The Farnborough Show
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Nov 1954, p. 70-75
McGregor, Gordon R., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A description of one of the world's great Trade Fairs: The Farnborough Show. The Farnborough Air Display, with some history. Farnborough itself. Britain's aircraft industry. Successive Farnborough Shows providing an accurate history of post-war aero engine development and giving what is probably a clear indication of the future trends in engine design. A look at some of those developments. The ducted fan, or by-pass engine, which has not yet appeared at Farnborough. Wing design. What might be seen at next year's show. The Farnborough Show as an institution and a spectacle.
Date of Original
18 Nov 1954
Language of Item
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
An address by GORDON R. McGREGOR, ESQ. President, Trans-Canada Air Lines
Thursday, November 18th, 1954
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. James H. Joyce.

MR. JOYCE: We are delighted to welcome as our speaker today, Mr. Gordon R. McGregor, O.B.E., D.F.C., President of Trans-Canada Air Lines.

Born in Montreal 53 years ago, Mr. McGregor studied Engineering at McGill University. His interest in aviation dates back to 1932 when he became a flying student at Kingston Flying Club. Three years later he won the Webster Trophy, annually presented to the best amateur pilot in Canada. He won it again in 1936 and in 1938.

A year before the Second World War broke out, Mr. McGregor joined No. 115 Auxiliary Squadron, R.C.A.F. and in 1939 he left his position with the Bell Telephone Company at Montreal to go on active service.

He had a distinguished war record, being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts during the Battle of Britain. During that crucial period, he destroyed five Nazi aircraft and shared credit in destroying a sixth.

He was also awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1943, the Order of Orange Nassau by the Netherlands, the French Croix de Guerre and the Czechoslovakian War Cross.

Mr. McGregor joined T.C.A. in 1945 as general traffic manager and was appointed president on February 2, 1948. His contribution to the study of traffic problems confronting the air transport industry earned for him the Chairmanship of the International Air Transport Traffic Conference held in Brazil in 1947. In 1949 he was elected a member of the Executive Committee of the I.A.T.A. and in the fall of 1952 was elected president of that organization.

Mr. McGregor will speak to us on "The Farnborough Show", an outstanding annual British air show from which he has just recently returned.

MR. McGREGOR: Your invitation to speak to you today on the Farnborough Air Show is very much appreciated, but the subject was a matter of some concern, because what has come to be known as THE SHOW is of absorbing interest to aviation people, but even now in spite of its world-wide reputation, may not be of general interest.

With that word of warning, I will do my best to describe what in reality is one of the world's great Trade Fairs. Any talk on the Farnborough Air Display (to give it its official title) should include at least a brief historical sketch.

Farnborough itself is one of the oldest purely military aerodromes in the United Kingdom. It has been the home of the Royal Aircraft Establishment since the very beginning of that organization, which was started when free balloons were regarded as a military weapon.

At Farnborough there has been done all the research, development, experiment and proving work on "flying machines" sponsored by the Royal Air Force but not contracted for by individual manufacturers.

Several aircraft types, such as the BE-2C used in the 14-18 War were born at Farnborough.

The Establishment has figured prominently in the Press recently as the organization entrusted with the difficult and exacting task of carrying out the investigation of the Comet accidents. That investigation is undoubtedly the most thorough of its kind ever conducted. It involved detailed technical examination of the thousands of component parts recovered from the sea off Elba, and further, a tank was built in which a whole Comet aircraft was submerged, with its wings protruding through glanded apertures in the sides of the tank. The interior of the fuselage was subjected to varying hydraulic pressures to simulate the changing effects of cabin pressurization during flight, while at the same time the wings were mechanically flexed to reproduce what is technically known as "gust loading."

By this means it was possible to produce in minutes the same effects on the structure of the aircraft as would result from hours of flying, and as was to be expected, incipient structural failures were produced which very closely resembled the nature of the failure which was diagnosed from the recovered parts of the aircraft lost near Elba.

Immediately after the last war, driven by urgency, and poverty, Britain attempted to regain a place in the manufacture of civil aircraft by modifying to commercial use heavy bomber types. This policy produced such uneconomic passenger aircraft as the Lancastria and the Tudor.

While Britain had excelled in fighter design and production during the War, and had held her own in bomber design and production, the transport field had been sadly neglected.

As a result, her aircraft industry soon found itself in serious difficulty, with (a) its wartime military designs obsolescent, (b) commercial versions of bombers lacking in passenger appeal and expensive to operate, (c) her own national airlines purchasing U.S.-built aircraft which were basically modern military transports.

The British aviation industry realized that its chief competitor had a long head start, and that drastic and united action was called for. The Society of British Aircraft Constructors, membership of which includes virtually every firm in Great Britain which manufactures anything connected with aviation, conceived and implemented the idea of the Farnborough Air Display.

