October 2014

In my first comment in June, I mentioned that one of my themes would be membership. The Council has enthusiastically endorsed this theme and has agreed the terms of reference for a review of membership to be led by the Membership Services Board over the next two years. The objective of this major review is to develop and initiate a plan to increase significantly the Society’s membership without compromising our professional standards. It will involve a great deal of consultation. We are developing a communication plan to ensure that you have the opportunity to contribute and that you are kept informed. There will be more information in AEROSPACE and on the website over the next few months. However, I do not need a review to tell me that the Society’s strengths include the energy and enthusiasm of our members, and the diversity of the activities in which they are involved, as illustrated by some of the visits I have made over the past few days.

At the beginning of September I was in Southampton to welcome delegates to the 40th European Rotorcraft Forum. I stayed for two days of the five-day conference and I was struck by the calibre of the delegates from all over Europe and from much further afield, and the quality of the papers presented. Congratulations are due to the international organising committee led by Dr Richard Markiewicz FRAeS. In addition the other members of the Rotorcraft Group and the Society’s staff played major roles in delivering a successful event. I have no doubt that their efforts have enhanced the Society’s reputation.

On Sunday 7 September I visited the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington for the annual Allied Air Forces Memorial Service. This was a memorable occasion attended by local dignitaries and ex-Service organisations, a very smart contingent from the Air Training Corps, and representatives of the air forces of Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the USA, as well as the RAF. The museum is a Corporate Partner of the Society and it is well worth a visit. It has an eclectic collection and it runs an extensive education programme. This extends into France because during the final year of WW2 Elvington was the base for two French squadrons and over 2,000 French personnel. At a time when we are remembering WW1, it is good also to spare a thought for the tens of thousands of young men of all nations who lost their lives in the skies during WW2.

Next I was on home territory at the Farnborough Branch where Sir Donald Spiers HonFRAeS, Branch President and Society Past-President, delivered the Cody Lecture on ‘The life and times of the Harrier’. Sir Donald was the scientist in charge of the tri-national (Germany, UK and USA) evaluation of the Kestrel — a pre-Harrier short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft — that proved the concept of dispersed operation by STOVL aircraft. So he was in at the birth of the Harrier and was then involved in one way or another throughout most of its service. This was history told by a participant, who was able to explain the concepts, the detail and the politics; so it was compelling. The story was embellished by comments from others in the audience who had been involved, including Sir John Charnley. Two days later I was a guest of the Cambridge Branch for a lecture by David Stewart from Hybrid Air Vehicles on the Airlander project. This is a fascinating scheme to develop modern lighter-than-air vehicles for transport, surveillance or communications, which use a combination of aerostatic, aerodynamic and vectored thrust lift.

Last month I mentioned the President’s Conference on ‘The Strategic Choices for Space’. I have since discovered that, by pure serendipity, this is being held during World Space Week, 4 to 10 October, which was established by the United Nations in 1999 “to celebrate each year at the international level the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition.”

Air Cdre Bill Tyack