Newsletter 24
Summer 2009
Updated on 20May2009
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents Hawker Association

Cygnet News
F-35B Lightning II News
Folland Spirit Of Hamble
Harrier News
Hawk News
Hawkers In The 1950s
Hawkers in The Late 1930s
Hurricane News
R&D Department
Tempest News
Testing V/STOL Projects
World War 2 Experiences
   On 11 March, Chris Hodson, son of 'Mr Hawk', Gordon, and currently Military Project Manager Hamble, addressed the Association on the subject of Henry Folland, his Company, its products and the site at Hamble.
    Chris started by outlining HP (Henry Philip) Folland's early career. He was born in 1889 and his engineering life started with an interest in model aircraft and an apprenticeship at Lanchesters whence he moved to the Daimler drawing office. He then joined the Royal Aircraft Factory (RAF) at Farnborough where he was responsible for the design of the SE.4, SE.5 and SE.5A, the latter becoming one of the finest fighters of WW1. In 1917 he joined the British Nieuport and General Aircraft Co where he designed the Goshawk and Nighthawk fighters and a twin engined triplane bomber.

Folland And The Spirit Of Hamble

    When the company closed in 1921 Folland moved to the Gloucestershire Aircraft Co (to become the Gloster Aircraft Co) as Chief Designer responsible for a long line of aircraft including the 'Bamel' or Mars I racer, the Gloster III  biplane racer which came second in the 1925 Schneider Trophy seaplane race, the Grebe, Gamecock and Gauntlet RAF fighters, and the Gloster IV and VI Schneider Trophy contenders, the latter being a monoplane.
    Folland's last commercially successful design at Gloster was the closed cockpit Gladiator, the RAF's last biplane fighter, but Hawker's Hurricane was ordered rather than his monoplane F5/34 fighter. In 1934 Hawker acquired Gloster and Folland moved to British Marine Aircraft Ltd as Technical Director.
    British Marine had bought Sydney lodge at Hamble, a late 18th century mansion and home of the Yorke family, in 1936, together with Cliff House for its access to Southampton Water. On the land a huge new factory was built with a slipway. The intention was to licence build Sikorsky S-42 four-engined flying boats but the scheme and the Company failed financially and the first aircraft was never completed. Eventually the Company was refinanced and its new name, Folland Aircraft Ltd, was approved in December 1937. Folland lived in Cliff House.
    Subcontract and repair work got the Company going and soon they were major suppliers of airframe assemblies for Supermarine, Vickers, Shorts and de Havilland. An original design to Spec 43/47, the Fo108 was a large, single engined flying test-bed capable of accepting different power units. Twelve were built and were used for testing Bristol, Napier and Rolls-Royce engines. Another unusual project was the fitting of floats to Spitfires for the Norwegian campaign. The campaign was quickly lost before the Spitfires were available but some were later operated from Egypt's Bitter Lakes. Amongst a number wartime aircraft projects was the Fo116 with variable incidence wings, submitted in response to Spec E38/40 for a Barracuda replacement. A contract was received but manufacture was stopped because of pressure from other work. Sub-contract work continued apace throughout the war but when peace came the orders fell away. The Company then diversified into bedroom furniture (a combined bed and wardrobe), refrigerators, light electric trucks and prefabricated aluminium houses. However, aircraft work returned with design and manufacture of the Bristol Brabazon's control surfaces and ground support equipment. Major sub-contract work followed from many other companies including de Havilland and Bristol.
    In 1950 WEW Petter joined Folland as Deputy managing Director from English Electric where he was chief designer for the Canberra and supersonic P.1; prior to that he was chief designer at Westland for the Lysander and Wyvern. He succeeded Henry Folland as Managing Director when the former retired in 1951 through ill health. Petter brought with him his notion for a light-weight fighter which was to emerge as the Folland Gnat.
    Meanwhile the company was asked by the Ministry to develop a light-weight ejector seat and Folland decided to base this broadly on a SAAB seat adding automatic operation. Ejection tests were made from the rear cockpit of a Meteor 7.
