Roy Braybrook responds to Ralph Hooper’s article in NL.31.…

    With reference to Ralph’s note regarding the early history of the Hunter wing main spar, I believe he is confusing (a) the Experimental DO’s ‘butterfly fittings’ that preceded the bent spar booms, and (b) what I termed the Production DO’s ‘Warren Girder’ design, which Sir Sydney commissioned later as a fall-back in case the Stress Office had miscalculated those booms. I would suggest that the explanation for his confusion is simply that Ralph, being a product of the EDO, was not privy to the darker secrets of the PDO. The drawing was shown to me only many years later, and only as a joke. My friends in the PDO regarded me as ‘Syd’s gofer’, and Bob Copland unearthed the drawing for me in a spirit of “If you think that he is the greatest fighter designer of all time, have a look at this monstrosity”.
Hunter Wing Main Spar


The ‘Warren Girder’ spar illustrated at least two aspects of Sir Sydney’s way of thinking. Firstly, I believe that the catastrophic failures experienced in some early Typhoon fuselages (caused by badly positioned elevator mass balance weights resulting in flutter) remained a terrible blot on his personal reputation. I think he was determined that no other Hawker aircraft would experience structural failures in flight, hence the pin-jointed Warren Girder spar, which any idiot could analyse.

Secondly, although Sir Sydney was capable of bold decisions (as with the P.1127), it was entirely in-character for him to have second thoughts and doubts. Almost on a daily basis in the 1960s he would come into the Project Office and talk design with Ron Williams and myself. The downside was that one day he would make a decision, then the next day come back and endlessly go over all the arguments for and against. Often these arguments were evenly balanced and it was more a case of making a decision and sticking with it.    

    It must be added that it was an incredible privilege to have been one of Sir Sydney’s “young gentlemen of the Project Office”. I have many happy memories of working for him, including being asked to “See if you can make the P.1127 look like a Hawker aeroplane”. I don’t suppose Ralph heard about that, either.