Kingston Aviation
Name: Gordon Jefferson
Transcript: 14 – The Resident Technical Officer

Gordon here describes the work of the RTO – the Resident Technical Officer who was the representative of the Ministry based with the company. This had been a ‘matey’ relationship until the 1970s when government decided to toughen up the role.

I just want to come back to the term which you used which was R.T.O.


Can you explain what that is and what the significance of that was for the Company.

Yes the R.T.O. means Resident Technical Officer. And in those days, which is way back, the Resident Technical Officer had an office in the Design Department. And he was constantly in touch with Sir Sydney and other senior people because he was, in fact, the representative of the Government and responsible for giving us the OK to carry out any testing. And from – my memory- everything that meant a modification or anything like that was always discussed with him and he would be very well aware of exactly what happened. And of course giving us permission to fly their airplanes. Because once we’d made the aeroplane and sold them to the Government, he was really responsible.

Because then the aircraft became theirs.

Became theirs of course, became Government owned. And if we wanted to do a demonstration flight we had to actually borrow the aeroplane from them which meant that we had to insure it. So there was a certain amount of paperwork to do to make certain that if we were unfortunate enough in having an accident and we bent a few million quid’s worth of – well it wasn’t million in those days- hundreds of thousands of quid’s worth of aeroplane and we weren’t going to be lumbered with the bill. We’d got it covered, but we had to cover it of course.

But that was what he was, he was the Resident Technical Officer. And the relationship between this particular Resident Technical Officer and ourselves was absolutely unbelievable. He was really like one of our – one of the chaps in the team. And I don’t think, later on, this was appreciated too much because actually he was the R.T.O. for many, many years, much longer than they would normally have an R.T.O.

And it was probably about the time that Sir Sydney died [1966] that this R.T.O. came to retirement. And then after that we had different R.T.O.s, all of whom were very good. But as I mentioned when the Hawk contract was let [early 1970s] and the R.T.O. was towards the end of his career, as always took the minutes and wrote them as we had the meeting. Which was jolly good because we used to know exactly what we were all saying and doing and making certain that they made good sense. The new boss in the Ministry told him that he was not to do that anymore. Inferring that the old days of all good pals was gone, so you could forget it, now they were really getting down to it.

That didn’t worry us in the slightest actually because we had a jolly good aeroplane and we were jolly lucky we had no main snags with it at all. There was more suspicion between the two parties. I think it was a Government edict, if you like, to toughen up the relationship between the supplier and the Government who was obviously handing out huge sums of money and they wanted to be damn certain they were getting their answer. And as far as I am concerned they were doing fine but they didn’t necessarily believe that.