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Gloster

Gamecock Fighter plane
Gauntlet Fighter plane
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The Gloster Aircraft Company was one of the oldest and most famous of British aircraft factories. The Gloster Aircraft Company was formed at Hucclecote, near Gloucester, as the Gloucestershire Aircraft Company. Founded in 1917 [1915??] with the amalgamation of George Holt Thomas's Aircraft Manufacturing Company and renowned woodworkers H.H. Martyn, the Gloucestershire Aircraft Company had initially built and adapted other firm's designs.

Under the direction of designer Harry P. Folland however, the Nighthawk biplane fighter evolved into the Sparrowhawk (with 50 examples being sold to the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, marking the Gloucestershire Aircraft Company's first export success). All of the post-war Gloucestershire aircraft designed by Mr. Folland were geometrically similar and had the same identical characteristics of construction and as many interchangeable parts as consistent in practice. These machines are all very similar to the Nieuport Nighthawk, Nieuport Goshawk, and Ses-5 series of airplanes. Mr. Folland was largely instrumental in the design of all these ships.

By 1922 the Gloucestershire Aircraft Company, Limited, had completed a design for a cargo-carrying machine of high capacity. “This is a tractor-biplane fitted with a Rolls-Royce ‘Eagle’ engine. The wings of the upper plane are larger in area and thicker in section than those of the lower plane, and the petrol tanks are fitted inside them. The fuselage of the machine is in three sections. The leading one takes the engine, the middle one the cabin, and the rear one, which carries the tail and skid, is hinged on to’ the cabin section, 0 that it can be turned at right angles to the rest of the fuselage. By this means cargo can be taken aboard with great ease. By means of a gangway hinged to the cabin floor loading trolleys can be wheeled right into the aeroplane. The machine had a goods load of 1600 lb. Its ceiling is 14,000 ft., and its air endurance is four hours and threequarters at a cruising speed of 92 miles an hour."

In 1926: the Company changed its name to Gloster Aircraft Co. to help export customers. Ever since the earliest days of flying, the question, monoplane or biplane was a controversial one, and it was rather interesting to find that the problem remains unsettled right up to the late 1920s. When it comes to racing, there was no marked preponderance of one type over the other. The "Gloster "IV" B was a bi-plane designed and built by theGloster Aircraft Co., Ltd., for the 1927 Schneider Trophy race. There is probably no one who can claim to know quite definitely which is the faster plane, the Supermarine S.5 monoplane, or the Gloster IV biplane.

In May 1934 Gloster was taken over by Hawker to form the Hawker Siddeley Group. After 1930, the Great Depression placed many planebuilders under considerable financial stress. Officials of the British government responded by encouraging aviation leaders to reorganize their industry into fewer but stronger companies. Thomas Sopwith, chairman of Hawker, took the initiative by drawing on profits from sales of Harts as he raised capital of £2 million, some $10 million. He then bought up other firms: Gloster Aircraft, Armstrong Siddeley Motors, Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, Air Service Training, and A.V. Roe. In 1935 he reorganized these holdings as the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Company. These mergers placed those firms on a good financial footing, at a time when war was only a few years away.

The Gloster Gladiator was a fairly exotic aircraft that boasted a surprising number of aces and combat successes and flew for several countries, includingGreat Britain, China, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Gladiators and their pilots served during the hectic days of early WW II and the war in China in the late 1930s. Gloster’s last biplane fighter racked up an impressive record in several arduous climes. Thepilots fought in obsolescent aircraft against well-equippedadversaries who had reinforcements available, while theGladiator squadrons did not and could only fight delayingactions.

Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle (ret.) is often regarded as the father of modern jet propulsion systems. As a young officer in the British Royal Air Force, he became interested in advanced forms of aircraft propulsion. He tried without success to obtain official support for study and development of his ideas but persisted on his own initiative and received his first patent on jet propulsion in January 1930. With private financial support, he began construction of his first engine in 1935. This engine, which had a single-stage centrifugal compressor coupled to a single-stage turbine, was successfully bench tested in April 1937; it was only a laboratory test rig, never intended for use in an aircraft, but it did demonstrate the feasibility of the turbojet concept.

The firm of Power jets Ltd., with which Whittle was associated, received its first official support in 1938. It received a contract for a Whittle engine, known as the W 1, on July 7, 1939. This engine was intended to power a small experimental aircraft. In February 1940, the Gloster Aircraft Company was chosen to develop the aircraft to be powered by the W1 engine. The vehicle, which would be known today as a research aircraft, was covered by specification E28/39 and is frequently referred to by this designation. It was also known as the Pioneer.

Although intended primarily to be an experimental vehicle, the Gloster aircraft was to be designed to the general specifications of an interceptor fighter, the most obvious and urgent application that could be conceived. Late in 1939, after the war had actually begun, the Air Ministry authorized the development of a still more advanced version of the flight engine. Two two models were known respectively as the W-1 and W-2. Early in 1940, several months before assembly of the first W-1 but at a time when Germany was crumpling Britain's continental allies one by one, Gloster was told to begin the design of an operational fighter based on the W-2, work to start as soon as the original experimental aircraft (the E 28/39) had been laid out. This eventually became the Meteor, the specification being approved in September 1940.

The Gloster E 1/44 was designed around a single gas turbine as an insurance against the possible failure of the twin Derwent-engined Gloster Meteor project. The aircraft that emerged from the Gloster factory in 1941 was a small, single-place, low-wing monoplane equipped with a retractable tricycle landing gear. Air for the engine was supplied by a bifurcate nose inlet that passed the intake air around the pilot in separate duct to the engine located in the rear of the fuselage. The E28/39, which was designed by George Carter of the Gloster Company, weighed 3440 pounds, had a wing span of 29 feet, and was capable of a speed o about 340 miles per hour. The W1 engine installed in the aircraft developed 860 pounds of thrust. The historic first flight of the Pioneer took place on May 15, 1941, with Flight Lieutenant P. E. G. Sayer as pilot. The aircraft was used for a number of years in the exploration of the problems of flight with jet propulsion and was finally placed in the Science Museum in London in 1946.

In August 1961, the fears of its 3,500 workers were dispelled by the announcement of the Armstrong Whitworth-Gloster amalgamation. Everyone knew it was a shotgun marriage induced by the Government's policy of, as it were, coercing the industry to organise itself into a few large units, but at least their jobs were safe, or so they thought. Even as recently as the November 1961 issue, the Whitworth-Gloster News — that is a factory newspaper published for the employees — carried the line: ‘Whitworth-Gloster is among the better-placed of the British companies in the present situation, and mutual understanding and co-operation can see us through the critical times ahead. Rumours of widespread redundancy are without foundation".’

But on 13 November 1961 the directors met and subsequently announced that they had ‘regretfully decided that it would be necessary to close the company's Gloster works by May, 1962".’ Appeals were made to the right honorable gentleman, the Minister of Aviation, but Mr. Thorneycroft said bluntly that he had no intention of interfering with "a purely commercial decision"; or of taking any steps, apparently, to get alternative work into the 600,000 square feet of factory space.





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Page last modified: 09-05-2013 17:37:43 ZULU