Finlay writes about his varied career in the aircraft industry...
Although I worked at Hawker Siddeley Aviation Kingston for
short period of time I will always treasure memories of my experiences
at the company back in those days of my youth.
left school in 1960 and was employed first by Phillips Electrical in
London as a trainee lighting design engineer and later for a brief
period by a consulting engineers firm working on electrical
distribution systems for private and commercial buildings. All well and
good, if you like that sort of thing, but I quickly found out that I
didn't! I knew that I needed to make a change.
had always been a bit of an aircraft enthusiast as a boy and spent a
lot of my free time building 'Keil Kraft' flying model kits. A
particular favourite of mine was the Hawker Hunter powered by a 'Jetex'
motor. So, one day when I felt I could not take the boredom of
architects' blueprints any longer, I decided to approach Hawker
Siddeley at Kingston to see if I could persuade them to hire me.
Years At Kingston
I had, by then, completed my National Certificate in
engineering which added a little ammunition to my cause. In due course
I was called for an interview and a week or so later received a letter
offering me a job in the engineering design department. I accepted
without a second thought; at last I could see a light at the end of the
I will never forget the
first day when I was escorted up
to the second floor and into, what seemed to me at the time, a huge and
intimidating engineering design office.
In order to familiarise me with
the way things were done and with the subtleties of aircraft design I
was assigned to the Drawing Change Notice (DCN) group under George
Moss. George had been chief draftsman at Blackburn Aircraft until the
plant closed and had then taken a job at Kingston to complete his days
leading up to retirement. He turned out to be a first class mentor and
taught me everything he could during the six months I worked in his
group. We became quite close and I still have the slide rule (no
electronic calculators in those days) that he gave me as encouragement
for my efforts. I knew I had found my niche with aircraft engineering
and my enthusiasm knew no bounds. I was so happy to be working in a
field that really interested me.
After six months I was chomping
at the bit to move ahead in design and George helped me approach Harry
Bucket, head of the electrical group. Shortly I was transferred and
there I stayed for the rest of my time at Kingston. Those were exciting
days, slipping down to the Harrier fuselage assembly line, sitting in
the cockpit with mock-ups of instrument panels trying to find easy ways
to route cables in and out and around numerous obstructions. Then it
was back upstairs to the drawing board to modify general assembly
drawings and to complete the wiring diagrams from which cable
assemblies could be built. Those were perhaps the most satisfying and
exciting days of my working life. I was young and enthusiastic, and
felt that my efforts were very much appreciated. Harry was a great boss
and his 'sidekick' Leo Simpson was also fun to work with.
Whale was chief draftsman at the time and was well respected by
everyone. Stan's office was at the back of the drawing office and he
kept a pretty good eye on what was going on. Any persistent signs of
slacking off and he made a strategic walk past the offender's area. We
all learned to keep our heads down. This was even more true when a
visit from Sir Sydney Camm was scheduled.
I well remember the
day that the P.1154 was cancelled. This was to have been a larger,
supersonic, development of the Harrier but the government of the day
made it clear that they were intent on closing the programme down. This
was a particular disappointment for me as I had already been told that
I would be assigned to the project. A protest was organised in London
and we were given the day off to march with appropriate banners. Alas,
it made no difference and the P.1154 was cancelled.
I remember are Jack Cole, Ted Cronk, Maurice Hillier, Sandie Nesbitt,
Alan Jones and John Smith. There are many others I can visualise but
whose names escape me having reached an age where my memory is not
quite what it used to be.
yes, not to be forgotten, the
Friday lunches at the neighbouring Sports and Social Club backing onto
the Thames; nothing quite like a beer and a meat pie at the end of a
In 1966 I made
the decision to emigrate. This was
a time when a lot of younger people were dissatisfied with their long
term prospects in the UK and had made up their minds to explore other
avenues. Australia seemed to be the answer for me until a contract
company made an offer of definite employment in Canada. I therefore
changed my plans and left for Canada in August after a pub send-off by
my friends at Hawkers.
started a new life for me. After
working for six months at the Steel Company of Canada (STELCO) in
Hamilton, Ontario, I managed to land a job at deHavilland aircraft in
Downsview, a suburb of Toronto. At that time deHavilland was owned by
Hawker Siddeley, so having obtained a decent reference from Harry
Bucket I was taken on without too much fuss. I started in the
instrument group working on the DHC6 Twin Otter flight panels and early
autopilot installation. During my thirty years at the company I made
slow but steady progress, moving on to the Dash8 series in all its
variations after Twin Otter production terminated. By this time the
company was owned by Boeing but after a few years Bombardier took over
and put a lot of money into revitalising the place.
moved out of design into the programs office and finished my days as
production manager of the electrical shop. Finally I retired in 1998
but afterwards did a little contract work including a further year in
the deHavilland methods group. I am now fully retired.
only say, "Where did all the years go?" I think in all honesty my time
at Kingston, brief though it was, stands out more than any other period
if my life. Hawkers was unique; and so were the characters that I met