    The initial version of Petter's little fighter was the Armstrong Siddeley Viper powered Fo139 Midge which was flown for the first time, at Boscombe Down, in August 1954. The type was well received by A&AEE pilots. By the time Henry Folland died, also in August 1954, Petter  had become MD and Chief Engineer. The definitive Bristol Orpheus powered Fo141 Gnat  flew in July 1955, also from Boscombe. The Ministry of Supply contracted for six for evaluation but this did not result in RAF orders. However, the Gnat was bought by Finland (13) and Yugoslavia (2 for evaluation but lost to the Galeb), but India was to be the major customer buying 25 direct from Hamble and building 235 at Bangalore.   
    In the UK it was the two-seat development, the Fo144 TMk1, that served with the RAF, 105 aircraft replacing the Vampire TMk11 as the advanced trainer. The first TMk1 flew on August 1959 and the last was delivered in 1964. The Gnat became famous at air displays being flown by the Yellowjacks and their successors, the Red Arrows. Interestingly, Donald Campbell used Gnat XM691's rear fuselage and fin for his jet boat, K7. In 1959 Hawker Siddeley bought Folland and final assembly of the two-seaters moved to Dunsfold.
    Project work on Gnat developments included a naval version for carrier operations, the reheated Mk4 fighter and the twin-engined, area-ruled Mk5 trainer. There were also several studies for variable geometry fighters and trainers as well as a number of light transports.
    As HSA Hamble, manufacturing work covered Avro 748 wings, P.1127 components, P1154, yes, P1154, wings and front fuselages, Harrier single-seat front and rear fuselages and tail units, and two-seater rear fuselages, fins and canopies. An interesting aside was the design and mock-up for a proposed P1127 two-seat conversion. In the 1970s work continued on the Harrier and Trident wings and tailplane whilst in India an order was placed with Hindustan Aeronautics for an indigenously developed Gnat fighter, the Ajeet, with increased fuel and weapon loads; 90 would be delivered.
    At HSA Kingston the P1182 (Hawk) advanced trainer to replace the Gnat TMk1 in the RAF was moving ahead. The light and compact Folland seat was considered but for commonality reasons Martin Baker was selected. Hamble was to build the canopies and windscreens, a technology in which they were now world class, together with nose cones and rear fuselages, for the Hawk., as well as Sea Harrier front and rear fuselages, canopies and windscreens.
    In 1977 British Aerospace was formed and Hamble became part of the Kingston-Brough Division. In  the 1980s, export Hawk and T-45 Goshawk assemblies were added as were AV-8B rear fuselages until this work was moved to Brough, role equipment for all BAe aircraft, and parts for the Airbus A300, the BAe146 and the BAe ATP. When BAe was privatised in 1981, Hamble became part of the Weybridge and then Military Aircraft Divisions until, in 1989, renamed Aerostructures Hamble Ltd, it became a wholly owned subsidiary of BAe plc and part of BAe Enterprises.   
    So in the 1990s new work was gained on the C-17, the MD80 and 90, the Hawker Beechcraft, the Airbus Super Beluga, the Eurofighter and Tornado together with continuing Hawk and Sea Harrier work. The wide product capability now embraced metallic and composite aerostructures (eg wings, control surfaces, tail units, fuselage sections, nacelles, doors), military role equipment (eg pylons, tanks, mission pods, gun pods, flight refuelling probes), and military aircraft canopies and windscreens. Composite work included McLaren Mercedes and Koenigsegg 'supercar' body tubs.
    In 1992 there was a management buy-out of the Hamble organisation. In 1995 Aerostructures Hamble became part of the EIS Group; in 1998 EIS became part of the TI Group who merged with Smiths Industries in 2000 to become the Smiths Group, who sold Smiths Aerospace to GEC in 2007 making Hamble part of that division of GE Aviation Systems called Aerostructures and Propellers. Customers include Hawker Beechcraft, EADS, BAES, Airbus UK, Boeing military, Bombardier, Spirit Aerosystems (suppliers to Boeing civil), McLaren and Koenigsegg. A modern aerostructures manufacturing business has also been established by GEC at Suzhou in mainland China doing work for the UK and US operations. Today the Hamble establishment employs 933 people in a 2.3 m sq ft site with 500,000 sq ft covered; the annual output is 136,000 deliverables.
    This is but a summary of Chris's detailed, well illustrated talk, which was a real eye-opener to those present with memories of how Hamble was in the 1960s.