Peter R. Payne
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Peter Rowland Payne

6 September 1927 -- 10 December 1997

A Memorial to an Engineer

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Peter R. Payne, P.E., F.R.Ae.S

Your life has probably been touched by the engineering work of Peter Payne -- probably not directly, but certainly indirectly. Much of his work was the type of basic research that could be, and was, applied to many fields. A brief listing of the major types of work where Peter was either part of the engineering team, or did the work himself, shows the breadth and depth of his impact.

  • Amphibious Tracked Vehicles
  • Ejection systems for supersonic aircraft
  • External aircraft antennas
  • Ground effect vehicles
  • Helicopters and Autogyros
  • High-speed boats: monohull, catamaran, foil supported
  • Anthropomorphic dynamic test mannequins (now called "crash test dummies")
  • Model Airplanes
  • Non-lethal projectiles for firearms (so-called "rubber" bullets)
  • Parachutes
  • Snowmobiles
  • Water pulse-jet engines

As well as his interests in engineering and the sciences, Peter was interested in classical music, a wide variety of literature, history, and he loved to sing.

Peter R. Payne was a superb engineer. His work is well known around the world. He attended the College of Aeronautical Engineering in London; was a registered Professional Engineer in Canada; and a Chartered Engineer in England. He was a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. His professional reputation was built on innovative and practical solutions, delivered quickly, and backed up with sound mathematical theory. He made major contributions to the sciences of aerodynamics, biodynamics, and hydrodynamics. He was the principal in several different companies. He was my father.

High Speed Boats

The most widely known and applied result of Peter's recent marine engineering and research is the type of ship hull called the Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull, or SWATH ship. The SWATH design offers exceptional stability in most sea states, especially at low to moderate speeds. It also permits higher speeds than more conventional hull forms in a given sea state. The genesis of the SWATH design dates to the Favorable Interference Catamaran (FICAT) he developed in the mid-1960's. (I helped lay up the wood and fiberglass for the prototype hulls, in our garage.) The FICAT design evolved with research from a supercritical displacement hull, to a planing hull version, and then to the semi-submerged SWATH design. SWATH designs are now in use and under construction all around the world. Some users are shown in the list below.

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute is building a 114 foot SWATH design ship as a control and support vessel for the Tiburon remotely operated deep diving research vehicle. The main benefits are high stability in bad weather, and ample space for researchers to stay on board for extended missions.
  • Radisson Seven Seas Cruises launched the 20,000 ton ssc Radisson Diamond luxury cruise ship in 1992. The SWATH design reduces pitch and roll -- and passenger discomfort and motion sickness -- and allows guest accommodations equal to that of a much larger conventional vessel.
  • Several companies are building SWATH design ships for use as passenger ferries in various locations.
  • Trico Marine Services is building and operating a SWATH design crew boat for Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras). This will be used to transport people to and from Petrobras oil drilling platforms of the Brazilian coast.
  • United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) survey and research ships, including the R/V Halcyon. A quote from their WWW page says: "A SWATH is unlike other boats in its ability to work in rough waters that would probably send conventional research vessels of the same size back to port. ... Research operations with a SWATH vessel can be conducted as scheduled without much concern about weather."
  • United States Navy Victorious (T-AGOS 19) class and the larger Impeccable (T-AGOS 23) class ocean surveillance ships are SWATH types, as is the Sea Shadow "stealth" ship test bed.

Another type of Payne high speed boat achieves results in a different way. The SeaKnife hull form is a supercritical planing hull that cuts through waves instead of riding over them. This reduces the vertical pounding accelerations typical of conventional planing hulls by a factor of more than ten. There are a number of SeaKnife boats in operation and on the drawing boards. Designs include sport and racing boats, and military patrol boats. Another planing hull form is the WaveStrider, which has been produced as a 24-foot boat for the Navy, and is in production as a high speed ferry. (The stealth boat that appears in the new James Bond movie "Tomorrow Never Dies" is a WaveStrider.) He also developed the Air Lubricated Planing Hull (ALPH). A boat of this type is the Hydrotrac, noted as being the world's fastest production boat for a given power. All of his boat designs were tested in the Chesapeake Bay, near Annapolis, and the nearby Severn and Magothy Rivers. High speed planing hull theory receives a detailed presentation in Peter's book, Design of High Speed Boats, Volume 1: Planing. His computer program, BOAT3D, is used by many to model and design high speed boats.

