Saturday, 21 April 2007

Sir Sydney Camm 1893–1966

Royal Aero Club signed Dinner Menu 1954

One of the most famous of British designers, Sir Sydney Camm began with model aircraft before World War 1, and then joined the Martinsyde Company, with which he gained aircraft engineering experience. He joined the H.G. Hawker Company in 1923 and it was his work with the company for which he is best remembered. The first aircraft he designed was the Cygnet light plane that was entered in the Lympne Light Aeroplane Competition of 1924.Camm was given the post of Chief Design in 1925. His first products were mostly adaptations of the Woodcock fighter with his first production success being the Hawker Horsley bomber. A prolific series of aircraft designs flowed from his office, but his first real winners came in 1929 when he produced the Hornet single-seat bomber, powered by the Kestrel engine. The Hornet was faster than any RAF fighter sent up to intercept it in exercises. It remained in production for nearly a decade spawning a whole family of two-seat biplanes. The Hornet, renamed Fury, achieved equal fame as an RAF fighter in the thirties. Although preoccupied with many variants of the Hart, Sydney Camm turned his attention to one of the most significant aircraft of its time, the Hurricane. This was a monoplane fighter with retractable undercarriage and the new Merlin engine. Fitted with eight machine-guns, it entered service with the RAF in 1937 and bore the major part of the German onslaught in the Battle of Britain. The Hurricane was a war-winner, but Camm did not rest on his laurels. Taking the new and more powerful Sabre and Vulture engines, he drew up fighter designs around them. The Sabre-engined Typhoon was the scourge of German armor during the 1944 invasion of France. It was with jet aircraft that Sydney Camm's eye for beauty of line blossomed, with the Sea Hawk naval fighter and then the Hunter, one of the most successful jet fighters ever produced. But his most imaginative design was the P.1127 VTOL fighter which, as the Harrier, pioneers a new fighter concept and is now in squadron service with the RAF as the first operational VTOL fighter in the world, and a worthy epitaph to the late Sir Sydney Camm.