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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: 75th Anniversary
Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: 75th Anniversary
Memories of the founder editor: Lieut-Col W. Lockwood Marsh
In the entrance hall to the Royal Aeronautical Society in Hamilton Place in London hangs an oil painting of a balloon ascent. Only recently cleaned and restored it is the oldest work of art in the Society's collection and has a direct relevance to Aircraft Engineering and this journal's 75th Anniversary.
For year's the provenance of the picture and its significance went unrecognised and then, in 1927, Lieut-Col W. Lockwood Marsh identified this historic painting from an engraving as depicting the world's first public ascent of an unmanned hot air balloon – a Montgolfier balloon – flying over the Montgolfier paper works and hydraulic pump at Voiron in the region of Annonay on 5 June, 1783.
Lockwood Marsh, who could with justification be described as one of the unsung heroes of British aviation during the first half of the last century, was the man destined in 1929 to launch Aircraft Engineering and remain its Editor for 32 years. Born in 1886, he was a barrister by training, but his intense interest in aeronautics led him to write many articles for the burgeoning aeronautical press prior to the First World War.
He served in the Anti-Aircraft Corps and the Airship Service of the Royal Naval Air Service before becoming a member of the Civil Air Transport Committee in 1917 and subsequently head of the Equipment Branch in the Admiralty Transport Department prior to, in 1919, entering the Department of Civil Aviation at the Air Ministry.
He was the Secretary of the Royal Aeronautical Society from 1920 to 1925, a position from which he voluntarily resigned to help with cost cutting when the society faced financial difficulties in the post World War I era and he was largely responsible for building the foundations of the RAeS library by persuading the Carnegie Fund to provide funding to purchase rare books.
It is also of interest to note that when, in 1930, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, his proposal was signed by some of the giants of the aviation and scientific world – Sir Henry Tizard, Lord Brabazon, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland and H E Wimperis.
So he was a man of many parts – lawyer, soldier/airman, administrator, and company director (on the Board of Marsh Brothers, the family Sheffield steel company) as well as publisher, editor, author and journalist and a collector of rare aeronautical books and prints.
A strong advocate of technical training, it was perhaps no surprise when in March 1929 he launched the first issue of Aircraft Engineering – “dedicated to the science and practice of aeronautics and to allied and subsidiary branches of the engineering industry”. His first leader proclaimed his belief that the time was right for the new journal not only because of the fast-growing air transport industry and enthusiasm for private flying worldwide but also because the technology was developing rapidly, instancing the switch from wood to metal in aircraft structures.
That first issue gave a taste of what was to come – articles on French commercial planes, tail flutter, the streamlining of air-cooled engines, Italian light aeroplanes, machine tools, aircraft weight and efficiency of the autogyro in addition to what were to become regular features on research reports and new patents.
I met Lockwood Marsh for the first time in the summer of 1959. Having joined the Royal Air Force from school and served for 4 years as a fighter pilot, I then studied for my BSc(Eng) in the Aeronautical Engineering Department of Queen Mary College, University of London, under Professor Alec Young. Shortly after completing my final year examinations, I was put in touch with Col Marsh, who was looking for a Technical Editor, by Alec Young – principally because Alec thought my final year thesis paper on “The Possibilities of a Nuclear- powered Aircraft” provided evidence of my ability to write about technical matters.
So with some trepidation I trotted along to Bloomsbury Square in London to the offices of Bunhill Publications – which produced Aircraft Engineering as well as monographs primarily for students – to be interviewed by the redoubtable Colonel for the job as Technical Editor. He was charming. I was enthusiastic. We seemed to gel and I was appointed on the spot for the princely sum of £800 a year.
I worked with him closely for the next 3 years before the business was sold to Sawell Publications and he finally retired. He taught me the basics of editing a technical magazine – commissioning and editing articles from the leading academics, designers and engineers of the day, preparing copy for the printers, correcting galley proofs, laying out the pages and proof-reading the finished pages. In those days the whole process was manual, time- consuming and, in relative terms, costly.
