Archive for August, 2010

Colin Campbell Mitchell and the Steam Catapult

August 7, 2010

Introducing another of our kirkyards celebrities, the following is an extract from an article on the history of assisted launching of aircraft by Herbert M. Friedman and Ada Kera Friedman on the website http://www.americanheritage.com:-

“The hydraulic catapult had reached its limit, but the demand for power had not. The Grumman F9F Cougar, the standard Navy fighter at the time of the explosion, weighed 21,000 pounds fully loaded. The Douglas A-3 Skywarrior, which had first flown the year before, would reach a gross weight of 82,000 pounds, well beyond the capacity of any conceivable hydraulic catapult. Fortunately, the Royal Navy had long recognized the limitations of hydraulic catapults, and by 1950 Comdr. Colin C. Mitchell had designed and built an entirely new type of launcher, based on one of the Industrial Revolution’s oldest motive fluids. Mitchell’s steam catapult, as refined over the next five decades, can still be seen aboard today’s Navy carriers.”

(Only now, after over half a century is it being superceded by electro-magnetic systems.)

Amazingly and only recently discovered (at least by me) , Colin Campbell Mitchell is buried in Gogar Kirkyard; although the local authority in its wisdom and with all due lack of respect has laid his stone down.

Like Thomas Grainger  (and unlike sculptor Pittendrigh MacGillivary, another of our residents, of whom more anon) he was a local lad (from Corstorphine). So perhaps local knowledge can add something to his story?

Slightly more dramatic, I include a picture I took recently at East Fortune Air Museum of a Sea Hawk which, in its day, (the 1950’s), would have been regularly launched by Colin Mitchell’s catapults. It is displayed at the museum with wings folded as would have been the case when stored under decks.

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