GTR Hill

For some time I have been researching the work of G.T.R Hill, especially the early flying wing types. 

A brief summary of the work is shown below…


Biographical Notes

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•The son of a mathematics professor – born 1895

•Aeromodelling then built full size glider

•BSc then apprenticeship at the RAF

•WW1 Flew with the RFC (29 Squadron)

•WW1 Commanded Aerodynamics Flight at Farnborough

•Chief test pilot of Handley Page and altitude record holder with W8

•Worked with Westland on the Pterodactyl series between the wars

•Kennedy Chair of Mech. Eng. at UCL

•WW2 Worked on barrage balloon wire cutting project

•WW2 Scientific liaison officer

•Consultant to Shorts (Sherpa) and General Aircraft post war

•Died 1955


Pterodactyl Glider 1924

With support from the ARC, RAe and the Great Exhibition of 1851 Fund Hill built a tailless glider and flew it at Devils Rest Bottom near Newhaven. The four flights were "successful to a degree beyond the inventors dreams." What is possibly a contemporary drawing of the glider is shown below. 

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To give a better impression of what the glider looked like (there do not appear to be any photographs of this aircraft) I created a SolidWorks model. This is based on aerofoil and other dimensional data from contemporary government reports, wind tunnel model drawings, and the 3 view shown. For 1924 the glider looks remarkably modern. 

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Hill reported his progress with the glider in a number of papers, the report to the Aeronautical Research Committee being typical. 

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These reports are far from stuffy and academic, the excerpt below being typical.   

“The glider got off the ground unexpectedly quickly after a run of 10 or 12 yards at an indicated air-speed of about 20 miles per hour. After travelling about 100 yards through the air, I felt a noticeable slowing up, and, in order not to loose speed unduly, I landed quite smoothly.  I found that I had forgotten to release the tow-rope which, after 100 yards run, had begun to tighten up, pulling towards the rear, and this bought me down”

After 4 flights Hill abandoned flying the glider in favour of developing a powered version of his tailless concept. 


The Pterodactyl1

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The Pterodactyl1 as it is today; in the Science Museum, South Kensington. Amongst the great and the good. 

Hill moved to Westlands at Yeovil, to work on the first of what would become a series of lying wing prototypes.  The design process incorporated a good deal of wind tunnel work (referred to at the time as Wind Channel work) and much of this work was again the subject of official reports.  Many of these reports are held in the public records office at Kew. 

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The Pterodactyl 1 was essentially a powered version of the glider, featuring a fuselage pod containing a Bristol Cherub engine.  An under sung feature of the design is the use of ply/balsa sandwich panels pre-dating the use of these in the Mosquito and the work of De Bruyne. 

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Flight testing, as expected, was fully documented.  The certificate of airworthiness reports are also available at the public records office and these reveal a good deal about the handling characteristics of the aircraft. 

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Hill reported his work on the glider and Pterodactyl 1 in a paper presented to the 


© Laurence Marks 2012