"There is nothing, absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats."

~ Kenneth Grahame  The Wind in the Willows

Peter Rowland Payne

Peter was my, Brigid Ashwood's, grandfather. My relationship with him, as well as exposure to his work and wisdom, has had a great influence on my art. The scope of which I've only recently come to fully appreciate. 


6 September 1927 -- 10 December 1997

A Memorial to an Engineer

By Graeme Payne

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.

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. More HERE.

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 - 1938 Peter 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 - 1947 Family 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 - 1956 Writer for various magazines, including Aeromodeler (as John Halifax, until 1949), Aeroplane, and Flight.
1948 - 1956 Worked for Auster Aircraft, Bristol Aero Engines, Napier, and Saunders-Roe. Developed helicopter ram jet engine, and stiff-hinged rotor blades.
1956 - 1960 Emigrated 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 - 1963 Emigrated 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? - 1989 Moved 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 - 1997 Formed Payne Associates. Further research led to Dynafoil boat, and formation of Dynafoils Inc.
1997 Passed away on December 10.





6 September 1927 -- 10 December 1997


United States Patents

3,465,533 September, 1969 Cargo Transport Apparatus Using Air Cushion Support
3,502,025 March, 1970 Nonpenetrating Drug Injecting Bullet
3,557,471 January, 1971 Anthropodynamic Dummy "Dynamic Dan"
3,586,263 June, 1971 Kinesthetically Controlled Helicopter (Is this the genesis of thought-controlled aircraft, as in the books Firefox and Day of the Cheetah?)
3,709,179 January, 1973 High Speed Boat "Gayle" boat
3,763,810 October 1973 High Speed Boat with Planing Hull Sea Knife
3,829,861 August, 1974 Trailing Wire Antenna (with James J. Karaganis) Aircraft radio antennas.
3,898,800 August, 1975 Heat Engine in the Form of a Water Pulse-Jet
3,987,987 October, 1976 Self-erecting Windmill (with Charles McCutchen) Self-erecting structures and structures that extract power from a moving fluid such as wind
4,007,895 February, 1977 Inertial Escape System Aircraft crew ejection systems
4,024,409 May, 1977 Aeolian Windmill A means of extracting energy from a fluid stream
4,057,961 November, 1977 Pulse-jet Water Propulsor Water pulse-jet and related heat engines
4,129,006 December, 1978 Modular Erosion Control System Beach Prisms
4,748,929 June, 1988 Planing Catamaran
D300,130 March, 1989 Planing Boat (with Samuel C. Sapp) Design patent.
4,924,792 May, 1990 High Speed Planing Boat (with Samuel C. Sapp) Wavestrider
5,311,832 May, 1994 Advanced Marine Vehicles for Operation at High Speed In or Above Rough Water Dynafoil
5,469,801 November 1995 Advanced Marine Vehicles for Operation at High Speed In or Above Rough Water Continuation of Dynafoil claims
5,653,189 August 1997 Hydrofoil Craft Continuation of Dynafoil claims


Company records of Dynafoils Inc. and predecessor companies (Payne Associates, Payne Inc., Blade Hulls Inc.). (Thank you, Rosalie!)

CompuServe® Patent Research Center.

IBM Patent Server. Bibliographic information and text of claims from 1971, and images from 1974.

US Patent and Trademark Office. Bibliographic information on patents issued after January 1, 1976.




Peter Payne died suddenly at his home in Severna Park, Maryland, on December 10th 1997. He was born in Chipping Camden in 1927. His early years were spent in various parts of the world while his father served in the Royal Air Force, but he returned to Chipping Camden for his secondary education. Becoming impatient at the leisurely pace of university education he determined that he could progress more rapidly on his own. This began his intensive study of the literature of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, a habit that he pursued throughout his life, ending as one of the world's foremost authorities in the hydrodynamics of high-speed water craft.

After completing his National Service in the RAF, Mr. Payne started his career in 1948 by working on helicopter design at Bristol Aircraft under Raoul Hafner, at Saunders Roe and at Auster Aircraft. When he emigrated to Canada in 1956 he headed a team designing a jump-start autogyro at Avro (Canada) and, when that company closed, at Avian Industries.

He moved to the US in 1960 to Frost Engineering in Denver. During this period he played a major role in establishing biodynamics as a useful, scientific discipline. He introduced the "Dynamic Response Index" as a method of assessing acceleration-induced stress in the human body. This model is now standard in the US and NATO countries. He later extended these concepts to the quantification of vehicle ride quality.

