On 11 March, Chris
Hodson, son of 'Mr Hawk', Gordon, and currently Military Project
Manager Hamble, addressed the Association on the subject of Henry
Folland, his Company, its products and the site at Hamble.
Chris started by outlining HP (Henry Philip) Folland's early career. He
was born in 1889 and his engineering life started with an interest in
model aircraft and an apprenticeship at Lanchesters whence he moved to
the Daimler drawing office. He then joined the Royal Aircraft Factory
(RAF) at Farnborough where he was responsible for the design of the
SE.4, SE.5 and SE.5A, the latter becoming one of the finest fighters of
WW1. In 1917 he joined the British Nieuport and General Aircraft Co
where he designed the Goshawk and Nighthawk fighters and a twin engined
Folland And The Spirit Of Hamble
When the company closed in 1921 Folland moved to the
Gloucestershire Aircraft Co (to become the Gloster Aircraft Co) as
Chief Designer responsible for a long line of aircraft including the
'Bamel' or Mars I racer, the Gloster III biplane racer which
came second in the 1925 Schneider Trophy seaplane race, the Grebe,
Gamecock and Gauntlet RAF fighters, and the Gloster IV and VI Schneider
Trophy contenders, the latter being a monoplane.
Folland's last commercially successful design at Gloster was
closed cockpit Gladiator, the RAF's last biplane fighter, but Hawker's
Hurricane was ordered rather than his monoplane F5/34 fighter. In 1934
Hawker acquired Gloster and Folland moved to British Marine Aircraft
Ltd as Technical Director.
British Marine had bought Sydney
lodge at Hamble, a late 18th century mansion and home of the Yorke
family, in 1936, together with Cliff House for its access to
Southampton Water. On the land a huge new factory was built with a
slipway. The intention was to licence build Sikorsky S-42 four-engined
flying boats but the scheme and the Company failed financially and the
first aircraft was never completed. Eventually the Company was
refinanced and its new name, Folland Aircraft Ltd, was approved in
December 1937. Folland lived in Cliff House.
repair work got the Company going and soon they were major suppliers of
airframe assemblies for Supermarine, Vickers, Shorts and de Havilland.
An original design to Spec 43/47, the Fo108 was a large, single engined
flying test-bed capable of accepting different power units. Twelve were
built and were used for testing Bristol, Napier and Rolls-Royce
engines. Another unusual project was the fitting of floats to Spitfires
for the Norwegian campaign. The campaign was quickly lost before the
Spitfires were available but some were later operated from Egypt's
Bitter Lakes. Amongst a number wartime aircraft projects was the Fo116
with variable incidence wings, submitted in response to Spec E38/40 for
a Barracuda replacement. A contract was received but manufacture was
stopped because of pressure from other work. Sub-contract work
continued apace throughout the war but when peace came the orders fell
away. The Company then diversified into bedroom furniture (a combined
bed and wardrobe), refrigerators, light electric trucks and
prefabricated aluminium houses. However, aircraft work returned with
design and manufacture of the Bristol Brabazon's control surfaces and
ground support equipment. Major sub-contract work followed from many
other companies including de Havilland and Bristol.
In 1950 WEW
Petter joined Folland as Deputy managing Director from English Electric
where he was chief designer for the Canberra and supersonic P.1; prior
to that he was chief designer at Westland for the Lysander and Wyvern.
He succeeded Henry Folland as Managing Director when the former retired
in 1951 through ill health. Petter brought with him his notion for a
light-weight fighter which was to emerge as the Folland Gnat.
Meanwhile the company was asked by the Ministry to develop a
light-weight ejector seat and Folland decided to base this broadly on a
SAAB seat adding automatic operation. Ejection tests were made from the
rear cockpit of a Meteor 7.
The initial version of Petter's
little fighter was the Armstrong Siddeley Viper powered Fo139 Midge
which was flown for the first time, at Boscombe Down, in August 1954.
