The need for an aeronautical professional society at Heathrow was recognised more than 65 years ago, when the Society of Licensed Aircraft Engineers and Technologists (SLAET) formed a Branch in 1950 at what was then called London Airport.
Formation of the SLAET Branch – 1950
- Chairman: H M Turner;
- Secretary: E D Hall;
- Treasurer: L Thomas;
- The Branch operated as two semi-independent sections for several years, one for British European Airways (BEA) members and the other for British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), who were joined by SLAE members from British South American Airways (BSAA) at Langley, Berkshire, after the airline’s demise in 1949.
- Early Branch meetings took place in the “Coach and Horses” public house, Harlington, Middlesex, and later an office behind BOAC’s old Fire Station. Meetings were frequent, with visits to firms and film shows arranged to increase members’ technical knowledge.
Formation of the RAeS Branch – 1956
- 12 January
Norman Brown, an Associate of the Royal Aeronautical Society who worked in the BOAC Central Design Office, circulated a letter within BOAC, BEA and local firms suggesting forming an RAeS Branch at London Airport.
- 27 June
Letter with 46 RAeS member signatures sent to the Royal Aeronautical Society requesting permission to form a local branch.
- 03 August
RAeS informed Beverley Shenstone, BEA’s Chief Engineer, that a local Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society could be formed.
- 05 October
First RAeS London Airport Branch Committee meeting held.
- 30 October
First RAeS Branch lecture was held on the “Design Problems of the Large Helicopter” by Dr G Hislop – Fairey Aviation. Regular monthly lectures followed with venues shared between the BEA Viking Centre and the Fairey Aviation Lecture Hall.
RAeS & SLAET Joint Branch
Some 18 years before their respective parent bodies, the RAeS/SLAET Branches at Heathrow decided to combine their activities. Until that time, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the London Air Port (LAP) Branches of SLAET and the RAeS operated independently with their own lecture programmes and social activities. In July 1969, the two Committees agreed to co-operate in arranging lectures. The first joint lecture was held on 29 October 1969 and was presented by Hugh Cundall of Rolls Royce on the subject of RB211 engine.
The first fully combined annual lecture programme was issued for the year 1972-73 and for some years each committee was allocated one lecture solely organised by them. In August 1972, the relationship went a stage further when the two committees agreed to form a Joint Committee with the RAeS and SLAET Branch Chairmen alternating each year as Joint Branch Chairman. This pooling of resources was a great success and in 1978, attracted a total of 940 members, with frequent attendance by senior management of the airlines and local companies.
The combined Annual General Meeting was, however, complicated by the need, not only to elect, by their respective members, the officers and committee members of each Branch, but also to elect officers of the Joint Branch. In spite of significant staff reductions in British Airways, membership was over 770 in 1987.
The initiative to merge the two parent Societies was prompted by Bill Richardson, then President of SLAET and Engineering Director of British Caledonian. He instigated a number of sub committees to report on feasibility studies. This initiative was the result of increased awareness of the joint interests of members in the two Societies, particularly in the airline operating field. Five years after the initiative began, a ballot of members of both Societies resulted in overwhelming agreement for amalgamation in 1987. SLAET would be incorporated into the RAeS and continue its functions under the Royal Aeronautical Society name. At the 1987 AGMs, the two Heathrow Branches agreed to form a single RAeS Branch and Committee. A new RAeS Branch Constitution was drawn up and approved.
About the SLAET
The SLAET Society had been formed in 1944, first calling itself the Society of Licensed Aircraft Engineers (SLAE). As civil aviation grew after the Second World War, it attracted staff from flying schools, airlines and maintenance organisations, including BOAC, BEA and BSAA. Large numbers of Royal Air Force personnel, who wished to have their military qualifications recognised in the civilian sector, also joined SLAE at this time. The SLAET Society was established to provide professional status and qualifications for those associated with the Airworthiness Certification of aircraft. The main objective of the SLAET was education, examination and dissemination of information to its members.
In 1962, technologists were admitted to the Society’s grading system and the word “Technologists” was also added to the Society name, becoming The Society of Licensed Aircraft Engineers and Technologists (SLAET).