The Bristol Branch Barnwell lecture took place on Wednesday June 20th at the University of West of England (UWE). Air Commodore Mark Sibley MRAeS, Director of Helicopter Operations, Royal Air Force delivered a lecture entitled ‘In-Theatre Helicopter Operations’
Air Cdre Sibley presented an excellent lecture that outlined the many challenges of supporting helicopter operations in Afghanistan. He highlighted the routine environmental challenges and the impact of dust and extreme heat on maintenance operations. He also addressed the many other challenges encountered by the team in Afghanistan including terrain and logistic issues, rudimentary and limited hangars and living accommodation and the not inconsiderable threat posed from hostile forces. Air Cdre Sibley was keen to recognise the involvement and stress the contribution of the UK aerospace industry in overcoming the challenges and reducing the overall maintenance burden.
The Bristol Branch was formed in 1929 (one of the earliest, after Coventry and Yeovil). 1954 was the 25th anniversary of the Branch and the occasion was marked by the inauguration of the first Bristol Branch lecture named to honour the memory of Frank Barnwell. The Barnwell Brothers (Harold 1878-1917) and Frank (1880-1938) achieved the first powered flight in Scotland on 28th July 1909 (with Harold at the controls). In 1911 Frank Barnwell moved to Bristol to join the British and Colonial Aircraft Company as a designer. He went on to become chief designer and had a key part in designing 150 different models for Bristol between 1915 and 1938 including the Bristol F.2 Fighter and then later the Bristol Blenheim.