British Airways Engineering Day
It's safe to say that when travelling abroad, most people stay inside the aircraft rather than hang off a wing or clutch on to the tail of an aeroplane - so unfortunately people often miss the incredible work done by nitrogen filled tyres holding up a 400 tonne plane and the 24 unique titanium panels grown from a single crystal within each Rolls-Royce engine.
On the 14th of December, a number of us went to a British Airways Engineering taster course where our eyes were very much opened to the work going on behind the curtain to make flights and travelling run smoothly. Upon arrival, we were given a short but informative briefing alongside a talk by BA's top engineer who gave us an incredibly detailed description of the way she orientated her post-16 and post-18 options to stand where she is now. Following this, we were given the most interesting, most eye-opening and frankly one of the most hilarious tours by chief safety officer, Dave. Our first stop was at the hanger housing what is currently the world's largest passenger planes- the Airbus A380. It's difficult to appreciate the sheer size of the plane without comparing it to others so in order to put this into perspective we were told that the vertical stabiliser (the tail) was as high as five giraffes stacked on top of each other. The tail wingspan was the same as the wings of a much smaller aircraft model and this plane weighed 580 tonnes meaning it could only land in certain airports whose runways are able to sustain the weight of the plane without cracking.
Prior to this, we went and stood underneath the mammoth of an aircraft to understand the role of the engines and the why the tyres were filled with nitrogen gas instead of regular air or carbon dioxide. We were all surprised to learn that the titanium blades in the Rolls-Royce engines were each grown from a single crystal and cost more than college tuition fees at £12,000 a blade- of which there were 24, within four turbo engines on this aircraft - I'll allow you to do the math on this one. Following several minutes of shock, appreciation and a mini photo shoot with one of the engines, we split into two groups and explored the inside of the aircraft. We were lucky enough to see the newly renovated seats in the unique BA club class and the world travel class on the upper deck. However despite these new instalments, we all had more of an infatuation with the first class seating where everyone took a seat with out being told twice and enjoying what would be a £10,000 return experience. Besides this, we also got an insight into the cabin crew sleeping quarters which after seeing has increased my respect for the flight crew. If you've ever been on a tour bus or a sleeping train, you would see the resemblance in sleeping arrangements for the cabin crew. I wonder if some airlines think that air hosts and hostesses are hobbits but let's just say if you were 5.7ft and on a plane with turbulence you'd be lucky if you didn't get a concussion from knocking your head on the beds or railings.
We were also lucky enough to see the cockpit and the sea of buttons that the pilots had to use as well as the complex take off and landing procedures which required a criteria that had to be met before proceeding with one or the other.
The next stop on the tour was the phenomenal flight simulators. There was an entire room, the size of a hanger that contained BA flight simulators for each of their aircraft (including one oddly situated virgin aircraft simulator too). We went into the first simulator for the Boeing 747-400 Dreamliner which was unbelievable. Between realistic simulations and spectacular graphics, we were all thoroughly impressed. As a computing student, I could only think about the hours of programming that goes into each simulator and the design engineers that worked together to conceptualise such an idea- which for me was not easy to comprehend.
As that was our final stop we were sad to depart, but the day had provided us with a new perspective on aeronautical, design and software engineering and the vast amounts of effort that goes into place to make everything run smoothly and safely. For students aspiring to be engineers it is already extremely difficult- even more so as a woman. However, our experience at BA showed that at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who you are or how smart you are; it's not always your grades that gets you places, it's your interests and your work ethic that drives you to your final destination.
By Geetanjali Biswas 11W