He founded Payne Inc. in 1964 and remained in this small-business environment, in various configurations for the rest of his life. Apart from many routine engineering activities, such as the design of gas-turbine intakes, airborne antenna systems, tow-tank and wind-tunnel models, the company quickly built a reputation for innovative solutions and for quickly reducing them to practical hardware.

Over time, the pattern of Payne's work developed in two clear areas of specialization. Firstly, his greatest investment of time and money, often his own, was in the design and construction of more than twenty advanced, experimental, water craft and, secondly, the parallel development of hydrodynamic theory. His best known contributions were to the design and construction of the first ultra-low-drag, passive-laminar-flow torpedo (1968), the FICAT (Favorable Interference CATamaran, 1964), the Gayle Boat (an early planing catamaran, 1969), the SeaKnife (1971), the WaveStrider (a foil-supported catamaran, 1982) and the Dynafoil (a hydrofoil boat with a sprung foil to give "automobile-like" ride comfort, 1994). All of these were supported by elegantly developed theory, and often based on carefully re-analysed tank-test data from many years ago and from many sources. Many of his ideas have been incorporated in modern commercial ferries. His analytical work is typified by his BOAT3D, a time-domain, computerized, loads-and-motions programme; he called this his "mathematical tow tank for high-speed boats".

Peter Payne was never one to suffer fools gladly and he was often mystified and frustrated by the slow acceptance of his ideas by the boat-building establishment. Sometimes this led him to exaggerate the performance of his boats simply because he could see beyond the actual achievements of his prototypes to the performance that they should be able to reach if the means were available to properly develop them. He liked nothing better, however, than an informed discussion, was happy to accept other people's ideas and suggestions even if they conflicted with his own. His work was his principal hobby but he was a man of many interests and he had many loyal and life-long friends. Although he wrote two books and several hundred archivally published papers, his desk is still covered with many half-finished projects and half-completed work. His death is a great loss to his family, his friends, his community, to the world of hydrodynamics and to Peter's belief that one man, often working alone, can still make a considerable mark in this high-tech world.

Edward G.U.Band, FRAeS.



Selected Bibliography

This list includes a selection of published works by Peter R. Payne. It is not a complete list, but is intended to be representative of his work. Only books and published journal articles are included. This list deviates from standard bibliographic style in a couple of ways. First, entries are arranged by date order, with the earliest first. Second, the author of each work is Peter R. Payne; additional authors are listed separately at the end of the entry -- for example, "with J. E. Doe."


Helicopter Dynamics and Aerodynamics 1959 (London: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, Ltd.; and New York: MacMillan Company)

Design of High Speed Boats, Volume 1: Planing 1988 (Annapolis: Fishergate Inc.)

Journal Articles

1955 A Stiff Hinged Helicopter Rotor. Aircraft Engineering, November.
1961 The Dynamics of Human Response to Acceleration. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Forum of the Aerospace Medical Association; Chicago, Illinois, April.
1961 The Dynamics of Human Restraint Systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Symposium on Impact Acceleration Stress; San Antonio, Texas, November.
1962 Optimization of Human Restraint Systems for Short-Period Acceleration. Proceedings of the Winter Meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September.
1968 A Simplified Approach to Free-Surface Wave Drag Theory. Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Vol. 72, March
1973 A New Look at Parachute Opening Dynamics. Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Vol. 77, February
1974 Coupled Pitch and Heave Porpoising Instability in Hydrodynamic Planing. Journal of Hydronautics, Vol. 8, No. 2, April
1974 Supercritical Planing Hulls. AIAA/SNAME Advanced Marine Vehicles Conference. AIAA Paper 74-335.
1977 A Note Related to the Pressure Inside an Inflating Parachute Canopy. Aeronautical Quarterly, Vol. 28, November. (with E. G. U. Band)
1978 Method to Quantify Ride Comfort and Allowable Accelerations. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, January, pp. 262-269
1978 The Performance Potential of Semi-Submerged Ships. Journal of Hydronautics, Vol. 12, No. 4 (October)
1978 The Theory Of Fabric Porosity as Applied to Parachutes in Incompressible Flow. Aeronautical Quarterly, Vol. 29, Part 3 (August)
1981 The Normal Force on a Flat Planing Plate Including Low Length to Beam Ratios. Ocean Engineering, Vol. 8, No. 3
1981 The Vertical Impact of a Wedge on a Fluid. Ocean Engineering, Vol. 8, No. 4
1986 The WaveStrider Family of Planing Boats. Proceedings of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Eighth Advanced Marine Systems Conference, San Diego, California (September).
1997 On the Maximum Speed of the Dynafoil. Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Fast Sea Transportation, Sydney, Australia (July).