HRH The Princess Royal visits Aircraft Research Association in Bedford
On Thursday 12th October, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited the Aircraft Research Association (ARA) in Bedford. She was hosted by Paul Hutchings (ARA CEO) and David Holmes (ARA Chairperson) and during her visit learnt about the 70 year history of ARA as well as the future plans for the company.
She met staff involved with designing and building models that are “flown” in ARA’s 1,000mph wind tunnel and also staff whose role is to interpret the data gathered during wind tunnel testing. This work assists a wide range of international aircraft manufacturers in the development of new platforms.
Linked to her role as Patron of WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) the Princess also briefly discussed the challenges and opportunities presented to female engineering staff in an industry that still exhibits a significant gender imbalance in terms of numbers of staff. Two of the female engineers the Princess met are members of the company’s management team, which is 50% female.
Towards the end of her visit the Princess unveiled a plaque to complement one unveiled by her father, the late Duke of Edinburgh, when he came to ARA in 2002. The Duke had originally opened ARA back in 1956.
At the end of her visit, the Princess was presented with a gift of a small slice of one of ARA’s original wind tunnel fan blades, crafted in mahogany.
In a vote of thanks, Paul Hutchings said that “ARA is proud to have had 3 royal visits, and the interest shown by such important visitors continues to inspire us”.
Dave Holmes, Chairperson of the Aircraft Research Association, said: “The ARA have been intrinsic to the development of world leading military and civil jet aircraft designs for the last 70 years. ARA’s complete capabilities; people; knowledge and facilities position them to play a lead role in future next generation aircraft development programmes, whether these be civil or military, national or international for many decades to come.”