1929 – 2016

Arthur was born in Wigan in 1929, excelled at Mathematics at School and was offered University places at both Cambridge and Manchester. He chose Manchester because the Cambridge place was deferred and he was keen to complete his academic studies before doing his National Service. After graduation, he joined the Royal Air Force, was promptly selected for fast jet training and stationed in a snowy Canada. One highlight of his relatively short RAF career was the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air for the very accomplished recovery of a Meteor following an aileron failure, which involved the skilful use of differential thrust and crossed controls. He explained this away with his typical modesty, not ejecting because he wanted to get back to base for a party. He left the RAF to pursue an engineering career, but kept up his flying in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Initially, he worked for English Electric in Coventry and spent the weekends flying with 504 Squadron. He met May through his best friend Ed, whose mother thought they would make a lovely couple. She was right and they soon married and moved to Lytham where Arthur got a job in the Aerodynamics Office of English Electric at Warton in Lancashire.

He will be best remembered for his pioneering work and innovation in Flight Simulation, from the very first simulator at Warton developed in the mid-1950s. The Warton ‘Flutter Simulator’ design was based on a MoD facility at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, which the Warton flutter staff had been using, before purchasing their own analogue computing capability for the Aerodynamics Office. Arthur commandeered two channels of the six-channel computer and developed an aerodynamic model for pilot-in-the-loop handling qualities evaluation, coupled to a cockpit with a simple horizon display, generated on an oscilloscope. Even with this equipment he was able to demonstrate the longitudinal and lateral handling characteristics of an aircraft while still in the design stage and to effect a comparison with other aircraft familiar to the pilots. As the popularity and utilisation of the Flight Simulator increased, colleagues recall Arthur’s frequent ‘battles’ with his contemporary, Ivan Yates, for priority on the computing facility. Ivan was the head of flutter and vibration at that time and ultimately become the Chief Executive of British Aerospace. They were friends for many years.

The results from Arthur’s early experiments were so successful that a programme of steady development of the facilities was funded through the late 1950s and 1960s, which kept the company in the forefront of simulator users worldwide. Arthur simulated many aircraft types during this period, with both military and civil aircraft development programmes benefiting from the facilities, including the Lightning, TSR2, Jaguar, BAC 1-11, Concorde, Comet and VC10. The TSR2 represented a step change in flight control technology and a consequent challenge for BAC. This led to Arthur’s acquisition of an array of analogue computers including five ‘bricks’ of the Luton Analogue Computing Engine (LACE), an EAI PACE 231-R and several special purpose computers to drive the cockpit and simulator systems. The PACE 231-R was the ultimate analogue simulation computer of its day and Arthur’s pride and joy.

The first simulation dome was installed at Warton in 1970 and was the basis of Arthur’s ‘Manoeuvre Attack Simulator’, the first device of its type in Europe. A sky/ground shadowgraph projector provided the pilot with pitch, roll and yaw cues, over the dome surface. A novel lamp drive system allowed for off-axis projection and the effect of horizon depression at higher altitude. The image of a target aircraft was projected onto the dome surface by a servo driven TV projector in a two-axis gimbal system. Arthur’s long-held ambition to simulate close air combat was achieved for the first time, using accurate aerodynamic and performance models of the competing aircraft. Essentially the pilot flew against the computer’s tactical model. The computer pilot model, arguably an ‘artificial intelligence’, was developed over several years using operational aircrew to establish a benchmark air combat opponent. While Arthur contributed his experience from his pilot training in the RAF, he shrewdly acquired the services of Squadron Leader Tom Lecky-Thompson, best remembered for flying the Harrier in the Daily Mail Trans-Atlantic Air Race. The tactics were able to adapt to different performance models and weapons. The facility was used primarily to support the development of the Tornado GR1 and F3 variants, and air combat research programmes. A major success was the development of a Spin Prevention and Incidence Limiting System (SPILS) for Tornado. Although the implementation of the virtual opponent is very different today, the original algorithms still form the basis of BAE System’s latest computer generated force models.

The early 70s also saw the first flight simulator with a motion cueing system, designed and constructed at Warton. The three-axis system made use of redundant hydraulic actuators, salvaged from the cancelled TSR2 aircraft programme.

The facility was used to conduct MoD funded experiments into future cockpit technologies, such as colour displays, helmet displays and direct voice input. Arthur was convinced that these technologies had significant benefits for aircrew and would mature, despite the technical issues facing their deployment at that time. Hence his work was influential in a number of key design decisions in the early days of both the Experimental Aircraft Programme (EAP) and Eurofighter projects.

