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.

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Rear Adm Simon Henley CEng FRAeS, President 2018-19

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Sir Stephen Dalton FRAeS, President 2017-18


This was a brave project requiring dogged persistence by Society staff and our tireless volunteers to identify and mitigate risks and to support the teams to enable the successful completion of the programme."

Rear Adm Simon Henley CEng FRAeS

President's Message: August 2018

I have just had the great pleasure of attending two key events in the Society calendar. The first was the annual Amy Johnson Lecture, celebrating the life and achievements of a remarkable woman who was an aviation pioneer both as a pilot and as an engineer. We used the occasion to celebrate women in aviation, with a mixed audience of over 90 attending to hear a lecture by Air Vice-Marshall Sue Gray, currently Air Officer Commanding 38 Group in the Royal Air Force. Sue gave a hugely engaging lecture covering the achievements of several women in aerospace, past and present. As the aerospace world faces many challenges in recruiting enough people with the right talent across all disciplines, it is as important as ever that we are able to make our sector an attractive place for women at all levels and stages in their careers and family lives. In her article for AEROSPACE last month, Marillyn Hewson said that “as leaders, we must be more deliberate about getting more women in the talent pipeline” so that they can demonstrate the hard work, performance, and gain the experience required for executive leadership positions. We in the Society have a significant role to play in this regard, and Sue outlined the measures that the Royal Air Force has put in place to attract and retain women by being more ‘family-friendly’, and opening avenues for reentry after a career break. It was a huge pleasure
to be able to present her with her Certificate of Fellowship of the Society at the end of her lecture.

The second event was the celebration of the successful conclusion of the Schools Build-a-Plane (SBAP) project in conjunction with Boeing and the Light Aircraft Association. Five aircraft have been successfully built and flown and, along the way, substantial numbers of school pupils have learnt about the basics of aerodynamics, aircraft design, the hand skills involved in assembling an aircraft and many have actually flown in the aircraft they have built. Just as important, however, they have gained experience in working as teams, working with people of different ages (and that has been true for the volunteers as well) and have gained the confidence and life skills that such an achievement brings. Some of the older pupils are now already in our industry as apprentices. This was a brave project requiring dogged persistence by a number of Society staff and our tireless volunteers to identify and mitigate risks and to support the teams to enable the successful completion of the programme. The successor programme to the SBAP, the Falcon initiative, is now entering phase two after a very successful first phase and is designed to be accessible to a
greater number of teams, and hence reach more 13-18 year-olds.

These two events emphasised to me just how much work goes on ‘under the radar’ by the HQ staff and volunteers to promote aerospace as a career and to increase awareness and inclusivity of potential members of our sector. Coupled with good quality career and development support for those already working across all the many career paths in aviation, the Society is making a real impact on ensuring we have a healthy pipeline to provide the next generation of leaders in aerospace.

The President's Biography

Simon was brought up in Horsham Sussex, and educated at Collyers Grammar School Horsham. He joined the Royal Navy directly from school and underwent initial officer training at Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth, followed by studying for a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Royal Naval Engineering College in Manadon, Plymouth followed by 12 months post-graduate training in Aerospace Engineering.

He served as an Aircraft Engineer Officer in the Royal Navy for 32 years, retiring in the rank of Rear Admiral. During his career, he served in operational roles supporting front line squadrons on several helicopter types and Sea Harrier, and towards the end of his career specialised in future logistic support requirements for new aircraft and ships, and then in major project acquisition. He served as the UK lead in the US/UK Joint Strike Fighter Programme Office, was the UK lead in participation in the source selection process for that programme, and subsequently led the UK’s Joint Combat Aircraft Integrated Project Team for 4 years. His last job before retirement was as Technical Director and head of Programme Management for the Defence Equipment and Support organisation.

He subsequently joined Rolls-Royce as Programme Director for new programmes in Defence Aerospace, with responsibility for development and transition to production of the LiftSystem for the F-35 Lightning 2 programme, the UK elements of the F-136 engine for that aircraft and the TP400 engine for A400M, and the propulsion systems for the Mantis and Taranis unmanned programmes. Later he expanded his portfolio to include all Rolls-Royce military helicopter engines. In 2010 he was seconded to the Rolls-Royce/Snecma/MTU/ITP joint venture Europrop International as President, responsible for the development, certification, and introduction to service of the TP400 engine for the A400M aircraft, culminating in the delivery of the first aircraft to the French Air Force in 2013. After leaving Rolls-Royce in 2014, he has worked as VP Programmes for an aircraft interior company developing and delivering the galleys for the Airbus A350, and subsequently as Director (Special Projects) for Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group.

He is a Chartered Aerospace Engineer, a Registered Project Professional, an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management, and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.