Newsletter 26
Spring 2010
Updated on 22Feb2010
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents Hawker Association

Book reviews
Camm Windsor memorial
Christmas lunch
Handley Page sixty years
Harrier news
Harry Hawker biography
Hawk news
Hurricane & Fury news
International powered lift
Making them right
New RN carriers news
RAF museum news
Sea Harrier news
Sea Hawk & Sea Fury news
Visit to Rolls-Royce  

   On 11th November Harry Fraser-Mitchell kindly stepped in at the last minute to give this lecture when John Parker, who was to talk on BAE Systems heritage matters, had at short notice to go to the USA. The audience certainly did not lose by the substitution.
   Barry Pegram introduced Harry by saying he needed no introduction because he was so well known for his aerodynamics work at Kingston and as a founder Member of the Association. But before that he had worked for Handley Page (HP) for many years and is still a leading member of the Handley Page Association. He came to Hawker when the Company closed. There were many similarities, said Harry, between the two companies, including their size and the fact that they both had innovative charismatic leaders - Handley Page and Camm.
    Harry started with the origins of the Company. Frederick Handley Page was born in 1885 in Cheltenham to Frederick Joseph Page, who owned and ran an upholstery business, and Ann Elizabeth, nee Handley. From Cheltenham Grammar School young Frederick went to London and enrolled at the Finsbury Technical College where he studied electrical engineering and became interested in aircraft.
Handley Page, Sixty Years Of Achievement: 1909 - 1970

