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Engineering Talks 1.3 : Interview with an aviation specialist

Name: Richard Quelch

Qualifications: HNC in Mechanical and Structural Engineering

Years of working experience: 34 years

Job Title: Mechanical Design Engineer

Speciality: Aerospace

Where are you from?

Originally from Southampton, but moved into the West Country about 20 years ago. I also lived in Germany, Israel and Brazil for some time, due to work requirements.


Do you have any hobbies?

I love fly-fishing and outdoor pursuits in general, such as gardening; Somerset is a great place for all of these!

I also just recently finished working on an innovative Facebook development project called Aquila – a 42 m unmanned solar-powered drone, designed to fly at 90,000 feet , whose goal is to bring the Internet to remote reaches of the world where there is no satellite coverage. The wing is controlled from the ground and flies in around 60 km radius – providing coverage to huge areas. I thought it was a fun and worthwhile project and offered my company’s services; we became a part of a propulsion unit team. It is currently in a test phase, but the plan is to manufacture 100’s of these to employ all over the world.

Find out more about project Aquila here

Aquilla drone during test flight

Are there some other innovative projects you have been involved in?

Errrm… Yes. Unfortunately can’t mention them in any depth as they were for the Defence Department and are secret. (laughs)


Sounds like you’ve had an interesting career path , can you tell us a bit about it?

Sure. I guess it all started with an apprenticeship with Siemens. I was part of a project developing a towed array sonar for the marine industry – a piece of defence mechanism used on Submarines. I came out with a HNC in Mechanical and Structural Engineering. I then went on to work for Airbus, Embrear & Dornier – on and off for many years and I ended up working all over the world including Germany, Australia, Brazil and Israel. I was part of their teams developing the A340 and also the A380, from conception to finish. Previous and subsequent jobs were with AgustaWestland Helicopters in Yeovil, where I was involved in the EH 101 and also AW159 – “Wildcat” development – the latest craft currently being deployed by the military.


Airbus A340 and A380, Helicopters: EH 101 and AW159 “Wildcat”

What interested you in a job at Rotec?

Well, it’s local, I’ve been travelling most of my life and at 55 I would like to stick to my home (laughs).

I think Rotec has a great future, it’s a company that will expand I think and probably at the correct rate and that appealed to me. Also I enjoy the management as well as the practical side of the job. Rotec have invested in innovative 3D Solidworks software and would like to see it used to it’s full potential and since I have over 15 years of experience of using Solidworks as well as other systems it was a good fit. I am also looking forward to working on some new Rotec product ranges the company are looking to introduce, which I think is very progressive!


If you enjoyed this article you might like these: Engineering Talks 1.1: Interview with an apprentice or Engineering Talks 1.2 : Women in Engineering


Author: Sarka Humpolcova

Date: 24/11/2016

Richard Quelch helps strengthen Rotec’s development team

Rotec are pleased to announce that Richard Quelch, an experienced Mechanical Design Engineer, joined the development team.

Richard has over 34 years of design and management experience working predominantly in the aerospace industry.

Starting as an apprentice trained mechanical engineer, Richard worked for companies such as Airbus and Princess Yachts, in the UK as well as Germany, eventually starting his own successful company.

He says “At 55 I felt I would like to be based somewhere locally, rather than travelling to Zurich and back like the last summer.” laughs “I think Rotec has got a great future, it’s a company that will expand I think and that appealed to me.”

Richard has worked on some exciting projects over the years, more on this coming soon in the next series of the Engineering Talks.

Rotec help Western Power Distribution enter a new era

Western Power Distribution faced some tough decisions as their workhorse of choice, the iconic Land Rover Defender production was brought to a close. The company had to find an alternative vehicle suitable for the challenging working conditions and decided on the formidable Isuzu Dmax. Rotec have been the power supplier’s chosen partners in developing and producing a fleet of vehicles adapted to cover the urban and rough terrain that covers their distribution network. Rotec’s engineers have designed, built and installed over 1200 of the tailored made winches over the past decade, all the way until the last Defender model rolled of line at Solihull, bringing the icon’s 70 years of service to a close.

land rover defender

Land Rover Defenders


The Land Rover Defender is well known for its universal chassis base, often adapted to suit a wide range of applications that allowed commercial and end users to produce a wide range of engineered solutions that could either be mechanically or hydraulically driven.  Rotec designed, manufactured and installed a range of winch solutions that meet the demands of the overhead linesman who required a robust system that gave precision winching often in remote and arduous terrain.


