Ron Kennett

Former Director (Chief Executive) of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Ron Kennett, completed a
Higher National Certificate in Electrical Engineering at Bradford Technical College in 1956.

Ron Kennett“My early life was spent in the war-time environs of Greater London and this had a significant bearing on my expectations and ambitions, as it will have for most young people at that time. Not many were wealthy and even if they were, it was not at all clear what the future held. The formative primary school years included swapping shrapnel for cigarette cards!”

When his father took up a new post in West Yorkshire Ron’s ‘perk’ was a student apprenticeship at his company with day release to study at Bradford Technical College. “One of my fellow students worked for the Yorkshire Electricity Board and had access to free lunches at the Bradford YEB staff restaurant and all was required of me was to feign similar authenticity in order to enjoy the same privilege. This was very successful until, after my colleague had left the college and I had bare-facedly continued this charade alone, I sat in the restaurant with a YEB manager having a penetrating curiosity as to my precise role in his organisation! Suffice to say, my sudden departure necessitated an imaginative rationale and future lunch times saw me eating steak and kidney pudding in Kirkgate Market!”

Ron also remembers interminable bus journeys to and from Bradford, before he eventually emerged with his HNC in Electrical Engineering. “Once armed with my HNC, I needed to escape from the stultifying environment of my father’s company and was fortunate that in 1956 the Government funded the then English Electric Company to set up a glistening new aircraft equipment division in Bradford where I was welcomed with open arms. By 1978, rationalisation of the industry gathered momentum and a merger of similar companies saw the creation of the much larger Lucas Aerospace and I was made Chief Engineer of its Power Systems Division, headquartered in Hertfordshire, and became a Boardroom person. This was a threshold to international recognition and to a substantial broadening of my management experience.”

Ten years later, Ron was identified as the right person to take over operational leadership the Royal Aeronautical Society in Central London. “I had been a Fellow for some time, but I had not recognised its progressive loss of influence and decline. It had been kept afloat by its sheer prestige and historic pedigree – the efforts and vision of its founders in 1866 and its champions through two-thirds of the twentieth century were slipping steadily away. And this with a Royal Charter! It was recognised that something drastic had to be done and I was given that task. We needed to capture the hearts and minds of the captains of the global aerospace community and to use their muscle to restore this jewel to their crown. Many Boardrooms listened to our 20th century presentations inspiring their commitment to restore this historic emblem and they responded royally. This task took me around the world, in the process capturing a unique picture of the dimensions of the aerospace community, and meeting those who were key players in configuring its future technologically and strategically and using TV and the media to enliven and influence a wider audience. All these efforts fed back into revitalising the elegant Park Lane RAeS Headquarters as the pre-eminent aerospace nerve centre for professional excellence, exchange and development recognised throughout the world.”

Following his retirement in 1998, Ron served as a Non Executive Director of the NHS from 2000 to 2006 and was a Member of the Development Committee and the University Court of the University of Hertfordshire from 2004 to 2007. “I hope today’s Bradford College students can look forward to such an enjoyable and fulfilling career. Thanks to Bradford College for helping in the humble beginnings.”

Photograph supplied by Ron Kennett