Hyperbola would like to pay a belated short tribute to Sir Raymond Lygo who briefly figured in the UK attempt to build a reusable spaceplane. Sir Raymond Lygo passed away in March at the age of 87.
Having briefly worked in the newspaper industry, Lygo worked his way up from the ranks to become a World War II fighter pilot and officer in the Royal Navy. Lygo went on to have a post war naval career in which he became Captain of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. Having been knighted the year previously, Lygo finally left the Navy in 1978 with the rank of Admiral.
Sir Raymond Lygo then joined British Aerospace (now known as BAE Systems) to lead its Dynamics missile division before being promoted to head the whole company. In that role he managed to gain government support for the launch of the now successful A320 passenger aircraft. More controversially, the plain speaking Lygo become involved in the argument about the future of the Westland helicoper company and whether it became part of a US or European firm.
During his time at Briish Aerospace, Lygo also did nuch to promote the HOTOL concept of a single-stage-to-orbit reusable spaceplane. In the end, for technical reasons and because of a lack of government support, that design never came to fruition, though it subsequently led to a technically more promising, if very slowly developed, spaceplane design called Skylon.
When proposals for endoatmospheric long-range hypersonic passenger transport aircraft briefly came into vogue, knowing that aerothermodynamically-generated total heat loads might make such flights impossible, Lygo suggested that leaving the atmosphere altogether for most of a flight would be a better option.
Sir Raymond Lygo officially retired in 1989 though for a time he became Chairman of the delivery company TNT Express. Sir Raymond Lygo married twice, the second time as a widower, and had three children by his first marriage. A memorial service for Sir Raymond Lygo is being held at Chichester Cathedral in June.