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Dr John Howard Barnes

Dr John Howard Barnes, 1933-2016
BSc(Eng), MPhil(Eng), PhD, CEng, FRAeS, MIMechE,
Hon Life Fellow, Coventry University, Hon D. Tech, De Montfort University

John Barnes, known to so many in the university and aerospace sector, was educated in Southampton but left grammar school on passing the Civil Service Entrance Exam to take up a coveted engineering apprenticeship at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough. There he took an HNC and an external London Degree in parallel, exceptionally passing both, whilst working alongside some of the country's best aeronautical engineers and applied scientists. He worked on wind tunnel commissioning, instrumentation and testing, and saw the introduction of new materials – epoxy resins, synthetic rubbers titanium alloys - and was involved in fatigue testing, armaments, gas turbine technology and the then new concept of delta wings. With an amazing breadth of experience John later moved to the Bristol Aircraft Company, continuing delta wing development specifically for Concorde. His brief here also included work in medical engineering and in automotive, submarine and guided weapon technology. He was later 'head-hunted' by company Test Equipment because of the expertise he had accrued.

Subsequently, John moved to Crawley College of Technology as a lecturer and then to a Senior Lecturer post at Borough Polytechnic in London (now Southbank University). This led eventually to his becoming Head of Aerospace at what is now Kingston University. His emphasis throughout was on high standards of course design, teaching delivery and industrial relevance.

In 1983 he was appointed as Her Majesty's Inspector (HMI) for the FE/HE sector, Midlands Division, responsible for 120 institutions. He recognised that the role of an HMI went beyond the traditional inspectoral role and in consequence organised conferences and workshops for academic staff to encourage the sharing of best practice. In his numerous reports and advisory papers for senior civil servants, the Cabinet Office and Ministers, John emphasised the importance of Polytechnics and Colleges and continually stressed the significant contribution of engineering to the nation's well-being. John was a source of advice, ideas and support beyond the perceived HMI remit. He encouraged new aerospace and automotive degree programmes that subsequently appeared at Coventry University and elsewhere in the university sector. He was also involved at De Montfort University, supporting the provision of new engineering facilities. The honorary awards he received were in recognition of the immense contribution he made as an HMI and beyond, into retirement.

John served on the Whitworth Scholarship Awards Committee, based on the IMechE, for 23 years and was the intitiator and founder member with others of the Association of Aerospace Universities (AAU) (being already involved in an equivalent FE association). A 'John Barnes Degree Project Competition' is organised each year by the AAU with the winning students receiving a significant monetary prize.

John was also a consultant to the British Council and was instrumental in placing selected foreign students in appropriate British universities. He involved himself with the Midlands Air Museum as Education Advisor and set up on an official basis retired Rolls-Royce engineer/degree student interaction in Coventry. His enthusiasm for all things aerospace was boundless!

In later retirement, John moved to be near his family in Canada, and died on July 23rd.

Your last flight

The painting 'Your last flight' to mark the passing away of Dr John Barnes was drawn by his daughter Wilma.

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