On September the 9th Mike Salisbury spoke to the Association about his career which started at the age of 14 when he designed his first aircraft using data copied by hand from reference documents in the local library.
    By 19 he had his degree (following a 2 year wartime course at Southampton University) and started work at Folland where HP Folland himself advised him to start off on the shop floor on what would later be called a graduate apprenticeship. The pay was £2.9.11 per week. However, Mike soon tired of this as the unions would not permit such trainees to do any productive work; they could only watch (or do ‘homers’ such as re-chroming workers’ headlamp reflectors).

Offered and accepting a move to the stress office Mike expected a pay increase but this was not to be, due to inter-company agreements that employees under 21 would all be paid the same. His first job was on the Brabazon fin and rudder for the design of which Folland were subcontractors, as they were for the gantry needed for servicing it, and a wing trolley.

A Lifetime In Aircraft Design

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Mike then decided, against HP Folland’s advice, to move to Supermarine, for higher pay, at Hursley Park. He started as an aerodynamicist working on the Seagull amphibian with a single R-R Griffon mounted centrally on a high, variable incidence high-lift wing giving a speed range of 35 to 240 mph. Its CL max was 5 including the contribution from the upward component of engine thrust. Two prototypes were built and flown but there was no production order.

    At that time Supermarine fighters followed two lines of development: single and twin engined. The former had started with RJ Mitchell’s Spitfire which was now under the design leadership of Joe Smith, for whom Mike worked as an aerodynamicist, whose axiom was “make one change at a time”.

So a new wing, designed to National Physical Laboratory laminar flow wing section theory, was fitted to produce the Spiteful and the naval Seafang. However, laminar flow was not achieved (and so far hasn’t been) so the predicted performance improvement over the Spitfire did not materialize. No Spitefuls and only 16 Seafangs entered service.

    Joe Smith’s next single change was to put a jet engined fuselage, still with a tail wheel undercarriage, on the Spiteful wing to produce the Attacker, which served with the Royal Navy as their first jet fighter. Substituting a simple swept wing, fin and tailplane for the Attacker’s straight wing and empennage produced the Type 510 research aircraft. Amongst its achievements was the world’s first deck landing by a swept wing aircraft, in November 1950.

The 510 was developed into the tricycle undercarriage Type 535 and eventually the Type 541 Swift with provision for wing mounted guns. The resulting change in wing sweep needed to house the guns led to high altitude handling problems. The outbreak of the Korean war made the need for a new RAF fighter urgent and there was no time to design a new wing so the eventual service Swift suffered accordingly. However in its reconnaissance FRMk5 form it performed well at low altitude.

    Mike was deeply involved in the aerodynamic design of the Type 545 fighter, with a new wing which was designed according to the ‘3D’ theory developed by Dietrich Kuchemann, the German mathematician who was working at RAE Farnborough. This precursor of today’s computational aerodynamics was handled by Mike using a mechanical calculator. The 545 also had a waisted fuselage to maintain wing sweep effectiveness at the roots. Mike predicted that the aircraft would suffer from pitch-up but his boss would not report this to the chief engineer saying it would be better full scale. ‘Luckily’, although built, the 545 was cancelled before first flight, the almost completed airframe going to the Cranfield College of Aeronautics.
    The twin engined Supermarine line started with the straight winged, butterfly tailed Type 508 which was derived from a very thin winged, undercarriageless, precursor project, the 505, that was to have landed on a rubber membrane carrier deck being developed by the RAE. The 508 had a wing thick enough to house the main undercarriage.

With swept wings and tail it became the Type 525, incorporating an innovation, blown flaps. Developed for the Royal Navy, the type entered service as the Scimitar. Mike did the deck take-off calculations and was invited to go on the carrier trials on Ark Royal. From Weymouth he was taken by launch to the heaving ship where he had to board her by a scrambling net! On the first deck take-off Mike noticed a black track behind the main wheels; at the deck end the aircraft sank out of sight below the bow but did recover and fly away. The test pilot, Mike Lithgow, had forgotten to release the handbrake and the aircraft’s acceleration prevented him from reaching forward to let it off during the deck run.

