ALBERT FRANK BARNES

CEng FRAeS
1925-2016

Frank Barnes, right, receiving the Royal Aeronautical Society Turnbuckle Award from RAeS President David Couzens in 2010.

I first met Albert, or Frank as he was known in Sunbury, sometime after we moved here in 1964. We lived about 100 yards apart in Lyndhurst Avenue.
Our eldest son, Bernie went to the same school as Chris Barnes, Springfield in Nursery Road. In 1967 I decided to leave NPL and return to aviation. I had heard that Frank worked at BOAC and I had just seen an advert for a Development Engineer in the Structures Group. I asked him if he could tell me anything about this job. He told me they wanted someone quickly and ideally someone who knew the VC10. I said: “Would working on the outer wing in the Drawing Office at Weybridge help.” He said he thought it would, and advised me to get my application in quickly. I had no idea that he held a senior position at that time and was surprised to find when I arrived that he was a member of the interview Board. I then he realised that he was in a senior position.
Many years later he was Aircraft Engineering Manager. Although I was in the Structures Group he gave me the job of sorting out a problem with the tea trollies on the 737 and 757. These had castor wheels like Tesco trollies but the wheels were really too small in diameter and had insufficient offset to swivel without the trollies falling over. All I was allowed to do was reduce the friction of the wheels on the carpet. This was done by using polyurethane tyres with low friction additives that came near to meeting Boeing requirements.
During my three years as Chairman of the RAeS Heathrow Branch I had the interesting task of recommending Frank for the Silver Turnbuckle Award. This is given by the Society for major contributions to Aircraft Maintenance. It was then he gave me his CV, from which I have taken much of this talk. It made me appreciate just how great a contribution he had made to BA.
I then realised what an amazing career he had enjoyed. He joined the Air Training Corps on its first day in 1941 and flew gliders with them. At 18 Frank volunteered for aircrew but was told the RAF needed more good Engineers and to go to university and get a wartime two-year degree. This he did and was promptly posted to BOAC on qualification. He worked at Croydon and Bovingdon airports, Hythe flying boat base and Engine Overhaul at Treforest. He served overseas for a period in Cairo, Khartoum and Karachi.
On his return he was made a Technical Assistant on the Avro York fleet, then the Handley Page Hermes and Bristol Britannia assessing Service Bulletins, Aircraft defects and Incidents.
Frank carried out a study of repetitive defects and delays, studied Statistics at Southall Tech and set up a group of specialists to track these and advise remedial action. Each area of each type had a statistical analysis of repetitive defects that Development Engineers could check each month to see if any trends could be found. It was easy to see that May and September showed the most damage to Radomes because lightning strikes were most common in these months.
He oversaw the production of automatic test equipment in the hangars to test automatic pilot units on the 707 and VC10 aircraft reducing test times by a factor of ten.
Frank also introduced a chemical lab to rationalise maintenance fluids, cleaners and protective treatments by effectiveness, cost and health hazard predating Health and Safety legislation. He also introduced a Reliability Unit into BOAC to statistically determine a safe extension (or elimination) of overhaul flying hour limits, and a logical proforma for Approved Maintenance Schedule changes.
He helped persuade IATA airlines to develop MSG-1 a logical method for assessing maintenance requirements on the 747. The last time I was involved in teaching this (2009), it had reached MSG 3, issue 7. I think it continues to be used and was also applied to Concorde. Later he was involved in the cockpit layout of Concorde and the development of flatbed seats in larger aircraft. He also negotiated with Boeing their approval of my carbon-fibre skinned floor panels to save weight. Quite a wide range of subjects.
For several years, including the amalgamation of BOAC and BEA he was Quality Assurance Manager and until retiring he was Manager of Aircraft Engineering.
A very active man he did not fully retire and was a Consultant to The Crown Agents and other organisations, aircraft components manufacturers and operators on maintenance matters, and acted as a Specialist Witness in High Court cases pertaining to aircraft design, maintenance and accidents.
Frank joined the RAeS in 1945 and was a founder member of our Heathrow Branch, becoming its Vice Chairman in 1982. He was made a Fellow in 1973.
He also joined the Society of Licensed Aircraft Engineers and Technologists (SLAET) and was made Chairman of their Heathrow Branch in 1986. He had long advocated the Societies amalgamation, with the RAeS, which took place that year. He was an active and very helpful member of the Heathrow Branch Committee.
Frank also prepared and read papers on ‘Airline Engineering and Maintenance Data Requirements and Problems’ and on ‘Living with Ageing Aircraft Structures’ at the RAeS headquarters at No.4 Hamilton Place symposia, in 1968 and 1980 respectively.
Finally, Frank also made very helpful suggestions to those of us preparing an Exhibition for the Spelthorne Museum to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Royal Aeronautical Society this year. He was keen to be helpful while in his bed at St Peter’s Hospital only a few days before he died. This exhibition should be available to visit from 21 April. It is at the end of Staines Library.
As many of you know Frank was an active member of this Church and did accounts for the Friends of St Mary’s charity, wrote the history of this Church from AD 900 to the present day, and attended various groups until a few weeks ago. From chatting to him as we travelled together to Committee meetings I know that he attended Christian Churches overseas in Cairo and other places to which he was posted in his younger days.
For his 90th birthday his family gave him a flight in a light aeroplane. Apparently he did the take-off and the whole flight himself but for some reason the pilot in charge did the landing.
He belonged to PROBUS and music groups. Frank or Albert as Heathrow people knew him, made good use of his time and certainly did more than most by a large margin. A good friend, who really will be missed.

Keith Armstrong


25 April 2016