On the 27th April 2017, the Royal Aeronautical Society Heathrow Branch convened the last meeting of the 2016/17 season – 2017 Annual General Meeting and Film show. In the 2016/17 season, the Branch delivered a greatly-received and eclectic lecture programme – achieved the highest response among our members in 15 year history. To the lectures themselves, and a programme of presentations that was consciously chosen to have less historical subject matter, as the number of younger attendees grows in the Branch.
The lecture season kicked off in September in our new permanent venue of the Waterside Theatre, following the closure of the Community Learning Centre – with a presentation on cabin evacuation modelling by Prof. Edwin Galea, using the tragic events of the British Airtours accident in 1986 to show how fire can spread and indeed, how so many people lost their lives – as well as being able to create simulations of new designs of aircraft and buildings to minimise loss of life.
The October lecture, by contrast, was very light-hearted – given by Paul Catanach. Audiences learned of the challenges of operating an aircraft in the Australian Bush. In November, Tony Gaunt told us of the history of ejection-seat manufacturer Martin Baker, as well as how this life-saving device is developing for the modern military. The year was rounded off in December by old friend of the Branch, Hugh Dibley, who took us through the development of flight simulation and its importance to training and even the design of aircraft.
The Branch was pleased to be joined in January by Oliver Vass, who, although having no aeronautical background, had been heavily involved as a pupil in the RAeS Schools’ Build-a-Plane project. This had to be a lecture highlight of the year – only 20, he delivered a confident presentation – without notes – on how he developed as an individual that put more seasoned speakers to shame!
Due to a corporate event in the Theatre, the February lecture had to decant to a smaller venue and unfortunately cap the attendance, which was a pity as the subject matter – Airspace Sovereignty – attracted a wide audience to this presentation about the politics and pitfalls of overflying conflict zones, illustrated in the main by the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine. Our speaker was Professor Keith Hayward, former head of research at the RAeS and his relaxed but well-informed presentation style was well received.
The Branch had only one named lecture this year. The Sir Richard Fairey named lecture, devoted to advances in aviation technology, was given by Pierre Carpentier and Olivier Frerotte of Thales. They presented on the issue of crew situational awareness whilst taxying at airports and showcased their solution – a moving map app on a tablet. Pierre and Olivier join the likes of Joe Sutter, Sir Peter Masefield, Freddie Laker and Sir Frank Whittle in a well-received talk that also received a write-up on the Society’s global website and flagship AEROSPACE magazine.
Finally, it’s becoming a bit of a tradition that the final lecture of the season is a popular historical subject, and 2017 has been no exception. This year John Thorpe, a former flight test engineer, took us through the initial flight testing of one of the UK’s most successful jet airliners, the BAC One-Eleven – a well-attended talk that brought a lot of old and familiar faces here to Waterside.
In this season, almost all the lectures have been recorded and are available on our website – although in some cases they have been edited for content at the request of the speakers. It’s a great way of archiving these for posterity.
At the end of the Annual General Meeting, the Branch’s longest continually-serving chairman – Graeme Catnach [CEng, FRAeS] stood down after 6 years of excellent service. The Chairship was taking over by Adrian Constable, supported by the vice-chairman Peter Friar and the Heathrow Branch committee. Adrian will be leading the Branch to deliver another successful year of aeronautical activities for the local community.
I would like to thank everyone who has supported me as chairman over the last six years; I’ve not left the branch or committee, so I look forward to seeing you at lectures and events in the coming year.
– Graeme Catnach [CEng FRAeS], Chairman, RAeS Heathrow Branch 2011-2017
For the up-coming lecture season 2017-2018, the Branch has again prepared an excellent lecture programme, which can be browsed on our EVENT page in due course. The first lecture of the new season due to commence on 14th September 2017, will be given by Samuel Penny, a Licensed Aircraft Engineer of British Airways on the topic of “Human Powered Flight”.