The simulator was in operation for 15 years, supporting many projects, culminating in the fly-by-wire (FBW) Jaguar programme. A significant step in terms of the FBW simulation was the ability to fly the full aerodynamic envelope, from take-off to landing. Previous simulations had relied on individual data sets for different flight conditions and test points, which led to cumbersome and lengthy trials. Full flight envelope simulation was a breakthrough, since the flight test engineers and pilot could conduct a full test flight on the simulator in real-time, examining transient effects throughout the flight, from take-off to landing. Under Arthur’s watch, the engineering flight simulator had progressed from being a useful research tool, to an integral capability in flight control system clearance.

1980 saw the opening of the Twin Dome facility at Warton. The primary role of the simulator was to perform trade studies for future concepts and to optimise the aircraft design and weapons for operational effectiveness. A secondary, but key role, was the provision of initial air combat training to the Royal Air Force, who used the facility, typically one week in four, during the early 1980s. The RAF procured their own Twin Dome Simulator for Coningsby and latterly the Hawk Synthetic Training Facility (HSTF) at RAF Valley. The breakthrough in 1980 was the ability to network simulators in real-time, with extremely low latency, to simulate man versus man air combat scenarios. Dr David White, Chief Scientist at L-3, who gave the Edwin Link Lecture at the RAeS at their Spring 2013 conference, reminded the audience of Arthur’s pioneering work in low latency networked simulation in1980, some 30 years earlier, and still challenging the Industry today. Initially the Twin Dome was limited to 1v1, but upgraded to 2v2 with addition of Beyond Visual Range (BVR) pilot stations. The facility made a significant contribution to the Eurofighter configuration studies, leading up to the key political decisions on the programme. The results of the Warton simulation studies were briefed to Michael Heseltine, the then Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

The successful sale of an Air Combat Simulator to the RAF was borne out of a close working relationship with the RAF in the early 1980s, in particular the then Station Commander at RAF Coningsby and now Air Marshal Sir Christopher Coville. The sale opened up the potential for future manufacturing and sales, so a separate company was formed, British Aerospace Simulation Ltd (BAeSL), to manage the business. While Arthur stayed on as head of the Flight Simulation Department until his retirement in 1991, he was influential in establishing BAeSL and the later acquisition by British Aerospace of Reflectone, based in Tampa, Florida.

Another example of Arthur’s ingenuity was the design of the PC-9 Aircrew Training Simulator for the King Faisal Air Academy. The facility had some unique features, since the motion platform was independent from the projection system, rather than the convention of mounting the visual system on the platform with the cockpit. A major benefit was a much smaller motion platform with improved dynamic performance, due to the significant reduction in payload. The visual system drive required motion compensation, achieved by using ‘leg length’ feedbacks from the platform and the real-time iterative calculation of the appropriate visual correction.

The concept was developed in the original single dome at Warton, is still in use 25 years after Arthur’s retirement, and now referred to as the Motion Dome Simulator. It has been used extensively for Short Take-off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft flight control and handling qualities research, including the UK’s Vectored thrust Advanced Aircraft Control (VAAC) Harrier and Integrated Flight and Propulsion Control Systems (IFPCS) programmes. Currently it is dedicated to the F-35 programme investigating operational issues for the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier, such as approach and recovery techniques, ultimately reducing the requirement for ‘first-of-class’ sea trials.

Arthur headed the Flight Simulation Department until his retirement in 1991, retiring early to care for his wife May, who sadly passed away in 1993. He left a legacy of world-class simulation facilities, having made a huge contribution to the design and development of the Warton combat aircraft. He travelled abroad extensively and regularly presented papers at the RAeS, AGARD and the AIAA, most recently in 2010 on the 40th Anniversary of the RAeS Flight Simulation Group. Arthur was one of the founder members of the Specialist Group and one of its past Chairmen. He was regarded by his peers as a true stalwart of the Industry, an exceptional engineer and a real visionary, whose thinking was way ahead of its time. The Society awarded Arthur the Sir Charles Wakefield Gold Medal in 1991. He was a great supporter of the Preston Branch and, indeed, Chairman from 1981 to 1990 and a regular attendee at their Lectures.

He enjoyed a full and active retirement as a member of the Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club and local Art groups. He travelled frequently to Sweden and the United States keeping up with an extensive network of friends, right up until a very serious stroke five years ago. One close friend was George Cooper, Chief Test Pilot at NASA, well known for the development of the Cooper-Harper handling qualities rating scale, still used by test pilots today. He and his wife Louise were very dear friends of Arthur and May. He went to see them and other friends in California every year, until his stroke.

Quoting Dr John Rolfe who served with Arthur on the RAeS Committee: “Arthur was a very original colleague who had an endearing wry sense of humour. He had a languid tolerance of foolish thinking, but always corrected it with kindness and wisdom. In his last Christmas card to me he wrote the ship of life was still sailing onwards but he was not paddling fast enough to keep up with it.”

Arthur died on the 30 March 2016, and leaves two daughters, Milly, a Senior Flight Simulation Engineer with BAE Systems and Mandy, a Doctor.

Mike Southworth
RAeS Flight Simulation Group

31 August 2016