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Welcome to the Royal Aeronautical Society Solent Branch

Please note that all Solent Branch lectures are open to anyone and are free to attend.

More details about the Society can be found here

Upcoming Lecture:

7th December 2023


46 (Physics) Room 2005

BuildingHighfield Campus

University of Southampton

Southampton, SO17 1BJ


Locate using

18:15 - “Doors open”

18:30 - Lecture starts



Safran Helicopter Engines: Rotorcraft propulsion strategy to Net Zero


Transforming Aerospace Casting from Dark Art to Data Driven Science

Nick Earl 


Dr. Victoria Thomas 
Supplier Development Engineer

Safran Helicopter Engines Uk 

Nick Earl will present an overview of Safran Helicopter Engines and its current portfolio of gas turbines followed by a snapshot into the future of rotorcraft propulsion including enhancements to conventional technology, hybridisation, hydrogen fuel cells and the use of alternative fuels. 

Following Nick’s presentation, Victoria Thomas will uncover the “Dark Art of Aerospace Metal Casting” by the application of science and data in the modern foundry. 

Investment casting is a process for creating metal components, with the earliest examples dating back to the Neolithic period (4300-2000 BC). Although investment casting is a well established process, to this day it is considered by many to be a 'dark art'. In this presentation, we explore a data driven approach, using investigative trials and simulation modelling to understand the science behind aerospace metal casting.


Nick Earl is an alumnus of Southampton University (BEng Hons Aero/Astro 1992) following which he spent 8 years as an Air Engineer Officer in the Royal Navy serving aboard the Aircraft Carrier HMS Ark Royal and working on Sea King Helicopter Squadrons at RNAS Yeovilton. He then spent 14 years in a variety of roles at Babcock International Group culminating in the position of Operations Director for the military aviation business. Since 2015 he has been the CEO at Safran Helicopter Engines UK, which manufactures a variety of engine components, provides in-service engine support to fleet of over 1500 engines and is home to the European hub for gas turbine maintenance. 

Dr. Victoria Thomas is passionate about engineering innovation in the aerospace sector. Having completed an industry based doctoral research programme focused on improving the investment casting process, Victoria brings the expertise from her casting background to support with supplier development at Safran Helicopter Engines UK. 

 Images © Safran

Other lectures can be found in our Lectures page.

Last updated on: 8th November 2023 by NB

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