July 2014

The results of the Council Election are shown here and in the July edition of AEROSPACE (p 53) and, by the time you read this, the ‘new’ Council will have held its first meeting. I wish to congratulate the new Council Members and to thank all the candidates who put their names forward for election. It is good to know that there is strong competition among our members to serve on the Council.

Back in May I attended the Branches’ Conference, which was organised very successfully this year by the Derby Branch. The conference is a really important opportunity for face-to-face communication between Branch representatives and Society staff members; it also enables the Branches to share ideas. The programme included a visit to the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Museum, which provides a fascinating and comprehensive history of aero-engine development in Derby from the earliest days. Also in May I was delighted to be able to welcome Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, the UK Chief of the Air Staff, as Guest of Honour at the Society’s Annual Banquet. Over 500 people attended the Banquet, which was very well supported by many of our Corporate Partners.

Shortly before taking over as President I was privileged to attend the launch of the Longitude Prize 2014. You may have seen or heard publicity about this in the media. Three hundred years ago in 1714 the British Government offered a prize of £20,000 for a solution to the problem of finding the longitude of a position on the earth (and importantly on the deck of a ship) to within half a degree. This was a really difficult problem that had taxed navigators, mathematicians and astronomers for hundreds of years. Dava Sobel’s book Longitude (Fourth Estate Ltd, London, 1996) describes well the trials and tribulations of clock maker John Harrison’s attempts to win the prize. He was eventually awarded a substantial proportion of the prize money for his H4 marine chronometer, the design of which changed how mariners navigated at sea. The idea of the Longitude Prize 2014 is to offer a prize of £10,000,000 for a solution to an equivalent challenge in today’s world. The public is being asked to vote to choose the challenge from a shortlist of six concerned with: food; water; dementia; antibiotics; paralysis; and carbon-free flight. (Full details are at www.longitudeprize.org.) By the time you read this we should know which challenge the public has chosen.

Even if the challenge of carbon-free flight is not chosen, the fact that it was on the shortlist underscores the importance of aviation to human society. To my mind, it also raises the question if we in the RAeS could and should do more to help find solutions to mitigating the impact of aviation on the environment. Greener by Design has done great work over many years in this area to improve understanding of the issues and to recommend potential solutions. Nevertheless, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the Society, I wonder if we should take this as one of our key technical challenges for the future. Is there more that we could do to help tackle an issue that is important to human society and that will become increasingly important to our industry? I would be interested in your views.

Air Cdre Bill Tyack