Marcus Langley

(1903 - 1977)

Marcus Langley was born on April 9, 1903 in Middlesborough, Yorkshire, the son of William and Martha Langley. Between 1919 and 1924 he studied as a naval architect, but opportunities in that field were by then poor and on his brother Richards’s advice joined Short Brothers at Rochester. However, his time there was to be less than a year and he moved on to Supermarine Aviation.

Langley remained at Supermarine for two and a half years, working especially on the S.4 and S.5 Schneider Cup racers. However, a desire to be nearer London saw him move to Handley Page working under George Volkert on the metal framed Hinaidi II. In 1928 Langley left Handley Page to join the Desoutter concern at Croydon. Marcel Desoutter had employed George Handasyde to redesign the Koolhoven FK.41 to conform to British airworthiness standards. Employed as chief draughtsman, he noted that most of the time he was the only draughtsman! Again this was to prove a short stay as, although the aircraft met with modest success, the business folded in 1932 after its main customer, National Flying Services at London Air Park, Hanworth, went into liquidation.

Meanwhile, Langley began what was to become almost a second occupation, that of aviation journalist, writing a column and various articles for Flight magazine. He was to continue writing both aviation news technical articles on and off for the rest of his life.

After leaving Desoutter at the end of 1930, Langley spent an uninspiring year with Saunders-Roe at Cowes. If the work was less than he hoped for, he spend his free time productively writing his first book, ‘Metal Aircraft Construction’, published by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd in 1931. As a result of that book, Langley became the first instructor in aircraft design at the de Havilland Technical School, a post he held until late 1935. In this position he instigated the creation of real aircraft designs by his students rather than just working over old projects. Under his leadership the students produced the T.K.1 and T.K.2 light aircraft and this series was to continue long after Langley’s departure. Whilst at the de Havilland Technical School he wrote his second book, based on a series of lectures given there, ‘Seaplane Float and Hull Design’, published by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd in 1935.

Anxious to return to the world of active design, in November 1935 Langley left de Havilland to reunite with George Handasyde, becoming assistant designer the British Aircraft Manufacturing Company. The British Aircraft Manufacturing Co., Ltd., of Hanworth, was formed in 1935, after making a start as the British Klemm Aeroplane Co., Ltd. At first monoplanes of Klemm design were built but, with Handasyde having joined them, the firm turned to original design. When Handasyde transferred to British Marine Aircraft, Ltd., Langley was put in charge of design. In early 1938, Marcus Langley resigned from the post of chief designer to the British Aircraft Manufacturing Co., Ltd., and took up the position of technical manager of Flight Refuelling, Ltd., at Ford aerodrome, under the leadership of Sir Alan J. Cobham, a post he held until late 1944.

Following this, Langley and Alfred Hessell Tiltman, who he had met in 1942 while a member of an S.B.A.C. sub-committee considering full-scale layout methods in Britain, 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.

Aside from his work with Tiltman Langley, in May, 1949 it was announced that a design group had been found, willing to revive the Chilton monoplane. C. H. Roberts and Marcus Langley were said to be interested in the project as a useful design and construction exercise for students of the College of Aeronautical Engineering. Sadly this did not come to fruition.

In September 1956, owing to ill health, Marcus Langley gave up the duties of managing director, but returned six months later to head a new technical department set up to advise on scientific and engineering technology. In November 1960, with the formation of the BEAGLE group by Sir Peter Masefield, Langley became consulting engineer while remaining a director of Tiltman Langley Ltd, and in 1961 was appointed technical director of BEAGLE-Auster Aircraft Ltd at Rearsby, which was to concentrate on developing the Auster range of high-wing types. However, Beagle was beset with internal problems and by the spring of 1963 he had resigned.

Never really in retirement, Marcus Langley continued in the position of a consultant engineer for the rest of his life, some of his recent inventions including foam-concrete arrester beds for runway overruns, and the investigation, with the help of Reigate Grammar School science scholars, of ammonia for controlling the airport bird hazard. He wrote many articles for the aviation media, both technical and historical, and, keeping at the forefront of technology, edited his final book, ‘Carbon Fibres in Engineering’ published by McGraw-Hill Book Co Ltd in 1971.

Marcus Langley C.Eng., F.R.Ae.S, F.I.Mech.E, A.M.Inst.N.A., died on February 14, 1977 in Surrey.

Biography References

  1. Flight October 24, 1935
  2. Flight March 31, 1938
  3. Flight March 8, 1945
  4. Flight October 2, 1947
  5. Flight July 22, 1948
  6. Flight July 16, 1954
  7. Flight March 5, 1977

V1.4.4 Created by Roger Moss. Last updated August 2020