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Fleming, Ian Bowman (1913–1993)

by Frank Cranston

The principal designer of the jet aircraft that has been in production longer than any other died yesterday in John James Hospital.

Ian Bowman Fleming, 80, was a former Department of Supply controller of aircraft, guided weapons and electronic supply and one of Australia's leading aircraft designers.

He was largely responsible for the Jindivik jet-powered target aircraft which is still in production more than 40 years after its first flight.

Born at Walcha, NSW, Mr Fleming was educated at Knox Grammar School, Sydney, at the University of Sydney and at Cambridge University from which he obtained a master's degree in science.

He then worked as a stress engineer for a year with A. V. Roe and Co in Manchester and then for a similar period with Fairey Aviation Co at Hayes, Middlesex.

Returning to Australia, Mr. Fleming was appointed assistant designer at the old Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation from 1939 to 1943.

He was the company's experimental and flight engineer until 1947.

In that year Mr Fleming was appointed chief designer with the Government Aircraft Factories and later general manager of aircraft factories for the old Department of Defence Production and then the Department of Supply from which he retired 15 years ago.

Mr Fleming described the first successful launch of the Jindivik in 1952 this way: "The initial reaction of most observers was one of amazement that it should have happened, and it took the flight crew several seconds to realise they had a flying machine on their hands."

Nor could anybody have realised that the stubby-winged little aircraft, which they watched as it climbed steadily away from the air field at Woomera, South Australia, would still be in production today and among the best in the world.

There have been some imaginative uses suggested for the aircraft but these seem unlikely now to come to fruition. Among possible roles were coastal surveillance, environmental monitoring and pollution control.

Reminiscing about Jindivik in 1977, Mr Fleming outlined the manner in which he became involved with the project and came to be regarded as its father.

Its success, most believe, was due to his patient persistence.

A former associate of Mr Fleming's once told me that had it not been for his quiet determination and refusal to be "spooked", the remarkable Australian RPV might never have advanced beyond prototype stage.

Of the more than 500 Jindiviks built, many are still flying — with a considerable number having exceeded 285 flights.

Mr Fleming was made an OBE in 1958 and was president of the Australian division of the Royal Aeronautical Society from 1971 to 1973.

He is survived by his wife and five children.

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Frank Cranston, 'Fleming, Ian Bowman (1913–1993)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/fleming-ian-bowman-28255/text36841, accessed 8 April 2020.

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