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British Airways Cool Aeronautics

After several months in the making, RAeS was delighted to bring our flagship primary school outreach programme ‘Cool Aeronautics’ to the heart of British Aviation. On Thursday 27 February, RAeS in collaboration with British Airways welcomed over 90 students from three local primary schools to the magnificent BA Headquarters, Waterside for an insightful and inspiring day into the world of aviation and aeronautics, delivered through the eyes of serving BA Pilots and Engineers. Supported by the BA Community Engagement & Inspire team, Student Ambassadors and the RAeS Heathrow Branch, this event was certainly one to remember by all who took part including pupils, teachers and all personnel involved in turning our vision to reality.

The Cool Aeronautics programme kindly sponsored by AAR Corp, aims to provide an insightful experience into the world of aerospace and aviation to young children aged between 8-11 and their teachers. The events form an integral part of the Society’s mission to attract and inspire the next generation into aerospace, STEM and aviation related careers.

The day began with a brief introduction from Melissa (Mel) Kose, Community Engagement Manager at BA who spoke about the significance of the airline and the impact it has on people’s daily lives. Attendees were also given a summary of the fantastic programme of talks and activities that were in store for them. This was swiftly proceeded by an ‘ice-breaker’ exercise with a competitive twist! Led by Mel, in groups the children were tasked with identifying various worldwide destinations that are currently served by the BA network, through viewing images of famous landmarks at these destinations and then determining the city/country. The team with the most correct answers would win the task.

Following this it was time for our very own RAeS Fellow, Capt Alan Bamford to share his experiences as an airline pilot with BA. Alan highlighted his journey to becoming a pilot, whilst talking about the day to day role of a pilot and how safety plays a large factor in ensuring a positive outcome for the airline’s customers. The children were also shown an image of an Airbus A320 flight deck and Alan pointed out the key components or ‘buttons’ as the children would refer to it! Joining Alan for a Q&A session was FO Claudine Miles, a pilot on the Boeing 747. The pair were bombarded with questions which shows the sheer enthusiasm of young children who were eager to absorb all the information. Popular questions included ‘What is your favourite destination to fly to? Another was “what is your favourite button on the aircraft?” to which Claudine appropriately responded, “the autopilot disengage switch!” Several lucky children got the chance to come up on stage and visually turn into pilots and engineers while donning the appropriate uniforms!

Next, we heard from BA Engineering Apprentices, Arron, Mitchell and Jade who highlighted the role of an aircraft engineer, whilst mentioning their educational background and their inspiration in embarking on an apprenticeship with BA. Using images, they also talked about the basic workings of a jet engine and how it contributes to the propulsion of an aircraft. During their Q&A session, they distributed small components of an aircraft around the groups to provide a visual sense of their job and the types of repair work that is undertaken. The apprentices were asked to describe their job in five words, to which Jade Bodman responded: “exciting, challenging, rewarding, ever-changing and inspiring.”

Moving into the afternoon segment of the event, the BA team had prepared three fantastic interactive STEM-based activities for the students. The first of these activities was of course ‘paper planes’ which never ages in its ability to excite the next generation. Led by Claudine Miles and RAeS Heathrow Branch volunteer, Eleanor McBrien, the children were tasked with designing an aerodynamic, airworthy plane out of paper. Seeing the children getting competitive with the ‘fly the furthest challenge’ was indeed a joy to watch!

The second activity saw the children transported back in time at the BA Heritage Centre, where they were tasked with undertaking a treasure hunt using clues from BA’s long and rich history to solve the questionnaire and win prizes. From old aircraft models by BOAC to the replica seats of BA’s first-class cabin, the children garnered a sense of the airline’s importance in British history. They were greeted by BA’s inspiring Student Ambassadors, Caitlin, Umme and Max who addressed the students on the Inspire programme run by the airline in order to engage with young people interested in pursuing a career with the company. The ambassadors traced their journey from primary to secondary school, being selected for work experience at BA through to joining the recognised Inspire Student Ambassador programme. They gave important advice on following their footsteps and also inspired the children to pursue their ambitions!

The final activity was a ‘basic masterclass in engineering! ‘The students were tasked with building a free-standing structure out of nothing but marshmallows and considerable quantities of spaghetti! Led by the engineering apprentices along with Samantha and Hannah from the BA Inspire team, the children had to combine their knowledge of Lego and Jenga! In addition, they had to recall information from their Science classes around Centre of Gravity in order to produce either the tallest structure or the most extravagant structure to win. It was an agonizing wait as the children watched each structure withstand a test by the BA team. It was “survival of the fittest” while some structures stood tall and proud, others tumbled to zero!

Upon conclusion of the activities it was almost time to say goodbye, however one final activity remained. ‘The ultimate paper plane showdown.’ Claudine had selected three students from each school with the best paper planes to compete with each other for the final prize. With all 90 children and adults watching and cheering their respective friends, the atmosphere was energizing. Ultimately the ‘winner took it all!” Sam and Mel then proceeded to hand out prizes for other winners of the various activities for the day, before the event concluded with a final goodbye from Samantha McGrane and RAeS very own Nicholas Davis.

This event was a fantastic display of how our Cool Aeronautics programmes succeed in inspiring the next generation into the world of aviation and aerospace and how by collaborating with industry, we can create a memorable experience and promote the wealth of opportunity in our beloved industry.

On behalf of the Royal Aeronautical Society we would like to sincerely thank the Community Engagement & Inspire team at British Airways for all their enthusiasm and dedication in supporting us to host this event. In particular a special thanks goes to Melissa Kose and Samantha McGrane who worked hard to ensure a robust programme that delivered everything in our mission and beyond. We very much look forward to working with British Airways in the future to continue to inspire the next generation of the aviation workforce.

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