There’s a time to stand back and admire what engineers can, and have, achieved.
Just recently I’ve been amazed at the skills, adaptability, tenacity, and enterprise that my friend Theo Wilford and his colleagues David and Rick Bremner have demonstrated over the past few years.
From scratch the trio have built a perfect replica WW1 Bristol Scout reconnaissance aeroplane, no. 1264.
This is been undertaken not in some large hangar with a vast array of machinery to hand, but literally on garage benches and in back gardens with parts stashed behind the sofa when not being worked on.
Apart from the engine, a refurbished original found in New Zealand, the specialist propellor, and a few electrical components Theo, David and Rick have built and assembled every detail of the plane resulting in a wonderful example of engineering craftsmanship.
The aircraft’s flight in Thassos Greece earlier this year was the culmination of a journey with an emotional twist for the Bremner brothers since it was from that very airstrip that their grandfather flew the original 1264 back in WW1.
This personal feat underlines how much engineering has changed over the past ten decades, affecting each and every one of us in many ways.
In 1916 the Bristol Scout, made of linen and timber with few metal parts and a maximum speed of 90 mph (and which 3 men can make by hand ) was at the forefront of aircraft technology. Today our equivalent plane is the new F35B costing £70 million each and with a maximum speed of 1199mph. Its design and development relies on thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians dotted around the world all pushing the boundaries of engineering, computer and communications technology.
The changes that engineering has brought to our society, not always to the good it must be acknowledged, over the past 100 years are quite phenomenal when you compare them to the snail’s pace of change that occurred in the previous 2500 years.
So if Engineers create the future why is it that so few of the young wish to enter the profession?
Well to me the profession is too obsessed with talk of systems and data whilst failing to express the emotive rewards that engineering can bring.
Emotional rewards that Theo, David and Rick know all too well.
Barrie Weaver September 2016
see the Bristol Scout blog for the whole story video thanks to Stephen Saunders selected stills by Vasilis Tziatas