Show Boss

Hi I’m Phil Spiers, Head of the Advanced Structural Testing Centre (ASTC) at the AMRC.

I’ve got 27 years of industrial experience in test facilities for Rolls Royce, Martin Baker and Messier-Dowty and I’m truly excited about the Whiffletree Project and the chance to be part of the first team to test a plane for full certification in the UK for 30 years!

Phil currentThe best thing about working in the structural testing centre is that we get a lot of cake. Aside from that we get to do some really interesting testing – we  get to meet all sorts of people, from all walks of life, testing all different things, from little bits of materials testing, to the whole run flat tire system, to full aeroplanes, railways, sleepers plus lots more. The diversification of the whole thing is great and it’s always nice to see the end product and know how that’s been tested and certified. To be the first ones to find out whether a product or system actually works is pretty cool too.

I’m the Show Boss in the Whiffletree project. I sit at my desk asking all the lovely people in my team lots and lots of questions while they all do the work. I’m the boring one who has to communicate back to the client who’s developing the aircraft, hassle them for what they haven’t given us, and hassle my team to make sure they’ve done everything, invariably they have so they just tell me where to go. The projects a once in a life time thing – none of us have done it before and may never get to do it again.

The part of the project I’m most looking forward to is getting the whole plane up on the test rig and putting the first loads on. Once we are in control of the rig, understand that we’ve done everything properly, build it and get everything assembled and press that button and it moves up and down and works I’ll be happy.

Aside from the Whiffletree project the most interesting project I’ve been involved in to date was when I worked for Messier-Dowty down in Gloucestershire and worked on the full structure and systems certification of the Korean Lockheed Martin KTX-2 training aircraft. It involved doing the drop testing, static testing, fatigue testing and systems testing for the whole aircraft. I was signing off reports to say these tests had been done and the aircraft had qualified. It was a real high pressure programme and the Koreans like to do things really quickly – they don’t accept any delays. There were a few good arguments about various things but we got through it all in a record time – where it took Eurofighter 8 years to do certification testing, on the KTX-2 we’d done everything within 18 months.

If I had the chance to fly any aircraft it would have to be the Eurofighter, although the Vulcan would be a close second. My Dad spent the bulk of his career working on Eurofighter and I first came across the aircraft at Farnborough Air Show when I was 11 years old in the form of an aircraft mock up called the ACA (advanced combat aircraft). So I’ve been around Eurofighter since I was 11, my Dad’s been formulating that for a few years longer and he was with it right through until it entered into service and production. It was his baby and is one of the most capable aircraft in the world.