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Stanley Hooker "Not Much of an Engineer"

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Stanley Hooker "Not Much of an Engineer"

Old 23rd Oct 2018, 22:22
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Stanley Hooker "Not Much of an Engineer"

Designer of the two speed supercharger on the Spitfire IX, intercoolers and assitant to Whittle on the early jet engines. designer of the Orpheus Jet Engine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Hooker

the thread title is his autobiography title...interesting read on wiki...

"In the late 1980s, test pilot Bill Bedford gave a talk in Christie's auction room in South Kensington in London. He had been the original test pilot for the Harrier at Dunsfold. Bedford talked about the various fighters he had flown, many of which had been powered by Hooker's engines. On the screen behind him, towards the end of his talk, he showed a picture of Hooker, and said, "I'll have to think about this a bit, but if I was asked who was Britain's greatest ever engineer, I'd have to decide between Brunel and Sir Stanley Hooker, but I'd probably go for Sir Stanley."
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Old 24th Oct 2018, 08:27
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IMHO an excellent 'read'.
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Old 24th Oct 2018, 08:29
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Originally Posted by gileraguy View Post

"In the late 1980s, test pilot Bill Bedford gave a talk in Christie's auction room in South Kensington in London. He had been the original test pilot for the Harrier at Dunsfold. Bedford talked about the various fighters he had flown, many of which had been powered by Hooker's engines. On the screen behind him, towards the end of his talk, he showed a picture of Hooker, and said, "I'll have to think about this a bit, but if I was asked who was Britain's greatest ever engineer, I'd have to decide between Brunel and Sir Stanley Hooker, but I'd probably go for Sir Stanley."
As Brunel wasn't all that highly thought of by his contemporaries (grandiose, I believe they thought him, and not as good as the Stephensons), looking good for Hooker.

Two things stick in my mind from Hooker's autobiography, perhaps summing up the good and the bad of the UK aircraft industry.

He examined Whittle's impeller design, and concluded that he couldn't improve it. As Hooker made his reputation on the design of the supercharger impeller for the Merlin (and evidently had a proper pride in that), it suggests that Whittle was seriously good.

On the other hand, he spent some time at Bristol, and developed a very poor opinion of the management. It seems that lunch was good, so good that very little got done afterwards.

It's not especially well-put together as a book, but a very interesting read.
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Old 24th Oct 2018, 11:58
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Originally Posted by FlightlessParrot View Post
As Brunel wasn't all that highly thought of by his contemporaries (grandiose, I believe they thought him, and not as good as the Stephensons), looking good for Hooker.

Two things stick in my mind from Hooker's autobiography, perhaps summing up the good and the bad of the UK aircraft industry.

He examined Whittle's impeller design, and concluded that he couldn't improve it. As Hooker made his reputation on the design of the supercharger impeller for the Merlin (and evidently had a proper pride in that), it suggests that Whittle was seriously good.

On the other hand, he spent some time at Bristol, and developed a very poor opinion of the management. It seems that lunch was good, so good that very little got done afterwards.

It's not especially well-put together as a book, but a very interesting read.
The book was actually written by Bill Gunston. Bill mentions in one of his own books "in his autobiography, which I much enjoyed writing"!
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Old 24th Oct 2018, 12:17
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Agreed the book is not a 'smooth' read but it is REAL. Fascinating all through.
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Old 24th Oct 2018, 12:36
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A really good book, which I have read twice. I didn't notice any technical issues with it but a lot of great anecdotes in it,

He describes the shocked reaction of the RR staff, when Packard engineers tell them that the Merlin drawings will have to be redone, because they are not accurate enough!

He also complimented his Chinese hosts, in the 1970s, on their copy of the Russian copy of the Nene and pointed out they had faithfully copied RR's mistakes.
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Old 24th Oct 2018, 20:29
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FZ - I agree, great book IMHO, and I am not an engineer
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Old 25th Oct 2018, 00:17
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Originally Posted by India Four Two View Post
A really good book, which I have read twice. I didn't notice any technical issues with it but a lot of great anecdotes in it,

He describes the shocked reaction of the RR staff, when Packard engineers tell them that the Merlin drawings will have to be redone, because they are not accurate enough!

He also complimented his Chinese hosts, in the 1970s, on their copy of the Russian copy of the Nene and pointed out they had faithfully copied RR's mistakes.
It was Ford in the UK, not Packard, and Stanley himself thought they would say the tolerances were too tight, not the opposite. To be fair, at that time he wasn't really an engineer at all, let alone not much of one and assumed RR were the bee's knees.
I've always suspected that Packard used Ford's revised drawings rather than RR's although I've no grounds for it, it just seems logical.

Although I'm a huge fan of Brunel, I could probably be persuaded to give Sir Stanley the accolade and I think it's a shame that most people have never heard of him, even amongst aircraft enthusiasts.
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Old 25th Oct 2018, 10:06
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Was it not Hooker, in a criticism of the ‘City’, said that there are only 4 ways to make money?

