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Sydney Camm

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Sir Sydney Camm, CBE, FRAeS (1893–1966) was an English aeronautical engineer who contributed to many aircraft designs, from the biplanes of the 1920s to jet fighters including Hawker Hurricane fighter.

1893 August 5th. Born in Windsor, the eldest of twelve children of Frederick Camm, journeyman carpenter and joiner, and his wife, Mary Smith. His brother was F. J. Camm

He attended the Royal Free School at Windsor where he undertook the construction of elementary flying models.

After he left school Camm became an apprentice woodworker, helping to set up the Windsor Model Aeroplane Club, and became its secretary at the age of nineteen. Stimulated by his efforts, the club rapidly progressed from models to the design and building of a man-carrying glider which flew in December 1912.

It was followed by a powered aircraft project, and Camm's leading role in these activities was cut short only by the outbreak of war in 1914.

Camm joined the Hawker Aircraft Company as a draughtsman in 1925. He took part in the design of many Hawker aircraft, including the Hawker Tomtit, Cygnet, Hornbill, Nimrod, Hart and Fury.

He then moved to designing planes that would become mainstays of the RAF in the Second World War including the Hawker Hurricane, Hawker Typhoon and Hawker Tempest. With the Hawker Hurricane, Sydney Camm moved from the technology of the biplane to contemporary monoplane fighter aircraft. The result was that fighters flew faster, and with the improved engine technology of the time, higher, and could be made more deadly than ever.

"Camm had a one-tracked mind – his aircraft were right, and everybody had to work on them to get them right. If they did not, then there was hell. He was a very difficult man to work for, but you could not have a better aeronautical engineer to work under. [...] With regard to his own staff, he did not suffer fools gladly, and at times many of us appeared to be fools. One rarely got into trouble for doing something either in the ideas line, or in the manufacturing line, but woe betide those who did nothing, or who put forward an indeterminate solution."

When the Typhoon's design first emerged and entered squadron service, pilots became aware that there was elevator flutter and buffeting at high speeds, due to the positioning of the heavy Napier Sabre engine very close to the wing root. Engineering an aircraft to travel at higher speeds and handle compressibility effects was one of the challenges of the day, but with his small design team of 100 members at Hawker, Camm managed to solve these problems and make the Typhoon an effective combat weapon even at these speeds. As operational requirements changed, the Typhoon was used more in the role of a fighter-bomber where its low level performance and weapon-carrying capabilities created a legendary performance.

The lessons learned on the Hawker Typhoon were incorporated in the follow-up to this design, the Hawker Tempest. As soon as the Typhoon entered service, the Air Ministry requested a new design. Camm recommended that they keep the existing design of the Typhoon for the large part, with modifications to the aerofoil. He had also considered the new and powerful Napier Sabre and Bristol Centaurus engines. When the question came as to which engine to use, Camm decided that they would use both.

The Tempest Mk 5 used the Napier Sabre, while the Tempest Mk 2 used the Bristol Centaurus. The design modifications to be made to the aircraft to switch from one engine type to another were minimal, so much so that there was little assistance needed in ferrying these aircraft all the way to India and Pakistan, in the final days of the conflict.

After the Second World War, Sydney Camm created many jet powered designs which would became important aircraft in the Cold War era. Notable among these are his contributions to the Hawker P.1127 Kestrel, the progenitor of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. The Harrier is a well-known vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft designed at Hawker Siddeley, which would later merge into the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), now known as BAE Systems. The Harrier was one of the radical concept aircraft which took shape in post-war Britain, which required the coming together of many important technology, such as vectored thrust engines like the Rolls-Royce Pegasus and technologies like the Reaction Control System. Camm played a major role in determining these and other vital Harrier systems. In 1953, he was knighted for these and other achievements and his contribution to British Aviation.

Camm worked on many aircraft made by Hawker before the Harrier, including what is probably his most significant aircraft after the Second World War, the Hawker Hunter.

Before he died he was planning the design of an aircraft to travel at Mach 4

1966 March 12th. Died

He was elected to the board of Hawker Siddeley Aviation in 1935 and served until his death while playing golf at Richmond, Surrey, on 12 March 1966. His home was at Thames Ditton.

He was survived by his wife, Hilda Rose Starnes, whom he married in 1915 and who died in 1977, and by one daughter.


1966 Obituary [1]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1966 Jan-Jun: Index