Our President

The President of the Society provides leadership of the Council and of the Society in pursuit of its Objectives. The President holds a pivotal role at the Society upholding the values, and reputation of the Society as well as the interests of the members. The President is an Ambassador of the Society representing us at key engagements, influencing the global standing of the Society in furthering the advancement of aeronautical art, science and engineering.

Sir Stephen Dalton FRAeS.jpg

Sir Stephen Dalton FRAeS, President 2017-18


Prof Chris Atkin CEng FRAeS, President 2016-2017


The time may well come when the debate turns to the question of whether all flights require two pilots in the cockpit or whether a different arrangement is feasible, safe and acceptable to regulators and passengers alike."

Sir Stephen Dalton FRAeS

President's Message: November 2017

As I write this article, the short-haul European airline market is in a distinct state of flux. The unfortunate demise of Monarch Airlines and the apparent shortage of pilots at Ryanair have delivered a timely reminder of the economic factors and competition that is very active in this market. For years, the strong competition on short-haul routes in particular, have driven airlines to seek diverse incentives to make them more competitive and give them that vital edge. Looking forward to the predicted steady rise in the consumer demands for more and more seats on existing routes and flights to and from more regional airports is putting greater pressure on airlines to operate at sharper and sharper margins.

One of the more challenging questions facing the industry is about the availability of trained and qualified pilots to fly their aircraft, the subject of the recent RAeS Annual International Flight Crew Training Conference. The cost of training the pilots is now a major factor for the individual pilots, as are their understandable demands for suitably assured and rewarding contracts of employment with the airlines.

The time may well come when the debate turns to the question of whether all flights require two pilots in the cockpit or whether a different arrangement is feasible, safe and acceptable to regulators and passengers alike. However, many will remember the Germanwings incident of only a couple of years ago and will not even want to start that conversation.

However, like so many issues facing aviation, there is a need to ensure that those possibilities, those challenges and the potential solutions are discussed by well-informed and impartial experts and that is where our Society can step up to the mark. As with all aerospace technical, regulatory and operating questions, if they are based on what can and should be done within and on the leading edges of aviation, our Society has a role to play and, with the competences of our membership, we stand ready to provide that independent and impartial advice.

Our most recent Council Meeting took as its main theme the big questions facing the sector as the UK withdraws from the EU; the questions that are being addressed range from licensing and taxation of aircraft components across borders to the availability and access to landing slots at European airports after March 2019. Our aim is to ensure that European governments and others acknowledge the requirement to discuss and agree ways forward, in good time, before the critical ‘issue’ lands on wrong ‘terminal’!

Many of you will have heard/read of Elon Musk’s intent to build and fly a ‘spaceplane’ that can fly passengers from Europe to Australia in minutes rather than hours and to do so in the next five years. To many, this may seem over-ambitious and even a dream. However, Mr Musk, a Society Gold Medal Winner in 2012, has shown that he can make the apparently impossible become reality and to deliver revolutionary capabilities rather than wait for ‘mere’ evolution to bring about the solution. This is just the sort of challenge that is needed to give the brightest aerospace engineers a vision, a challenge (or two) and the motivation to get involved. It will also give our next generation the idea that there is still lots to do in our industry and in the research and development that underpins deliverable engineering and technology.

These future goals and possibilities should form a significant part of our Society’s programme of lectures and seminars and I would strongly encourage our Branches and Society to look to include some of these exciting challenges and possibilities in our programme over the coming years. It is such events and discussions that will attract our younger membership to get involved and put us on the very nose cone of new and innovative aerospace thinking.

Sir Stephen Dalton FRAeS

The President's Biography

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton joined the Royal Air Force in 1976 after graduating with an honours degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Bath University. His early career was spent as a frontline pilot on the Jaguar and Tornado aircraft. He commanded No 13 Squadron and subsequently, he commanded Royal Air Force Coltishall and the RAF’s Jaguar Force. Promoted to Air Commodore, he was appointed as Director of the Eurofighter (Typhoon) Programme Assurance Group in the Ministry of Defence with responsibility for ensuring that all elements of this key international defence programme resulted in a cost-effective and safe introduction to service of Typhoon. On promotion to Air Vice-Marshal, he took over the post of Capability Manager for Information Superiority, with defence-wide responsibility for the assessment, budgetary management and delivery of Defence’s intelligence and communications capability. In April 2004, he was appointed Controller Aircraft, a post which carried with it a place on the Air Force Board, which he carried with him into his next position when, in May 2006, he took up the appointment of Director General Typhoon in the Ministry of Defence; this period was dominated by the major review of the 4 partner-nation government and industry MOUs and contracts. In May 2007, Air Chief Marshal Dalton was appointed as the strategic personnel (HR) and training director for the Royal Air Force and he was promoted Air Chief Marshal in April 2009 and became Chief of the Air Staff in July 2009. He was awarded The Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air in 1985, appointed a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB) in 2005, promoted to Knight Commander (KCB) in 2009 and advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order (GCB) in 2012. He stood down as Chief of the Air Staff in July 2013. Much of his career has involved the leadership of major change programmes in high profile positions and across major multi-departmental projects within government working on high-level international programmes with professional bodies, major industry partners and overseas organisations and governments.