Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sir Stanley George Hooker (b. 30/1/1907, d. 24/5/1984) was a jet engine engineer, first at Rolls-Royce where he worked on the earliest designs such as the Welland and Derwent, and later at Bristol Aero Engines where he helped bring the troubled Proteus and Olympus to market, and then designing the famous Pegasus.
Stanley George Hooker was born 30th September 1907 at Sheerness and educated at Borden Grammar School. He won a scholarship for Imperial College London to study mathematics, and in particular, hydrodynamics. He became more interested in aerodynamics, and moved to Oxford University where he received his PhD in this area in 1935.
In late 1937 he applied for a job at Rolls-Royce, and started there in January 1938. He was able to study anything that caught his fancy, and eventually moved into the supercharger design department. He soon started researching the superchargers used on the Merlin engine, and demonstrated that large improvements could be made to its efficiency. His recommendations were put into the production line for newer versions, improving power by about 30%.
In 1940 Hooker was introduced to Frank Whittle, who was in the process of setting up production of his first production-quality jet engine, the W.2. In 1941 the Air Ministry had offered contracts to Rover to start production, but Whittle was growing increasingly frustrated with their inability to deliver various parts to start testing the new engine. Hooker was excited, and in turn brought Rolls-Royce chairman Ernest Hives to visit Rover's factory in Barnoldswick. Whittle mentioned his frustrations, and Hives told Whittle to send him the plans for the engine. Soon Rolls' Derby engine and supercharger factories were supplying the needed parts.
Rover was no happier with the state of affairs than Whittle. In 1942 Spencer Wilkes of Rover met with Hives and Hooker in a pub near the factory. Wilkes and Hives eventually came to an agreement where Rover would take over production of the Rolls-Royce Meteor tank engine factory in Nottingham, while Rolls would take over the jet engine factory in Barnoldswick. Hooker soon found himself as the chief engineer of the new factory, delivering the W.2 as the Welland. Welland's would go on to power the earliest models of the Gloster Meteor, and a development of the Welland known as the Derwent would power the vast majority of the later models.
Whittle had moved to the US in 1942 to help General Electric get the W.2 into production there, returning in early 1943. Hooker also visited in 1943, and was worried to find they had made extensive changes and raised the power to 4,000 lbf. Upon his return to England he decided that Rolls should recapture the power lead, and in 1944 the team started development of a larger version of the Derwent that was delivered as the 5,500 lbf Nene. While this proved to be a successful design, it was not used widely on British designs, and Rolls eventually sold a license to the United States, and later the Soviet Union. This set off a major political row, and soon the MiG-15, powered by a copy of the Nene, was outperforming anything the British or US had to counter it.
Meanwhile Hooker's team had moved onto their first axial-flow design, then known as the AJ.65 but soon to be renamed as the Avon. The Avon did not turn out well at first, and Hooker felt he was being blamed for its problems. At the same time Rolls decided that their existing piston engines were a dead-end, and moved all future jet work from Barnoldswick to Derby, their main engine site. This reduced Hooker's role in the company, and after a falling-out with Hives, he left.
In January 1949 Hooker started work at the Bristol Aero Engine company. His immediately started work on sorting out the various problems of Bristol's turboprop design, the Proteus, which was intended to power a number of Bristol designs, including the Britannia. The Proteus was soon in production, but did not see widespread use, and only a small number of Britannia's were built. Hooker also worked on finishing the Olympus, developing later versions that would be used on the Avro Vulcan and Concorde.
In 1952 Hooker was approached by the Folland company and asked if he could produce a 5,000 lbf thrust engine to power their new lightweight fighter, the Gnat. For this role he produced his first completely original design, the Orpheus , which would also go on to power the Fiat G91 and other light fighters. Hooker then used the Orpheus as the basis of an experimental vectored-thrust engine for VTOL aircraft, at that time considered by most to be the "next big thing" in aircraft design. By equipping an Orpheus to "bleed" off air from the compressor and turbine the thrust could be directed downwards, creating the Pegasus engine and the Hawker Harrier that used it.
In the late 1950s the Air Ministry forced through a series of mergers in the aerospace field that left only two airframe companies and two engine companies. Bristol was merged with Armstrong Siddeley to become Bristol Siddeley in 1958, while most other remaining companies merged with Rolls. In 1966 the company was purchased by the now cash-flush Rolls, leaving only one engine company in England. After a brief period, Hooker retired in 1967, staying on as a consultant only. In 1970 he retired fully, and was upset that he had never become director of engine development after almost 30 years in the industry.
In 1971 Rolls-Royce was bankrupted by their hugely expensive RB.211 project. While attempting to extricate the company and save the project, Hooker was convinced to return to Rolls full-time. As technical director he led a team of other retirees to fix the problems, and soon the RB.211 was in production. Hooker was knighted for his role in 1974. After another four years he retired once again in 1978.
Hooker published his autobiography, Not Much of an Engineer, referring to a quip Hives had made soon after they met.
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