Luke Brooke worked with Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Projects division (“The Skunk Works”) on their Hybrid Air Vehicle programme in the 1990s, developing designs, operational concepts and plans for a range of heavy lift cargo carrying hybrid air vehicles (those both using buoyant lift and aerodynamic lift). A number of novel unproven concepts and technologies were developed during this programme, which included the multi-lobe lifting body form hull, hull mounted vectored thrust propulsors, and the hover pad landing provisions – these known as the Air Cushion Landing System, or ACLS. As the design developed and the project progressed, Lockheed decided to build a proof of concept demonstrator for this system, to trial these concepts, and to provide baseline data, both flight performance and technical information, and direct information regarding feasible timescales and costs.

Luke was the senior external contractor on the envelope/hull fabric structure aspects of this project, and responsible for coordination between the LM design team, the UK-based FE analysis and patterning effort undertaken by Tensys, and the envelope manufacturer, TCOM LP. Luke was also a partner in the UK-based ACLS Ltd., which designed and built the hover landing pads, so was heavily involved in the design and integration of these systems, their physical and functional interfaces, and the planning and scheduling of all the aspects of the associated efforts.

By working with Luke, the client was able to:

  • Define and identify the concepts and technologies to be demonstrated and tested.

  • Develop a plan and schedule to meet the LM management objectives.

  • Develop a simplified and optimised design to meet the objectives and time constraints, within a very short period.

  • Define interfaces for the craft.

  • Produce baseline concept definitions and specifications for sub-contractors, allowing work to start immediately.

  • Maintain clear liaison and communication between sub-contractors, allowing very rapid design and manufacture of components and sub-systems.

  • Produce all sub-systems and components within the required timescale.

  • Achieve rapid and successful assembly and integration of the craft.

  • Undertake flight testing within the desired timescale.

Among the ‘firsts’ for this demonstrator effort were:

  • An operational ACLS that permitted an LTA vehicle to taxi under control.

  • The flight of an LTA vehicle with a closed loop auto-stabilisation.

  • The flight of a man carrying hybrid air vehicle.

The vehicle completed its flight test programme successfully, and is retained by LM as a demonstration and marketing tool.