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British Industrial History

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Geoffrey Terence Roland Hill

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Geoffrey Terence Roland Hill (1895-1955), M.C., M I Mech E, Fr Ae S, aeronautical engineer and inventor.

1895 Born in Hampstead, son of Michael J M Hill, Professor of Mathematics, University College London, and his wife Minnie[1] [2]

1912 With his younger brother, Roderic Hill, produced an aircraft model for the Children's Exhibition at Olympia, followed by further models and eventually a full-sized glider.

Gained B.Sc. degree and became a graduate apprentice at the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough.

By 1916 was a Royal Aircraft Factory test pilot.

WWI Pilot in RFC. Achieved rank of Captain. Awarded Military Cross.

1918 Married Mary Alexander in Omagh[3]

Chief test pilot for Handley Page

From his earlier experience at Farnborough of the effect of stall in aircraft, including several losses of life, Hill began experiments that eventually led to the design of the non-stalling, tail-less Pterodactyl and the eventual building of a prototype, flown as a glider in 1924 and under power in 1925.

Awarded an 1851 scholarship (established to commemorate the 1851 Exhibition). This enabled him to develop his own theories of the stability and control of aeroplanes, and to try them in practice on the aerodrome at Farnborough.

Geoffrey Hill and his wife May (sic) collaborated in the building of the original Pterodactyl Mk I glider at their home at Sheeps Cottage at Brookwood.

1926 The successful flights of the home-made Pterodactyl, both at Farnborough and at the 1926 RAF Display at Hendon, led to the appointment of Captain Hill as tailless aircraft designer at the Westland Aircraft Works at Yeovil.

He then developed a military version of his tail-less plane, which was built as the Westland-Hill Pterodactyl in various versions; this machine did quite a lot of test flying, but it did not go into production, although its military merits were obvious, the most noteworthy being the amazing field of fire provided for the rear gunner, who had an uninterrupted hemisphere through which to swing his gun[4]. He also designed light planes for Westland.

1934 Appointed to the Kennedy Chair of Mechanical Engineering at University College, London. His departure signalled the end of the story of the Westland- Hill Pterodactyls.

1939 Seconded to the Air Ministry and Ministry of Aircraft Production for research work; also scientific liaison with USA and Canada.

Post WWII: moved to Short Brothers and Harland

Chief aeronautical consultant at Shorts. Designed the aero-isoclinic wing to overcome the problems of flexure in the wings of high-speed jet aircraft. This was intended to maintain a constant angle of incidence regardless of flexure; it was fitted with rotating tips comprising approximately one-fifth of the total wing area which could act as elevators or ailerons. These rotary tips were expected to prove greatly superior to the flap-type of control surface at transonic speeds and provide greater manoeuvrability at high altitudes. This was flown for the first time in the Short Sherpa in 1953.

1954 Retired from Shorts

1955 Died in Londonderry

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. BMD
  2. 1901 census
  3. Ireland: Marriages
  4. Flight 13 November 1941
  • The Times Dec 28, 1955
  • Flight, 20 November 1953.
  • Flight, 26 March 1970