

Burns's enthusiasm for gliding had begun during the war when she took part in launch tests for wartime troop carrying gliders. She later went on to gain a formidable reputation in recreational and competition gliding. In 1955, after only a year's experience flying glider planes, she established a women's gliding record of 134 miles when she flew from Lasham in Hampshire to Market Drayton in Shropshire. With typical modesty, she ascribed her win to "beginner's luck".

In 1957 she became the first woman to cross the Channel in a glider. She consistently bettered her own record times and in South Africa in 1961 she and her husband broke five world and 12 British records. At the age of 50, as the holder of multiple gliding records, she was awarded the Lilienthal Medal of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, and in 1967 she received the Founder's Medal of the Air League.

Other gliding awards include the Jean Lennox Bird Trophy in 1959, the Brabazon Cup in 1961 and 1963, and the O P Jones Cup in 1966, which recognised her as the national gliding champion of Great Britain. In 1962, Denis and Anne Burns were jointly awarded awarded the Royal Aero Club's Britannia trophy for their gliding achievements, which were described at the time as the most "dazzling display in any field of aviation since the beginning of flying history".

Anne Burns's distinctions as an aeronautical scientist were no less impressive. She won another Queen's Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air in 1961, the Royal Aeronautical Society's R P Alston Medal (1958) and the Whitney Straight award in 1968. In 1977 a glider she had been piloting near Andover hit a bird and went into freefall. As she bailed out, Anne Burns became entangled in her parachute and ended up landing in the branches of a tree.

Although this automatically entitled her to membership of the Caterpillar club - whose members are pilots who have jumped for their lives - she decided that her flying days were over. Her husband, Denis Owen Burns, whom she married in 1947, died in 1990.