Home
Newsletter 19
Winter 2008
Updated on 10Feb2008
Contents
Editorial
Betty Bore Praises Pension Trustees
Committee Member RAeS Award
Fifty-Five Years Of Flying
Hawker Association Future
Information Requests
Members
News Harrier
News Hawk
News Hunter
News Lightning II
Riverside Spectacular
Sea Hawk And Cygnet Memories
Thomas H Miller USMC
XZ439 Sea harrier Help Needed
XZ439 Sea harrier Update

Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved Hawker Association
 
    Roy Whitehead recalls events from nearly sixty years ago...
    It was sometime during 1948 or '49 that a few of us from Richmond Road were roped in for a couple of days to help man the Abbey Test Rig at the Hawker factory at Langley. The bare airframe of a Sea Hawk was fitted in the rig to undergo structural testing. There were probably about twenty of us, each allocated to a capstan on top of the huge rig. The capstans were connected, by means of a mass of rods, links and spreaders, to the wings and fuselage, the latter being firmly anchored to the base of the rig.
    We were told how many quarter turns of the capstans to make, and when. We were also informed that it wasn't we who were applying the loads to the airframe; oh no, we were just "taking up slack". Quite rightly none of us believed a word of that statement.
    On the last day and after some hours of gradually applying the load there was an almighty bang and the whole rig seemed to jump a few inches. This, we were told, was because part of the airframe had failed at, I think, 110% of the design failure load. This seemed to please the stressmen present, as it hadn't broken at a loading below their calculated limit, which was, of course, their 100%.
Sea Hawk And Cygnet Memories

toptoptoptop
    The next thing that sticks in my memory is that, as we looked down at the now crippled airframe below us, we could see no obvious damage. But what we could just see were the lower legs of the then head of the stress office, Henry 'Roche' Rochefort, as he almost disappeared into the port jet pipe fairing. He had gone in, head first, to look for damage inside.
    I remember my boss, 'Jumbo' Betteridge, telling me that once when he had visited 'Roche' at his home they had gone into the workshop at the bottom of his garden which 'Roche' had designed and built himself. Typically for the keen stressman that he was, so 'Jumbo' told me, the design of the roof structure was very much over the top and it looked as though it would certainly resist anything that the weather might throw at it, including a tornado; and possibly an avalanche!
    While at Langley for those few days I spotted the dismantled parts of a tiny light aircraft on top of an office in one of the hangars. It looked like a rather large model and not long afterwards the parts turned up in the Experimental Department at Richmond Road. The aircraft was one of Sydney Camm's first designs, the Hawker Cygnet (G-EBMB), a lightweight two-seat biplane, one of two built in the early 1920s. They had been entered in some competitions and won prizes but for some reason the twin had been scrapped soon after.
    In the late 1940s and early '50s the Royal Aeronautical Society held a number of garden parties and the bosses, bigwigs, pilots of the many aircraft firms, and their guests, would gather for a day of jollification and flying displays.
    Someone at Hawkers must have thought up the idea of resurrecting G-EBMB so that it could at least be taxied around to the delight of all and sundry. As a result it was given the once-over, covered with new fabric and finished with clear dope. The engine, a two cylinder Bristol Cherub, was given a bench check and its aluminium cowling was buffed up to a high polish. I think the original Palmer tyres were just about usable for trundling round the peri-track and lawns - which it proceeded to do.
    However, there was a problem; as the whole aircraft weighed only 373 lb. empty it was hardly surprising that it really did want to fly. Without a Certificate of Airworthiness this was not allowed but enthusiasm got the better of the powers that be who decided to repeat the restoration, using all the correct procedures, and then apply for a C of A. The restored Cygnet was issued, not with a C of A, but with a lesser Permit to Fly which restricted flying to the vicinity of an airfield. No cross-country flying was allowed but this was no problem because the wings had been designed for easy folding and the machine would fit comfortably on the back of a lorry.
    In the 1980s I saw G-EBMB at Hendon in the RAF Museum's Sir Sydney Camm Memorial exhibit and in 2006 it was transferred to the Museum's RAF Cosford site. However, my story doesn't end there. In the late 1990s I went on a visit, with other members of the Salisbury U3A, to the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden airfield. Our coach pulled up for a moment outside the gates and it was then I noticed an unmistakable and very familiar shape and colour amongst the aircraft on the flight line. My first thought was that surely G-EBMB hadn't been brought out of retirement?
    Soon I was able to make a closer inspection and discovered that this one was a perfect replica, built in 1966. I would hardly have been able to tell the two apart had I not noticed the registration; the letters G-CAMM were proudly blazoned on its sides and wings, in honour of its designer. Incidentally, while checking the details for this account I was intrigued to find that I share my birth date, apart from the year of course, with Sir Sydney; August 5th. And there, I hasten to add, any similarity ends.