03.12.20 Past Master Group Captain Marcus Wills CVO OBE

Victor Gauntlett Scholarship Awarded

This year, perhaps not surprisingly, has been a demanding one for the Charity Committee. Unable to interview and select winners in our normal fashion for most of our scholarship awards, the Charity Committee has, under the leadership of Chairman, Honorary Assistant Sarah Holt, taken great care to ensure that help could still be directed to those in greatest need – sometimes in these troubled times outside our normal field of charitable giving – as well as to the ICL and Kingston University Student Hardship Funds.

We have, however, also taken the opportunity to refocus some of our individual awards and become even more objective and accountable in our selection of charitable causes. One big change is a step away from purely flying training awards – probably more properly the domain of the Air League and the Honourable Company of Air Pilots anyway – to focus more directly on aerospace engineering disciplines.

First to be given this new ‘treatment’ – with the full support of Honorary Freeman Jean Gauntlett and her entire immediate family – has been the Victor Gauntlett Scholarship, which has been awarded to 25 year-old Bridget Donaldson. Bridget’s ‘thank you’ to the Coachmakers reproduced below clearly shows what an extraordinarily focused and determined young lady she is.

“Thanks to the generous award of the Coachmakers’ Victor Gauntlett Scholarship, I have been able to meet the financial condition of my offer to study a MSc in Energy Systems Engineering at the University of Oxford. Without such scholarships, access to further education for young people such as myself, a Northerner, ex-state school student and the first person in my family to go to university, would not have the opportunity to academically further themselves with finances often proving to be a major barrier.

“Before heading to Oxford, my background and passion has firm foundations within the aviation sector. A long-term Air League volunteer STEM Ambassador and Air Cadet for eight years, finally reaching the rank of Cadet Warrant Officer and being the lucky recipient of the Dacre Brooch in 2014, it was here that my passion first ignited. The Air Cadets offered me many opportunities, perhaps most importantly awarding me a scholarship which enabled me to achieve a PPL at a time where my sense of self confidence as a young female aspiring aviator was probably not so strong. Furthermore, I was able to go on to train as a VGS motor gliding instructor based at RAF Topcliffe, a remarkable experience which enabled me to give something back to the organisation which had helped me so much, and offer voluntary flying and gliding tuition to fellow cadets.

“After timing out of the Air Cadets, I took up a place at Newcastle University where I studied for a BSc focussed on Geophysics, Surveying and Land Management and specialised in aerial surveying with the use of drones for my dissertation. It was at Newcastle that I became a member of the University Air Squadron where I continued my military flying training and was lucky enough to serve in the position as ‘flying exec’ where I oversaw the student element of the flying programme on the Squadron. This combined with another flying scholarship offered by the Fleet Air Arm Officers Association based out of RNAS Yeovilton, cemented my view that a flying career in the military was my vocation.

“Ultimately, long term I have ambition to be involved in aviation policy within the UK and having decided to take a gap year after graduating from Newcastle University, I embarked on several new experiences to broaden my practical education. First of all, I completed an internship at CERN where I worked directly on the Large Hadron Collider in the engineering department. As well as physical work, I also partook in research focussed on the future circular collider proposal. Following the completion of my internship at CERN, I took up employment as cabin crew for TUI based out of London Gatwick Airport in order to gain more of an insight into the civil aviation industry. Unfortunately I lost my job due to Covid with one week’s notice. I then turned to a stint of farming, working a lambing season on a Northumbrian farm, before joining a team at Croydon University Hospital as a Covid-19 nursing assistant where I was working on a Covid ward during the height of the pandemic, providing direct patient care. A very scary but extremely rewarding experience which I am so grateful for, an opportunity like no other to learn about people and humanity.

“With the world on hold, and having been inspired by the offer of a place on a fast track nursing MSc, I decided to look at other MSc programmes which I felt would benefit me for my longer term career. I applied for several MSc courses but Oxford stood out for me, not only the reputation of the institution but the course itself ‘Energy Systems Engineering’ was exactly focussed on my future ambitions of working within aviation policy, especially green aviation policy which I believe is going to be the next big push after the Covid recovery in order to meet 2050 Paris Agreement targets.

“Aviation is my passion and this is why I am so hungry for a career in the field, though I hope to prove myself both practically and academically. Flying in the military specifically is where I feel so drawn, where I can experience the best flying in the world whilst also carrying out meaningful tasks for the good and the protection of my country. Where I feel my current course of study fits in so well is that, sometimes my passion for aviation causes me conflict in terms of my conscience and my concern for the environment. I feel studying this course will be a step on the ladder towards a longer-term career, changing how we see aviation today and moving towards a green future within aviation.

“The award of the Victor Gauntlett scholarship means that I do not have to take up extra employment to fund my programme and that my time in Oxford can purely be spent in pursuit of my academic studies and an enriching extracurricular experience, rather than worrying about how to fund them as I go along. So far, I have joined the University Royal Naval Unit and have been able to join my college rowing team and choir. I am also in the process of setting up an Oxford University Aviation Society where I hope with the help of guest speakers I can create an environment to inspire the next generation of leaders within the field of UK and global aviation. Lastly, I feel privileged to have been awarded a scholarship named after such an inspiring character, someone whose career and dedication I can only aspire to echo. Thank you for making this unique opportunity possible for me.’’