Our visiting speaker this week was Barry Thomlinson who told the history of the Royal Aircraft Establishment Bedford which was established in 1950 after the UK government decided in 1944 that new national aeronautical research facilities were required. Bedford was chosen as the most appropriate site for reasons including the availability of electrical power to drive the new wind tunnels, easy access to supersonic flying areas, and the existence of a skilled work force.
Five world-class wind tunnels were built, on the Twinwoods site just outside Bedford, to enable tests at low speeds and also at high Mach numbers. Bedford’s Thurleigh airfield, a former USAAF bomber base, was also re-built with a new main runway and other specialised research facilities, including naval catapults. From 1952, when the first wind tunnel starting running, to 2001, when the government re-organised defence aeronautical research, RAE Bedford was at the forefront of research in many fields, including operating jet aircraft from carriers, automatic landing in fog, the flying behaviour of vertical take off and landing aircraft, and the best configuration for the Concorde supersonic transport. To many working in the field, RAE Bedford was known as a centre of world wide aeronautical excellence.
(text from the Bedford Aeronautical Heritage Group’s website http://www.bahg.org.uk)
The RAE “house” magazine was published monthly from March 1948 to the final (bi-monthly) issue of September/October 1991, when RAE ceased to exist, having transitioned to the Defence Research Agency. BAHG holds a complete set of RAE News in its archive. http://bahg.org.uk