In other marine engineering work, Peter was instrumental in the development of modern high speed, low drag underwater bodies. He accomplished this by applying the then-radical idea of designing the body shape to maintain a laminar flow boundary layer over as much of the surface area as possible. On the other hand, he devised methods to prevent tow cable strumming by causing the cable's boundary layer to become turbulent instead of laminar. In another project, he was able to double the waterborne propulsion efficiency of the Marine Corps LVT-P7 amphibious tractor.

Aircraft Systems

Peter's professional work started in helicopters and other rotary-wing aircraft. An early project (1954-1956) was a ram-jet engine to be attached to rotor blade tips. (The principal problem with the system turned out to be the difficulty of getting fuel to the engines past the rotating blade hub.) At about the same time, he developed the stiff-hinged rotor blade, which is now used on virtually all rotary-wing aircraft. His first book, Helicopter Dynamics and Aerodynamics, was published in 1956 in England, and 1959 in the United States.

In 1959, he developed the Avian 2/180 jump-start autogyro. This aircraft went from concept to a flying prototype in less than one year. However, it never achieved commercial production. It was a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, as opposed to previous autogyros which required at least some forward motion before takeoff.

One of Peter's interests was ground effect vehicles, also known as air cushion vehicles (ACV) or by the trademark "Hovercraft." ACVs are distinguished by their ability to ride on an air cushion over water, and any reasonably smooth land. (Many are in service as ferries across the English Channel and in other locations, and for other special purpose applications. The Marine Corps uses ACVs as beach assault craft, because they can deliver troops well inshore instead of just at the surf line.) One of the ACV applications designed by Peter was the Mine Search Head Carrier. This small ACV would be tethered to the front of a military vehicle and search for land mines without being in physical contact with the ground. This was the first ACV designed in the USA for a specific mission.

Work done by Peter on various aircraft crew escape systems has resulted in two very different results.

  • The first is the Dynamic Response Index mathematical model, which is used by the US Air Force, and other countries, as the basis for ejection seat specifications. It also has other applications. A number of other industries use the Dynamic Response Index to reduce injuries and to quantify vehicle ride quality. Peter discovered this by accident about twenty years later. While gathering information for cushioning material to be used in high speed boats, he contacted snowmobile manufacturers to find out what they used for seat cushioning and how it was designed - only to discover that the models were based on his own biodynamics work from twenty years earlier!
  • The other result was "Dynamic Dan", the first instrumented anthropomorphic mannequin that correctly simulates the dynamics of a human being. Later incarnations of these mannequins are collectively known as "crash test dummies."

His work on parachutes resulted in some of the most complete mathematical models of how parachutes open and work, and the first model that correctly predicted experimental results.


Speed. Peter enjoyed speed. Although not a pilot, he was around high performance aircraft for most of his life. (This was partly due to the fact that his father was in the Royal Air Force during and between both World Wars.) Early work involved attempts to make helicopters go faster. Later work included devising ways to get pilots safely out of broken high speed aircraft. On land, he liked to drive fast. He spent a couple of summers in the early 1960s racing the family Triumph TR-4 at Continental Divide Racetrack in Castle Rock, Colorado. (I learned the value of seat belts from watching those races.) On the water, of course, he was always involved in making ways for people to go faster. And he always enjoyed test driving the boats!

Rubber Bullets. In 1967, Peter developed some non-lethal bullets for firearms. These had the same impact shock and knock-down ability as lead bullets, but did not penetrate the body. An advanced version (patented) had the ability to inject drugs, such as tranquilizers. The idea was that these projectiles would enable law enforcement officers to incapacitate and capture criminals, without the risk of killing them or bystanders. While there was a lot of interest in the project, there was no funding forthcoming. Also, I have anecdotal evidence that a member of the President's Crime Commission had an objection that these bullets might hurt the people the police were shooting at! (???) It is interesting to note, though, that rubber bullets are now in wide use by a number of police and military forces around the world.

