Aviation has been a part of Cranfield from its earliest days when it was founded as the College of Aeronautics on a former RAF base in 1946. We are proud heirs to that history of being at the forefront of aviation and aerospace research and education, and we are continuing that tradition by developing new capabilities in aircraft electrification, unmanned aerial vehicle technology and urban mobility.

Cranfield is the only university in Europe to have its own airport, pilots, air navigation service provider, and its own aircraft. However, it is the combination of teaching and research, close working relationships with industry partners, and the unique National Flying Laboratory Centre (NFLC) flying classroom that underpins the outstanding education and student experience that we offer and is key to our vision of the future.

The NFLC supports the development and testing of new airborne technologies and procedures for future flight, and it is through the NFLC that Cranfield has played a significant role in the education of thousands of aerospace engineers - from Cranfield itself and universities right across the UK. As a result, we were honoured to be awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize, the highest award for a higher education institution in the UK, for the work of the NFLC in both research and education.

A new flying laboratory and classroom: the Saab 340B

You may have flown on a Jetsteam as part of your studies or perhaps you know someone who did. The Jetstream 31 served us well for nearly 15 years, but it is no longer operated in the UK and support for it had become challenging.

We have replaced the Jetstream with a Saab 340B, and through modifications we are upgrading it to a fully bespoke facility that will enable us to continue to deliver world-class aerospace education and research and to inspire the next generation through its ‘Global Connected Classroom’ capability.

Help tomorrow’s aerospace leaders benefit from a unique education and support Cranfield’s ambition to stay at the forefront of aerospace technology.

The new Saab 340B will allow us to carry out more research, collaborate with more industry partners and, above all, give more students the opportunity to experience a flight in the flying classroom as part of their learning experience. With improved user interfaces, flights will be more immersive and students will be able to see the flight data displayed on a computer tablet mounted into the headrest of the seat in front - a unique learning opportunity that goes well beyond theoretical studies.

In addition, through satellite communications we are able to provide STEM outreach with the "global connected classroom". We can now bring the excitement of live flight right into schools around the world – that's something very special. It is a truly unique and invaluable facility, helping to prepare students for a career in aerospace and to inspire the next generation.

However, we need your help to complete the project. There are a range of ways you can help support the campaign from sponsoring a part, making a single gift, sharing our story or introducing to organisations who may be willing to support the campaign.

We are hugely grateful to all those who have made contributions in support of the purchase and modification of this new National Flying Laboratory Centre aircraft — the companies, the universities who fly with us, the Trusts and Foundations and our alumni and supporters. 

Together we can continue to create the aviation and aerospace leaders of the future.