Rear Admiral Hilary Charles Nicholas 'Nick' Goodhart CB Legion of Merit FRAeS RN rtd (28 September 1919 – 9 April 2011) was an engineer and aviator who invented the mirror-sight deck landing system for aircraft carriers. He was also a world champion and record breaker in gliding.
Goodhart entered the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth in the Hawke Term in 1933. He then attended the Royal Naval Engineering College at Keyham, Devonport. He served as an engineering lieutenant, and saw action in the evacuation of Crete in 1941 on HMS Formidable which was hit by two 1,000 lb bombs. He then served on HMS Dido and saw more action escorting convoys to Malta and the assaults on Italy over the next two years.
He undertook pilot training in Canada in 1944 and joined the Fleet Air Arm. While flying in a Grumman Hellcat with 896 Naval Air Squadron from the carrier HMS Ameer off the coast of the Nicobar Islands, he ditched because of engine failure on 11 July 1945 and was picked up by the destroyer, HMS Vigilant.
He graduated from Empire Test Pilots' School at Cranfield in 1946 and later tested the turboprop Westland Wyvern fighter for acceptance by the Royal Navy for use on aircraft carriers. He survived five serious incidents including the implosion of the aircraft's canopy during a high speed dive. He then became senior pilot of 700 Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton before returning to test pilot duties at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Donibristle, Scotland; the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down, Wiltshire; and the US Naval Air Test Center, Maryland, USA. During his military career he flew over 50 types of aircraft.
Trials after 1945 by the Royal Navy revealed that the new jet aircraft had slow throttle responses and could not safely use the standard deck landing technique then in use. Even in peacetime carrier operations killed 20% of the aircrew. Goodhart therefore invented the mirror-sight deck landing system in 1951. The device was first introduced in the Royal Navy in 1954 and by the US Navy in 1955. It greatly increased the safety when landing on an aircraft carrier. There was also a saving in arrester gear units and barriers – Ark Royal needed only four wires and one (emergency only) barrier. The reduction in weight and the extra space that this conferred enabled more mess-decks to be fitted in, thus reducing congestion in living spaces. It was recorded that for US carriers, the landing accident rate fell by 80% from 35 per 10,000 landings in 1954 to 7 per 10,000 landings in 1957. The US Navy awarded him the Legion of Merit for his invention and he received an undisclosed sum from the Admiralty.
After a further spell at Yeovilton, Goodhart was posted to the air warfare department at the Admiralty and then at sea as the staff aviation officer to the flag officer aircraft carriers. He was promoted to Captain in 1962 and made project manager of the Sea Dart anti-aircraft missile programme. After a course at the Imperial Defence College in 1965, he became director of aircraft maintenance and repair in the Admiralty until 1968. He was then promoted to commodore and then rear-admiral and became director of defence operational requirements and finally military deputy to the head of defence sales. He was appointed Companion in The Most Honourable Order of the Bath in 1972 and he retired from the Royal Navy in 1973.
Goodhart joined Yorkshire Gliding Club in 1938, quickly going solo within a week. He was also at various times a member of Cambridge University Gliding Club and Lasham Gliding Society. He began gliding competitively, at first with his brother, Tony, winning the British Team Championship in 1950. In 1955 he climbed to 30,500 ft in USA and became the first British glider pilot to gain the Diamond Badge. Later in 1955 he broke the British National Altitude Record in a Schweizer SGS 1-23 in California climbing to 11,500 m (37,050 feet). He was a member of the British team at the World Championships from 1956 to 1972. In 1956 at Saint-Yan in France, he and Frank Foster won the World Gliding Two Seater Championship in a Slingsby Eagle. The US Soaring magazine noted that the only single seater to beat them was the winner, Paul MacCready. He finished in second place in the single seater World Championships in 1958 Leszno, Poland, and fourth in 1960 and 1972. He was British single-seater champion on three occasions (1962, 1967 & 1971), and in second place on four others. He finished first in the American Championships in 1955, though as foreigner could not be the US Champion.
At Lasham on 10 May 1959 he declared a goal of Portmoak in Scotland and achieved a record goal flight of 579.36 km in a Slingsby Skylark 3 at an average speed of 90.7 km/h (49.0 kn). This is still the UK 20 metre goal distance record and the speed record for a 500 km (310 mi) goal flight. During his gliding career he held eleven British records.
Goodhart set up the project in 1966 to develop a glider called Sigma to compete in the 1970 World Championship Open class. After problems during production and then with its Fowler flaps, the only prototype flew in 1971. In a modified form the Sigma is still flying.
He was awarded the Silver Medal by the Royal Aero Club in 1956. In 1972 he was award the Paul Tissandier Diploma by the FAI in 1972. This award recognizes "those who have served the cause of Aviation in general and Sporting Aviation in particular, by their work, initiative, devotion or in other ways".
Goodhart's team put in over 3,000 man-hours of effort developing the two seater Newbury Manflier project in an effort to win the Kremer prize for man-powered flight. The aircraft's two pilots were seventy feet apart, each in their own fuselage. However the team was beaten by Goodhart's old rival Paul MacCready with the Gossamer Condor's flight in 1977 and by the Gossamer Albatross for the first cross-Channel flight in 1979. The project was terminated soon after the first flights had been achieved in 1979 because the hangar and runway at Greenham Common were required for the US Air Force.
He was a consultant to Boeing (1973–1980) during which time the Royal Navy acquired a hydrofoil HMS Speedy and the RAF acquired its first Chinooks. He held directorships including at the Lancashire and Yorkshire Building Society and was a member at Lloyd's where he gained and lost large sums over a period of twenty years. He was elected Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London. He finished 35th of 350 in the 1951 Monte Carlo Rally. Simon Hoggart is married to his step-daughter and claimed that Goodhart also invented the box junction but was uncredited. He proposed a method of suppressing hurricanes during their formation. His proposal involved covering 100 km2 of ocean with a reflective material using four aircraft, each with a 2 km wingspan. He was persuaded it would not work, so he switched the concept to putting out forest fires. At the age of 88 he raised funds for a hospice near Exeter by abseiling down Cullompton church.
- "Obituaries", The Times, 14 April 2011: 50
- "Obituaries", Daily Telegraph, 23 April 2011, retrieved 23 April 2011.
- Sailplane & Gliding Interview with Nick Goodhart April/May 2010.
- Diagram of mirror landing system
- Kahn, Walter (June/July 2011). Sailplane & Gliding: 70.
- Australian Gliding magazine March 1955
- Australian Gliding magazine Nov 1955
- Soaring magazine
- History of Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association
- British Gliding Association's list of British records
- Simon Grant
- Noonan, Brendan (April 2000). "What's in a Name?". Best's Review.
- Hoggart, Simon (16 April 2011), "Simon Hoggart's week", The Guardian
- Hurricane Busters
- Daily Telegraph" Deaths Announcements 15 April 2011