Flying Start Challenge 2019

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The Flying Start Challenge (FSC) is a regional STEM competition run for the benefit of Year 7 to 9 pupils in the South West of England. The competition aims to inspire students into following a career in engineering as well as introducing them to many key skills that are vital in such a career, as well as through the remainder of their education.

The competition itself consists of the students designing, building, testing and flying model hand gliders in teams of 4. It brings together 9 of the most well-known and industry-leading Aerospace companies in the country, based in the South West, to sponsor and run the competition with assistance from EDT and the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS). Current sponsoring companies are; Airbus, Atkins, BAE Systems, GKN Aerospace, Leonardo, MBDA, Rolls Royce, Safran Landing Systems and Triumph.

The 2018/19 Flying Start Challenge Grand Final at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, was a resounding success with lots of learning and development opportunities for the participants, not to mention lots of fun too!

Venue: The impressive Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, hosted the Grand Final again this year

The competing teams displayed a great deal of knowledge and skills that they have been developing over the past few months in their glider poster presentations and also in the range of exciting engineering related activities that they took part in.

Firstly, the arriving contestants were treated to an interesting presentation by Captain John Sorsby (British Airways A320 Pilot) which outlined the benefits of a career in engineering and the varying routes into such a career, not to mention the wide variety of roles available to them.

Story of the Day: Teams try their hand at the Earthquake Tower activity

The rest of the day consisted of exciting engineering activities including the Earthquake Tower (where they were to build a tower using paper straws able to stay intact during a simulated earthquake) and the Jet Propulsion Car (where they had to use a plastic bottle and balloons to propel a small vehicle). They also had the opportunity to “wow” our industry expert judges by showing of the posters they had created and performing presentations on the design of their gliders. They enjoyed an excellent free tour of the museum with the help of the knowledgeable staff from the FAAM, including getting up close and personal with a real life Concorde. The day culminated in the Grand Final Fly-Off where the contestants competed to achieve the furthest glider flight.

The teams were marked on their presentations, the quality of their glider (as determined by top Aerospace industry experts), performance in the engineering activities and distance travelled in the fly-off. The winning team overall was Hermes from Cotham School, Bristol, and they were awarded with vouchers for a free glider flight each from the chairman of Mendip Gliding Club as well as a STEM voucher of £1,000 for their school.

Winners of the day: The overall winning team being presented their prizes by Rod Coombs of Mendip Gliding Club

All the prize winners from the day are shown below;

• 1st Overall – Hermes (Cotham School, Bristol)
• 2nd Overall – JU90 (Huish Episcopi School, Somerset)
• 3rd Overall – Insert Name Here (Chipping Campden School, Gloucestershire)
• Fly-Off Winner – JU90 (Huish Episcopi School, Somerset)
• Engineering Activities Winner – Flying Ninja (Cotham School, Bristol)
• ‘Best’ Glider – The Slanty Glider (Colston Girls School, Bristol)
• Presentation Winners – Hermes (Cotham School, Bristol)

The FSC have been building on its links with the RAeS in the past year, increasing collaboration in order to deliver positive outcomes for the students involved. Rishi Radia of RAeS attended the Grand Final this year to see the competition first-hand and supported the poster presentation judging during the day.

To date, the challenge has been a resounding success and is aiming to expand further, with more than 500 students involved across over 30 schools, with next year’s edition of the Flying Start Challenge on track to increase the participation levels again.

For more information about the challenge, please visit or email or


Salma Dwikartika
Graduate Engineer | Materials Lab
Safran Landing Systems

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