Rotec winch systems meet statutory requirements for lifting under the ‘Lifting operations and lifting equipment regulations 1998’, winches installed meet BS EN14492 providing the lines man with quality products that often employed electronic controls to safe guard load control and interlocks incorporated within the vehicle.

Isuzu Dmax front

Isuzu Dmax

We were excited to announce that WPD had extended the contract as they rolled out their new fleet – the tough Isuzu Dmax 4x4.

WPD announced “Rotec mechanical and hydraulic design engineers continue to work on new hydraulic winch systems for a wide range of vehicles that will embrace the technology and experience gained over the years with the Land Rover. Whilst Feb 2016 has seen the last of any new production Land Rovers, the vehicle will be adapted and utilised by many enthusiast and commercial companies for hydraulic applications in many years to come, Rotec is the team to work with.”


Rotec join the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project

“Creating history, not recreating it” were the words of Professor Martin Attrill, Director of the Marine Institute at Plymouth University. Certainly a cause worth striving for by the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) makers.

At the end of October we were invited to attend a launch of a crowdfunding campaign aiming to raise some of the £10 million needed to turn this beautiful design into reality. Rotec are going to join the adventure by making a donation but also contributing with their expertise, lending their engineers to the project, and becoming one of the main suppliers.

The benefits of this donation include:

Mayflower Autonomous Ship

Mayflower Autonomous Ship

* Witnessing the arrival of the MAS400 (flight provided).
* Thanks across our social media platforms, website and automatic registration to receive the monthly newsletter.
* A signed letter of thanks from the MAS team on watermarked paper.
* A Mayflower 400 T Shirt & entry to the exclusive draw where the winner will get VIP ticket (reward price £1000) to the launch of the Mayflower 400 in 2020.
*Rotec’s name ‘on board’
*A tour of the MAS to include signed photograph.
* Exclusive invitation to the MAS champagne hosted reception/unveiling.
* Exclusive invitation to the VIP Launch of the MAS 2020.

See how you could support the project and what benefits are available in return: JOIN THE CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN

Listen to what Radio Plymouth and some of the attendees had to say about the event (comment from Rotec’s own Dave Nance at 1:50):


The research vessel is projected to sail in 2020, celebrating 400 years since the pilgrims set off of the shores of Plymouth for the New World. The project is more than just a leap of faith. It is a well-researched (ad)venture potentially benefiting a number of industries, virtually catapulting the marine industry into 21st century. Needless to say Rotec are truly excited to be a part of this project.

Plymouth university, MSubs , ProMare and Shuttleworth Design, teamed up to build the third Mayflower “ushering us into a new phase of oceanographic and climatological research with state-of-the-art technology.” (Brett Phaneuf, Managing Director – MSubs)

The estimated vessel length is 32.5 meters, with top speed of 12.5 knots. But speed is not the goal here, as Orion Shuttleworth reminds us, “The design is focused on the ship’s ability to conduct a variety of scientific researches, being powered by renewable energy”

Mayflower Autonomous Ship

Mayflower Autonomous Ship

Paddy Dowsett – Project Manager, MSubs says:

“This project brings a number of new  technologies together in a way that hasn’t been done before. There are some smaller autonomous crafts in existence, however nothing anywhere near this scale in terms of size and technicality.”

The Earl and Countess of Devon also spoke at the event, explaining why Plymouth is the perfect place for the project.

“Plymouth has served as the last stop for ships before setting off on a long journey for centuries. It has always been a unique place with the capacity to supply the necessary skills, stock and supplies to help adventurers through their treacherous journeys.”

The launch is expected to shine a spotlight on the coastal city, attracting a lot of public interest within the UK and the USA.

University Degree or an Apprenticeship?


The debate about university degrees versus apprenticeship is nothing new. The truth is there is no direct competition between university degrees and apprenticeships once they get past the application stage. It is like comparing red and white wine – neither is superior, it simply depends on the circumstance and personal preference.

