Friday, May 30, 2008

RADM H C N 'Nick' Goodhart CB 1919-2011

Nick Goodhart, ETPS Class 4 Graduate 1946. He is 7th from left on the middle row between Dicky Mancus and Peter Lawrence Westland Wyvern with Mirror Deck landing system which was invented by Nick Goodhart Drawing of the Mirror deck landing system signed by the inventor Nick Goodhart.

Hilary Charles Nicholas Goodhart attended Dartmouth Naval College.He completed his naval engineering training at the RN Engineering College, Keyham just as WW2 was getting under way and gained his watch keepers ticket in HMS Formidable in the Eastern Mediterranean, an area of considerable warlike activity with the German Wehrmacht advancing steadily south towards North Africa. While engaged in evacuating the British Army from Crete (they were driven out by overwhelming attack) Formidable took two 1000 Lb bombs. One went off in the Seamens’ Heads and blew an enormous hole in the starboard bow right down to the water line but the other one did not go off and the ship was able to creep back to Alexandria where a temporary patch was built before going to USA (south about round Africa) for permanent repairs. While in the USA Goodhart was transferred to HMS Dido, also repairing in the USA, which sailed from New York on Dec 7, 1941 the day of the Japanese attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbour. Dido went straight back to the Eastern Mediterranean even going into Malta on the way, so much improved was the UK position even though the Army had not at that time yet succeeded in halting Rommel’s eastward advance in North Africa towards Egypt and our base in Alexandria. Their main role in the eastern Med was to try and fight small convoys (4 fast merchantmen which had come up through the Suez canal) through to Malta.

Having volunteered for flying training Goodhart left Dido and made his own way back to UK to do his flying medicals and thence by fast liner to Canada to do his flying training. After doing his fighter pilot training in UK he finally emerged as a squadron pilot in 896 squadron operating variously off HM Ships Ameer, Empress and Khedive in the Indian Ocean in support of the Army in driving the Japanese out of Burma.

Shortly after the war ended (8 Aug, 1945) a signal was received from the Admiralty instructing Goodhart to return to UK which he did by thumbing a lift in an RAF freight aircraft. Once in the UK he learned that he had been selected to do the Empire Test Pilots Course and so began a period of some five years test flying. It was a dream come true and he seized the opportunity to fly as many new types as possible ending up with just on one hundred.While taking part in the deck-landing trials of some of the new naval aircraft types coming through Boscombe Down at that time he had become increasingly aware of the shortcomings of the deck landing system then in use which involved another pilot standing on the stern of the carrier and signaling to the approaching aircraft whatever he thought were errors in the approach. In the old days of the piston-engined aircraft this had proved satisfactory but with the new aircraft and particularly the jets coming into service approach speeds were significantly higher and, in the case of the jets throttle response was notably slower. Something had to change so Goodhart invented the mirror-sight deck landing system. The device was first introduced in the Royal Navy in 1954 and by the US Navy in 1955. It greatly increased the safety when landing on an aircraft carrier. There was also a saving in arrester gear units and barriers – Ark Royal needed only four wires and one (emergency only) barrier. The reduction in weight and the extra space that this conferred enabled more mess-decks to be fitted in, thus reducing congestion in living spaces. It was recorded that for US carriers, the landing accident rate fell from 35 per 10,000 landings in 1954 to 7 per 10,000 landings in 1957. The US Navy awarded him the Legion of Merit for his invention. He retired from the Royal Navy as a Rear Admiral in 1973.

In 1955 he climbed to 30,500 ft in USA and became the first British glider pilot to gain the international Diamond Badge. Later in 1955 he broke the British National Altitude Record in a Schweizer SGS 1-23 in California climbing to 11,500 m (37,050 feet). He was a member of the British team at all the World Championships from 1956 to 1968. In 1956 at Saint-Yan in France, he won, with Frank Foster as co-pilot, the World Gliding Two Seater Championship in a Slingsby Eagle. The US Soaring magazine noted that the only single seater to beat them was the single seat winner, Paul MacCready. In 1958 he finished in second place in the single seater competition at Leszno, Poland. He was British single-seater champion on three occasions, and in second place on four others. He finished first in the American Championships in 1955, though as foreigner could not be the US Champion. At Lasham on 10 May 1959 he declared a goal of Portmoak in Scotland and achieved a record goal flight of 579.36 km in a Slingsby Skylark 3 at an average speed of 90.7 km/h. This is still the UK 20 metre goal distance record and the speed record for a 500 km goal flight. Goodhart set up the project in 1966 to develop a glider called Sigma. After many problems, the only prototype flew in 1971. A modified version is still flying. He was awarded the Silver Medal by the Royal Aero Club in 1956. In 1972 he was award the Paul Tissandier Trophy by the FAI. This award recognizes "those who have served the cause of Aviation in general and Sporting Aviation in particular, by their work, initiative, devotion or in other ways".