Working as part of Team Tempest, BAE Systems project manager Olivia Perry, took to the skies in a Spitfire after being presented with the first Spirit of Tempest award, writes Gail Bailey
Tempest, the programme to design and deliver a UK-led, next-generation Future Combat Aircraft System, using advanced technology and innovation, has recognised Olivia Perry, who works at BAE Warton, for her outstanding contribution to the project.
“I was absolutely thrilled to win the Spirit of Tempest overall award,” says Liv. “It was a huge honour to be chosen, especially as the programme involves over 2000 talented people. It was the most amazing experience to fly in a Spitfire and is a moment in my career that I will never forget.”
Liv was unsure which direction to take after completing A levels in Business, Law and English at Runshaw College but her father, who is also in the aerospace industry, encouraged her to apply for the BAE Systems Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme when the opportunity arose. The apprenticeship offers its trainees the best of both worlds – to gain their degree whilst working in worldwide business: “When BAE were holding an event to give people the opportunity to join the scheme I attended and feel incredibly lucky to have been offered a place, and the chance to experience working in a global business in the defence sector,” Liv explains.
That was nine years ago, and Liv has been on an incredible career journey since then.
The apprenticeship scheme at BAE allows those who are part of it to experience different aspects of the business by rotating across the whole organisation at different points of the programme: “This is an ideal way to find out where your key strengths lie and gives a wide overview of the whole company.
“I realised fairly early on that I particularly enjoyed, and had an aptitude for, conception and generating ideas – this then gave me the opportunity to spend some time working as a project manager in the Air Strategy team.”
This provided Liv with a strong foundation to be part of the Tempest programme when it was launched: “The Tempest Project was unveiled in 2018 at the Farnborough International Air Show and I was fortunate to be seconded onto the programme working within the Ministry of Defence Team,” Liv says.
Team Tempest is a collaboration of UK industry partners made up of BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Leonardo and MBDA, working with the RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office and the Ministry of Defence, to design and develop the technologies needed for the next generation of future combat air.
The programme seeks to exploit the UK’s unique industrial base to create a next generation combat air enterprise. It is delivering some of the most advanced technical capabilities, and by pairing the brightest minds it will allow them to be updated and upgraded over many years, so they remain at the cutting-edge. The Tempest aircraft will deploy this new, game-changing technology and is set to join the RAF fleet from 2035 as UK Typhoons start to go out of service from 2040.
“At the beginning of the programme we worked together to conceptualise the Tempest values which we would live and work by, to ensure we had a ‘one team’ ethos embedded throughout.
“Being united in these core values of empowerment, trust, excellence, strategic focus and timeliness guaranteed we were motivated to ensure the success of the project – we all shared and were committed to the same goal,” explains Liv. “Working with the MOD from the beginning and identifying the critical elements of what the RAF needed in the future to achieve success was incredible to be part of.”
To then be nominated by her colleagues in the MOD for the Spirit of Tempest award, and to go on to win, has been an amazing honour for Liv: “Project management can feel less involved in the tangible part of a programme, but working so closely with such a diverse range of people with such advanced technological skills has been fascinating. I have had the opportunity to learn so much about all the different elements that go into the aircraft, and it has really brought it to life for me.”
The overall winner was the person who was positive in the team and focussed on bringing the partners together, and a key element of Liv’s role in the Concept Team was to deliver the critical evidence needed which helped to keep all the partners united, and aligned on the goal. Her prize of a flight in a Spitfire T Mk IX aircraft, operated by the Aircraft Restoration Company at the historic Duxford Aerodrome is one she will never forget.
“Taking to the skies in the Spitfire was surreal and feels difficult to explain,” Liv says. “On the day it had been raining heavily but just half an hour before we were set to take off the sun came out – it was as if it had been planned. The roar of the engine and the smell of the oil was incredible. I will never have that experience again and it is something I will remember always!”