Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

AirbusAirbus A350-900

Gordon McConnellGordon McConnell (born 1951), aeronautical engineer, former Chief Engineer, Airbus

Engineering achievements

Gordon joined Scottish Aviation Ltd at Prestwick in 1975 as a Stress Engineer. Following the creation of British Aerospace, he progressed through various aircraft structures and design roles in the Engineering Department, working on several aircraft projects including the Scottish Aviation Bulldog trainer, Jetstream 19 seat turboprop and the BAe146 regional jet.

In 1988, Gordon was appointed Chief Engineer responsible for the Jetstream 41 development programme at Prestwick. The twin turbo-prop Jetstream 41 is a 30 seat regional aircraft which was the first UK commercial aircraft to achieve a joint European Joint Airworthiness Authority certification and the last commercial aircraft to be wholly designed and built in the UK.

In 1994, he became Technical Director, British Aerospace Jetstream Aircraft, in charge of engineering for all Jetstream and BAe Advanced Turboprop families of aircraft.

In 1996 Gordon led the integration of the Prestwick and Woodford engineering teams to manage the BAe 146 and Jetstream aircraft programmes.

In 1997 he was asked by BAe to join Airbus in Toulouse as Chief Engineer, Twin Aisle Aircraft. In this role, he was responsible for directing the engineering development and continuing support of the A300, A310, A330 and A340 aircraft programmes. During this period, he managed the overall engineering and development of the new A340-500/600 ultra-long-range aircraft programme, which culminated in a successful entry to service in 2002. The A340-500 was the longest-range aircraft in the world at that time, being capable of operating flights of up to 21 hour duration and was used by Singapore Airlines to fly non-stop from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York.

Gordon returned to the UK in January 2004 to become Senior Vice President, Engineering at Airbus Filton leading the Engineering Integration Centre for wings, landing gears and fuel systems.

In January 2007, he returned to Toulouse as SVP and Chief Engineer leading the development of the new Airbus A350XWB 315-seat long-range aircraft. The A350XWB family is the most advanced technology aircraft ever designed by Airbus, taking nearly 8 years to develop at a cost of €12bn. The A350XWB gained its European Type Certificate in October 2014 after an intensive 15-month flight test programme. The aircraft successfully entered service with Qatar Airways in December 2014. The A350XWB incorporates lightweight carbon fibre composite structure technologies, an advanced Rolls-Royce engine and state-of-the-art digital systems which, combined with highly efficient aerodynamics, achieve a 15000km range with the lowest possible fuel burn whilst providing excellent passenger comfort and amenities. As of 2019 it was still the most fuel-efficient aircraft in the world. With a total order book of 900 aircraft and 300 deliveries by 2019, the A350XWB has had the most successful launch and entry into service of any Airbus aircraft.

In 2014 Gordon became a consultant on aircraft design and certification for aerospace companies.

His Life

Age Event Year
Born in Ayr, Scotland 1951
19 Matriculated at Paisley College of Technology 1970
24 Graduated BSc (Hons), Mechanical Engineering 1975
24 Stress Engineer, Scottish Aviation Ltd, Prestwick 1975
29 Chief Stress Engineer, British Aerospace, Civil Aircraft, Prestwick 1981
33 Chief Designer, Jetstream 32 British Aerospace, Prestwick 1984
37 Chief Engineer, Jetstream 41 British Aerospace, Jetstream Aircraft Ltd 1988
43 Technical Director, British Aerospace, Jetstream Aircraft Ltd 1994
45 Technical Director, British Aerospace Regional Aircraft Ltd1996
46 Chief Engineer, Long Range Aircraft, Airbus, Toulouse 1997
53 Head of Wing Design Integration Centre, Airbus, Filton 2004
56 Chief Engineer, A350XWB aircraft, Airbus, Toulouse 2007
57 Awarded Honorary Doctorate, University of West of Scotland 2008
61 Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society 2012
63 Awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Medal 2014
63 Retired from Airbus 2014
64 Formed Arran Aeronautics Ltd, Aircraft Design Consultancy 2015
65 Awarded Council of European Aerospace Society Gold Award 2016
65 Awarded Institute of Engineering Design Alex Moulton Prize 2016
65 Awarded Baird of Bute Society Scottish Aviation Award 2016
67 President of Prestwick Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society 2018
68 Inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame on 4 October 2019
68 Honorary Fellow, Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland 4 October 2019

His Legacy

In 2014, Gordon was awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Medal, awarded for work of an outstanding nature in Aerospace. The Council of European Aerospace Societies made their 2016 award to Gordon, stating that 'through his exceptional leadership in technical and engineering development and personal contribution to the success of Airbus, has made an outstanding contribution to European aerospace.'

Developing the complex A350XWB aircraft involved pioneering design, analysis, simulation and test work by thousands of skilled engineers on all five continents of the world. Leading this huge engineering team effort to meet stringent safety requirements, performance and design targets and industrial milestones was an exceptional achievement.

More Information

Citation for Gordon McConnell's Council of European Aerospace Societies Award 2016
Download: Gordon McConnell's acceptance speech Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame, James Watt Dinner, 4 October 2019

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