News Item

Peter Hearne FRIN

Institute Fellow Peter Hearne - a leading figure in British avionics - has died, aged 86.

After an early working life as an aerodynamicist and project manager with BOAC and BEA, Peter joined Elliott Brothers in 1959 to head a group developing electronic systems for advanced aircraft.

As Elliott became part of GEC Marconi, he took responsibility for a number of ground-breaking technologies, including the first 'head-up displays' (HUDs) - installed in the likes of the Harrier and Tornado as well as US F-16 and F-22 fighters.

He also supervised development of many new commercial aircraft systems, including the 'fly-by wire' flight control system of the Boeing 777 - leading to GEC’s penetration of the US aviation market. He became GEC's President of US Operations and moved to Washington, where he liaised with US Government departments and the British Embassy.

He returned to Britain in 1986 as MD of GEC Marconi, overseeing all operations of GEC avionics factories, with a workforce of over 6,000. He later became chairman of GEC Avionics, retiring in 1994 and becoming very active as a consultant and as an expert witness in investigations and inquiries. He also appeared before select committees of the House of Commons and international tribunals.

Peter’s great passion was gliding - he owned a number of high-performance gliders, in which he gained the FAI Gold Award with 3 Diamonds and flew successfully in national competitions.

Peter Hearne was a Fellow of our Institute, and also of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Aeronautical Society, of which he was President in 1980-81.

He was not only a world leader in avionics and an accomplished glider pilot, but was exceptionally good company to be with - as many members will remember.

Born on 14 November 1927, Peter Hearne died at Lasham Gliding Club on 24 January whilst attending the wake of one of his gliding friends. We pass our condolences to his wife, Georgina, and their 3 sons.

A comprehensive obituary can be found at The Telegraph link below . .


  • 05 March 2014
  • RIN

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