SOME EARLY MEMORIES

Dr John Rolfe

The ad hoc Flight Simulation Committee was formed before 1970, the year of the first RAeS Flight Simulator Symposium. I would put its formation to around 1967.

Norman Hill was the driving force in getting the RAeS to formally recognise Flight Simulation as an acceptable subject for study and interest. Hill was an aviator engineer who had specialist knowledge of flying and designing rotary wing aircraft. He was an early member of the RAeS Rotor Craft Section and this gave him an insight into the mind and politics of the Society.

However, by the 1960's, he was in a key position with General Precision Systems at Aylesbury, an early flight simulator manufacturer in the UK. Hill wanted to form a group within the Society dedicated to the subject of Flight Simulation and he sought the backing of other like-minded members. From memory I recall he was supported by David Perry (Later Sir David, who was D.H. not W.H.) from the RAE , Owen Mathews from Cranfield and Phil Brentnall of BOAC. I did not join the group until the late 1960's when Owen Mathews suggested that human factors representation was needed.

However, the Society at that time was much more stuffy and sought to be learned rather than commercially successful. There was a two tier structure of "superior" Sections and Groups. Hill encountered very strong resistance towards the creation of a new group. Ad hoc status was allowed until 1976 when the attitude of the Society towards the formation of new groups had changed and the FSG had proven its worth.

Despite its `below the salt' position the ad hoc group organised lectures and meetings. There were the first two flight simulation symposia held in 1970 and 1973 at which 12 papers were presented at each meeting. In 1976 a conference was held on the theme of theory and practice in flight simulation at which 7 papers were presented.

In addition to the conference/symposium programme the ad hoc group also arranged a programme of evening lectures at Hamilton Place and at the Branches. These were more popular at that time and no thought was given to their cost or making charges to attend - they were the life blood of a learned society. Some, but not all, of these were published in the Journal of the RAeS and from my records I can only refer to those which were.

The first published lecture I can find is that given by Ringham and Cutler of Redifon in 1953 with the title Flight Simulation. It was presented to the Belfast Branch and recorded as the 893rd Lecture given before the RAeS. The next to be published was the 1025th lecture given by Makinson and Hellings of Air Trainers Link Ltd with the title Synthetic Aids to Flying Training. The lecture was given to the Halton Branch in 1957. Other papers from lectures appeared in the RAeS Iournal in 1958, 1964, 1967 and 1968. I can recall the lecture by David Perry and Mike Naish from the RAE in London in 1964 on the subject of Flight Simulation for Research and would place it as the event which brought together the parties which began to think about the formation of an FSG. It might be possible to check this by reference to the published paper and subsequent recorded discussion.

Another significant lecture arranged by the ad hoc group took place in 1975. Dave Davis Chief Test Pilot of the CAA and author of `Handling the Big Jets' gave a lecture with the title The Approval of Flight Simulator Flying qualities. This paper set out proposals for standardised methods of assessing the handling of flight simulators and was published in the Journal. I recall the idea of inviting Dave Davis to give the lecture was not thought to be wholly wise. Davis had attended previous meetings arranged by the graup and had a reputation as a critic of flight simulation. However, his paper was a balanced and objective presentation which set in train thinking about standardised assessment methods. Moreover, he gave his opinion that he considered working with flight simulators to be more demanding than working with real aeroplanes.

From then on, with the formation of the FSG, more formal records exists which will be more reliable than my memory.

John Rolfe

July 1997