Sydney Camm – Hurricane and Harrier Designer – Saviour of Britain, John Sweetman

Sydney Camm – Hurricane and Harrier Designer – Saviour of Britain, John Sweetman

Sydney Camm was one of the most succesful British aircraft designers, with a career that spanned the eras of the biplane, monoplane and jet, mainly working for T.O.M. Sopwith, another key figure in the British aircraft industry. He is of course best known as the designer of the Hurricane, but he was also responsible for an impressive array of inter-war British aircraft, and was still a key figure in the design of the post-war Hunter and the Harrier jump jet.

Camm comes across as a somewhat divisive figure, with a rather abrupt and adversarial management style. Some of his staff were very fond of him, both there are also examples of people leaving Hawker because of his style. His interest in aircraft began before the First World War, and he appears to have been largely self taught, emerging from the shop floor at Martinsyde to become the chief designer at Hawker in an impressively short period – he joined the new company late in 1923 and became chief designer in 1925! At this early stage in his career he was frequently published in the aviation magazines of the day, and his articles demonstrate that he was fully aware of the technical developments of the day.

We don’t get a great deal of technical details of his pre-war aircraft. Later we get more details of the development process, and in particular the debates Camm and Hawker had with various government bodies and officials, including the Air Ministry, Chief of the Air Staff and various ministers. The last couple of chapters focus on the development of the Harrier Jump Jet, which is perhaps covered in the most detail (and even here most of the text covers the constant battles with the government over the specification of the aircraft, funding, other possible versions etc), but the story of the aircraft ends rather abruptly with Camm’s own death – personally I would have liked that part of the story to be completed.

This is a useful biography of one of the most important figures in the British aviation industry, someone whose career began soon after the first manned flight and ended with the Harrier jump jet.

1 – Early Life
2 – Chief Designer
3 – Birth of the Hurricane
4 – Hurricane at War
5 – Battle of Britain
6 – Global Conflict
7 – After the Hurricane
8 – Into the Jet Age
9 – Revolutionary Project: the ‘Jump Jet’
10 – The Harrier Takes Shape

Author: John Sweetman
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 264
Publisher: Air World
Year: 2019

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