I mused on GLW and his influence on me here. As a member of the RAeS I have access to the full obituary of Geoffrey Wilde, published on the Aerospace Professional Oct 2007. To complement my thoughts I reproduce relevant passages here
Not only was he a great innovative designer but he admired good engineers, especially young ones, and his enthusiasm and drive to seek fresh and inventive ways of improving engines inspired all those round him,…….. [including me]
The RB211 three-shaft engine was brilliant in concept but its detail design (for which GLW was not responsible) was flawed and, like all the high bypass ratio engines of the time, suffered serious in-service problems. One of the most serious was the short life of the HP turbine blade. Following the bankruptcy in 1971 Stanley Hooker returned to the company and recognising the HP blade problem, with financial assistance from Sir William Cook, set up the high temperature research unit under the leadership of GLW. GLW immediately set up a team of engineers dedicated to understanding the whole science of blade cooling and design especially the thermal stresses induced by cooling. This involved a series of very advanced test programmes using highly sophisticated measuring techniques in static cascade tunnels to understand thermal fatigue problems. At the same time under his leadership the team designed and built a high temperature demonstrator unit (HTDU) which, with the new materials becoming available, eventually demonstrated the ability of HP turbine blades to run safely at temperatures hundreds of degrees above those currently in use in service at that time. This work laid the foundation for the design of the turbine blades used in the Trent engine family of today.
I remember a year of demonstration runs of the HTDU under GLW's tutelage. The objectives were to get up at least 10 and hopefully to a 30 hour run on one design of blading so that we had considerable test data to demonstrate the start of a successful series. We had 103 turbine blades for 100 slots- so we had 3 spares. As we ran the HTDU on the High-altitude Test Facility (HTF) and it was winter we had to run at night. The National Grid pylons ran upto the facility to deliver electrical power and it was rumoured that we ran at night because during the day the choice was power to the city of Derby or us! As the stress engineer on the HTDU I would receive phone calls from the HTF at 1.00 am to discuss the distress detected by endoscopes poked into the HTDU innards. I would suggest blades 3 and 5 could run another hour but 33 needed changing and go back to sleep. Then the next day I would see the replaced bade and physically measure the damage and plot on a carpet plot I had created.... After 10 hours I said we were on the limit, having used up all our blades and we pulled the HTDU back to the fitting shop.... this went on over 10 months and we began to celebrate, as I recall, achieving our time objectives at 1500, 1550, 1575 degK turbine entry temperature and so on eventually reaching well over 1600 degrees. I still smile as I recollect that we had cooling air for the blades that was entering the blades at 500 deg C! As we reached each objective GLW had agreed we could be issued with a "club" tie for the 1500 club, 1550 club and so on. We collected many ties that year and most, if not all the team were promoted to other challenging roles at the end of that phase. GLW had encouaraged us to deliver what seemed daft at the beginning of the period!.. but we had the ties to prove to the rest of the company that we could still deliver in spite of the bankruptcy deliberations.