But by this time Col Marsh – our relationship was always quite formal and we were never on first name terms – was in his mid-70s. His health was failing and progressively he became less and less involved with the business; ultimately coming to the office on most days for just a couple of hours in the morning before departing by taxi for lunch at his club. As a result, in 1961, his 32-year reign as Editor came to an end; he became Managing Editor as I took over as Editor. We would confer in his large book-lined office with its huge leather sofa to discuss the progress of the forthcoming issues as well as the subject and content of the next leader column, which I would write. Among much good advice he passed on to me was an enthusiasm for “apt alliteration's artful aid”, which remains with me to this day.
Those were exciting times for the aircraft industry and the research and academic institutions and the range of subjects and developments which we covered were legion. There were ten or so regular features covering everything from summarised research reports, book reviews, new materials and aviation electronics to British, German and US patents, tools for the workshop and research and test apparatus. The Farnborough, Paris and Hanover air shows were the subject of comprehensive coverage.
But the in-depth technical articles, commissioned from and contributed by leading engineers and academics throughout the industry, were then and remain currently the backbone of the magazine's editorial content. I have little doubt that the sustained quality and relevance of these articles is the primary reason why Aircraft Engineering has survived when so many of its competitors down the years have disappeared into the mists of time.
Typical of the journal's adherence to Lockwood Marsh's original editorial objectives was a series on metals for aircraft applications by Kennedy and Sollars – including titanium, magnesium, aluminium and steels, and, in 1959 anticipating the arrival of Concorde, a treatise on power for the long range supersonic airliner by Jamison, as well as a series by Argyris and Kelsey on the structural analysis of fuselages of arbitrary cross-section and taper.
The contents, then as now, reflected the many issues and challenges confronting the industry – boundary layer control, ducted fans, fatigue fracture, jet lift, heat transfer in supersonic flow, sandwich construction, flutter prediction, pressure cabin analysis, recovery of guided weapons and ground effect machines, to name but a few.
An innovation introduced in the early 1960s which was enthusiastically received by the readers was to devote the whole of an issue of Aircraft Engineering to one specific topic or one specific aircraft. So comprehensive technical appraisals were published of, for example, the DH125, Belfast, Super VC10, Trident, One-Eleven and 748. These took the form of contributed articles by the designers describing each aircraft's aerodynamic and structural design, power plants and systems, and complete issues of Aircraft Engineering were devoted to, for example, aircraft transparencies, plastics in aircraft and the development of synthetic resin adhesives.
It is of interest to note that a significant number of copies of Aircraft Engineering were, in the early 1960s, purchased by the USSR which tracked technical developments, particularly in the aircraft sector, very closely. Then suddenly, subscriptions from that source were cut right back – a change attributed to the introduction of the photocopier!
Lockwood Marsh's last years at the helm were times of great turmoil within the industry. The 1960s witnessed Government-enforced consolidation which would see the dozen or so famous aircraft manufacturing firms combine to form just two major fixed wing aircraft producing companies and one helicopter manufacturer. With a significantly reduced aircraft industry, Aircraft Engineering – partially dependent for its existence on its advertising revenue – had to fight for its existence. Which provides an appropriate opportunity to give credit to a man called Ellis Wood who, for nearly 40 years, was Aircraft Engineering's Advertisement Director and thus contributed commercially to its long-running success. An aeronautical enthusiast himself, Ellis Wood had been a freelance aviation journalist – contributing to a number of leading publications as well as being the British aeronautical correspondent of South America's largest daily newspaper, La Nacion of Buenos Aires. In 1928, Ellis had the distinction of being one of the few journalists to fly with the inventor in his famous Cierva Autogyro.
Aircraft Engineering's founder editor, Lieut- Col William Lockwood Marsh, OBE, MA, LLB, FAIAA, MSAE, FRAeS, died in 1963 at the age of 77. He had enjoyed a long and productive innings and it is a tribute to his vision and his determination – as well as his love for matters aeronautical – that his brainchild, Aircraft Engineering, lives on to celebrate its 75th anniversary.
Charles KeilFormer Technical Editor and Editor of Aircraft Engineering (1959-65)