1. Mine it.

2. Grow it.

3. Manufacture a raw material into a product.

4. Develop an intellectual idea into one of the above.

Anything else was just moving around someone else’s cash whilst creaming some of it off.
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Old 25th Oct 2018, 12:05
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With due respect to Mr Hooker, Brunel built bridges, tunnels, railways, docks and ships, which apart from the ships are still around and in daily use today nearly 200-years since they were built - so in my estimation Brunel's activities trump those of Mr Hooker!

FWIW BBC have a downloadable Podcast about Brunel's life here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b04nvbp1
Where Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Victorian engineer responsible for bridges, tunnels and railways still in use today more than 150 years after they were built. Brunel represented the cutting edge of technological innovation in Victorian Britain, and his life gives us a window onto the social changes that accompanied the Industrial Revolution. Yet his work was not always successful, and his innovative approach to engineering projects was often greeted with suspicion from investors.

Last edited by Warmtoast; 25th Oct 2018 at 12:17.
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Old 25th Oct 2018, 22:11
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Agreed this is a very interesting read, saw a copy in the window if my local oxfam and dived in to make the purchase. I thought the comment from his boss at RR “you can’t even manage your personal life, how can you manage RR”” ( I am paraphrasing here) rang very true.
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Old 26th Oct 2018, 00:13
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After posting, I thought again about the breadth of Brunel's achievements and I agree, he would get my vote as the greatest.

That's not to take anything away from Sir Stanley. As well as the Orpheus and other turbojets, there's his work on the Merlin and Griffon superchargers.
For those that either don't know or haven't read the book, he was a theoretical scientist and one of the leading experts in fluid dynamics, with no practical experience at all. What nobody knew, including Lord Hives who employed him at Rolls-Royce, was that this also made him an expert on supercharger design, and later, on gas turbines.
As well as the Orpheus, there's the Olympus, the Pegasus using the Orpheus core, and he led the team that redesigned the RB211 to become an extremely successful engine. I understand the huge 100,000lb range engines that RR are building now can still be traced back to the revised RB211 he and his team designed in the early 70's.
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Old 26th Oct 2018, 06:28
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Originally Posted by Warmtoast View Post
FWIW BBC have a downloadable Podcast about Brunel's life here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b04nvbp1
That's a very interesting podcast--I must listen to it again. IIRC, it's pointed out in it that part of the idea of engineering is to make money, and that's one area where the Stephensons were better than Brunel. A great man, indeed, but maybe his preference for the heroic over the profitable was a bad example.
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Old 28th Oct 2018, 08:32
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Originally Posted by FlightlessParrot View Post
He examined Whittle's impeller design, and concluded that he couldn't improve it. As Hooker made his reputation on the design of the supercharger impeller for the Merlin (and evidently had a proper pride in that), it suggests that Whittle was seriously good.
Just re-reading and this reminded me of something.
Brunel designed the propeller for the SS Great Britain and although it wasn't the first screw fitted to a ship, it was the first on anything like that scale.
According to the organisation that looks after the ship, using modern computer aided design, the efficiency could only be improved by about 5%.
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Old 28th Oct 2018, 18:43
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If I recall correctly, Bristol's gear expert implored Hooker to use helical gears in the Proteus gearbox, but Hooker refused in favour of cheaper straight gears, leading to Bill Pegg's forced landing of a Britannia in the Severn Estuary?
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Old 28th Oct 2018, 21:05
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Whittle, IMHO, the prime example of a product of Trenchard's "3 pillars" of the RAF, well 2 at least, Halton and Cranwell
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Old 28th Oct 2018, 22:47
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Originally Posted by ZeBedie View Post
If I recall correctly, Bristol's gear expert implored Hooker to use helical gears in the Proteus gearbox, but Hooker refused in favour of cheaper straight gears, leading to Bill Pegg's forced landing of a Britannia in the Severn Estuary?
I'm not sure about that. The Proteus already existed when Hooker arrived at Bristol but it was hopeless.
Unusually, I've got my copy of "Not Much of an Engineer" at the moment, it's often out on loan.
I'll see if I can find the relevant part.
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Old 28th Oct 2018, 22:53
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I'll see if I can find the relevant part.
Page 135/136 indicates that ZeBedie is correct. The chapter lists the many woes of the Proteus.
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Old 29th Oct 2018, 01:32
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Well, not really. It was the only part of the original engine that hadn't been redesigned, so nothing to do with Hooker to start with, and had never given a moments trouble.
How does that turn into "Hooker refused in favour of cheaper straight gears".

With hindsight, obviously it should have been redesigned, but as the engine had been such a disaster and with so many other components to design or modify, why would you change the one section that appeared to work with no problems.

He had authorised the manufacture of a few sets of helical gears just in case, which as it turned out meant they could get revised engines running very quickly, but as he wasn't expecting to use them it's hardly a sign of penny-pinching.

Last edited by DHfan; 29th Oct 2018 at 01:36. Reason: Add last line.
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Old 29th Oct 2018, 09:06
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Originally Posted by DHfan View Post
Well, not really. It was the only part of the original engine that hadn't been redesigned, so nothing to do with Hooker to start with, and had never given a moments trouble.
Yes, that's true, but the Proteus 2 (aka 600 Series) only ever flew on the one and only Saro Princess, so there wasn't exactly a huge amount of in-service experience.
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