On the 12th January 2017, the Royal Aeronautical Society Heathrow Branch successfully concluded its first “Inspiring Future Generations” themed event and the first lecture of the 2017 year at the British Airways Waterside HQ. The lecture, presented by Oliver Vass, was entitled ‘RAeS Schools Build-A-Plane Project’. It was a wonderful evening, sponsored by Boeing UK and began with an interesting visit around the British Airways Waterside Heritage Centre. This was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who attended and the knowledge and enthusiasm of the guides brought the tours to life. This was followed by a sponsored networking reception, which was a fantastic opportunity for the younger members as well as the more established businessmen and professionals to engage with one another.
The evening was introduced by our distinguishing Key Note speaker, Professor Chris Atkin, the President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, who addressed the importance of the Society’s charitable goal and the determination in reaching to the future generations of the industry. He introduced the speaker of the lecture, Oliver Vass from the original Schools Build-A-Plane Challenge.
Oliver’s lecture was a real inspiration to the younger members. He opened his lecture with his definition of success, and it was obvious right from the start his pride in being a part of the Scheme. It was certainly an ambitious project, spanning a year in total and bringing together the RAeS, LAA and Boeing. It engaged school pupils by providing young people in secondary school the opportunity to gain hands-on experience of the aircraft build process and the wider STEM subjects to encourage them into a career in the aerospace industry. However there was no doubt they had a vast amount of support as Oliver showed us footage from the local news channels that were shown on television.
For such a young age his achievements in the industry really stood out, and his ability to manage this alongside an outstanding target shooting career was impressive. He became involved in the project at his secondary school, Yateley School, building a 2 seater aircraft, “G-YTLY”, and has stayed and supported the project since.
The audience were taken on a journey though the creation of the RANS Coyote II aircraft. From starting with boxes of parts and a large manual through to creating a fully functional aircraft which displayed at Farnborough Airshow. They started by creating the tail, with the fuselage following, and then the wings and skin last. The wings were created by two other schools and were brought to Yateley School, where Oliver attended, to be assembled at a separate time. This was a great example of the teamwork required for the project and really showed how far a single project like this can reach out to so many children.
The dedication and commitment of Oliver and his fellow students was evident throughout the presentation. Despite working under supervision, he told us how much of the physical effort of building the aircraft was their own. Through his videos, Oliver described how they were learning to use rivet guns to join the firewall, which not only developed skills but built confidence in the hands-on engineering side the project.
One moment that particularly stood out was his description of when he was the first pupil to have a go at flying the aircraft once it had been built. He was also able to let his family take to the skies in the aircraft and this really felt like such a proud moment with all the hard work paying off. G-YTLY went on to display at Farnborough Airshow in 2014, having been on a static display previously in 2010 and 2012. This was an amazing climax to an incredible year for the young engineers and future pilots.
Oliver’s career progression is fascinating, and it was evident that this project had helped him gain work experience with British Airways engineering and his university placement with BMW. He stressed the ability in today’s world of being able to use transferable skills between industries and how he would eventually like to become involved in the business management side of aviation, in line with his University degree. He mentioned how the project helped him develop skills such as teamwork, time management and confidence and encouraged others to get involved with such a project.
The evening was concluded by Jonathon Counsell, Group Head of Sustainability of International Airlines Group, who focused on the importance of developing an interest in aviation in young people. He described how the industry is currently thriving and how companies should look to the younger generation as the next set of engineers, aviation medics and other professionals. His video from NATS really highlighted the scale of the aviation industry in the U.K.
The RAeS Heathrow Branch would like to thank Boeing for kindly sponsoring the event, the British Airways Heritage Centre for opening the museum providing fascinating tours, British Airways for providing their theatre, The Royal Aeronautical Society for their support and Oliver Vass for providing such an inspirational lecture. Thank you also to Professor Chris Atkin and Jonathon Counsell for introducing and concluding the evening.
Looking forward to the next month’s lecture, the RAeS Heathrow Branch is welcoming Professor Keith Hayward, Head of Research of the Royal Aeronautical Society, who will present the lecture ‘Airspace Sovereignty’. He will consider whether the loss of Malaysia MH17 was an avoidable tragedy and the implications of routing commercial aircraft over conflict zones, as well as the responsibilities of national and international agencies in advising and directing any diversion of traffic. You can now register online to attend our lectures at tiny.cc/RAeSLHR.
Eleanor McBrien, 14 January 2017