To mark the Society’s Centenary in 1966, the Students' and Graduates’ section asked some of the great names of aviation to predict what Aeronautics would be like in 2016. Jim Connolly, Director at Sundridge Park Management Centre and very active in the Management Studies Group, gave a presentation called Aerospace Management, 2016 AD. We asked LEE BALTHAZOR FRAeS, a Past President of the Society and former Chairman of the Professional Standards Board and Management Studies Group, to look at Connelly’s paper and see what the great man got right.


Jim Connolly FRAeS was a Director at Sundridge Park Management Centre and very active in the Management Studies Group of the Society. He took a view of Aerospace Management 2016 in a lecture to the Society ‘Management 1966-2016’ that was followed by a lively debate.

Jim Connolly started his lecture by making a number of assumptions in his scenario forecasting for 2016 some of which were remarkably prescient, including:

  • The Far East will be at about the state of development of Russia

  • Europe will by then be a unified economic unit with about the same standards as USA. He didn't predict Brexit, but then neither did many people in 2016!

  • The world population would be about 7,000 million. In 2016 it is 7,430 million, midway between the assumptions of Connolly and Prof Keith Legg

  • Air traffic will be as much as ten times as great; In 2015 it was about thirty times as great in Revenue Passenger Kilometres(1), as holiday and business air travel became far more affordable with more airlines and routes than was envisaged in 1966

  • Some of the larger networks will be serviced by space rockets rather than supersonic aircraft;

  • Military aeroplanes will be centrally provided by the major industrial groups in a few countries;

  • Interplanetary flight will probably represent the new advanced technology  


BAC's Mustard spaceplane was a reusable spacecraft proposal from the 1960s. (BAE Systems) 

Jim Connolly then went on to predict some ‘certainties’ for aerospace management

Computers “Computers will be widely available….linked to central data processing “exchanges” will be in most people’s …offices. “These computers can …translate any major language…accept and print out verbal output…business systems will have their systems analysis built in for any normal decision…pure information will be available…from a central storage. World-wide news …will be constantly on tap”.

In 2016 laptops and ‘cloud servers’ are indeed widely available with the internet and intranets allowing all of these actions.

Human Behaviour “ By 2016 there should be very little need for a manager to guess at the results of his proposals due to scientific method advances. Human nature may not change but the reactions should be accurately predictable”. The economics of the ‘market’ will have been codified.

Whilst there have been important advances in this area, it is probably not as scientific or accurate as he thought it would become. It is also of note that Jim refers to ‘his (managers) proposals’, so the need for more diversity with female managers was not predicted!

International Trade and Relations “Economic models will have… optimised…and cooperation will have become a necessity… Periodic revision of these programmes as they are influenced by technological developments will be one of the high grade ‘management’ skills still needed.

With the aerospace industry a global, advanced technology one, this is a key aspect

To deal with these ‘certainties’, Jim Connolly argued that top managers would require a:

  • “Wide knowledge and critical judgment of the technical developments available…"

  • "Adequate mathematical understanding to criticise proposals…"

  • "Ability to select…the correct product to make ten years ahead"

  • "Ability to select and train staff for the rapidly developing changes brought about by his own decisions"

    He saw that there was “very little formal training designed to produce them in quantity” and that it would be necessary …to have an opportunity of working in complex industries with a variety of different products and problems and in different functions – finance, technical and production.” It would also be necessary to “change things not to perfect existing processes”.

    In 2016 management has become an important part of many aerospace engineering courses, in spite of concerns from some engineering faculties about diluting the courses, and it is a key part of many postgraduate programmes now.

    A discussion followed three lectures by Jim Connolly and Prof Loxham and Prof Legg, with a key point being made by the Chairman in his summary that “There was a big future here for this country if we could overcome the present management difficulties that were holding us back. Getting to this future was the task of the present generation of graduates and students”.

    The discussions also brought out some interesting points on what higher education would be like in 2016. He speculated that the number of universities per 1,000,000 UK population would rise from 0.75 to 1.08, however the figure last year was 1.68, helped no doubt by the development of Polytechnics and Colleges to become Universities. He predicted that the number of higher education establishments offering Aeronautical Engineering would rise from 18 to 54, however, this has dropped to 40 even with the inclusion of Manufacturing Engineering2. He suggested that the number of higher education establishments offering aerospace degree programmes would rise from 44 to 75 and although this has dropped to 22, however those universities provide 69 undergraduate programmes and additional postgraduate programmes, offering a greater range of specialisation within aerospace. More interesting predictions on the future of aeronautics in higher education can be found in Prof Legg’s paper.

    So in 1966 the challenge was to my generation to make the difference by becoming more effective managers. In 2016 the challenge is still there for the Royal Aeronautical Society Students and Graduates, and it was with remarkable foresight that the theme of the Young People’s 150th anniversary conference in September was ‘Stepping up to Management’, though perhaps they were wise not to ask speakers to predict what life as a manager would be like in 2066 AD.

    You can read Jim Connolly’s original lecture, and then give us your own thoughts and predictions for 2066 by leaving a comment below.

    If you enjoyed this post you can read an earlier blog post about Dietrich Kuchemann prediction on the Possible Types of Flying Vehicle and another on Peter Hearne’s talk on Flight Controls, plus look out for the next post which will be published later on in the year. You can also read the full conference proceeding and hundreds more, at the National Aerospace Library in Farnborough.

    1 courtesy of Andy Foster, Cranfield University


Lee Balthazor FRAeS
15 November 2016