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Schools Aerospace Challenge 2016

This is a unique opportunity for you to win a place on a free five night residential course at the School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing, Cranfield University starting on 24 July 2016.

  • Learn about aircraft and jet engines
  • Practice free fall parachuting in a wind tunnel
  • Get airborne in the Jetstream flying classroom plus much more

The next challenge will be announced in January 2016 and explained under RAF Requirement. Can your School or ATC unit come up with ideas that justify a team of three attending Cranfield? 
What to do NOW
First register your intention to have a go – see Registration section for how to do this. Do not delay doing this as there is no commitment involved and you have nothing to lose and potentially much to gain by registering earlier than other teams. Once your registration has been accepted, any entry you submit by the due date will go forward for judging. The best teams will be invited to attend Cranfield.

How the challenge works
Based on its original entry and subsequent performance in team exercises at Cranfield one team will be selected as the overall winner with two other teams as runners up.

The three teams will share a £5000 prize fund at an award ceremony and reception to be held in London at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in November 2016. The winning team will also receive the Schools Aerospace Challenge Trophy presented on an annual basis by Cranfield University.

The Rules section will explain what is involved in compiling and submitting your entry.

For details of previous winning teams see Winners section.


To register your intention to submit an entry email the following details to
  • The name, full postal address and telephone number of your school or organisation
  • The name and job function of your adult sponsor
  • An email address for your adult sponsor
  • Your team name
  • At least one team email address (more if possible)
  • The full name and date of birth of your team captain
  • The full names and dates of birth of your other team members
Highlight the above list and then copy and paste it into your email, filling in the required information between the lines afterwards.


  1. The Schools Aerospace Challenge 2016 is open to all schools and recognised youth organisations within the UK.
  2. The competition is structured for teams of three.
  3. A school or other organisation may enter as many teams as it chooses.
  4. Team members must be 16-18 years of age at some point during July and August 2016.
  5. Teams will require the endorsement of a senior adult within their organisation e.g. Head/Careers/Science teacher or ATC Squadron Commander.
  6. All entries must be received no later than Wednesday 1 June 2016. In the event that two or more teams tie for places at Cranfield, then the team with the earlier registration date will be awarded the place.
  7. The organisers will select the teams to attend Cranfield. Their decision will be final.
  8. The teams selected to attend Cranfield will be posted on the web site by Monday 13 June 2016.
  9. If, after selection for Cranfield, a team finds it cannot field three members (even via substitution), the organisers reserve the right to replace that team with another.
  10. Sponsoring adults may not accompany their teams while at Cranfield although they are most welcome to visit and observe the activities for a day by prior arrangement with the organisers.
  11. All individuals attending Cranfield will need to bring with them a consent form signed by a parent or guardian. Blank consent forms will be supplied as part of the joining instructions pack that will be sent out by email to all teams chosen for Cranfield. Registration via the internet for the free fall experience will be necessary to complete the consent form.
  12. Teams will be expected to meet their own travelling expenses. The course and full board accommodation is provided.

Format of Entries

All entries are to be submitted in electronic format and limited to six A4 size pages which will be printed out by the organisers.
The first page is to be used only as a cover sheet repeating (and so confirming) your team registration details. It may carry images if desired but it should not be used as a means of increasing the space for the entry content.
The details and format of the five remaining sides of A4 are left for team members to decide although each entry must include at least one drawing related to the proposed design or ideas. The drawing may be to any convenient scale, bearing in mind the A4 size limitation.
The total entry should be 7 MB or less and in PDF, jpg or MS Word format.
The covering email to which the entry is attached must be as follows:
  • Subject line: Team Name
  • Any required message
  • Sponsoring organisation name plus email and phone contact details
  • Email address for future team communications (even if it is the same as the as the one the message was sent from)
Completed entries should be sent to:

The last date for entries to be received is Wednesday 1 June 2016.

An email will be sent confirming safe receipt of entries. Teams are responsible for contacting the organisers if they do not receive this confirmation before the last date for entries.  


The Royal Air Force was formed in 1918 to provide the airborne element of the UK's armed forces and the past 95 years has seen its role develop and expand. Today the RAF defends the UK’s air space against unwanted intruders as well as giving our forces rapid global reach and employing airpower to perform a wide range of tasks to achieve the UK's defence objectives. These include defence of the UK and our allies from aggression, promoting our interests abroad and helping to maintain international peace and stability.

As the twentieth century progressed, airpower became ever more important in achieving these aims. Recent conflicts such as those in the Gulf, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Libya have proved that airpower can provide a vital contribution. The advantage of airpower over land and sea forces is primarily the speed with which it can deploy to anywhere in the world and the protection it can afford forces once air superiority has been achieved.

