ONE SPACE LEFT – A REQUIEM TO A DYNAMIC INDUSTRY
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
21 Aug 06. The Imperial War Museum Duxford, Europe’s premier
aviation museum, Museum gave BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold a preview of their new AirSpace initiative. Duxford has its origins in the First World War as one of Britain’s earliest military airfields. As a wartime Royal Air Force fighter station, Duxford’s Spitfires and Hurricane’s played a key role in the Battle of Britain in 1940.
Since man’s first unsteady powered flights a century ago, aviation has changed the world in which we live. Military air power has revolutionised warfare and has shaped, and continues to shape, history. It was aircraft that fought the Battle of Britain in 1940 and it was aircraft that brought the Second
World War to an end when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan by US bomber aircraft.
AirSpace, an ambitious £21.5m development tells the story of Britain’s aviation and aerospace industry, past, present and future. While commemorating the remarkable achievements of the past, AirSpace will educate and
inspire the pilots and engineers of tomorrow. It will also increase the public’s understanding of aviation heritage and its relevance for today and the future.
When AirSpace was first mooted with BAE Systems’ generous donation for the project, BATTLESPACE contacted Hugh Colver, then PR Supremo for BAE with a publishing project that would enhance and publicise this unique facility. BATTLESPACE Editor, Julian Nettlefold assembled a team of the top experts in their field, Bill Kerr-Elliott from United Television Artists, an ex-BBC journalist and an expert in the field of aviation and making technology films, Mark Samuelson from the History Channel, Sidney Mayer, former owner of Bison Books a military publishing specialist and BATTLESPACE for a meeting at The Royal Aeronautical Society. The aim of the BATTLESPACE Project was to produce a CD and a Book about AirSpace that could be given to past and future customers of BAE to demonstrate the sheer size and complexity of the technology involved in the airplanes on display. This would be complemented by a series on the History Channel shown during Farnborough 2002. It took Hugh Colver one minute to turn the project down flat, a move that reflected not only current Government thinking on the future of the aerospace industry in the U.K. but also BAE’s PR policies which, at that time, were more geared around EPS and share price for a swift takeover by either Boeing or Lockheed Martin than the desire to build on the huge pool of technology and expertise within the company and the U.K. as a whole.
In 2006 the statement in the Drayson-inspired Defence Industrial Strategy that the Typhoon would be the last manned aircraft Programme in the U.K. and the sale of the BAE stake in Airbus signalled that the U.K. and BAE was pulling away from its aerospace roots and going to pastures new in the U.S. where the defence pickings and hence higher EPS, bonuses, share options and the like, with the possibility of an eventual sale to a U.S. Major lurked, who would blame them given the muck often thrown at them by successive Ministers!
The Drayson statement is very much akin to the Duncan Sands 1960s statement that missiles were the way forward, again dumping manned aircraft. This move effectively gave away the U.K. lead in delta winged aircraft pioneered through the Fairey Delta to Dassault which modelled its highly successful and profitable Mirage on this design. A U.K. manufactured delta winged fighter would have sold to the hundreds of Hawker Hunter customers around the world and provide the U.K. with the massive income enjoyed by France and Dassault.
AirSpace is a grand walk through history and one can only wonder at these machines on display to imagine the huge technology resource and brain power that has gone into these projects. Starting from WWI biplanes through to a myriad of WWII a