It is with great sadness that we have learned of the Passing of Stewart Hawkins one of the projects founder members just before Christmas. I only met Stu a few times so I think its best to leave the comments to Matt Painter who knew him a lot longer than me.
If I scroll all the way to the top of my email folder for this project the first person that contacted me was Stu (aka, MrBlueSky on the forums), 6thApril 2011. He was asking on the Flypast magazine forum for artists to get involved with promotional material for the project. I expected a lot of drawings and blueprints to be available and I loved the idea of making a very accurate Whirly in 3D. Little did I know how involved I’d get and how little there was to work from.
At the time it felt like there wasn’t an avenue of research he hadn’t already mined. If you search online for “Westland Whirlwind” and you find yourself in a forum there’s a very good chance you’d come across MrBlueSky.
We all spent many hours and days hunting through ebay with Stu, looking over listings for cockpit dials and instruments. Stu had already done a lot of the work in identifying the instruments and much of the work in our Dropbox database is his. There are still one or two that we still haven’t identified – and he had asked some people that would really know, Alan Hulme in particular.
Prior to this project even beginning, he had visited archivist (at the time) Fred Ballam at Westlands quite a number of times and then later followed that up with Dave Gibbings (MBE) who took over that role with Fred’s passing. I would always get a call from Stu after he’d spoken with Dave, letting me know of any new goings on or promising leads.
He was of course there with Mike Eastman and Matt Bearman rifling through Westland’s archive. Without those visits the scale wind tunnel drawing that has been so important to the project and Gunnar’s CAD wouldn’t have been found.
Stu arranged the visit to the Rolls-Royce plant in Derby so that we could 3D scan the sole remaining Peregrine along with Mike. Sadly, he couldn’t make that due to work, but I know he avoided long drives due to health.
He arranged borrowing the scale wind tunnel model and built a custom crate so it could be shipped to Hertfordshire University for 3D scanning safely.
All of what we have from Messier-Dowty is down to Stu’s badgering of the poor people there for landing gear drawings. He was pretty sure they got sick of him after a bit and he was adamant they still had more!
He recalled an odd conversation he’d had with Fred Ballam one time that had me traipsing down to a tiny museum near St Austell to look at a lump of cast aluminium that we’re still not sure what it’s from – definitely not Whirly though.
Honestly this lot isn’t even the half of it, so many dead ends and minor successes. Thankfully I still have mountains of emails as a record of most of this. As he used to say, he had forgotten more about the Whirlwind than he could remember.
He had printed out one of my test 3D renders of two cartoon Whirlwinds and stuck it to his car body repair workshop wall and he’d always tell me how customers would comment on it and then of course fill them in on the Whirly and the project, making sure everyone that left knew all about it.
I think most of us who knew Stu will remember the long phone calls, he always had a few good stories to tell and bags of enthusiasm for the project.
I’ll miss those long phone calls and his friendship most of all.