June 2016

Presidency of the Royal Aeronautical Society brings both pleasure and trepidation: pleasure to represent an institution which has repeatedly shaped the development of aviation over the past 150 years; trepidation to be assuming an office previously held by some of the great minds and leaders of the past. This is reinforced by having seen the scale of the commitments undertaken by Martin Broadhurst over the past 12 months. On behalf of all members I would like both to congratulate and to thank Martin for a busy and successful presidential year; and also to thank Bill Tyack for his service in the presidential cycle over the past three years.

So far this year we have seen some very successful events around the globe to celebrate the 150th anniversary of aerospace’s oldest learned society. If you haven’t yet managed to attend one of the sesquicentennial events, why not put one of the dates in the diary: we are, after all, half way through the 150th year. The aim of such events is partly to celebrate the innovation, brilliance, determination, courage and, of course, team work which have characterised our sector; but we also look forward to the future with anticipation and hope that the extraordinary story of aerospace and aviation, both global and regional, will inspire the young and, indeed, re-invigorate the not-so-young.

For my own part, I can only say that playing a more active role in the Society has indeed proved invigorating and stimulating. I have already been fortunate enough to hold a diverse range of technical roles in each of industry, government and academia; but working for the Society has brought interactions with a great variety of professionals and leaders across the spectrum of aviation activities as well as, through the PSB, involvement in the governance of the Engineering profession.

AEROSPACE does well to provide members with visibility of all the outputs and activities of the Royal Aeronautical Society but there is no substitute for experiencing first-hand the excellent work, and the commitment to the profession, of the many members who run the Branches, man the Society’s Specialist Groups, Committees and Boards and who are generally passionate about aerospace – in all its fascinating variety. From a personal perspective, the breadth of experience and vision delivered by such extra-curricular activity makes me better able, as an aerospace professional, to address the multi-faceted challenges of the future. This is surely true for any individual and the great thing is that this sort of opportunity for greater involvement is available to all members of the Society.

The contribution of individual members really underpins the value provided by the Society. While we mark this 150th anniversary by celebrating the innovation, excellence and contribution to society of the industries and organisations in our sector, we must not forget that central to these achievements are remarkable people who have been supported, encouraged and developed by their peers. There is much to commend in the modern world of communications and information but no one has yet improved on peer review as a means of quality-assuring knowledge and competence. We should therefore take enormous pride in our RAeS community which stretches back to before the time of the Wright brothers, before the flights of Lilienthal, almost to the time of Sir George Cayley. This 150-year-old reputation is what allows us to call on individuals to turn information into knowledge and understanding and to promote both competence and excellence: these are functions which are as essential today as they ever were.

So, notwithstanding the excitement of celebrating the achievements of all our predecessors, in one respect we can be sure that the future will not differ from the past: that success will be achieved by bringing good ideas and good people together. That has been the role of the Royal Aeronautical Society and its forbears for the past 150 years: long may it continue.

Professor Chris Atkin CEng FRAeS