Meet the Committee 2019

Nick Lay BEng MSc FRAeS – Branch President

Nick Lay is responsible for generating and delivering transformation of QinetiQ’s Air T&E and Training capabilities, including the Test Aircrew Training programme to transform the training of flight test professionals at the Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS).

Nick’s career history encompasses business development, operational and technical management in the air T&E domain. He was previously Business Development Director of QinetiQ’s Air Engineering Group, responsible for business development across a broad portfolio of aerospace research, demonstration and T&E services. Operationally, Nick led a Business Group of 340 QinetiQ staff and military partners delivering independent T&E. Highlights of his technical career included working as a Flight Test Engineer on the Boeing X-32 programme and a decade of involvement in the Eurofighter Typhoon programme, culminating in leading the production of the first set of Release to Service Recommendations for the aircraft.

Nick is a graduate of Imperial College, Cranfield University and the ETPS Flight Test Engineer course. He is married with two teenage daughters.

Richard Bentley MRAeS – Branch Chairman

Richard is a Senior Avionics and Mission Systems engineer working at Boscombe Down on rotary- and fixed-wing trials. He joined QinetiQ at the beginning of 2015 and qualified as a Rotary Wing Flight Test Engineer after graduating from ETPS in 2017.

Prior to joining QinetiQ Richard worked at Lockheed Martin (LM) after graduating from university. His first role was as a mechanical systems engineer working onsite at Westlands on the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter programme. After two years he joined the Merlin Mk2 project team and was responsible for the design, integration, test and qualification of the Radar system, parts of the Tactical Mission Computer and other tactical systems. He was part of the LM flight test team involved in Merlin Mk2 trials at Westlands, Boscombe Down, Aberporth and onboard HMS Illustrious. His final two years at LM saw him designing and testing air traffic control systems at their offices within NATS, Swanwick.

He studied at the Universtity of Southampton and graduated in 2005 with a Masters in Aerospace Engineering. Richard became a Chartered Engineer through the Royal Aeronautical Society in January 2014 and now provides mentorship to his colleagues working towards IEng and CEng.

He lives in Portsmouth with his wife, Cara, and their two Siamese cats, Hector and Perseus. His hobbies include playing music, photography and football.

Geoff Clarkson FRAeS – Vice Chairman

Geoff Clarkson

I have been working in aerospace systems engineering for over 25 years with a special interest in cockpit systems. I started my career at the Royal Aircraft Establishment working in the Flight System Department on simulation before moving into Systems Integration within the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. In 2001 at the creation of QinetiQ, I moved to Boscombe Down and was part of the senior technical team within the QinetiQ Integrated Avionic Systems Group. I then moved into MOD Release to Service work as a Capability Leader.

Much of my career has involved the exploitation of advanced cockpit technology into both fixed and rotary wing aircraft involving considerable flight test activities and I was awarded a QinetiQ Fellowship in 2001. I have presented papers to a number of organisations including AGARD, SPIE and the Royal Aeronautical Society. I have also been a contributor to the RTCA and EUROCAE working group on Enhanced Vision Systems.

I am currently Head of Avionics & Electrical Systems within QinetiQ Air Division. I have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, am a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. I also have a current Private Pilots licence and have recently taken over the Chairmanship of the Boscombe Down Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

James Baseley BEng (Hons) ARAeS – Branch Secretary & Treasurer

James joined QinetiQ at Boscombe Down in 2015 as a Flight Physics engineer. During his first 4 years he has worked on a number of different projects and platforms. These have included the Typhoon Centurion Programme (which included six months seconded with BAE Systems in Warton), the A400M Delta Capability Programme and a broad spectrum of Rotary Wing assessments. James’ highlight so far has been taking part in the HMS Queen Elizabeth First of Class Rotary Wing Flight Trials. James was lucky enough to fly on board the Merlin HM Mk2 and reached just under 100 of the total 1000 deck landings that were achieved during the four week trial. Outside work, James likes to stay active with squash and football and is also honing his skills as a DJ.

Sam Gibbons MSc BEng (Hons) AMRAeS – Lecture Secretary

Sam studied at the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales) where he graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Aeronautical Engineering in 2013. He later studied at the University of Manchester graduating in 2015 with a Master’s of Science in Aerospace Engineering.

Sam joined QinetiQ through the Graduate Development Programme in October 2016 specialising in flight dynamics. Within this role he has been involved with Typhoon working on through life independent technical evaluation of the platform and the Centurion programme. He also has been involved with Ship Air Integration for Chinook and Merlin including being deployed on First of Class Flight Trial on Queen Elizabeth in 2018. More recently, Sam has moved into an investments project management / engineer role predominantly working on bids to procure, modify and operate an aircraft for specialist tasking leading in the aircraft analysis phases and producing rapid design concepts.

Sam has been involved in branch since joining QinetiQ, winning the 2016/2017 Joe Morrall Award, becoming Lecture Secretary in April 2017.

Ryan Potter – Early Careers Representative

Ryan began working at Boscombe Down in 2014 when he started a 4-year apprenticeship in Aeronautical Engineering with QinetiQ. During his apprenticeship he has undertaken many theory and practical modules, and is now on the placement phase. He has worked in the hangars on several aircraft types, both fixed and rotary wing, as well as applying his skills to other office based roles and taking a secondment in the CEO’s office. Ryan will graduate from the apprenticeship in 2018.

