Cranfield University’s fundraising campaign for a replacement aircraft has received a boost this week from the RAF, with a sponsorship contribution worth £50,000.

The University currently has a campaign underway to replace its Jetstream 31, part of the National Flying Laboratory Centre (NFLC), with a new Saab 340B aircraft.

The announcement was made by Air Chief Marshal Stephen Hillier, at the inaugural RAF Inspire event yesterday.

Air Chief Marshal Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, said: “I am delighted to announce that we have just committed £50,000 to sponsor the National Flying Laboratory at the Cranfield University. This will give us unprecedented access to the country’s best young engineering talent.”


Professor Helen Atkinson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing, said: “We are very grateful to the RAF for this contribution in support of this national asset.  It will provide students and researchers alike with an exceptional experience.”

The Jetstream facility is virtually unique in the European academic sector and is used to support teaching and research. The ageing plane needs increasingly regular repairs, with parts becoming difficult to replace. The fundraising campaign is aiming to raise £1 million, alongside commitments already made by the University and industry partners, in order to purchase and modify a new aircraft.

 Cranfield has identified the Saab 340B as an ideal aircraft to replace the Jetstream. The 340B will provide a larger capacity to accommodate more students on each flight and create new research capabilities, including the potential for more collaboration with other universities and industry partners.

No other university in the UK has the ‘flying classroom’ capability, with students from 25 universities using the Jetstream, as a vital part of their aerospace learning. Flights take students through various lift, drag and pressure tests and the specially-instrumented aircraft can supply real-time data, allowing students to become flight test engineers for the day.



Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff with cadets
Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, with cadets at the RAF Inspire event

Notes for editors

The Jetstream 31 has served us well for nearly 15 years but it is no longer operated in the UK (except at Cranfield and by a handful of small European airlines) and support for it has become challenging. The time has come for a new aircraft that will enable us to continue to deliver world-class aerospace education and research.

Being larger than the Jetstream 31, the Saab 340B will allow us to conduct teaching and research with minimum reconfiguration. Students will be able to undertake flight test engineer roles and experience a range of in-flight sensations. Modifying the SAAB 340B aircraft will also grant us new and innovative research capabilities.

More information


About Cranfield University

Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.