Aero Engineer who was involved in the development of the Lightning, the RAFs first Mach 2 fighter.
Alec Atkin, CBE, aeronautical engineer and aerospace executive, was born on 26 April 1925. He died on 2 July 2009, aged 84
In a 30-year
career in the aircraft industry which began in 1950 with English Electric and
continued through amalgamations and nationalization with its successor companies
the British Aircraft Corporation. (BAC) and British Aerospace (BAe), Alec Atkin
was involved in both aircraft development and marketing.
As head of English Electric's flight test department in the 1950s he was involved in the development of the remarkable P1, which went on to enter RAF service as the UK's (and Europe's) first Mach 2 fighter, the Lightning. Later in his career he went on to the export side of the business and, after successfully selling the Lightning to the kingdoms of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, went on to negotiate what was then the largest export contract for the UK, with Saudi Arabia. He ended his career as managing director marketing, Aircraft Group, British Aerospace.
Alec Field Atkin was born in a two-up two-down in Hull in 1925, the son of a "tinner" who beat metal in an aircraft factory by day and in his spare time made pots and pans. Educated at Riley High School, he left at 15 to start work as an apprentice at Blackburn Aircraft in Hull. He could see this was a dead end and started studying at night school to enter Hull Technical College where he took a diploma in aeronautical engineering. He was then sent to English Electric in Preston, Lancashire, on a wartime emergency works order. By the time he arrived, the war in Europe was over and he resumed his education, taking a first-class degree in mathematics at University College, Hull (soon afterwards to gain its charter as Hull University).
In 1950 he returned to English Electric as an aerodynamicist. This little company had already flown the prototype of its remarkable Canberra jet bomber, the brainchild of W. E. W. Petter, which was to set a world altitude record for an air-breathing aircraft of 70,310ft in 1957. English Electric was about to embark on another first for the RAF: its first supersonic jet fighter. Petter's team produced a revolutionary design which was eventually to exceed Mach 2. As deputy chief aerodynamicist from 1954, head of experimental dynamics from 1957 and project manager from 1959, Atkin was involved in all the developments.
During the 1960s he was increasingly involved in the commercial side of BAC's and then BAe's operations, spending a good deal of time in Saudi Arabia where he supervised the construction of what amounted to small towns of accommodation units for the hundreds of UK staff who worked there. It was the beginning of several decades of partnership between BAe and the Saudi Government. For his contribution to British exports Atkin was appointed OBE In 1969 and advanced to CBE in 1978.
After retiring from BAe in 1982, Atkin moved with his second wife, Wendy, to Guernsey. An avid sailor (he had been commodore of the Ribble Cruising Club in the 1960s), he had latterly owned a motor cruiser, Fair Lady II, which he and his family much enjoyed.
Atkin's first marriage in 1948 to Nora was dissolved in 1932; his second was dissolved in 1993. In 2006 he married his third wife, Lyn. She survives him, with a son and daughter from his first marriage and an adopted son from his second. Another son predeceased him.
Thanks to Clive Russell for the newspaper article