On the eve of my 60th birthday, and as a long-time editor of Aerospace Manufacturing, now would seem as good a time as any to climb upon the Final Approach soapbox and have my say.
I was born just a stone’s throw from Rochester airport so I guess the soft purr of propeller-driven aircraft flying overhead might have something to do with my passion for all things with wings.
As a youngster I was an avid builder of Airfix model aircraft, which I would then suspend from my bedroom ceiling with taut pieces of white cotton thread. My favourite model kit you ask? Well, there was always something quite exquisite about the Lockheed P-38, although the Blohm & Voss BV 141 was a close second!
Despite protestations that I wanted to go to Medway Art College and become a graphic illustrator, my parents said ‘you’re good with your hands’, and packed me off to train as an apprentice fitter & turner with a control valve manufacturing company - also located at Rochester airport. After 22 happy years, I was made redundant - and promptly joined BAE Systems next door.
Here, I was fortunate to work on a variety of civil aircraft programmes, manufacturing slat and flap primary flight computers for various aircraft. I’m proud to have been involved in resolving some sort of component issue for Concorde, although I cannot remember what exactly!
It was during this time that I developed a flair for writing cost justification (begging) letters to senior management, asking for money to purchase some much-needed equipment. Much like feature writing, I enjoyed researching and putting together the words that would resonate within the people who held the purse strings. It led me to think that a role in technical journalism might be worth investigating.
So, I jacked my real job in and enrolled on a salaried journalism training course, and the rest as they say, is history. Over the last 21 years I worked on manufacturing trade press publications across the machine tool, electronics, composites and of course, aerospace sectors.
And oh my, hasn’t the publishing industry changed during that time? Alas, the demand for on-message promotional marketing copy has diminished the value of editorial, and I can’t be the only editor who feels like they’ve become a small cog in a big machine. This is due in part to the rise in social media industry trends but in truth, it’s only served to increase the level of ‘noise’ that’s out there. Everyone knows everything, and no-one’s ever wrong - who can you believe?
Well, since its launch at the 2006 Farnborough Airshow, Aerospace Manufacturing has grown to become the leading business-to-business publication focusing on the design, production and supply chain elements of the civil and defence aerospace sectors. I’d like to think that in the 13 years I’ve been in the cockpit, Aerospace Manufacturing has continued to proudly serve its readers and remain a vital source of information for those in industry making today’s important decisions that will help shape the aircraft of tomorrow.
This year heralds a welcome return for the Farnborough Airshow – an event so huge that you can actually see the curvature of the earth in Hall 4. After the recent flag-waving celebrations of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, it’s probably time for the UK’s aerospace industry to beat its chests with nationalistic pride and show the world what it is made of. Farnborough has seen it all over the years - from exciting flying aircraft debuts to biblical floods. What always stands out for me is that ‘wow! I saw it here first’ moment.
So, I can look back fondly on an enjoyable career in both manufacturing and journalism. My parents were right I suppose. I am good with my hands, but just not in ways I would have imagined.