How Aerospace Bristol was created and SWWE branch AGM

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Martin Gosden, Branch Chairman, conducted a brisk AGM, introduced the committee, got agreement of the 2018 AGM minutes, reviewed the past year and looked forward to the next. Gary Mainwaring, Branch Treasurer, discussed the financial statement. Following election of the committee, the Chairman introduced our speaker for tonight, Lloyd Burnell, Executive Director, Aerospace Bristol.

Lloyd started with a brief introduction to Filton site which started in 1910 with Sir George White forming the British and Colonial (later Bristol) Aeroplane Company, which was a the direct ancestor of Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, MBDA and Airbus.

The origins of Aerospace Bristol can be traced back to the late 1980s with the formation of the Bristol Aero Collection, started by a group of enthusiasts who started to collect aerospace artefacts. These had a nomadic existence being held in Banwell and then Kemble. South Gloucestershire Council set up an Aviation Steering Committee to promote the creation of a museum. Various options appraisals were conducted between 2001 and 2005, but a lack of stakeholder agreement prevented progress. In 2003 the last Concorde to fly, Alpha Foxtrot, landed at Filton. In 2007, the Concorde Trust was set up with the view to preserving Alpha Foxtrot, and in 2009, Lloyd was appointed Project Director.

The current 9 acre site was acquired in 2012 as part of the closure of Filton Airfield by BAE Systems, who also contributed significant funding. Further significant funding was obtained from Airbus and Rolls-Royce, and a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Work started on the site in September 2015 and the museum opened in October 2017. The project was not just about the build, but also transformed the organisation on to a professional footing.

Lloyd focused on stakeholder management, and the juggling act to get the Trustees, Politicians, Land Owners, of which there had been 3 over the period, and the funding partners aligned behind a common vision: that of promoting the aerospace industry and STEM to youngsters.

Funding of the £20M project was generously provided by key local stakeholders as well as the Heritage Lottery Fund, and also directly from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, as well as more traditional fund raising and some loans. During the build the main challenge was that of managing the cash flow to pay the main contractor, Kier. The loans will be paid off as the business builds up.

As well as the new build hangar for Concorde, heritage assets, including Hanger 16S, which was built in 1917 for the Royal Flying Corps, was refurbished from a very poor state to house the main exhibition and learning facilities.

The collection was another major challenge. Ownership had to be formally established for many items which involved a lot of research. It took 3 years to prepare and restore the collection for exhibition and involved over 100 volunteers to get them ready on time. Gaps in the collection were identified and sourced from various organisations, including the European Space Agency.

Concorde Alpha Foxtrot was moved from the other side of the airfield into its new home, with just 1 metre to spare either side as the aircraft was winched into the building. The end wall was built after it had been moved in. There was a great time lapse video of the build and the Concorde move into the hangar.

Since opening in October 2017, Aerospace Bristol has been a great success with over 200,000 visitors, including many school pupils. It aims to inspire the next generation to get involved in science, technology and engineering.

Lloyd summarised the presentation with his personal lessons. Be ambitious, but realistic. A common vision and mission, agreed by all stakeholders is critical. Focus on managing key stakeholder relationships. Strong leadership and governance are needed to guide the project through challenges. Employ the best people that you can afford. Be persistent and passionate, which are essential to be able to take people with you over a ten-year journey.

The presentation is also available to view the APM Slideshare page.

Martin Gosden
SWWE Branch Chairman 

Posted on 5th Jun 2019
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