Alfred Hessell Tiltman

(1891 - 1975)

Alfred Hessell Tiltman was borne on March 17, 1891, in Bloomsbury, London, the son of Alfred and Sarah Tiltman (Hessell was his paternal grandmothers maiden name). After graduating in engineering from London University, he served as an apprentice with Daimler Co from 1910-11. Afterwards he spent three years in Canada engaged in design work on the Quebec Bridge. From 1914-16 he worked on structural steel design for Sir Edward Wood & Co.

In 1916 he joined Airco working alongside Geoffrey de Havilland and when that company was sold to British Small Arms moved, along with other members of Airco, to de Havillands new company. There as assistant designer he was involved in the design and testing of a number of DH aircraft, from the small DH 60 Moth to the DH 66 Hercules airliner. In 1924 he left de Havilland and joined Vickers' Airship Guarantee Company (as chief designer after Barnes Wallis's move to the Vickers Aviation), working with his friend and former DH colleague Nevil Shute Norway, on the R.100.

Following the disaster to the rival, Government sponsored, R101 in October 1930, the British airship programme was cancelled and the Airship Guarantee Company was liquidated. Norway and Tiltman left and, in 1931, founded Airspeed Ltd. Tiltman designed all Airspeed's aircraft up until the Horsa, including the three-engined Ferry (for Sir Alan Cobham's flying circus), the innovative and fast single-engined Courier, and the twin-engined Envoy the led to the Oxford. Tiltman fell out with Norway and offered to resign. However, it was Norway who left in 1938. The next year, as part of Airspeeds investigations into self-sealing fuel tanks, the company formed Fireproof Tanks Ltd with Tiltman on the board. By 1940, Airspeed was effectively taken over by De Havilland and Hessell Tiltman, after attending meetings at their Hatfield headquarters, felt that they were seen merely as upstarts. He stayed on for a couple of more years, but finally left in 1942.

That same year Tiltman was part of a mission to America headed by Sir Roy Fedden, chairman of the Ministry of Aircraft Production Committee on Research and Education. Following this, he was responsible for the preparation of the first complete survey of full-scale layout methods in Britain, which he carried out for the S.B.A.C. in 1943. A sub-committee of the S.B.A.C., of which Marcus Langley was a member, considered his report and proposed a standardized layout system for the whole British aircraft industry. In late 1944, Hessell Tiltman and Marcus Langley entered into a partnership with the object of carrying out research and development work in aeronautical, mechanical and general engineering. This partnership led to the formation, in 1947, of Tiltman Langley Laboratories, Ltd., and its wider scope enabling a greater volume of work to be tackled. As the company eventually progressed from research to production, the name was changed to simply Tiltman Langley, Ltd. Tiltman was technical director and chairman, resigning from that post in 1955.

Alfred Hessell Tiltman B.Sc, F.R.Ae.S died in Chichester on October 28, 1975.

Biography References

  1. Airspeed Aircraft Since 1931, H.A. Taylor (Putnam, 1970)
  2. Flight Magazine, December 23, 1955

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