Royal Aeronautical Society
FormationJanuary 1866
TypeProfessional institution
Legal statusNon-profit company
Region served
Chief Executive
David Edwards FRAeS
Main organ
Board of Trustees
AffiliationsEngineering Council

The Royal Aeronautical Society, also known as the RAeS, is a British multi-disciplinary professional institution dedicated to the global aerospace community. Founded in 1866, it is the oldest aeronautical society in the world.[1] Members, Fellows, and Companions of the society can use the post-nominal letters MRAeS, FRAeS, or CRAeS, respectively.[2]


The objectives of The Royal Aeronautical Society include: to support and maintain high professional standards in aerospace disciplines; to provide a unique source of specialist information and a local forum for the exchange of ideas; and to exert influence in the interests of aerospace in the public and industrial arenas, including universities.

The Royal Aeronautical Society is a worldwide society with an international network of 67 branches. Many practitioners of aerospace disciplines use the Society's designatory post-nominals such as FRAeS, CRAeS, MRAeS, AMRAeS, and ARAeS (incorporating the former graduate grade, GradRAeS).

The RAeS headquarters is located in the United Kingdom. The staff of the Royal Aeronautical Society are based at the Society's headquarters at No. 4 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7BQ.[3] The headquarters is on the north-east edge of Hyde Park Corner, with the nearest access being Hyde Park Corner tube station. In addition to offices for its staff the building is used for Royal Aeronautical Society conferences and events [4] and parts of the building are available on a private hire basis for events.[5]


Branches and divisions

Branches are the regional embodiment of the Society. They deliver membership benefits and provide a global platform for the dissemination of aerospace information. As of September 2013, branches located in the United Kingdom include: Belfast, Birmingham, Boscombe Down, Bristol, Brough, Cambridge, Cardiff, Chester, Christchurch, Coventry, Cranfield, Cranwell, Derby, FAA Yeovilton, Farnborough, Gatwick, Gloucester & Cheltenham, Hatfield, Heathrow, Highland, Isle of Wight, Isle of Man, Loughborough, Manchester, Marham, Medway, Oxford, Preston, Prestwick, Sheffield, Solent, Southend, Stevenage, Swindon, Weybridge, and Yeovil.

The RAeS international branch network includes: Adelaide, Auckland, Blenheim, Brisbane, Brussels, Canberra, Canterbury, Cyprus, Dublin, Hamburg, Hamilton, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Melbourne, Montreal, Munich, Palmerston North, Paris, Perth, Seattle, Singapore, Sydney, Toulouse, and the UAE.

Divisions of the Society have been formed in countries and regions that can sustain a number of Branches. Divisions operate with a large degree of autonomy, being responsible for their own branch network, membership recruitment, subscription levels, conference and lecture programmes.

Specialist Groups covering all facets of the aerospace industry exist under the overall umbrella of the Society, with the aim of serving the interests of both enthusiasts and industry professionals.

The Groups' remit is to consider significant developments in their field, and they attempt to achieve this through their conferences and lectures, with the intention of stimulating debate and facilitating action on key industry issues in order to reflect and respond to the constant innovation and progress in aviation. The Groups also act as focal points for all enquiries to the Society concerning their specialist subject matter, forming a crucial interface between the Society and the world in general.

As of September 2013, the Specialist Group committees are as follows: Aerodynamics, Aerospace Medicine, Air Power, Air Law, Air Transport, Airworthiness & Maintenance, Avionics & Systems, Environment, Flight Operations, Flight Simulation,[7] Flight Test, General Aviation, Greener by Design, Historical, Human Factors, Human Powered Flight, Propulsion, Rotorcraft, Space, Structures & Materials, UAS, Weapons Systems & Technologies, and Women in Aviation & Aerospace.

In 2009, the Royal Aeronautical Society formed a group of experts to document how to better simulate aircraft upset conditions, and thus improve training programs.[8]


The Society's headquarters at No.4 Hamilton Place in London

The Society was founded in January 1866 with the name "The Aeronautical Society of Great Britain" and is the oldest aeronautical society in the world.[9] Early or founding members included James Glaisher, Francis Wenham, the Duke of Argyll, and Frederick Brearey.[10] In the first year, there were 65 members, at the end of the second year, 91 members, and in the third year, 106 members.[11] Annual reports were produced in the first decades. In 1868 the Society held a major exhibition at London's Crystal Palace with 78 entries. John Stringfellow's steam engine was shown there.[11][12][13] The Society sponsored the first wind tunnel in 1870-71, designed by Wenham and Browning.[11]

In 1918, the organization's name was changed to the Royal Aeronautical Society.[14]

In 1923 its principal journal was renamed from The Aeronautical Journal to The Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society and in 1927 the Institution of Aeronautical Engineers Journal was merged into it.[15]

In 1940, the RAeS responded to the wartime need to expand the aircraft industry. The Society established a Technical Department to bring together the best available knowledge and present it in an authoritative and accessible form – a working tool for engineers who might come from other industries and lack the specialised knowledge required for aircraft design. This technical department became known as the Engineering Sciences Data Unit (ESDU) and eventually became a separate entity in the 1980s.

In 1987 the 'Society of Licensed Aircraft Engineers and Technologists', previously called the 'Society of Licensed Aircraft Engineers' was incorporated into the Royal Aeronautical Society.


