August 2014

As I have said before, I get a real buzz from visiting our Branches. They are all different, with their own special features but what they have in common is energy, vitality and some very interesting people. On 1 July I was privileged to attend the inaugural Gerhard Sedlmayr Lecture organised by the Hamburg Branch. Gerhard Sedlmayr was an early pioneer aviator, flying instructor and test pilot in Germany. He established several national records, including a flight of over six hours on 14 March 1913 in a Wright A biplane. This flight involved an (unplanned) night landing that is believed to be the first in Germany. In 1919 he founded the firm AUTOFLUG, specialising in aviation safety, that is now run by his grandson Andreas Sedlmayr. The company’s activities include: maintaining ejection seats for the Luftwaffe; making parachutes for the German Armed Forces; manufacturing troop seats for the A400M and safety seats for land vehicles and helicopters. Andreas gave an excellent lecture about his grandfather’s life and achievements. It was illustrated by archive film and pictures, supplemented by clever animations. The Branch hopes to put a video of the lecture on the Society’s website. 

I then travelled to Bristol for the Barnwell Lecture. This was another splendid occasion when Commodore Rick Thompson and Wing Commander Jim Schofield (see interview in May 2014 AEROSPACE) gave a fascinating lecture on the Lockheed F-35 (Lightning II) programme, and answered a host of questions. This was very timely as it was only two days before HM The Queen named the UK’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth from which the F-35 will operate (as well as from land bases). As I write, I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the Lightning II at the Royal International Air Tattoo and at the Farnborough Air Show.

I think that one of the most fascinating and exciting things about our business is that today, when air travel is so commonplace as to be a consumer commodity, when companies like Airbus and Boeing are delivering more than 600 airliners each year and when a fifth generation fighter like the F-35 is entering service, we are still only two generations away from men like the Barnwell brothers and Gerhard Sedlmayr who literally took their life in their hands to design, develop and test the aircraft that created the industry. As a Society we need to be looking and moving forward but we need to remember that the achievements of today and tomorrow are built on the successes and failures of those who went before us.

I was very pleased to see reports from the Munich Branch and the Washington, DC Branch in last month’s AEROSPACE. May I encourage other Branches around the world to write articles to let us know what is going on in their neck of the woods?

Air Cdre Bill Tyack