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The University of Southampton

Celebrating the life of Ian Cheeseman 1926 – 2011

Published: 13 January 2012Origin: Engineering
Ian Clifford Cheeseman 1926 – 2011

Ian Cheeseman, former head of the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics at the University of Southampton sadly passed away on Christmas Eve 2011. His former colleague Simon Newman has written the following biography to celebrate Ian's life.

NGTE vehicle

Ian Cheeseman was born in Andover, Hampshire in 1926. His father was a grocer but Ian's career moved in entirely different directions. Being particularly adept at Mathematics and Science, he went up to University at Imperial College, London to read Mathematics. He pursued his studies gaining his doctorate in atomic physics. This brought him into a secret world where he demonstrated his curiosity when analysing the relationship between the detonation flow behaviour and the yield. This turned out to be very simple and his investigative mind came into play many times during his career. His work within the rotary wing world started when he joined the National Gas Turbine Establishment at Pyestock, close to the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, Hampshire.

He worked on different projects but, probably, the most famous was the blown cylinder rotor which had its lift varied by means of blowing through slots in the cylindrical rotor blades. This permitted a suitably designed aircraft to take off and land vertically using this rotor, but avoid advancing/retreating blade lift dissymmetry when moving into forward flight. By shutting off the blowing the aircraft could be supported by the wings whilst the rotor(s) slowed to a halt and stowed during flight. The process was reversed for the landing phase. To test the principle, a moving rig was built around a bus chassis with an instrumented tower at the rear to which was fitted the rotor system. Powered by a Rolls Royce Avon engine, the rotor was turned via a transmission system whilst forward propulsion was achieved via adjustable air scoops behind the rear wheels allowing the vehicle to thunder up and down the main runway at Farnborough with startling acceleration and braking!

He joined the Aeronautics Department at the University of Southampton where he became Westland Professor of Helicopter Engineering. He supervised many students for their doctorate and taught at undergraduate and post graduate level. He had a commanding style of lecturing when sleep was not possible. He had an endearing habit of using the phrase "in fact" relentlessly. On one occasion a student kept a count during a lecture lasting 50 minutes. He gave up after 150!

During his time at the University, in 1976 he organised the inaugural European Rotorcraft Forum. This annual event continues to this day and is an important entry in the helicopter calendar. It has been held in many countries since.

On retiring from the University he became a Director of Stewart Hughes Ltd. a local business emerging from the University developing vibration monitoring technology for the aerospace industry.

He finally retired to Dorset, near Blandford Forum, where he enjoyed his time with his wife Margaret and the family, Angela, Richard and Jeanette.

Amongst his outside interests was breeding Wire Haired Fox terriers and a love of the outside world which he enjoyed with his family.

His funeral took place on January 6th 2012 at the parish church near his home.

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