Model Airplanes. Peter's first job, starting while in school, was as a designer and writer for the Aeromodeler magazine, in England. (He wrote for them under the pseudonym of "John Halifax".) I understand that some of the airfoils and propeller sections he designed are still used on certain types of free flight model airplanes.

Water Pulsejet engines: This fantastically simple steam engine has no moving parts except water. As it is heated externally, any heat source can be used. This adaptation of a child's toy has been scaled up to provide power for 14 foot and larger boats.

Writing. Peter wrote constantly. His published books, papers, and articles probably number in the hundreds. I have collected a small sample bibliography. Adding unpublished company working papers would push the number into the thousands. He wrote to share knowledge and information with others, to learn from the feedback he received from readers, and to keep track of where he was in each particular project. He also loved the occasional ironic twist. One of his prized possessions is a set of three books. One is his first edition of Helicopter Dynamics and Aerodynamics. The second is a Russian translation (1963) of that book. (At that time, the USSR did not bother with trivial details such as copyrights.) The third volume is a declassified copy of a previously secret NASA translation of the Russian edition! Helicopter Dynamics and Aerodynamics was very influential to a worldwide generation of helicopter engineers. A 1967 note to Peter from M. L. Mil, head of the Russian helicopter design bureau, says "People read your book with great interest in our country. I greatly value your book "

Professional and Personal Time Line

1927 - 1938Peter Rowland Payne born on September 6, 1927. Son of Charles Payne and Florence Freda Badham Payne. Born at Moreton-in-Marsh, England. Raised in nearby Chipping Campden, and at the Royal Air Force base at Abu Suweir, Egypt. Brother (John) born in 1928, sister (Pauline) born in 1930.
1938 - 1947Family returned to Chipping Campden. Charles Payne remained in Egypt for the duration of the war. Peter served in the RAF starting in September 1945
1947 - 1956Writer for various magazines, including Aeromodeler (as John Halifax, until 1949), Aeroplane, and Flight.
1948 - 1956Worked for Auster Aircraft, Bristol Aero Engines, Napier, and Saunders-Roe. Developed helicopter ram jet engine, and stiff-hinged rotor blades.
1956 - 1960Emigrated to Ontario, Canada, and lived in the Toronto area. Worked for Avro Canada. Formed Avian Industries in 1958 and developed the Avian 2/180 jump-start autogyro.
1960 - 1963Emigrated to the United States, and lived in the Denver, Colorado area. Worked for Stanley Aviation, and Frost Engineering. Developed crew ejection system for the B-58 bomber, ejection and escape systems for other aircraft, anthropomorphic mannequin, and mathematical models that describe human response to acceleration forces.
1964 - 1974?Moved to Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, and founded Payne Inc. Gradual change in emphasis from aeronautics to marine engineering. First FICAT model built in 1964. Developed SeaKnife hull in 1971, and founded Blade Hulls, Inc. in Rockville. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, 1972.
1974? - 1989Moved to the Annapolis / Severna Park area, to be closer to Peter's favorite "test tank", the Chesapeake Bay. SeaKnife production, development of other hulls such as the "Gayle" boat, ALPH, WaveStrider & etc. Payne Inc. became Ketron Annapolis.
1989 - 1997Formed Payne Associates. Further research led to Dynafoil boat, and formation of Dynafoils Inc.
1997Passed away on December 10.

This is still very much a work-in-progress. I expect to be able to add more as I get the time to research Peter's life and work. I would greatly value and appreciate contributions and suggestions from those who knew him. Please send things to me by E-Mail, or by post to:

Graeme C. Payne
4440 Weston Drive SW
Lilburn GA 30047

1998, 2000 Graeme C. Payne. All Rights Reserved.
Updated: 01/21/2002