The type was well received by A&AEE pilots. By the time Henry
Folland died, also in August 1954, Petter had become MD and
Engineer. The definitive Bristol Orpheus powered Fo141 Gnat
July 1955, also from Boscombe. The Ministry of Supply contracted for
six for evaluation but this did not result in RAF orders. However, the
Gnat was bought by Finland (13) and Yugoslavia (2 for evaluation but
lost to the Galeb), but India was to be the major customer buying 25
direct from Hamble and building 235 at
In the UK
it was the two-seat development, the Fo144 TMk1, that served with the
RAF, 105 aircraft replacing the Vampire TMk11 as the advanced trainer.
The first TMk1 flew on August 1959 and the last was delivered in 1964.
The Gnat became famous at air displays being flown by the Yellowjacks
and their successors, the Red Arrows. Interestingly, Donald Campbell
used Gnat XM691's rear fuselage and fin for his jet boat, K7. In 1959
Hawker Siddeley bought Folland and final assembly of the two-seaters
moved to Dunsfold.
work on Gnat developments included
a naval version for carrier operations, the reheated Mk4 fighter and
the twin-engined, area-ruled Mk5 trainer. There were also several
studies for variable geometry fighters and trainers as well as a number
of light transports.
Hamble, manufacturing work covered
Avro 748 wings, P.1127 components, P1154, yes, P1154, wings and front
fuselages, Harrier single-seat front and rear fuselages and tail units,
and two-seater rear fuselages, fins and canopies. An interesting aside
was the design and mock-up for a proposed P1127 two-seat conversion. In
the 1970s work continued on the Harrier and Trident wings and tailplane
whilst in India an order was placed with Hindustan Aeronautics for an
indigenously developed Gnat fighter, the Ajeet, with increased fuel and
weapon loads; 90 would be delivered.
At HSA Kingston the P1182
(Hawk) advanced trainer to replace the Gnat TMk1 in the RAF was moving
ahead. The light and compact Folland seat was considered but for
commonality reasons Martin Baker was selected. Hamble was to build the
canopies and windscreens, a technology in which they were now world
class, together with nose cones and rear fuselages, for the Hawk., as
well as Sea Harrier front and rear fuselages, canopies and windscreens.
In 1977 British Aerospace was
formed and Hamble became part of
the Kingston-Brough Division. In the 1980s, export Hawk and
Goshawk assemblies were added as were AV-8B rear fuselages until this
work was moved to Brough, role equipment for all BAe aircraft, and
parts for the Airbus A300, the BAe146 and the BAe ATP. When BAe was
privatised in 1981, Hamble became part of the Weybridge and then
Military Aircraft Divisions until, in 1989, renamed Aerostructures
Hamble Ltd, it became a wholly owned subsidiary of BAe plc and part of
So in the 1990s new work was gained on the
C-17, the MD80 and 90, the Hawker Beechcraft, the Airbus Super Beluga,
the Eurofighter and Tornado together with continuing Hawk and Sea
Harrier work. The wide product capability now embraced metallic and
composite aerostructures (eg wings, control surfaces, tail units,
fuselage sections, nacelles, doors), military role equipment (eg
pylons, tanks, mission pods, gun pods, flight refuelling probes), and
military aircraft canopies and windscreens. Composite work included
McLaren Mercedes and Koenigsegg 'supercar' body tubs.
there was a management buy-out of the Hamble organisation. In 1995
Aerostructures Hamble became part of the EIS Group; in 1998 EIS became
part of the TI Group who merged with Smiths Industries in 2000 to
become the Smiths Group, who sold Smiths Aerospace to GEC in 2007
making Hamble part of that division of GE Aviation Systems called
Aerostructures and Propellers. Customers include Hawker Beechcraft,
EADS, BAES, Airbus UK, Boeing military, Bombardier, Spirit Aerosystems
(suppliers to Boeing civil), McLaren and Koenigsegg. A modern
aerostructures manufacturing business has also been established by GEC
at Suzhou in mainland China doing work for the UK and US operations.
Today the Hamble establishment employs 933 people in a 2.3 m sq ft site
with 500,000 sq ft covered; the annual output is 136,000 deliverables.
This is but a summary of Chris's detailed, well illustrated talk, which
was a real eye-opener to those present with memories of how Hamble was
in the 1960s.