Born: United Kingdom
Primarily active in: United Kingdom


Cheeseman was born in 1926 in Andover, Hampshire, UK. His father was a grocer but the young Cheeseman’s career moved in entirely different directions. Being particularly adept at math and science, he went to university at Imperial College, London to study mathematics. He continued his studies, gaining his doctorate in atomic physics. This brought him into a secret world where he demonstrated his curiosity when analyzing the relationship between the detonation flow behavior and the yield. This turned out to be very simple to him and his investigative mind came into play many times during his career.

Cheeseman’s work within the rotary wing world started when he joined the National Gas Turbine Establishment at Pyestock, close to the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, Hampshire. He worked on several different projects, but probably the most famous was the blown cylinder rotor, which had its lift varied by means of blowing through slots in the cylindrical rotor blades. This permitted a suitably-designed aircraft to take off and land vertically using this rotor, but avoid advancing/retreating blade lift dissymmetry when moving into forward flight. By shutting off the blowing, the aircraft could be supported by the wings while the rotor(s) slowed to a halt and stowed during flight; the process was reversed for the landing phase. To test the principle, a moving rig was built around a commercial vehicle chassis with an instrumented tower at the rear to which was fitted the rotor system. Powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon engine, the rotor was turned via a transmission system, while forward propulsion was achieved via adjustable air scoops behind the rear wheels, allowing the vehicle to thunder up and down the main runway at Farnborough with startling acceleration and braking.

Cheeseman joined the Aeronautics Department at the University of Southampton, where he became Westland Professor of Helicopter Engineering. He supervised many students for their doctorate and taught at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. He had a commanding style of lecturing, where sleep was not possible. He had an endearing habit of using the phrase “in fact” relentlessly. On one occasion a student kept a count during a lecture lasting 50 minutes. He gave up after 150!

During his time at the University, he organized the inaugural European Rotorcraft Forum in 1976. This annual event continues to this day and is an important entry in the helicopter calendar. It now rotates between seven European countries.

On retiring from the University, Cheeseman became a director of Stewart Hughes Ltd., a local business emerging from the University, developing vibration monitoring technology for the aerospace industry.

He finally retired to Dorset, near Blandford Forum, where he enjoyed his time with his family. Amongst his outside interests was breeding Wire Haired Fox terriers and a love of the outside world which he enjoyed with his family. His funeral took place on January 6th, 2012 at the parish church near his home.

Ian Clifford Cheeseman passed away on December 24, 2011. He was 85. 

AHS Update: Vertiflite January/February 2012