When I think about it, I’ve spent a third of my working life on this programme. That’s a massive chunk and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not many people can say that they have taken a multi-million pound product from concept to service, and I don’t think you can do that more than once in your career.
When I first started, we never imagined how successful it would be, i.e. the fastest-selling Trent engine we’ve ever had and the world’s most efficient gas turbine. We always had a vision of what we wanted to do, but we expected our competitors to come back with something better. We were wrong; in fact, we’re able to say that we’re still the sole engine on the A350 XWB. There have been some real team moments and creating something like this is very much about the relationships.
There are so many milestones and stories
I remember, three years into the programme, we went to the annual programme progress review meeting in Toulouse. That year, Airbus only let us in to the meeting for the ‘engine bit’. The following year, we were allowed to take part for most of the meeting and by year three – when they saw the flight test bed – they wrote ‘Just Perfect’ on a flip chart in the room. I couldn’t have been more proud. It may have been an internally-facing meeting, but when the world’s airlines tell you that you’re doing the right thing – that is the brand. From that point forward, we were real partners and had impressed the industry so much that for a while Airbus used our engine in their marketing materials.
First engine run… I’m always amazed that you can design 20,000 parts for an engine – with the complexity to put it all together – and when you press the button, it works. That alone relies on so many people doing their job perfectly, it’s just amazing.
When the flying test bed came to East Midlands Airport so many people were able to go along and get close to the project and to feel part of it. It was fantastic because we were able to involve local schools and nurture an early interest in engineering.
First flight was an incredible moment and really brought home what a fantastic team was behind the whole programme. What we’ve done with this team has been amazing. Changing the way they worked by creating a completely different working environment and atmosphere from the top down, and making sure everyone feels engaged in a new way of working. I don’t think we would have created such a fantastic product if we hadn’t have done that.
The best bit about my job is the goal is really clear. There is no ambiguity about what we want to achieve - deliver to the customer on time and to quality while building a fantastic team. On one hand it’s really complex, but on the other it’s really simple, as no-one disagrees with it.
Outside work, I really enjoyed a week’s cycling holiday in the Alps and, as an added bonus, watching a mountain top finish in the Tour de France.
There’s nothing more motivating for a team than seeing your success and there are only two or three other UK companies that can have the same impact on the economy as we do, which is also very positive for us as an organisation.
I’m immensely proud of what we’ve done. Because of my time served, it feels like one of my children, from birth, through testing – those teenage years - and now we’re setting it free to develop as an adult; it’s emotional. I’m about to set it free to carry passengers and it doesn’t get better than that.
I feel I have left a legacy for our organisation and it’s time to move on. I have a great new job running one of our businesses. If you work on a successful project it’s recognised, not just for me but for a whole range of people who have worked so hard to achieve success.