Cranfield University and the Royal Aeronautical Society recently held the 41st annual Handley Page Memorial Lecture, which celebrated the in-flight measurement and research conducted by the National Flying Laboratory Centre (NFLC) at the University.

Sir Frederick Handley Page was one of the greatest figures in British aviation, founding Handley Page Ltd, which was best known for building large bomber aircraft used in World War 1, in 1909. He was a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and served on the committee which proposed the College of Aeronautics (now Cranfield University) during the Second World War.

After his death in 1962, Cranfield University and the Royal Aeronautical Society both wished to honour his memory, so created the annual Handley Page Memorial Lecture. The first lecture was delivered by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on 21 May 1963 with the title ‘Education for Technology’.

This year’s lecture was delivered by Professor Nicholas Lawson, Professor in Aerodynamics and Airborne Measurement and head of the NFLC at Cranfield University. 

He said: “It was a pleasure to deliver this year’s lecture to more than 200 attendees, which, of course, was via Zoom in true 2020 fashion.

”It is great to celebrate the history and future of aviation; so much exciting work continues to take place. Over the years, hundreds of students from Cranfield and other institutions have benefitted from the facilities at NFLC. The acquisition of the new NFLC aircraft, a Saab 340B, in 2021 will enable us to create new research capabilities, including potentially in collaboration with other international universities."

Funding campaigns still continue to enable the modifications of the aircraft. The latest phase of the campaign provides the unique opportunity for those interested to sponsor various parts of the aircraft. You can find out more via the dedicated NFLC fundraising webpage.

Professor Helen Atkinson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Cranfield University, said: “We are extremely grateful for the support from those who have given so generously to the fundraising campaign so far. From alumni to current students and from industry partners to other universities, we love to hear just what a global asset the National Flying Laboratory Centre is. 

“While we have made great strides with generous donations we still have a little way to go to equip our new Saab 340b with the technology that will inspire and educate the next generation of aero-engineers as our long-serving Jetstream 31 has done.”

The NFLC currently operates three aircraft for research and teaching. The aircraft range from a 7000kg Jetstream 31 turboprop with 19 seats, to two tandem-seat 1000kg aerobatic piston engine aircraft. Each year, more than 1500 aerospace engineering students from more than 20 UK universities fly in the aircraft, providing experiential learning of flying and flight test of aircraft.

NFLC is also active in research areas with other academic partners and industry. In 2019, Cranfield received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for the work of its 'flying classroom' and the role it plays in supporting the nation’s aero-engineering students.