Since Britain maintains more aero engine manufacturing companies and many more airframe builders than the very much larger United States, competition among them is extremely keen, yet from the standpoint of the outsider at least, all these differences are submerged in the annual co-operative effort which is Farnborough. The show lasts for only five days, only three of which are open to the public, yet the annual attendance is in the order of 400,000.

Successive Farnborough Shows provide an accurate history of post-war aero engine development and give what is probably a clear indication of the future trends in engine design.

The gasoline piston engine, which for nearly half a century has been the motive power of virtually every aircraft, appears less and less frequently at Farnborough.

All the larger propeller-driven aircraft are powered with turbo-propeller engines, which as you know have points of similarity with the turbo-jet engine, but are basically different in principle.

The turbo, or full jet engine, this year, was installed in all the operational military aircraft at the Show-of course the same engine type was in the Comet Mark 11 and Comet Mark 111.

An engine which has not yet appeared at Farnborough, but which will do so, and which in the opinion of many authorities has a major part to play in future civil aviation, is the ducted fan, or by-pass engine. One school of thought is convinced that we will not see many more new aircraft designed around piston engines, that the turbo-propeller engine will be the popular power plant in civil and military transport types designed for air speeds up to 450 m.p.h., with the by-pass engine in a wide range of types designed for air speeds between 450 and 550 m.p.h., and that commercial use of the full jet engine will be confined to aircraft of designed speeds in excess of 550 m.p.h.--a speed beyond which it will probably be uneconomical to operate except over long routes.

Again, both on the military and civil sides, the Farnborough displays in the past have, year by year, plotted the course of the development of the modern aeroplane and, because aircraft prototypes appear at Farnborough long before they are ready for regular use, the Show has proved to be an accurate barometer of future trends.

The aircraft wing is, of course, the major factor in any aircraft design. Its lift efficiency affects the load which the aircraft can carry. Its form, both in plane and in section, sets limits on the maximum speed of the aircraft, and to some extent its range, since most fuel is stored in the wing.

In five short years we have seen wing design go from the straight leading edge and comparatively thick section through moderate sweep back to the delta wing, and beyond to the extreme sweep back, and beyond that again, to the two and even three angles of sweepback.

Currently, the wing section has become thinner, and thinner, as the design speeds have increased, and the sweepback principle has extended to the leading edges of the fine and the horizontal tail surfaces.

Even with the flat and understandable refusal of the British air authorities to have the absolute last word appear at Farnborough, it has consistently been the case that what appears at Farnborough one year as a surprise prototype, is in production three or four years later.

It would not surprise me, although it would be a minor miracle, to see the Vickers 1000 in next year's Farnborough display.

That aircraft will be capable of taking off from Toronto at a reasonable hour in the morning, flying 100 passengers to London, England and bringing 100 passengers back in time for late dinner, leaving more than the required nine hours out of the twenty-four on the ground at home base for between flight inspection and maintenance.

Again in this case it seems reasonable to hope that by 1959 or 1960 a civil version of it will be available to the airlines and then it should be no more difficult or unusual to spend a weekend in London than it now is to spend one in New York.

I have talked a good deal about some technical features of the products that are to be seen at Farnborough, but setting aside its technical interest, it is a most noteworthy achievement as an institution and a spectacle.

It is even more noteworthy as a show room of a great industry and while it is quite possible that no customer ever actually bought an aircraft at Farnborough, it is quite certain that what was seen at Farnborough both by the representatives of the world's Air Forces and the world's airlines, eventually produced orders which were impressive, even in an industry where the price tag on each article may be anywhere from $700,000 to $2,000,000.

It is interesting to talk about Farnborough to British manufacturers. Each regards the date of the Farnborough Show as a deadline which he must meet if his latest product is to go on display. Each will claim that meeting that deadline has disrupted the even functioning of his organization. Yet I think none will deny that the incentive of Farnborough has played a major part in bringing the British aircraft industry in ten years, from the most unhappy position which I described at the outset of this talk, to one of world prominence.

THANKS OF THE MEETNG were expressed by Mr. Tracy Lloyd, a Past President of the Club.

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The Farnborough Show

A description of one of the world's great Trade Fairs: The Farnborough Show. The Farnborough Air Display, with some history. Farnborough itself. Britain's aircraft industry. Successive Farnborough Shows providing an accurate history of post-war aero engine development and giving what is probably a clear indication of the future trends in engine design. A look at some of those developments. The ducted fan, or by-pass engine, which has not yet appeared at Farnborough. Wing design. What might be seen at next year's show. The Farnborough Show as an institution and a spectacle.