Ivan Yates

Engineer who specialised in designing supersonic aircraft
22 April 1929 2 August 2015

Ivan Yates, who has died aged 86, was the chief project engineer of the ill-fated TSR-2 aircraft and rose to become the Chief Executive of British Aerospace.

In 1957, Yates was made responsible for the aerodynamic work which was to become the basis of the TSR-2. At the time, the long-range supersonic strike bomber was the most complex and advanced military aircraft ever built in Britain. The project had been designed and built with such innovative methods that the eventual cost proved to be its downfall. Yates led the English Electric Aviation team working on the joint TSR-2 design before he was appointed the Chief Project Engineer.

The aircraft first flew in September 1964 but, eight months later in April 1965, it was cancelled by the then Labour government under James Callaghan.

Ivan Yates was born in Ipswich on April 22, 1929 and educated at the Collegiate School, Liverpool, before attending Liverpool University.

His thoughts as a schoolboy were almost entirely of aircraft and he was inquisitive with all things mechanical. After graduating from University with a first class honours in Mechanical Engineering, he joined the English Electric Company at Preston as a graduate apprentice.

Despite the cancellation of the TSR-2 he continued to work on the development of supersonic fighter aircraft at what had become the British Aircraft Corporation, first leading the development of the Jaguar aircraft, jointly developed with Dassault-Breguet of France, before transferring to manage the Tornado program. In the 1980s Yates was promoted to the board of what was now British Aerospace. His passion for design was undiminished and he championed the development of the next generation of fighter aircraft even taking a number of conceptual models he had hand built into the company boardroom. A version of one of these would become the Typhoon fighter.

He was heavily engaged with the negotiations leading to the funding of the EAP (Experimental Aircraft Programme), the demonstrator program that led to the Typhoon, with British industry and the Ministry of Defence each contributing 50% of the funding. The aircraft flew within three years of the contract signature and provided a spirited display at the 1986 Farnborough Air Show, only a few months after its first flight.

The Jaguar, Tornado and Eurofighter programs were the pioneers of European international collaboration and Yates was at the forefront of the development and management of these complex programs.

In 1982 he succeeded Sir Frederick Page as Chief Executive of British Aerospace Aircraft Group and in 1983 he was appointed Chief Executive of British Aerospace. He retired in December 1979. For his services to the aviation industry he was appointed CBE (1982).

In 1985 the Royal Aeronautical Society, of which she was a fellow, awarded him the Gold Medal, in recognition of his outstanding technical and managerial contribution to collaborative military projects. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1983. In 1991 he became a visiting professor in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.

With the arrival of the new millennium, he discovered a passion and creative talent for sculpture, inspired in part by his artistic surroundings at Juggs Corner, Sussex, where he lived happily for the last 20 years. Visits to the opera during the Glyndebourne season were frequent he had been a member since 1959 something he greatly enjoyed and was always delighted to share with family and friends.

He married Jennifer Holcombe in 1968. She survives him with their son and daughter.

from The Daily Telegraph
via Nobby Hall, Oct 2015