The Journal of the Friends of Sywell Aerodrome
No. 6 Summer 2001
In Memory of Paul Morgan
'AVIATOR & ENGINEER' 29th July 1948 - 12th May 2001
Flying was one of Paul Morgan's greatest passions and, after the unusually wet winter he took out his Hawker Sea Fury on the first dry weekend of May. It was his last flight. After landing at Sywell Aerodrome, the plane turned over on the grass and he was fatally injured.
The 'plane, first used by the Australian Air Force in 1952 and now nicknamed Baby Gorilla, was one of a small squadron of old warplanes he had collected to go with a stable full of vintage cars and motorbikes.
Paul and Lucy with his first aircraft
a 1951 de Haviliand DHC1 Chipmunk.
But flying was only one of his passions - the other was cars - and he was one of the most influential figures in the competitive and exacting world of motor-racing while at the same time being a hands-on engineer.
Paul had engineering in his blood. His great grandfather designed the Blackpool Tower; his father, Brian Morgan, was a talented engineer who restored vintage cars from the shed at the bottom of his garden in Handsworth Wood, Birmingham. Paul inherited his invention and enthusiasm and while still a teenager he started his first renovation project - a 1904 De Dion Bouton car which he later drove frequently in the London to Brighton run.
1943 North American AT6G Texan (Harvard)
At school he was constantly involved in inventive and risky projects: he set up a windscreen wiper motor to open and close the curtains in his dormitory, and once cut into the gas supply under the floorboards to make a blow torch to melt down some lead (obtained from his housemaster's roof!)
On leaving school he continued his passion for dangerous sports including potholing and flying. He was a hang-gliding pioneer, learning to fly one of the first hang-gliders in Britain. After obtaining an engineering degree at Aston University he joined Cosworth Engineering.
He worked for Cosworth for 13 years from 1970 until in 1983 he went into partnership with Swiss designer Mario Illien to form Ilmor Engineering. Today the company employs over 400 people at its sites in Brixworth and the United States.
They began by making engines for American Indy 500 cars, securing their first win with Mario Andreotti driving at Long Beach in 1987. In all they won six Indy titles, winning almost half of the races they entered.
Three in a row - Paul with Susy,
the Corsair and the Sea Fury.
Then in 1992 Ilmor started an association with Mercedes to make engines for Formula One cars which still continues today. Six years later they won the Constructor's Championship and Mikka Hakkinen won the Driver's Championship in 1998 and 1999 in an Ilmor-powered McLaren Mercedes. Ilmor Engineering received the Queen's Award for Export Achievement three times - in 1989, 1994 and 1999.
In fact while he was in the air on his last flight, McLaren Mercedes cars, powered by Ilmor engines, were preparing for the Austrian Grand Prix.
The next day David Coulthard won the race in his McLaren Mercedes forcing his way up from seventh place on the grid. He refused to celebrate his victory in the usual champagne spraying manner, leaving the bottle unopened as a mark of respect to Paul.
Paul leaves a widow, Liz, a son, Patrick and a daughter, Lucy.
1945 North American Mustang P51D (Susy)
1943 Vought FG1D Corsair.
1951 Hawker Sea Fury.
Paul's Favourite Poem:
High Flight (An Airman's Ecstacy)
John Gillespie Magee 1922-41
Oh, I have slipped the surly bounds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of; wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sun-lit silence. Hovering there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air;
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark or even eagle flew;
And while, with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high un trespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.