Brian Buss remembers his often frustrating 13 months in the Hawker Experimental Drawing Office (DO) at Canbury Park Road in the time of the P.1121...
I found the train journey to Kingston via Clapham Junction took about
an hour and a quarter which I imagined would not be pleasant at times
and later I was proved to be right. I reported on January 1st 1957 to
Frank Cross’s office and was joined by Digger Fairey who was the senior
section leader in the Experimental DO. At first they did not know
whether I should be placed on the design of the variable wedge intake
to the single DH Gyron 27,000 lb thrust engine of the P.1121 Mach 2.2
interceptor fighter, or on the design of its 69 degree swept fin. I was
very pleased when they settled on the fin as the intake looked
I was allocated a drawing board and table immediately inside the DO in line with those of Digger Fairey and Jack Simmonds overlooking the whole of the DO engaged on the design of the P.1121. Digger’s section had designed the main centre fuselage now under construction at the Richmond Road site, some two miles away. Jack was responsible for the cockpit and forward fuselage design. In this respect I was astounded to see articles and photos being used as a design guide depicting cockpit details of Convair’s two fighters, the F-102 Delta Dart and the F-106 Delta Dagger, both of which were flying at the time.
There were at least two other section leaders in the
same DO that I recall: Derek Campbell responsible for the wing design
and Ben Capper in charge of electrical systems. There were others on
the floor below, one of which was Roy Slade in charge of powered
controls who I had to deal with as the fin housed the rudder actuators.
Digger Fairey’s section was then designing the rear area ruled fuselage with some difficulty. Very little room remained for the rear frames between the outer skin and the large tailpipe of the Gyron with its afterburner. In places the frame depth could barely exceed four inches. I do not recall whether this situation demanded the use of titanium for it was decided from the outset to use this material for the first time at Hawker. Titanium was known to be lighter and stronger than aluminium but few UK aircraft companies had experience in working with it. Consequently it was found that working practices had to be drastically changed and much experimentation and testing were undertaken at a very late stage in the construction of this prototype. My concern of course was the design of the fin spars where they attached to the rear fuselage frames.
To a large extent the basic design of the fin was determined for me. Production of high tensile steel in the UK was at that time limited and directed to military projects on a priority basis. As the P.1121 was a PV (private venture or company funded) project supplies of this type of steel had to be sought elsewhere. A Belgian supplier had been found but to have the material when construction commenced the order had to be placed some 15 months in advance. Hence someone had to estimate the size and shape of the various forgings well before the fin was designed in any degree of detail. Forgings were required to ensure the grain of the material flowed in the correct directions to gain maximum strength and to avoid the onset of cracks.
So one day I was presented with drawings of three huge steel forgings which I had to incorporate in my design. Digger Fairey had made the initial estimate for placing the order and although some detail difficulties arose a design evolved in which all could be used. For the first two months or more my section consisted of one, myself, although others joining me at this stage would not have helped. Much of the basic layout had to be schemed and initial stressing carried out by Rob Robbins, a member of the Stress Office allocated to the fin.
My first week or two in the DO was, however, somewhat hectic. In the first two or three days I downed tools at the correct time and was away to catch my train. Shortly after I was called into the office by the Assistant Chief Draughtsman, Harry Tuffen. I was asked why I was not working overtime. My answer was because nobody had informed me it was expected. Most staff was said to work an additional hour on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I said I could not make one as I went to night school but would stay the other two, for no payment of course as I was salaried. After staying for a week or two I found that nobody really worked. Frank Cross was rarely to be seen, Harry Tuffen read the evening newspaper the whole time, others read books or technical magazines and some disappeared.; so I decided not to continue to stay on. Again I was called into the office but this time I gave my reason and said if everybody worked the additional hour I would stay on. Dear Harry was flabbergasted, and that was the end of my overtime. To be continued