Our President

The President of the Society provides leadership of the Council and of the Society in pursuit of its Objectives. The President holds a pivotal role at the Society upholding the values, and reputation of the Society as well as the interests of the members. The President is an Ambassador of the Society representing us at key engagements, influencing the global standing of the Society in furthering the advancement of aeronautical art, science and engineering.


Prof Chris Atkin CEng FRAeS, RAeS President 2015-2016


Sir Stephen Dalton FRAeS, RAeS President-Elect 2016-17


The Society is at its best dealing with unexpected developments and responded to the UK Brexit vote with a well-supported Conference in November"

Prof Chris Atkin CEng FRAeS

President's Message: December 2016

Although there are a number of sesquicentennial events still coming in the early months of 2017, I thought I’d refl ect, with input from Martin and Sir Stephen, on how our 150th celebrations have set us up for the future: not an exhaustive list, so please forgive me if I do not mention all the events and achievements of this remarkable year!

The excellent Branch events which Martin, Sir Stephen or I managed to join with include Coventry, our senior Branch, sharing its own 90th birthday celebrations with a congratulatory note to Her Majesty, which was equally warmly acknowledged; Oxford, marking James Sadler’s historical fi rst aeronautical excursion of October 1784; Preston (Frank Roe) and Brussels (von Kármán) launching new named lectures; others, like Shrivenham, Bristol, Washington DC, Belfast, Montreal and Seattle, pushing the boat out with some exceptional hospitality to promote the Society, marking the achievement of 150 years and underlining our continuing contribution in the future. In writing this article I have to lament the relatively limited radius of travel of the presidential team. However, Sir Stephen was able to join the New Zealand Division’s 150th  Anniversary Dinner, and I shall have celebrated the sesquicentenary with the Pakistan Division by the time you read this. Visits to the Australian and South African Divisions are in the diary for the new year, in combination with some academic duties!

Many Branches very successfully engaged local industry in their events: Gloucester and Cheltenham with a young persons’ lecture competition; the East of England Branches celebrating innovation with seminars and panel sessions; Hamburg with a panel discussion after the Sedlmayr lecture; Bedford with a locally-sourced innovation expo at Shuttleworth; Sheffield with a remarkable STEM day; Stevenage running an airship challenge for schools (with Boscombe lining up a balloon event for February); Munich celebrating their own 25th with a lecture double-header and a busy visit itinerary for me. We can also look forward to the future activities of our four new Branches founded in 2016, in Abu Dhabi, Nottingham, Islamabad and Kamra. 

At 4HP the birthday celebrations were kicked off with the splendid, keenly-contested debate on the future need for pilots; the Banquet was hosted at Guildhall and supported by HRH the Prince Michael of Kent; the May Branches Conference marked the 150th by meeting at No.4; our longest-serving members (the most recent having joined in 1948) and Past Presidents were brought together with a good number of our youngest members to swap stories over an anniversary lunch; the end of November saw both young members and a remarkable collection of CEOs and CTOs discussing the nature of innovation in the future; and, to close the year, at the Wilbur and Orville Wright Lecture we shall be hosting aerospace VIPs connected with the events depicted on our first day covers, including the great-great-great-grandson of Sir George Cayley, who coincidentally taught me Latin at school (Sir Digby, not Sir George).

The Society is at its best dealing with unexpected developments and responded to the UK Brexit vote in June with a well-supported Brexit conference early in November, which has strengthened in the UK the Society’s reputation for independence and for cogent analysis of the issues by our broad-based membership; internationally, I have also been putting in a few extra hours explaining that the Society’s global outlook and signifi cance, like those of our sector, are absolutely unchanged by domestic British politics!

Looking inward, Council has completed separate major reviews of Council members’ own wider responsibilities within the Society; how the Society engages with our membership; and particularly how to engage better with our growing international membership. I hope to be able to share the conclusions of these discussions in subsequent issues of AEROSPACE.

So we have had a productive and inspiring year, and I would like to both thank and congratulate Lee Balthazor and the 2016 team, as well as Branch committees and no doubt many un-sung individuals, for delivering an extensive, varied and interesting set of events to mark our 150th. Nevertheless, there has been very little suspension of ‘business as usual’ this year, so I would also like to thank, on your behalf, the staff of the Society who have had to step up this year and who have been, as always, a great credit to the RAeS.

To close, may I wish you all a restful Christmas and a prosperous 2017, with a particular nod to our community in New Zealand for the re-building work that lies ahead.

Prof Chris Atkin CEng FRAeS

The President's Biography

Chris Atkin was educated at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, and St John’s College, Cambridge. He read Engineering as an undergraduate, winning the Royal Aeronautical Society prize in 1986, and then studied for a PhD in transonic aerodynamics. In 1991 Chris joined British Aerospace Commercial Aircraft Ltd at Hatfield to work on boundary layer control. Chris relocated to BAe Woodford a year later, before joining the Defence Research Agency at Farnborough in 1994 where he continued to work on aircraft drag reduction in support of both industry and the Ministry of Defence. Chris was promoted to PSO in 1997 and, following the formation of QinetiQ plc, became a QinetiQ Fellow in 2003, eventually being appointed Technical Manager for Aerodynamics and Aeromechanical Systems. After a spell at QinetiQ Bedford, in 2008 Chris took up the chair in Aeronautical Engineering at City University London and, over the next five years, served first as department head and then Head of School, during which appointment he co-ordinated significant investment in the University’s engineering laboratory and workshop facilities. Returning to a more traditional academic role in 2013, Chris continues to focus his research on aircraft efficiency, with support from UK industry, the Aerospace Technology Institute, the UK Research Councils and the European Union. Chris has been a member of numerous national committees over the years and is presently a member of the Aerospace Growth Partnership Strategy Working Group. Chris attended his first lecture at the RAeS in his early teens and has been a Fellow of the Society since 2002. Chris was first elected to Council in 2010, helped to re-shape the governance of the Society in 2011 and was chair of the Professional Standards Board from 2012-2015. Chris has also served on the Registration Standards Committee of the Engineering Council, contributing to the recent review of UK-SPEC. Chris supports the Bedford branch of the Society.