    On graduation he joined an electrical machinery manufacturer at Woolwich. He continued to study aviation, built flying models and manned gliders, collaborated with other pioneers and eventually, in 1909, set up his own company, Handley Page Ltd , at Creekmouth, Barking. This was the first limited company established for the design and manufacture of aircraft.
    Moving on to HP’s aircraft Harry described the HP Type A monoplane, the Bluebird, of 1910. This employed the patent, crescent shaped wing, devised by artist-engineer Jose Weiss, based on his study of soaring eagles, to which HP added wing warping for lateral control. The Bluebird not entirely successful even after modification to the type C, and was abandoned.
    The Type D development fared better but real success came with the tandem two seat Type E, the ‘Yellow Peril’ of 1912, and the side-by-side two seat type F of 1913. Sadly Lt Wilfred Parke, RN, was killed in the latter when the engine failed in windy conditions resulting in a stall and incipient spin. In 1912 GR Volkert joined HP as Chief Designer, staying with the company until 1948.
    With the RFC banned from flying monoplanes HP turned to biplanes resulting in his 1913 tandem two seat Type G 100, retaining the crescent wing planform. The large type L 200 with dual controls and side-by-side seats in a closed cabin was designed to compete for the Daily Mail 1,000 prize for a non-stop flight across the Atlantic. It was built not flown due to the advent of World War I.
    The subsequent O/100 and O/400 twin engined heavy bombers served the RFC well, some 550 O/400s being built. The even larger four engined V/1500 with Rolls-Royce Eagles in tandem pairs did not fly until May 1918 so was just too late to see action, but served with the RAF post-war.
    On HP’s birthday a V/1500 flew forty people round London, presaging the many civil transport conversions and variants of the O/400, the W series, used in the 1920s. HP himself formed Handley Page Transport Ltd to operate civil O/400s.
    A new transport design, the O/700 or O7, retained the main components of the O/400 adapted to civil use, and the W8 was a purpose designed airliner. In turn the Hyderabad bomber was a W8 with a new fuselage. Variants also included trimotor airliners and the Hinaidi RAF transport. The all-metal Hinaidi II led to all subsequent HP production aircraft using this method of construction. The W10 airliner was derived from the Hyderabad at short notice for Imperial Airways as they found themselves unexpectedly short of capacity.
    At this point Harry diverted from his ‘types’ route to talk about the Handley Page slot. Dr Gustav Lachman was co-discoverer of the aerodynamic slot with HP and was employed by HP as a consultant from 1921 - 24 and, after a spell in Japan, joined the company in 1929 where he held the positions of Experimental Designer, Chief Designer and Director of Research when he did much work on the boundary layer and laminar flow. Lachman held the German patents for the slot, HP the British. After wind tunnel testing, which showed a 50% lift increase, a fixed slot was fitted to a DH9 (HP17) which demonstrated flight at 38 mph.
    The HP39 Gugnunc slotted biplane was designed to enter the Daniel Guggenheim Fund’s Safe Aircraft Competition. The two finalists were the Gugnunc and the winning Curtiss Tanager, fitted with slots in contravention of the HP patents. After a legal battle Curtiss admitted infringement. The automatic retractable slot development reduced drag in the cruise. In 1928 the HP slot was adopted for all RAF aircraft and was widely used elsewhere including by the US Navy, and the resulting royalties were a significant portion of HP’s revenue.
    In the years leading up to World War II the Company built the famous and luxurious but slow four-engined biplane HP42 Hannibal class airliner for Imperial Airways, which proved a money-spinner for them on European and Empire air routes. The curious HP50 Heyford twin-engined biplane bomber had its fuselage and engine nacelles attached under the upper wing with a gap between the fuselage and the lower wing, a layout which gave reduced drag and a better field of fire for the defensive guns when compared with the conventional layout. The monoplane twin-engined HP54 Harrow bomber with Lachman’s cantilever wing and a fixed undercarriage was adopted by the RAF as a rapidly producible stop-gap type pending the availability of the more advanced bombers in the pipe line.
    For the war HP produced the slender and fast Hampden twin engined bomber and torpedo carrier, with its ingenious ‘pod and boom’ fuselage devised by Lachman, and the outstanding Halifax bomber. This was initially designed for two R-R Vulture engines (HP56) but because of  probable delays in the engine programme four R-R Merlins were substituted to give the HP57. The aircraft was produced in many bomber Mks in both Merlin and Bristol Hercules powered versions, the latter being the more successful with some 6,000 built, and as military and, eventually, civil transports by conversion to Halton standard. The HP75 Manx twin engined tail-less research aircraft, conceived by Lachmann as a low drag configuration, but developed by Godfrey Lee, suffered from an extended development period and did not result in the hoped-for rear gun turret equipped bomber defender.
    After the war the HP67 Hastings military transport, utilising Halifax wings, was the mainstay of RAF Transport Command and the HP81 Hermes IV, with pressurised cabin and tricycle undercarriage, designed to a BOAC specification which included hot-and-high operations, flew with that airline only until 1954 and thereafter successfully with independent operators on freighting and package holidays. Two Bristol Theseus turboprop powered Hermes Vs were also test flown but the engine was not a success.
    In 1947 Godfrey Lee had proposed a swept wing, high altitude jet bomber, with wingtip fins and a small tail unit, which gave rise to OR 230 and was the basis for his revolutionary Victor. In 1951 construction of two Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire powered HP80 (Victor) prototypes started, the first flying in December 1950. The Victor was the fastest of the ‘V’ bombers, was supersonic in a shallow dive and could carry the largest bomb load (35 X 1000 lb bombs vs. 21 in the Vulcan) Innovations included the crescent wing good for a level .875M and ensuring control at the stall, leading edge flaps, fully variable air brakes and the ‘T’ tail, an early application of this flawed configuration.
    The Mk2 Victor was powered by R-R Conways although HP wanted Bristol’s Olympus but these were earmarked for Vulcans. At the end of their bombing career Victors were converted to tankers by HSA and played an important role in the Falklands war.
    A military freighter version, the HP111, was winner of an RAF strategic lift competition but Sir Frederick would not submit to Government pressure to amalgamate his company with HSA or BAC, so the order went to the Short Belfast. The HP115 was a very slender delta designed to explore the low speed handling qualities of such configurations. In thirteen years it made some thousand flights with the RAE at Bedford.
    Sir Frederick died in 1962 with his famous Company still independent. Afterwards came the HP137 Jetstream. This was designed to fill a gap perceived in the US commuter market. Powered by two Turbomeca Astazous of 840 hp it proved underpowered so was certified at a reduced all-up weight with rather poor range/payload performance. Before the more powerful Series 200 could be certified the Company failed and a pending USAF order for a Garrett powered version was lost.
    However, a consortium of ex-HP people bought the Jetstream design rights and airframes and certified the Srs 200. Scottish Aviation subsequently took over and received an order for RAF and RN trainers and went on to develop a Garrett powered version. Successful development and substantial sales success continued when Scottish Aviation became part of British Aerospace.
    Harry then explained why Sir Frederick never agreed to a merger. In his talks with HSA in 1960 HP asked 16/- per share from HSA when the market price was 13/-; HSA offered 10/- which HP turned down. At this point the Government cancelled 28 Victor BMk2s so HSA reduced their offer to about 8/- when the shares were trading at 10/-. Now the RAF selected the Herald rather than HSA’s Avro 748 but the Government would not pay HP their full Victor contract cancellation claim and the merger talks collapsed. Next HSA offered 5/- which was rejected, the Government cancelled the Herald order and the Company went into receivership. A US company, the Cravens Corporation, took over but not long after the owner died and the business collapsed.
    Turning to research Harry described: laminar flow (LF) control work using a suction gloved Vampire, on which full chord LF was achieved, and a swept scale wing mounted vertically on a Lancaster (now in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight); the proposed HP113 commuter jet; and the HP130, a proposed LF wing conversion on an HS125. Wind tunnel tests were promising but the Ministry would not fund full scale flight tests.
    On production development the Hampden pioneered dispersed production and photo lofting allowed the making of the necessary multiple identical jigs. Corrugated sandwich skin was a manufacturing innovation on the Victor wing. On test facilities HP had a huge test frame capable of taking a Victor, carried out model flutter testing using German techniques, and a centrifuge for testing such things as partially filled drop tanks. Harry thought the latter was not very useful, but the Ministry had paid for it; Sir Frederick used to tell his people that he wanted “their heads in the clouds, their feet on the ground, and their hands in the pockets of the Ministry.”
    On projects Harry mentioned Chief Designer Volkert’s 1937 idea for an inexpensive, numerous, small, fast, unarmed bomber which could outrun fighters and so operate with impunity by day or night. This philosophy was rejected by the RAF and the RAE and was shelved. However Air Marshal Sir William Freeman resuscitated the idea and it was pursued by de Havilland as the Mosquito.
    The HP100 was a Mach 2+ canard reconnaissance bomber project, there was a blended wing short range ‘airbus’ and the HP117 was an all-wing , laminar flow airliner offering a 30% decrease in cost per mile. The latter concept is receiving renewed interest today.
    In conclusion Harry summarised HP’s major achievements which included: HP was first Ltd Company established in the UK specifically for the design and construction of aircraft; mass production of large bombers in WWI; development of the slot for wings and flaps; range of successful airliners in the ’20s; dispersed production techniques; over 1,500 Hampdens and 6,000 Halifaxes built; 150 Hastings built; the best ‘V’ bomber; the Jet stream (in other hands); and finally a record 86 years of continuous service with the RAF.