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Boeing Frontiers
December 2003/January 2004
Volume 02, Issue 08
Boeing Frontiers
Around the World

Rendezvous in London

Updated RAeS lecture hall strengthens Boeing's UK ties


Rendezvous in LondonBoeing and the Royal Aeronautical Society have enjoyed a close relationship—as well as a shared history—over the decades. Many top Boeing executives have been tapped as Fellows of the 137-year-old organization, which claims more than 19,000 members in more than 100 countries. So when the London-based Society looked for a corporate partner to help refurbish its premier lecture venue, Boeing stepped up to the challenge.

The result? The new Bill Boeing Lecture Theatre, officially opened last month by then Boeing Chairman and CEO Phil Condit, who also delivered the Society's annual Orville and Wilbur Wright Lecture. But more than simply lending the company founder's name to a conference hall, Boeing leaders in the United Kingdom saw this sponsorship as a chance to further strengthen company ties and commitment to that country, a key nation in Boeing's globalization strategy.

Originally built in 1960 as an addition to the Society's historical headquarters overlooking London's Hyde Park, the 2,080- square-foot (193-square-meter) lecture theatre is the Society's most prestigious venue, often rented by aerospace firms and others for outside events. But it hadn't been updated in more than 40 years.

Remaining relevant in a world—and industry—that's driven by technological change is imperative, said RAeS Chief Executive Keith Mans. And since the organization uses rental revenues from the lecture theatre and its six other meeting rooms to help maintain its headquarters, an upgraded facility was a must.

"The society was looking beyond 2003 on how it could best represent the future of aerospace as well as the past," said Mans. "And at the same time, Boeing was [increasing] its activities in London. And after some initial discussions, it appeared this was a good way forward for both the Society and Boeing."

Sir Michael Jenkins, president of Boeing UK, agreed.

"One of our main objectives here is to increase the profile and image of the company," said Sir Michael, "and give a greater understanding of the role it plays in the UK economy. And gestures like this press in that direction."

Mans began discussing the theatre project early this year with Ian Thomas, who leads Boeing Integrated Defense Systems activities in the UK. A deal between the two parties was signed in April, and most work was completed by September in order to make the Bill Boeing Theatre ready for the annual Wright Lecture in November.

Mans got his inspiration for the refurbished theatre 1 1/2 years ago, thanks to a British Broadcasting Corporation event held in the space. The BBC draped the walls in white fabric, projecting images onto them. "That provided us, if you will, with a sort of vision of perhaps what we'd want," said Mans.

That meant that during the overhaul, the theatre's rich mahogany panels got covered with padded white canvas. The regally framed photos of the society's past presidents lining the walls came down. And the cinema-style seating was replaced with movable chairs. Thanks to Boeing sponsorship, the 290-person-capacity theatre has been outfitted with state-of-the-art electronics and audio equipment and upgraded lighting.

"The power of it is its minimalism," Mans said. "We're painting on a blank canvas. This lecture theatre can move as rapidly as advancements in science and technology take us."

Current rental fees for the Bill Boeing Lecture Theatre and the adjoining Council Room and foyer can reach 1,800 pounds (about $3,100). Mans expects demand for the room to rise, as he says the theatre is London's most technologically advanced medium-sized lecture hall.

Sir Michael said he believes the sponsorship will continue to pay dividends for Boeing, which also serves as one of the Society's Corporate Partners.

"What is nice is people using that theatre, from any aerospace company, in order to hold any lecture [there], will be holding it in the Bill Boeing Theatre," he said. "It's a wonderful marketing opportunity which was offered to us, and we seized it with both hands."


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