Found 1 comment on HN
reidacdc · 2017-04-09 · Original thread
You might be interested in James Hamilton-Paterson's book, "Empire of the Clouds", which is about the glory days and subsequent decline of Britain's aviation industry.

Amazon link:

It's been a while since I read it, but one of the factors he talks about is echoed in the article, about the airplane being built "by engineers" -- it's an improvement on being built by marketers, of course, but it's only part of the right answer. Hamilton-Paterson's book talks about British aviation engineers' deafness to important feedback from pilots, and the additional role the British class system played. Engineers were mostly educated people from good schools, and pilots were mostly farm-boys who'd been recruited by a desperate nation during the war and then advanced professionally in their RAF service. When conflicts between them percolated up to managers, who were also educated men from good schools, the engineers tended to carry the day, whether or not they were right.

The portion of the article where the pilots talked about the lack of force-feedback on the new hydraulic controls, leading to several over-rotation accidents on take-off, reminded me forcefully of this -- obviously I don't know about that issue specifically, but it's exactly the kind of thing that might have come up in flight testing where test-pilot concerns might have been ignored.

The other piece of British aviation decline is government priorities -- aviation innovation is expensive and not profitable in the short term, so the UK decided to hedge their bets by becoming junior partners with Europe. British engineering and technology remains excellent, but it's not leading. Instead, the UK focused on financial services.

The contrast with France is particularly striking. Unlike the US, France was similarly ravaged by war, but the French government basically decided that aviation was a national priority, and supported it accordingly. Today, they are senior partners of European aerospace, and even have a large independent jet manufacturer, Dassault.

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