The RAF uses a variety of advanced aircraft to deliver highly accurate weapons onto enemy targets and conducts extensive reconnaissance, a task for which aircraft were first used in warfare, allowing enemy positions and territory to be correctly identified. The RAF directly supports all our forces, wherever they are, by providing transport and airborne firepower and protection.

These are probably the better known roles of the RAF but equally important are the activities the RAF carries out on the ground. Its aircraft come in all shapes and sizes from fast jets, through to large airlifters and a diverse range of helicopters. However, none of these aircraft can operate on its own – each requires a vast range of support.

To provide this support the RAF employs personnel in more than 50 trades including air traffic control, communications, engineering, logistics support and as the RAF’s own soldiers - the RAF Regiment.  The use of ever more complex and capable equipment will ensure that the RAF’s need for high quality personnel will be even more important than in the past.

The vast majority of these RAF personnel work in skilled areas on the ground involved in challenging tasks including the development and purchase of new aircraft and equipment, operating and maintaining the equipment already in service and providing the myriad of support services required to keep a large, modern organisation working at home and abroad.  Engineering skills are crucial to these tasks.

The final piece of the jigsaw is training, linking the people to the technology and environment vital to the RAF. The RAF provides extensive, high quality training to all its people, allowing them to do the best job they can serving the country whilst offering a satisfying, well-paid, long or short-term career. It is the combination of advanced technology, skilled people and quality training which has allowed the RAF to be so successful over its 95 year history and personnel with strong engineering qualifications will ensure that successes of the past continue into the future.

It is for this reason the RAF supports the annual Schools Aerospace Challenge and looks forward to the winners presentation and award ceremony in November.

RAF Requirement

SABRE technology offers the possibility of economical hypersonic flight operations. The RAF have many roles and missions where speed of reaction and speed of response make  a significant  difference to the effectiveness of the operation. The RAF intend to procure a new multi-role transport aircraft which incorporates SABRE technology and invite design proposals for consideration. Proposed designs should show the achievable benefits and improvements over current platforms. The RAF also wish to lease surplus capacity during quiet periods to commercial airline operators. Proposals should address the trade-off between the various factors affecting the Payload-Range-Time dependencies and utilize other appropriate emerging technologies (such as 3D Printing) where possible.

As a minimum the submitted design should also consider:

  • Airframe Structural Issues
  • Flight Control Systems
  • Materials
  • Reaction/Readiness Times
  • Austere/Remote Operating Bases
  • Runway Surface and Length Requirements
  • Re-role & Recovery Times
  • Environmental Considerations
  • Training Requirements
  • Survivability
  • Maintainability

(Normal competition and submission roles to apply).

Schools Aerospace Challenge Continues Relationship With RAF Valley

John Farley comments:
One of the very popular items during the week at Cranfield is the annual visit of a Hawk from RAF Valley during which everyone has an opportunity to look over the aircraft, sit in the cockpit and talk to the crew.

I am particularly pleased the SAC continues its relationship with RAF Valley because I was posted there to fly Vampires after getting my wings in June 1957. In August 1974, when Duncan Simpson did the first flight of the Hawk at Dunsfold, I had the privilege of flying the photo chase in the two seat Harrier G-VTOL which was able to fly formation on the Hawk, both in the air and as it slowed to a stop after landing!

At Cranfield we also use the Hawk as the subject for a talk on the process by which such aircraft are designed. The RAF of today has the Hawk T2 which is an updated version of this very successful aircraft which has been exported all round the world including to the USA where the USN use it for pilot training on their aircraft carriers.

T-45 on carrier approach
In recent years three of the visiting Hawk pilots have been students on earlier SAC courses so it was great to see them again and congratulate them on their achievements.

Whether it is your ambition to be an engineer or aircrew - may I say that from personal experience I know that the most important factor in succeeding is your own determination to do just that.

John Farley

The Summer School at

Cranfield University

Since 2001 the School of Engineering at Cranfield University in Bedfordshire has hosted the Schools Aerospace Challenge Summer School. Under the leadership of engineering graduates seconded from industry, qualifying teams are put through a range of experiences. Classroom talks on understanding how aircraft are designed and operated are balanced with practical exercises where students learn to plan strategy, manage resources and achieve an objective.

Students will find the five night stay a unique opportunity to learn more of the engineering side of aerospace and the opportunities it offers.

Dates for 2016

Arrive by 17:00 on Sunday 24 July 2016
Depart 15:00 Friday 29 July 2016

Joining instructions will be sent by email to all team captains no later than Wednesday 15 June 2016, so it is important that team captains inform if their email address changes from that given in their original registration.

For details of previous winning teams see the Winners section.

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