Slide Rule concentrates on Nevil Shute's work in aviation, ending in when he left the industry. The book begins with details of Shute's childhood and upbringing, his school years, events in the Easter Dublin Rising , where his father was Secretary to the Post Office in Ireland, and service during World War I. Shute came into contact with aircraft while a student at Oxford , when he worked at the de Havilland aircraft factory during the vacations. The rest of the book is divided into two parts. The first is about Shute's experiences working on the R airship project at Vickers.
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Slide Rule by Nevil Shute. Nevil Shute best describes this autobiography in his own words: "Most of my adult life, perhaps all the worthwhile part of it, has been spent messing about with airplanes. For 30 years there was a period when airplanes would fly when you wanted them to, but there were still fresh things to be learned on every flight, a period when airplanes were small and so easily built t Nevil Shute best describes this autobiography in his own words: "Most of my adult life, perhaps all the worthwhile part of it, has been spent messing about with airplanes.
For 30 years there was a period when airplanes would fly when you wanted them to, but there were still fresh things to be learned on every flight, a period when airplanes were small and so easily built that experiments were cheap and new designs could fly within six months of the first glimmer in the mind of the designer. I count myself lucky that that fleeting period coincided with my youth and my young manhood, and that I had a part in it.
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More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Slide Rule. Mar 06, David Dennington rated it really liked it. He was lucky in that he had wonderful parents. He was made fun of at his school in Hammersmith, not only by his school mates, but by his teachers, too. Life was an unbearable misery and he could not take it.
So, he played truant, rode the trains or sat on railways stations observing the hubbub. Later, he rode into Kensington and spent hours in the British Museum studying the engineering exhibits like trains and planes.
Maybe Fate was smiling upon him. In , Nevil and his family were sent to Ireland. Nevil described how happy he and his brother, Fred, had been. But this was short-lived.
Nevil happened to be standing on Sackville Street in Dublin, near the post office, when all hell broke loose; the armed Irish uprising had begun. The rebels rushed into the post office and took it over. As a young lad of seventeen, Nevil acted as a stretcher bearer during those dangerous hours. He later received a commendation for his bravery. Two years on, his brother, who Nevil said was the real literary one, was dying from shell wounds and gangrene inflicted at the Front in France.
His mother and father had rushed to his bedside. Nevil knew it was just a matter of time before he, too, was sent to France to die—it was the fate of all young men. They expected it. After being called up and trained for combat, he was sent to the Isle of Grain for a time and, fortunately for him and for us , the war ended and he was spared.
He said it was a pleasant experience, but his vacation time was even better, since he went to work for DeHavillands for no pay! There, he met important people who would shape his life and teach him about aeroplane design and flying.
He was based at first in Crayford, Kent, where he put his team together and worked on initial design calculations. He used to ride horses in Petts Wood in the early mornings on the common before going to work. I know that beautiful area—I once lived there with my own family. As part of his research bear in mind he knew nothing about airship design , Nevil studied the spectacular Airship R38 disaster of which occurred over the River Humber and killed most of the American and British crewmen aboard as that ship broke in two.
His thoughts and writings on this tragic event were vital and for my own book. Cardington was desperate not to repeat previous mistakes. As a consequence and understandably, they designed for strength, but this tended to make their creation heavier. It was a delicate balance and maddening. He highlighted what happens when government gets into the mix in aviation development and experimental flight. The Challenger Disaster might be pointed to as a modern day example.
Nevil describes how in , Lord Thomson set up the new British Airship Programme, whereby two teams, one private and one government, would work in competition. When the private enterprise ship, R , was ready and tested, it only remained for her to make a return flight to Canada.
Later, the government ship, R , was to make a voyage to India with Thomson on board. It was found that R was too heavy, while R adequately met contract requirements. The government team at Cardington made backdoor representations to the private team at Vickers to postpone their voyage.
This was high stakes now. After being treated so badly by the government team for four years, Nevil and his bosses, Barnes Wallis and Dennis Burney, refused. They could hardly be expected to bail the other team out. So, in July of , they slipped from the mast and set off for Canada. The private Vickers team was lucky and made it to Canada and back while R was being cut in half so that an extra gas bag could be inserted to get her precious extra lift.
On October 4th, , R took off in a storm bound for India. Thomson had his schedule, which could not be delayed. She crashed on a hillside in Beauvais, the ignition of six million cubic feet of hydrogen lighting up the French countryside for miles.
All but six were killed, including Thomson himself. After that disaster, there was an inquiry of course. And like most government inquiries, no one was found guilty of anything. The only people left in Britain qualified enough to testify were members of the Vickers team. The government did not ask them to testify, or even to attend the massive state funeral in London. Eyes tired, I put the book aside and looked out the window. We were flying along the St. Lawrence Seaway, Canada.
I peered down at the Laurentian Mountains in the province of Quebec and marveled at the thought of how brave those men were when they flew just above the water down there on that Thursday, July 31, of They had flown over the majestic steamships Duchess of Bedford and Empress of Scotland , with their stately dark blue hulls and white topsides—with thousands cheering wildly up at them from their decks.
They had beat against a headwind making way at about 36 knots. During this leg of the voyage they experienced two severe problems, although Nevil seems to rather play it down in his stiff-upper-lip account. The first was due to turbulent air flowing down from the Saguenay River Valley that ran between 4, foot mountains into the St. It caused R to roll wildly and made for panicked moments on board. The crewmen in their engine cars signaled to say they had spotted severe damage to the cover on the tail sections.
The ship was maneuvered to a calm area near an island on the opposite shore where the riggers precariously clambered around on the tail fins, high above the water, making repairs. After patching her up temporarily, they set off again. The second incident occurred quite unnecessarily, through poor judgement, according to Nevil.
While crawling around on the roof, the second officer and some riggers eyed a dangerous thunderstorm looming on the horizon. Major Scott, the most senior officer, ordered them to fly directly through it, despite the protestations of the captain. Scott had decided time was of the essence—suicide for an airship! As they entered the swirling black mass, the ship went from feet up to feet in a matter of seconds.
Slide Rule by Nevil Shute
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Nevil Shute was a power and a pioneer in the world of flying long before he began to write the stories that made him a bestselling novelist. This autobiography charts Shute's path from childhood to his career as a gifted aeronautical engineer working at the forefront of the technological experimentation of the s and 30s. The inspiration for many of the themes and concerns of Shute's novels can be identified in this enjoyable and enlightening memoir. Nevil Shute was born on 17 January in Ealing, London. He worked as an aeronautical engineer and published his first novel, Marazan, in In he married Frances Mary Heaton and they went on to have two daughters.
Slide Rule: The Autobiography of an Engineer