An aeronautical heritage award from the Royal Aeronautical Society has been unveiled at Cranfield University, paying tribute to one of the world's leading experts on air passenger safety. The plaque was given in recognition of Profession Helen Muir's significant work in developing passenger safety, which influenced the design of today's aircraft and has resulted in safer air travel.
Professor Helen Muir OBE was Professor of Aerospace Psychology at Cranfield University, also serving as Dean of Engineering and Pro Vice-Chancellor. She was an acknowledged world leader in passenger safety, and an expert in human factors.
After the Manchester air disaster in 1985 when 55 people died in a fire despite the fact that the aircraft was on the runway, it was work led by Helen with her team on cabin evacuation trials which made a major contribution to improved cabin design and cabin crew training in civil aircraft. She developed cabin evacuation test procedures which are mostly still in place today.
Helen was the first chair of the RAeS' Human Factors group, and was a key player in setting up the Women in Aerospace and Aviation Committee. In 1999, Professor Muir was awarded the prestigious Whittle Award for her outstanding contribution to airworthiness. In 2004, she received the Sir James Martin Gold Medal from the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators and in 2008 was the first Briton to be givenn the L. Welch Pogue Lifetime Achievement Award for her visionary and pre-eminent leadership in aviation.
David Edwards FRAeS, Chief Executive of the Royal Aeronautical Society, said: "Aviation is undoubtedly a team effort, so it is sometimes hard to pinpoint one person and say they made flying safer. But Helen Muir is one such person. Her work and research have made us all safer when we fly and whilst those outside of aviation may not recognise her name, they will be aware of her impact. Today, on every commercial flight around the world, cabin safety briefings include instructions which resulted directly from her work."
The plaque will be mounted outside Building 83 on Cranfield's main campus. Cranfield University is launching a Helen Muir PhD Scholarship fund to commemorate Helen and her work by supporting a PhD student to carry out further work on cabin safety.
Awarded by the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), the Aeronautical Heritage Award plaques celebrate and commemorate technical or operational achievements that made an original and unique contribution to aeronautics, and which are of world significance.