18 June | LECTURE | Westland Aircraft and Rotorcraft – Secret Projects and Cutting Edge Technology by Jeremy Graham & Dr Ron Smith

Tuesday 18th June 2024 – 17:30 BST
LIVE from the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection, Old Sarum

The Boscombe Down Branch is delighted to welcome two ex-employees of Westland Helicopters Ltd (Jeremy Graham and Dr Ron Smith) to present a special talk at the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection (BDAC). Jeremy and Ron have written a comprehensive history of the company’s past activities on fixed and rotary wing projects and associated technology developments. Many of these projects did not proceed to flight or production and are consequently little-known, although making a contribution to the company knowledge base and often influencing later designs.

The book Westland: Aircraft and Rotorcraft – Secret Projects and Cutting-Edge Technology has now been published and presents a range of little-known projects from Westland Aircraft Ltd and Westland Helicopters Ltd including its later manifestations.

The lecture will present a selection of these projects, picking out aspects that may remain relevant today. This will include identifying factors affecting the success or failure of the projects discussed in the book; many of these observations being relevant more generally to current and future aerospace projects and technology developments. Early fixed-wing jet projects and civil and military helicopter designs are discussed, alongside research into the boundaries of high-speed helicopter flight; autonomous personal transport helicopters; and example technological innovations.


Jeremy Graham CEng FRAeS

Jeremy Graham joined Westland Helicopters in 1975 as a post-graduate apprentice. His first full time placement following completion of his apprenticeship was to the Remotely Piloted Helicopter development team. Following cancellation of the SUPERVISOR programme he was to be one of a small team that competed for the follow on PHOENIX system. From 1983 he was assigned to work with the Future Projects team on the avionic and weapon system aspects of the Light Attack Helicopter. In 1986 he was appointed as the Head of Avionics and Systems Technology and was the company representative assigned to mission sensors and mission systems engineering teams for NH90 and the A129 Light Attack Helicopter respectively.

In 1989 he was seconded to EHI to lead the Project Definition study for EH101 to meet an RAF requirement and then to lead the in-country engineering team bidding for the Canadian SAR programme, based in Ottawa. From 1995 he was appointed as the lead engineer for the formal bid to the MoD for the Merlin Tactical Support Helicopter, subsequently to become known as the HC.3 Variant after contract award. He remained with this programme until the last aircraft was delivered.

In 2003 he was promoted to be the Chief Safety and Airworthiness Engineer for Westland Helicopters and from 2007 the Head of System Reliability and Safety for the integrated AgustaWestland engineering organisation. Finally, in 2012 he was assigned the role of Chief Engineer for the out of production types: Sea King, Apache, Gazelle, and Chinook (Westland modifications introduced as UORs only).

Jeremy is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the RAeS. He has been a past Chairman of the RAeS Rotorcraft Group Committee, is a current member of the Medals and Awards Committee and is Joint Chairperson of the RAeS Yeovil Branch. He has also served on the RAeS Learned Society Board and Council.

Dr Ron Smith CEng FRAeS

Ron Smith joined Westland Helicopters Ltd in October 1975 in the Research Aerodynamics department, supporting loads prediction modelling of the BERP rotor blade. From October 1980, he was Westland’s Head of Future Projects. He was Joint Technical Coordinator of the four nation A129LAH programme (being appointed Chief Design Engineer Light Attack Helicopter) and was a member of the Configuration Team during the five nation NH90 Feasibility & Pre-Definition Study.

He led the definition of UK’s national Attack Helicopter options and also conducted assessments of the MDHC AH-64A and Eurocopter Tiger against UK requirements. In addition to technical coordination of the A129LAH study, he has also conducted programme and risk evaluations of the Denel Rooivalk.

Ron was Chairman of the RAeS Rotorcraft Group Committee from 1991 to 1993 and was a co-opted member of the RAeS Council. He was a Member of the Design Committee of the American Helicopter Society (AHS) and served on the AHS Technical Council. He is a current member of the Vertical Flight Society (previously AHS). He is a member of the RAeS Historical Group Committee and is a past winner of the RAeS Alan Marsh Award, a Chartered Engineer, and a Fellow of the RAeS.

Having retired at the end of 2012, Ron supported the BAE Systems Heritage team, and is a published author of a dozen aircraft-related books, including the five-volume series British Built Aircraft.

Timings (Approximate):
17:30 – Event Opens
18:00 – Lecture Presentation
19:00 – Q&A Session
19:15 – Event Closes

Boscombe Down Aviation Collection, 
Old Sarum Airfield, 
Old Sarum,

This lecture will be recorded and uploaded to the RAeS YouTube channel in due course.


How to attend

If you would like to attend this event, please contact BoscombeDown@aerosociety.com
No details required, just let us know if you would like to come!

Are you pursuing CEng, IEng or EngTech status? Attendance at our lectures will help you meet your CPD requirements! 

If you have any comments or questions, please contact BoscombeDown@aerosociety.com.

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