The following have served as President of the Royal Aeronautical Society:[16]

Chief Executives

Medals and awards

Main article: List of RAeS medal recipients

In addition to the award of Fellowship of the Royal Aeronautical Society (FRAeS), the Society awards several other medals and prizes. These include its Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals. The very first gold medal was awarded in 1909 to the Wright Brothers.[33] Although it is unusual for more than one medal (in each of the three grades) to be awarded annually, since 2004 the Society has also periodically awarded team medals (Gold, Silver, and Bronze) for exceptional or groundbreaking teamwork in aeronautical research and development. Others awarded have included the R. P. Alston Memorial Prize for developments in flight-testing, the Edward Busk prize for applied aerodynamics, the Wakefield Medal for advances in aviation safety, and an Orville Wright Prize.[34] Honorary Fellowships and Honorary Companionships are awarded as well.

The Sir Robert Hardingham Sword The Sir Robert Hardingham Sword is awarded in recognition of outstanding service to the RAeS by a member of the Society. Nominally an annual award, in practice the award is only made about one year in two.

Notable Medal recipients

Notable Gold Medal recipients include:

Honorary Fellows

Honorary Companions

Named Lectures

Henson & Stringfellow Lecture and Dinner

The annual Henson & Stringfellow Lecture and Dinner is hosted yearly by the Yeovil Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society, held at Westland Leisure Complex, and is a key social and networking event of the Yeovil lecture season. It is a black tie event attracting over 200 guests drawn from all sectors of the aerospace community.

John Stringfellow created, alongside William Samuel Henson, the first powered flight aircraft, developed in Chard, Somerset, which flew unmanned in 1848, 63 years prior to brothers Wilbur & Orville Wrights' flight.[42][43][44][45][46][47]

Wilbur & Orville Wright Named Lecture

The Wilbur & Orville Wright Named Lecture was established in 1911 to honour the Wright brothers, the successful and experienced mechanical engineers who completed the first successful controlled powered flight on 17 December 1903. The Wilbur & Orville Wright Lecture is the principal event in the Society’s year, given by distinguished members of the US and UK aerospace communities.

The 99th Lecture was given by Piers Sellers, astronaut, on 9 December 2010 at the Society's Headquarters in London.[48]

The 100th Lecture was given by Suzanna Darcy-Henneman, Chief Pilot & Director of Training, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, on 8 December 2011.[49]

The 101st Lecture was given by Tony Parasida, corporate vice president, The Boeing Company, on 20 December 2012.[50]

The 102nd Lecture was given by Thomas Enders, CEO of EADS, on 12 December 2013.[51]

The 103rd Lecture was given by Patrick M Dewar, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin International in December 2014.[52]

The 104th Lecture was given by Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director – Programmes and Support, BAE Systems plc in December 2015.[53]

The 105th Lecture was given by ACM Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, Royal Air Force on 6 December 2016.[54]

The 106th Lecture was given by Martin Rolfe, chief executive officer, NATS on 5 December 2017.[55]

The 107th Lecture was given by Leanne Caret, Vice President, The Boeing Company and President & CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security on 4 December 2018.[56]

The 108th Lecture was given by David Mackay FRAeS, Chief Pilot, Virgin Galactic on 10 December 2019.[57]

Amy Johnson Named Lecture

The Amy Johnson Named Lecture[58] was inaugurated in 2011 by the Royal Aeronautical Society's Women in Aviation and Aerospace Committee[59] to celebrate a century of women in flight[60] and to honour Britain's most famous woman aviator. The Lecture is held on or close to 6 July every year to mark the date in 1929 when Amy Johnson was awarded her pilot’s licence. The Lecture is intended to tackle serious issues of interest to a wide audience, not just women. High-profile women from industry are asked to lecture on a topic that speaks of future challenges of interest to everyone.[61]

Carolyn McCall, chief executive of EasyJet, delivered the Inaugural Lecture on 6 July 2011 at the Society's Headquarters in London.[62]

The second Amy Johnson Named Lecture was delivered by Marion C. Blakey, president and chief executive of Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), on 5 July 2012.

The third Lecture was delivered by Gretchen Haskins, former Group Director of the Safety Regulation Group of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), on 8 July 2013.[63]

In 2017, Katherine Bennett OBE FRAeS, Senior Vice President Public Affairs, Airbus gave the Amy Johnson Lecture[64] and in 2018 Air Vice-Marshal Sue Gray, CB, OBE from the Royal Air Force gave the Amy Johnson Lecture in honour of the 100th anniversary of the RAF.[65]

Sopwith Named Lecture

The Sopwith Lecture was established in 1990 to honour Sir Thomas Sopwith CBE, Hon FRAeS. In the years prior to World War I, Sopwith became England’s premier aviator and established the first authoritative test pilot school in the world. He also founded England’s first major flight school. Between 1912 and 1920 Sopwith’s Company produced over 16,000 aircraft of 60 types.

In 2017 the lecture was delivered by Tony Wood, chief operating officer of Meggitt PLC.[66]

In 2018 the lecture was delivered by Group Captain Ian Townsend ADC MA RAF, Station Commander, RAF Marham.[67]

In 2019 the lecture was delivered by Billie Flynn, F-35 Lightning II Test Pilot, Lockheed Martin.[68]

In 2020 the lecture was delivered online by Dirk Hoke, CEO, Airbus Defence & Space.[69]

In popular culture

The July 18th.,1975 edition of the society's Journal included the first use of the misattributed term, "Beam Me Up, Scotty", in a sentence, viz:" a sort of, 'Beam me up, Scotty', routine".


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Video clips