SIR JAMES ARNOT
EXHIBITION BY PENICUIK
Sir James Arnot Hamilton ~ aircraft designer
PENICUIK GREATS exhibitions on Sir James
Arnot Hamilton in
Development Trust† 3 February 2007,†
The aerodynamics of transport
speed: High speed Gloster 1929†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
LNER streamlined trains link
The streamlined Short Brothers Flying Boats
from Imperial Airways services to the
Schoolday years of speed and power
Training in wartime
On completing his school education in
Midlothian James Hamilton attended the
Training in wartime
The Denny shipyard and
Training in wartime
Short Sunderlands then and now.††† As they circle and land, their huge form and graceful but lumbering flight is awe-inspiring.
Experimental design on the
Towards the end of the war
in Europe a specification was sent to the Morris Furniture company in Glasgow
by the Ministry of Aircraft Production on behalf of the Marine Aircraft
Experimental Establishment at Helensburgh.†
Morris were to deliver three prototypes models
by road to Felixstowe. The first, which appears to have been a one-third scale
model, had the small tail characteristic of Saunders Roe types. The latter two
Morris model prototypes had the high slab tail as found on production aircraft.
The model fuselage had a model engine bay for the Beryl engines as found on the
production aircraft. The clear value of such
combat aircraft in the Pacific war against
Much later, both Dennys and Saunders-Roe took part in developing the hovercraft.†
Experimental design at the warís end
An expert in diving and flight
†James Hamiltonís amazing aptitude in
understanding the characteristics of diving and flight had been recognized in
his appointment as Head of Flight Research when the Marine Aircraft
Experimental Establishment returned to its prewar base at Felixstowe in 1945.
He was there for seven years before moving to the Royal Aircraft Establishment
Farnborough in 1952 to research the aerodynamics of high-speed
flight.† Just as Dennys on the
As the nineteen fifties passed into the sixties, financial constraints intensified. Increasing international attention to the development of unmanned missiles made it clear that the political appetite for high speed combat aircraft was waning and a number of promising and not so promising projects were cancelled.† Among the projects that failed to gain acceptance was a 1962 proposal for a supersonic jet trainer and light tactical strike aircraft.
James Hamilton shows Princess Margaret an aeronautical model at the Royal Aircraft Establishment,
With so much at stake, choosing the right
projects for British aircraft development was vital. In 1964 James Hamilton
became Head of new Project Assessment at RAE.†
Soon after the prospect of a collaborative programme
Co-ordinated work on a British supersonic airliner had begun as
far back as 1956. After prolonged design and testing, there was an agreement to
share development with
As the Director of the project, before any Concordes
were built, James Hamilton insisted that before such a civil aircraft went into
service, the public had the right to hear what sonic booms would sound like
when the plane reached its top speeds. In the summer of 1967, he oversaw trials with Lightning fighters
to test how the public would react to supersonic flights over land by Concorde;
they ended with a sonic boom over central
A happy way about him to get things done
With a cheerful temperament, and
proud of his practical Scottish background,
Early design by Boeing, selected to build the prototype for
James Hamilton had specialised in wing design, and the wing for the supersonic Concorde was the peak of his achievement.† In some ways it fulfilled ideas first sketched out by Roy Chadwick in his 1947 long-range jet proposals for the Manchester-based Avro company.
Avroís Roy Chadwick pioneered designs for the Vulcan bomber and Avro Atlantic Jetliner in 1947. He crashed later that year.
The ultra slim delta wing on Concorde gives the appearance of total simplicity. But probably no other part of the aircraft had so much time and attention given to its design.
On a traditional wing there can be well over 50 moveable parts to control and trim the aircraft and complex flaps and leading edge slats to generate extra lift at slower speeds. Concorde has none of this. The Concorde delta wing only has 6 trailing edge "elevons" to control the pitch and roll of the aircraft.
A very practical design expert
James Hamilton was an expert in the practicalities of design for high speed flight. As flying speeds have increased, more "sweepback" has been seen in wing designs. The slender delta wing on Concorde takes this a step further. Looked at head-on, the Concorde wing does not just sweep back by 55 degrees, it twists and droops, apparently simple yet very complex in reality.
This design gives Concorde lift at low speeds by increasing the angle of attack of the wing. And it gives efficiency at high speeds during the supersonic cruise where the delta wing's long chord, narrow profile and short span generates very little drag.
On a traditional aircraft wing a swirling vortex forms only at the wing tips. On a delta wing at low speeds and a high angle of attack, the vortex forms along the entire wing surface, giving the lift required for reliable take off and landing. Over 5000 hours of wind-tunnel testing were carried out to modify camber, droop and twist, to ensure the wing surface vortex would be a stable and dependable source of lift. As the delta wing gets closer to the ground, the downwash of air creates a cushion and landing is made very smooth even though the plane descends at much higher speed.
Delivering Concorde was an immensely complicated logistical, management, design and human relations exercise and there were many vitally important contributors, including Morien Morgan, Director of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, and John Hawkins of Alcan who helped to develop the heat resistant alloys required for high-temperature supersonic flight.
The Civil Servant
After the success of the
Concorde project, Sir James moved into government, becoming Deputy Secretary for Aerospace
in the Department of Trade and Industry between 1971 and 1973.† Here, with his Minister for Aviation Supply
and Aerospace Frederick
Corfield (right), he oversaw the cancellation of the Black
Arrow rocketry programme and provided financial help to Rolls-Royce (whose
Filton, Bristol factory was in Corfieldís constituency) when it ran into
difficulties that hampered its defence commitments. The assistance included the
nationalisation of the strategically significant aero-engine part of RR.† He also oversaw from government the first
full scale roll-out of Concorde.
In 1973 James Hamilton moved to the Cabinet Office as Deputy Secretary serving first under Prime Minister Heath and then during Harold Wilsonís last administration.† From May 1976 until May 1983 he headed the Department of Education and Science as Permanent Secretary, serving under premier James Callaghan then Margaret Thatcher.
Keeping up standards
In the Callaghan and Thatcher years which abandoned
Harold Wilsonís earlier emphasis on technology, James Hamilton became seriously
concerned at what he termed "extremely mediocre" education standards
in science and engineering at some universities and technical colleges. His
interests in excellence didnít end with science: he was insistent that there
should be real value in all educational standards and opportunities for young
people. Before retiring from government service in 1983 he succeeded in
reversing cuts in scholarships for painting and sculpture given through the
Industry and Education
On retiring from government service Sir James
Hamilton took up a series of positions in the aerospace industry and related
business.† He was a Director of the
Hawker-Siddeley Group from 1983 to 1991; of Smiths Industries from 1984 to 1994
and of Devonport Royal Dockyard from 1987 to 1997.† In 1992 Sir James was executive member of the
steering group studying the organisation of the engineering profession in the
Sir James Hamilton, Chairman of Halliburton Brown & Root, with award winning studentsTom Marshall and James Haslam at the Royal Aeronautical Society, London, for the 1999 Arkwright Awards presentation.
Sir James was Vice-chairman of the Council of University College, London from 1985-1999, President of the Foundation for Educational Research 1983-1999, a Trustee of the Natural History Museum from 1984 until 1988,
Sir James was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of the Royal Academy of Engineering, of the Royal Aeronautical Society and an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
James Arnot Hamilton, born Penicuik