    Supermarine’s supersonic fighter to OR 329 was cancelled as a result of the 1957 no-more-manned-fighters White Paper but they were working on OR 339, TSR 2. When Hursley Park closed. Mike, now Chief Aerodynamicist at the age of 28, transferred to Vickers at Weybridge with the Supermarine TSR2 team.. There was also a team working on TSR2 at English Electric at Warton. The Government insisted that the two companies collaborate and produce one design. In the event the main contract was awarded to Vickers to work jointly with English Electric. The TSR2 was, after seven year’s work by Mike, cancelled, mainly on the grounds of cost. It was also overweight. The Government decreed that all the airframes be cut up and disposed of - out of sight, out of mind.
    As the VC10 Assistant Chief Aerodynamicist was away because of illness Mike took over this role. The aircraft had been designed to BOAC requirements and it was found that drag was in excess of predictions and that BOAC performance guarantees could not be met - and they had to be or BOAC would cancel the order - so an affordable solution had to be found. There were also stalling and pitch-up problems. The BAC 1-11 was being developed in parallel and exhibited similar problems and experienced a locked-in super stall resulting in the loss of the aircraft and the entire crew which included Mike Lithgow and the Assistant Chief Aerodynamicist. The VC 10 wing and rear fuselage were tufted and photographed in flight. Interpretation of the photos was difficult. As a result of the 1-11 crash George Edwards forbade non-aircrew from flying on tests but Mike managed to get permission to fly and observe the tufts first hand. The problems were solved and the aircraft were delivered to BOAC and became very popular with passengers. By now Mike was the VC10 Chief Aerodynamicist.
    Mike then was made the UK industry representative on the European Joint Airworthiness Requirement Flight Study Group and also worked on the BAC 2-11 and 3-11 ‘airbus’ projects which came to naught as Government launch aid was not forthcoming. Collaboration with the USA was proposed so visits were made to Lockheed (who were only interested in an entrée to BEA), Douglas (who would collaborate) and Boeing (who just wanted to get rid of competition).
    In the British Aerospace Commercial Aircraft Division Mike was made Chief Aerodynamicist, covering Weybridge and Filton and spent a lot of time on the M4! This meant he became responsible for the Concorde aerodynamics but he saw his role as supporting the Chief Aerodynamicist (Concorde) rather than taking over.
    Next during the BAe Airbus future project studies he coordinated the Hatfield and Weybridge teams at Airbus meetings. As a result he was responsible for recommending to BAe management that the next Airbus aircraft should be the A320. When BAe. eventually decided to join the A320 all three countries, Britain, France and Germany, wanted to design the wings and Airbus set up a design competition. Mike was in charge if this and had to write an executive summary for Airbus. This concluded that the UK wing design was superior. After some dissention the report was accepted. The A320 sold, and is still selling, in large numbers and all Airbuses have wings designed and made in Great Britain. Mike was appointed Chief Engineer UK for the A320. Later when all Airbus work was moved to Filton he relinquished the A320 work and became Head of Design at Weybridge.
    In1986 the Weybridge and Kingston-Dunsfold Design Offices were joined up and Mike became Head of Engineering on the three sites, working on the Hawk and Harrier, supporting the Chief Engineer (Mike Hoskins) and deputizing for him when he was away. A decision was then made that the Kingston technical department would move to Weybridge. As a prelude the Company arranged a week at Ashridge College for all Kingston and Weybridge department heads to get to know each other and to devise a new organisation to Mike Hoskins’s guidelines. The evening that everyone arrived at Ashridge Mike Hoskins phoned to say that the planned move had been abandoned. Mike asked what he was to do with all these people for the week. “You’ll think of something” was the Hoskins reponse.

During Mike Hoskins’s lengthy illness Mike had to stand in for him. He noted that he was treated most kindly by the divisional directors in this new and unexpected role. A highlight of Mike’s time at Kingston was observing RAF Harriers operating in the field in Germany. Subsequently the decision to close Weybridge was made and Mike had to deal with the redundancy situation. When this had been achieved he took early retirement.

    In conclusion Mike said how much he had enjoyed his life in aircraft design and considered himself lucky to have experienced it. After questions the vote of thanks was given by Chairman, Ambrose Barber.