12 University of Newcastle students were fortunate to visit Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA) sites in Victoria and the ACT in early July as part of the inaugural Altitude Accord Scholarship Tour.

Christopher Neal, Matthew Wheeler, Ian Whittall, Ashleigh Rattray, Tahlia West, Jennifer Johnston, Stephanie McManus, Jack Sulis, Toby Barry, Joshua Price and David Seddon qualified for the tour, deemed winners of their first semester group project in the ENGG 1500 subject of the Aerospace Systems Engineering Degree course.

The qualifying competition saw University of Newcastle Engineering students design, construct and test a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that could demonstrate delivery of a payload to a designated area. Based on aircraft performance, ingenuity and a judges’ choice, three teams qualified for the coveted prize – a four-day Melbourne and Canberra tour organised by RDA Hunter, which included visits to Lockheed Martin Australia sites and the ADM Women in Defence gala awards dinner.

The tour kicked off with an exclusive tour of the new 3 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown where students experienced the F-35 close-up and saw its complementary equipment including the F-35 helmet and G-Suit.

From there the party, escorted by LMA, RDA Hunter and University of Newcastle representatives, flew to Melbourne to visit the Science Technology Engineering Leadership and Research Lab; LMA’s national R&D operation, the STELaRLab.

Students were lucky enough to meet the organisation’s full team and participate in demonstrations of the innovative work they are undertaking to keep LMA’s systems at the cutting edge. A highlight was meeting JSF Chief Systems Engineer, Lockheed Martin Australia, Rotary & Mission System, David Harrison, who provided an incredible insight to the design and development of the fighter jet and why it’s the world’s most advanced. And, as a welcome, but slightly intimidating, surprise he also critiqued students’ MVP projects – providing guidance and tips on engineering theory and design.

Next stop was LMA industry partner Marand, a leading global supplier of precision engineered solutions to a range of industries including Aerospace, Defence, Rail, Automotive and Mining. Marand is the largest supplier on the F-35 program in Australia and one of the biggest worldwide, producing the vertical tail component and the engine installation and removal trailer. Students were permitted to tour the Marand engineering facilities and see the tails’ assembly line, and where the trailers are constructed.

The Australian Aviation Museum in Moorabbin was next for an animated guided tour of the collection of Australia’s aviation history. Founded in 1962 as the Australian Aircraft Restoration Group to maintain a World War II-era Bristol Beaufighter aircraft, it has since become a museum with more than 50 aircraft and 25 engines. Students saw the evolution of Australia’s fighter jets and the stark contrast between old technology and that of the F-35.

The group then transferred to Canberra in time to attend the ADM Women in Defence Gala Awards Dinner where Australia’s women in Defence and defence industry were honoured for their contributions to the sector. A highlight for students was the recognition of graduate systems engineer Taylah Griffin. Taylah was honoured for her work on RAAF’s early warning aircraft, as well as her efforts to inspire more Indigenous people to consider a career in science or engineering.

The tour wrapped up on Friday morning with the much-anticipated visit to Lockheed Martin Australia’s Endeavour Centre. Students flew simulated F-35s, C130 Hercules and UAVs and re-thought flight dynamics in an aero-dynamics exercise that awarded them with a commemorative ‘shaving’ from the first F-35 ever built.

The Altitude Accord Scholarship Tour was made possible by a partnership between Lockheed Martin Australia, Regional Development Australia (RDA) Hunter and the University of Newcastle. It aimed to ignite student interest in STEM careers in the Hunter’s defence industry and at Lockheed Martin Australia. The Altitude Accord actively seeks to raise the technology base of the future workforce of the Hunter by growing a ‘5th Generation’, technology-enabled talent pool.

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