Newsletter 21
Summer 2008
Updated on 29Aug2008
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents Hawker Association

American Awards
Doctor Michael Pryce
Farnborough Airport
Hawker Thoroughbreds
Hawker's TSR.2 - P.1129
Joseph White
My Life with Hawkers
News of Future RN Carrier
News of Harrier
News of Hawk
News of JSF
RAF Club Camm Memorial
Summer Barbecue
Two Good Years at Kingston
    Michael Finlay writes about his varied career in the aircraft industry...
    Although I worked at Hawker Siddeley Aviation Kingston for just a short period of time I will always treasure memories of my experiences at the company back in those days of my youth.
    I 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.
    I 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.
Two Good Years At Kingston

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    I had, by then, completed my National Certificate in electrical 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 tunnel.
    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.
    Stan 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.
    Other names 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.
    Oh 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 working week!
    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.
    So 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.
    Eventually I 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.
    I can 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 there!