Newsletter 15
? Winter 2006
Updated on 9Dec2006
Aviation Heritage Project
Dunsfold Wings & Wheels
Female Angle
Flight Test from a Desk
Harrier News
Hawk News
Graduate Apprentices
Hawker People News
Hugh Merewether
  1924 - 2006, Test Pilot
  Flight Development
  Faster, Higher, Further
  Spinning With Hugh
JSF Progress
Sea Furies at Reno
Sea Harrier ZA195
Sea Hawk Recovered
Sir Sydney & Sir George
Sopwith & Bradshaw
Summer's Day at Dunsfold
Vulcan to the Skies
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents © Hawker Association

Ambrose Barber was a flight development engineer at Dunsfold when Hugh Mererwether was flying his Hunter spinning programme. Ambrose had a memorable demonstration of Hugh's focused approach to flight testing...

In 1958 the members of Hawkers' project office moved back to the site of Sopwith's WW I factory on the Richmond Road and their attention was beginning to turn to a vectored thrust fighter concept. To meet this ground-breaking testing (literally at times) our select little technical office at Dunsfold would become strengthened and known as the Flight Development Department.

But for the time being Dunsfold had continuation testing to do on the newest Hunters which were now enhanced with wing leading edge extensions. I found myself allocated to the aircraft being used to assess handling characteristics with this mod, such as stick force per 'g', onset of buffet and so on. This included exhaustive spinning programmes, first on the single seat Hunter and then on the two-seater.

Spinning With Hugh

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They covered both erect and inverted spin characteristics and recovery actions which I monitored from the safety of the instrumented telemetry cabin! Here, in R/T contact with Bill Bedford and Hugh, it was fascinating to watch the roll and yaw needles depart in opposite directions when the spin was inverted.

Hugh got so intrigued with his study of inverted spinning that he extended it to the Hawker Tomtit, an elderly open-cockpit biplane once belonging to Neville Duke and in 1958 still kept at Dunsfold. In this he practised inverted spins to his heart's content and eventually demonstrated this demanding and uncomfortable manoeuvre at, I think, a Royal Aeronautical Society garden party later that year. My initial amusement at Hugh's masochism was given a sharp jolt one morning when he breezed into the office saying he would much like to explore the effect on the inverted spin of moving the Tomtit's centre of gravity. Ideally, what he wanted was some man sized ballast strapped into the front cockpit. Everybody looked at me, quietly creasing themselves.

"Parachutes?" I enquired guardedly. "Of course!"

For some reason, which I can't recall, the intercom system in G-AFTA was incomplete to the extent that Hugh could talk to me but I could only reply with sign language. It was a fascinating sortie. If you are not in current practice on inverted spinning, and I certainly never had been, it demands clear headed concentration under the influence of negative 'g' to stay fully attuned to the correct and necessary recovery actions. A mixture of pride and professional curiosity, but mostly, I suspect, the former, induced me to give Hugh, sitting behind me, the thumbs-up each time for yet another one!

Editor's note You can read more of Ambrose's, and others', exploits in 'Tail Ends of the Fifties' compiled by PG Campbell and published by Cirrus Associates, from which the above was extracted.