|The Lofting Department|
|Towards the end of my apprenticeship, I suppose by the time I got to about 1960, the early 1960s. I can’t remember which shop I was working in but the foreman said could I go over to Len Holton’s office, he wanted to see me.
So I walked across to his office, on foot, and he asked me to sit down and he said that, you know, he was aware I wanted to work on airframe structures. He couldn’t reclassify me as an engineering apprenticeship because – even though I had done ordinary national, I think I was doing my third year then. So even though I was doing ordinary national, I had to finish as a trade apprentice. But he had noted my interest in airframe structures and he had heard of a post which had become available in the Lofting Department, up in the office – did I want to take it? Well I didn’t know what lofting was. I wasn’t going to show my ignorance by saying, ‘What’s that’? So I said, ‘Yes please.’
The Lofting Department was run by a man called Tommy Wake, the most amiable of men. And I went up to see him.
Could you spell his surname?
His name was Wake, WAKE, Tommy Wake. And he had been with the company since the early 1920s, so he had worked his way up. I think he had always worked in the Drawing Office, the Design Office. I don’t think he had ever worked on the shop floor. But of course he was a very knowledgeable man on the period that I was interested in, with aircraft from the 30’s up to the modern times. And I would often talk to him about his experience, and ask him questions, and he was always ready to respond with answers. And I enjoyed a very good relationship with him which I never enjoyed quite that sort of relationship with anybody else.
At what age were you when you were into the Lofting Shop?
I would be about 20 then, and I finished when I was 21. So I think I was on the Lofting Department for about two years. I finished my apprenticeship there, and I then worked there for another, probably another six months or so. So yes, I moved – I had the interview and he asked me if I knew what lofting was and I thought well, I had better ‘come clean’ and admit my ignorance, which I did. And I said,’ I am not sure, is it something to do with design?’ and he said, ‘Yes’. And what lofting is, is full-scale layout design.
And, you draw the aircraft profiles – it was on sheets of aluminium, usually eight by four, sometimes smaller but usually eight by four. And they were finished one side in a matte duck egg blue. And you drew on them with a flat rivet – it went into a pencil holder. And you flattened the rivet out to a chisel point or a screwdriver and it made a grey mark – an indelible grey mark on the blue paint. So you would lay out the aircraft contours and that was quite fascinating actually, as that was full-scale.