Working at Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft (AWA)

Photograph (aerial) view of Coventry Airport, and also Baginton village, 1959.
Warwickshire County Record Office reference PH970/4. Photographer John P Webster.

I left the Fleet Air Arm after 12 years in 1960 and joined AWA in July of that year working as an instrument technician in the instrument test lab under the management of Reg Fletcher. This work involved the testing of all of the flight instruments and fitting them into the cockpit panels ready to go into the various aircraft, Argosy, Seahawk, Meteor.

One of the unusual jobs was to visit all of the sites around the country which handled the Blue Steel stand off bomb. This was done on a three month rotational basis to test and certify all of the gauges used, to in turn certify that the weapon was ready for flight. I also had a hand albeit very small in the design and build of a six phase puddle welder for the stainless steel aircraft also built at Baginton

Sea Dart

This work all continued until we were all made redundant. I was one of the fortunate ones that had the right background and qualifications to be offered a transfer to AWA Whitley (Hawker Siddley Dynamics) where I worked on the Sea Dart missile and its launch system.

This again saw me all over the place doing test work, including a spell at Rosyth preparing and operating a huge steel barge moored just above the Forth Road Bridge in the centre of the stream. It was here that we fitted the booster to the Sea Dart into its launch trolley, both of which were covered in strain gauge instrumentation with the trolley sitting on train rails welded to the base of the barge. We then slung a small depth charge on cables under the barge and then detonated it from a safe distance. Cables ran from the barge to a small tug where we had all of the instrumentation and recorders, the latter being B&K 12” paper recorders running at 100s of feet a minute in order to get a quality recording. Our main problem was if the edge of the paper touched you, it would at the very least result in a very serious cut.

Leaving Whitley

All very exciting, but having been close to redundancy once it was not difficult to recognise redundancy approaching at Whitley. I therefore left and joined Dunlop Aviation as a field engineer. This job took me to around 80 different countries over a 30 year period, but that is another story.

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