Report on RAeS Women in Aviation and Aerospace Conference (WAAC)

at Rolls-Royce Filton, Bristol, Nov 2012

Written by Emily Manning and Gaelle Norbert of the RAeS Bristol Branch 

On Friday 2nd November Rolls-Royce hosted the RAES ‘Women in Aviation and Aerospace’ Conference in Filton, Bristol, in a change from its regular venue in central London. After being warmly welcomed by the staff, Clare Walker, chair of the Women in Aviation & Aerospace Committee opened the ‘Inspiring Excellence’ 2012 Conference. She was followed by Jenny Body, President-Elect of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the first woman to become president of the Institution since its creation in 1866.

The ten different speakers were excellent and held the attention of the audience throughout the day. The speakers’ subjects ranged from saving lives to overcoming challenges as well as innovation and excellence. All of the women delivered technically excellent and interesting presentations, with injections of humour to really bring their passion for their subject clear, whilst amusing the audience!

According to Airbus’ Loraine McIlree, Product Engineering Leader for A380 Fuel and General Systems, ‘size does matter’ when talking about fuel systems. She then entertained the audience with “15 shades of Fuel” whilst sharing aspects of the A380 Fuel system.

Belinda Swain, Chief Airworthiness Officer, gave a fascinating speech on air crash investigations. She started working on the Rolls-Royce Olympus 593 slightly before the crash of the Concorde on 25 July 2000. After the Air France Flight 4590 crashed in Gonesse in France, she found that she had a significant part to play in the follow up investigation of the incident.

Lisa Fitzsimons also spoke about her involvement in the world of aircraft investigation, opening many eyes to an alternative career opportunity once one has some experience in the aviation industry.

Search and Rescue pilot, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, captured everyone’s attention by talking about her challenging role and what inspired her to become the only female pilot in the Irish search and rescue crew. It wasn’t always easy, but made a good example of what you can achieve if you are determined and set your mind to something!

As well as technical presentations, Janet Mitchell gave some useful hints about project management through speaking of her experiences of managing McSquared Consultants Ltd.

Julie Southern from Virgin Atlantic explained how Virgin is taking one step ahead of their competitors by introducing VIP lounges and how Virgin is translating these innovative key skills into managing and delivering for the needs and expectations of the customer.

Dr Faye Smith combined learning about new materials with project management, bringing composite fibres specimens along to accompany the talk.

Harold Caplan, a Fellow of the RAeS, highlighted that the Wright Brothers’ sister, Katherine, was also present during the first powered flight and probably played an important role in their invention. She may not have been given the credit she deserved, with only the two brothers’ contributions being recognised by the majority for many years.

For the final talk, Air Cdre Jayne Millington of the RAF brought us back to the present by highlighting the important roles of many men and women in the 2012 Olympics. It was fascinating to hear about the challenge of providing air security for the 2012 Olympics.

To bring this inspirational conference to a close, there was a post-conference reception, hosted by Airbus, which allowed for plenty of networking! A very worthwhile day in the South West, where the history of aviation was born and the aerospace industry continues to thrive due to the dedicated workforce behind it. Many thanks to Clare Walker, Chairmen of WAAC, and all those involved in organising such an inspiring and educational event!

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