Stephen Slade

Stephen Slade

Accepted on the training scheme for British Airways College of Air Training at Hamble, to start in September 1973

Accident in an army 4-tonner in July 1973, whilst on detachment with the cadet force, led to a 4 1/2 month stay in Stoke Mandeville Hospital after a spinal injury.

A-level results received whilst in hospital

Went to Southampton University in 1975 to read Aeronautics.

Final year project involved developing a hand-control to convert a Piper Cherokee for hands-only operation.

In the final year at University I stopped using the wheelchair for lectures and was using the "swing-through" walking technique.

Accepted on the training scheme at Rolls-Royce. Due to the experience of developing the hand-control I realised that "development" was what I wanted to do.

After two years of training as a graduate apprentice, I started a full time role in Olympus 593 and New Projects development.

Whilst on the training scheme I met a very experienced aviator and development engineer who I teamed up with to purchase a microlight aircraft kit (1981) after exploring the market for 12 months.

Took my first flight in a single seat microlight in February 1982 (there were no two-seaters around at the time).

Married Val, who I had met at Rolls-Royce, in March 1982.

Career at Rolls-Royce

Flying "career"

What do I enjoy about working in Rolls-Royce?

Working in small teams; close contact with the customer. Ability to make decisions and implement actions that see the visible results of those decisions. Close identification with the product and the aircraft that it powers. Used to like the opportunities to travel but they have been significantly reduced in the last couple of years.

What do I do day-to-day?

As Strategic Fleet Manager on the EJ200 I liaise closely with the customer to understand operational issues and reliability statistics, forecasting the future rejections and negotiating the capacity in the overhaul shops to deliver the requirement. Also involved in forecasting the rejection rates and quantities for future export contracts.

Biggest challenges?

For many years I have used the crutches within the company but, when I started travelling to Europe on the EJ200 programme, I started to realise that I needed to swallow my pride and use the wheelchair if I was to hold down the role. That, in itself, was not a problem for the company, but it was purely an issue for me in accepting that I would need to use the chair. Now, after more than 35 years in the company, I am using the chair in the company on a day-to-day basis and it has meant that I have become much more independent and moving around to liaise with people has become easier. Being prepared to use the chair was the biggest mental challenge I had to overcome. There are, however, some advantages in using the chair when I arrive at a full meeting room!

Highlights of my career?

Difficult to give one example, but the feeling of self-satisfaction when you have delivered something that has made a difference is tremendous.

In the future, continuing to enjoy my job, delivering a professional service and improving the way we deliver that service.

In summary, I do not feel that my disability has impacted my ability to pursue a worthwhile career in Rolls-Royce, or stopped me from indulging in my passion for flying.