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Crowood Press Not Much Of An Engineer

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Within a few months of joining Rolls-Royce, Stanley Hooker, who had never before seen an aero engine, had added thirty per cent more power to the legendary Merlin engine.

Within a few months of joining Rolls-Royce, Stanley Hooker, who had never before seen an aero engine, had added thirty per cent more power to the legendary Merlin engine. This was the start of a meteoric career, which in the middle of World War II saw the mature Hooker put in charge of turning the embryonic Whittle turbojet into a production engine for the war. In an amazing twenty months the thrust of Hookers jets jumped from 1,800 lb to 5,000 lb.

After an emotional break with Rolls-Royce, Hooker joined the Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1949. Here he tugged a rather reluctant company into the jet age, determined to give real competition to Rolls-Royce. So successful was he that in 1966 Rolls-Royce decided the best thing to do was to spend 63.6 million and buy its rival. By this time there was scarcely a single modern British aero engine for which Hooker had not been responsible. By 1966 his main concerns were the propulsion of the Concorde and the Harrier, but there were new men in charge at Derby and Hooker decided to retire on his sixtieth birthday, in 1967. Little did he think that within four years the mighty firm would plunge into bankruptcy!

So important was Rolls that the Government was immediately involved, and it invited Hooker to go to Derby and mastermind the great RB211 programme - the engine that had broken the firm. To say that the result earned him a knighthood is to overlook the action-packed career that came previously.


Stanley Hooker was probably Britain's foremost engineer of the 20th Century. An outstanding mathematician, he doubled the power of the RR Merlin, designed the Pegasus in today's Harrier, and, with Sir Kenneth Keith, rescued Rolls-Royce from oblivion. This book is a highly readable account of his contribution to aviation. The son of a Sheerness docker, he writes with clarity, pace and humour. Technical topics are contained in a full appendix, the principal one being the formula he developed which enabled him to transform the Merlin and, hence, the Spitfire, by boosting the input of the one and then two superchargers.

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