Newsletter 3
Summer 2003

Updated on 01Jul2003



Bad Chair Days
Dam Busters
Great Place to Work
High Society
Hooker’s Engines
Kingston’s Fighters
Membership List
Readers Writer
Ski Jump
Tangmere Visit

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At the Association meeting on 9th April, Ralph Hooper, retired Chief Engineer and Technical Director, told the story of Kingston's jet aircraft from the P.1011 project of 1941, an adaptation of the twin Sabre powered P.1005 bomber with Power Jets engines, to the Harrier II and Hawk of today. He covered not only flying prototypes and production aircraft but also significant unbuilt project studies.

Ralph enlivened his witty talk by linking the aircraft with the progress of his career at Kingston and his recollections of the, sometimes eccentric, 'Hawker' characters he worked with. He joined Hawkers as a draughtsman in the Experimental DO in 1948, after a successful interview with Sydney Camm, just as the Sea Hawk prototype first flew. Ralph outlined Kingston jet progress up to that point but from then on he spoke in detail from first hand knowledge.

Hawkers was late on the jet scene although it is rumoured that Camm was asked by Sopwith to take on Britain's first jet airframe but refused. Ralph's experience of Camm lends credence to this for Camm did not like research aircraft and was sceptical of new things.

In addition, the low thrust of the early Whittle engines could not compete with that available from the powerful piston engines favoured by Camm. Also the Hawker design team was very busy before and throughout the war and a new project would have delayed the valuable Tempest for a product that would probably miss the war anyway! So, the job went to Hawker Siddeley's under-employed Gloster design team led by George Carter (an ex-Kingston man).

From the EDO, where he worked on the first Hawker swept wing aircraft, the P.1052, the P.1067 Hunter and its 50 degree sweep development, the P.1083 (cancelled), Ralph moved to the Project Office in 1952. Here there was work on supersonic research types, the doomed P.1108 naval strike aircraft and a series of Mach 2 fighters from P.1103 to P.1121. The latter went ahead on company funding only to be abandoned when Defence Minister Duncan Sandys made it clear that manned fighters were a thing of the past! However, the P.1121 design was stretched to meet OR 339 as the P.1125 and P.1129, but a Vickers and English Electric design was selected; the ill fated TSR 2. It was at this juncture with a need for design work at Kingston that Bristol Engine's brochure, No. PS 17 for a 10,000 lb thrust swivelling nozzle engine, found its way to Ralph's desk. The key to V/STOL had arrived.

Working closely with Stanley Hooker's team, particularly project engineer Gordon Lewis, Ralph, through a number of stages, single-handedly devised the P.1127 in 1957 and led the development of it into the Kestrel and the P.1150 and P.1154 supersonic V/STOL project designs. The latter won the NATO NBMR 3 competition and was adopted for the RAF and RN (who withdrew), only to be cancelled by the Wilson Labour government. Hawkers did, of course, get a consolation prize - a contract to develop the Kestrel for the RAF as the Harrier, which, as Chief Engineer, was Ralph's responsibility.

The P.1179 of the late '60s investigated whether a supersonic V/STOL aircraft could meet the requirement which eventually led to Tornado. It could not, so work started on the P.1184 (1970-74) advanced V/STOL aircraft. No interest was shown in the UK although it led to a joint project with McDonnell, the AV-16, and historically to the AV-8B because of US enthusiasm.

Also Ralph's responsibility was the P.1182 project for a new RAF jet trainer. This started as a Kingston initiative before any official requirement had been formulated. Three years' detailed project work had been done before AST 397 was issued which was satisfied by the HS 1182AJ (A for Adour, J for July - an indication as to how often variants emerged from the project team!) in 1971. Named Hawk it was a huge success, both technically and commercially, combining high performance with low operating costs. Sales to date are 836.

Meanwhile project work continued. The P.1201 of the mid '70s, for example, was a simple fighter with a variable incidence wing to aid clean air flow into the intake when pulling high g. Supersonic V/STOL was studied intensely from the late '70s to the mid '80s in a series of designs with the aim of minimising the amount of airframe exposed to the damaging effects of the nozzle exhausts. The P.1212 was a delta with a cut back trailing edge and booms carrying fins, undercarriage and armament; the P.1214 added forward sweep and the P.1216 had outboard tailplanes on the booms. Much rig and model testing was carried out on the P.1216 and a full scale mock-up was inspected by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but sadly this promising design was not supported by BAe in case it upset the Eurofighter negotiations. Ralph remembered that he had been warned, correctly, by Margaret Thatcher that tip mounting missiles on swept wings was frought with difficulties!

Ralph concluded by noting that over 46,000 Kingston designed aircraft have been built including some 10,000 by other UK factories and 2,000 built abroad. A record to be proud of.

It was a real privilege for Members to hear this fascinating story first hand from the man to whom we all owe so much.

Ralph Hooper

Ralph Hooper