Ryan joined the branch committee in 2016 to fulfill the role of Membership Secretary. Since stepping down from this role he remains on the committee as a crucial link between the RAeS and the Early Careers community. Outside of work Ryan is a keen musician and plays regular live gigs in several bands.

Marc Dranginis – Webmaster

Marc joined QinetiQ in 2015 as an Avionics Apprentice after a varied career in the construction and engineering industries.

Ever since he was a young boy Marc has looked to the skies and been in awe of aircraft. Marc says he fell in love with military aircraft after seeing RAF Tornado’s screech through the sky at RAF Cosford Airshow; and practicing low level flying and bombing runs over both Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Blithfield Reservoir, close to his hometown of Rugeley, Staffordshire.

Since joining QinetiQ Marc has worked on a variety of projects including promoting the company and STEM at The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and aircraft trials including testing aircrew equipment under 9G. He has won multiple awards in his short time with the company including Apprentice of the Year twice and an Early Careers Recognition Award from the CEO.

Marc is now working in Avionics and Mission Systems as a Trainee AvMS Engineer.

Zaid Meherali MRSC, CChem, CSci – Dstl Liaison

Born in Middlesbrough, to a metallurgist father and a microbiologist mother, Zaid moved to Basingstoke in the early 80s, went to Staffordshire University in Stoke-on-Trent, but now considers Salisbury as home.   A BSc.(Hons) qualified Chartered Analytical Chemist within Dstl, having been awarded 3 Certificates of Commendation from the MOD Chief Scientific Adviser, for a varied range of high impact projects he has worked on.  The diversity of Zaid’s projects have included ECM, airframe loading, explosive, ballistic and chemical decontamination trials work.

An interest in defence, aviation and photography Zaid was an RAF Air Cadet, and is professionally-qualified photographer whose images have been used and published by Dstl, RAF News, The German Air Force and the scientific journal Nature Materials. He has flown in numerous platforms both fixed and rotary winged  including KDC-10, C-17, VC-10, Chipmunk, Twin Otter, Chinook, and 206 Jet Ranger.  A serious addiction to adrenaline, with 250 solo skydives.

Adam Gedge

I completed an Avionic Technician apprenticeship at Boscombe Down and have been in the industry for nearly 10 years. As an Avionic Technician I was fortunate enough to be involved with some very interesting trials on mostly rotary platforms and managed to be part of a detached trial to Colorado, USA with the Puma 2 helicopter.  Since putting the tools down, I am now a Mission Systems engineer working mostly on the Merlin platform with projects such as the Mk4 and the new Crowsnest radar capability. In my spare time I enjoy outdoor pursuits such as running and hiking with a highlight recently trekking in the Himalayas. Adam is currently undertaking the Flight Test Engineers Course atThe Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) so has taken a step back from the committee until the summer, we wish him well on the world renowned and intense course.

Andrew Cooper

Andrew was born and raised in East Sussex, joining the Royal Navy direct from school in 1967,enjoying travel world wide. He left the Navy in 1975, joining the MOD(PE) Scientific Civil Service at the Royal Aircraft Establishment Bedford as an Aircraft Manager and Flight Trials Officer specialising in the research and development of Airborne Sensors and Electro Optics on behalf of the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment Malvern. Early work on helicopter sensors involved early infra-red detector research, and datalink, terrain warning radar and novel rotor blade radar research and development. Later work involved the installation of a Tornado cockpit and ejector seat into the cabin of a Viscount aircraft to research and develop the Tornado IR Reconnaissance System, and flight trials of that system before delivery to service for Test and Evaluation.

On closure of the research establishments Andrew transferred to Boscombe Down as a Senior Scientific Officer Aircraft Manager with the newly formed Aircraft Fleet Department.This role evolved into Project Management and he was instrumental in the design and production of Smartpod and its derivative Tornado Raptor pod. His experience allowed him to be a key player in the purchase and introduction to service of the QinetiQ Alpha Jet fleet, and managed the design and installation of Martin Baker ejector seats into the Alpha Jet.

Andrew retired from QinetiQ in 2013 and now lives on the edge of the New Forest with his family.

David Richer CEng MSc BSc(Hons) MRAeS

David was born and raised in Salisbury, and started at A&AEE Boscombe Down in 1966 as a craft apprentice.  In 1971 David was sponsored by MOD(PE) to Loughborough University as a Student Engineer; and was a member of the East Midlands Universities Air Squadron.  Following graduation David took a professional engineer (PTO) position with MOD(Air) at RAF Support Command Signals Headquarters.

In 1978 David moved to the Space & Communications Division at British Aerospace Dynamics Group in Filton, Bristol and contributed to a variety of space projects including ESA Giotto (fly-by of Halley’s Comet) and elements for the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.

David is a past Council Member of the Society, a past Chairman of the Society’s specialist Space Group, and a frequent attendee at Hamilton Place lectures and conferences.

David lives in Salisbury, and supports the Branch raising its profile to attract members from the wider local community beyond those based at MOD Boscombe Down.