However that doesn’t change the fact that there is a large number of new school leavers each year who are deciding to take the life altering step towards one or the other. Whether this is you or your child / sibling / friend or family member, it is important to know the pros and the cons of each choice as often the school leaver’s talents could be applied to both: apprenticeship or a degree.


Apprenticeships summary

  • Generally more hands on work
  • Provides in depth training in highly specialised fields
  • Earning while studying
  • Avoiding student finance and future debt
  • Smaller groups in class – more individual attention


University degrees summary

  • Highly focused on academic work
  • Keeping your career options open with a broader area of study
  • Many employers won’t consider applicants with the right working experience if they don’t also hold a university degree
  • Lesser barriers to further advancement in the long term

Studying at university offers the option to focus fully on studying for 3 (or more) years and offers a greater diversity of employment options after graduation, which comes in handy if you’re not entirely sure which career path to follow.

For many employers a university degree is also a mark of drive and achievement they find crucial when looking for new recruits.

KIRK KINSELL, European president of InterContinental Hotels says:

“University acts as a filter for people who can prove themselves to have goals, objectives and accomplishments and have survived in that environment.”

There is no doubt that the increase in university fees plays a crucial role when it comes to making a decision. A year after the rise in tuition fees, PricewaterhouseCoopers experienced a 200 % increase in applications for education/working schemes following A levels (comparison of years 2008 and 2011).

However the statistic increase of people not going to university will mean less competition for positions requiring degrees in the long term.

Kirk Kinsell says “If we think about today versus 20 years ago, today’s companies put a lot more emphasis on degreed candidates. I think degrees will be even more important in 20 years’ time.”

And it is likely this trend will indeed continue; a report recently launched by Boris Johnson claims that by 2022, 60% of jobs in London will be at degree level. This would suggest that apprentice trained workers will struggle reaching for high level jobs and will likely be eventually pressured into further education.

This being said, there is a probability that any further education will be paid for by an employer, leaving the formal apprentices virtually debt free, which is undeniably a rare occurrence in the current financial climate and may contribute towards overall life satisfaction factor.


There has been a long prevailing misconception in relation to apprenticeships best voiced by Steve Holiday, the Chief executive of National Grid:

“What we’re in danger of moving towards is an attitude of ‘if you go to university, you’ll be successful or if you’re not quite as successful, you go down these alternative paths’ “

The sentiment is clearly outdated if not wrong altogether. There is a demand for educated graduates, but there is also a huge need for highly skilled technicians. Many apprenticeship positions are as prestigious as a spot at the top 10 university:

“From receiving 9,000 applications in the year starting August 2009, BT received 33,000 for the following 12-month period for 500 places. In the same year, Oxford University received 17,000 applications for 3,000 places. BT is looking to broaden the scope of its scheme to include more IT roles and may take on up to 250 additional apprentices this year.”

(ANDY PALMER, Head of skills, BT)


People who opt in to enrol on in house training schemes or apprenticeship schemes have often progressed into senior roles within the company.


IAN POWELL, Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers says:

“Students joining the firm on this route earn a competitive salary while studying for a professional qualification, plus there are no student debts to repay. One of our current board members joined the firm as a school-leaver and is a great example of the fact that those who don’t pursue a degree can make it to the top of the firm.”


Whether you decide to go to university, join an apprenticeship or an in-house training scheme, it is, without a shadow of a doubt, worth considering a career in engineering.

(What is it like to be a Woman in Engineering? We asked Claire, our electrical engineer)

The engineering industry in particular has been struggling with a shortage of talent, the problem being more a case of quantity rather than quality however. The companies agree that the individuals recruited are excellent, willing to learn the skills necessary and learning fast. The situation seems to be worse for smaller business, with smaller marketing and recruitment budgets, it is difficult for them to get themselves in front of school leavers and graduates at first place. So what happens then is that a large number of applicants compete for a small number of jobs with the industry giants, and often get discouraged if unsuccessful, finding jobs in other industries, while small companies (especially the ones in more remote areas) are screaming out for suitable candidates.

Rhys Morgan, director of engineering and education at the Royal Academy of Engineering says:

“However, even if all these issues were addressed and 100 per cent of engineering graduates went into industry (a questionable aim in itself), we still wouldn’t have addressed the skills shortage we’re told companies are facing. In short, we need more engineering students. And this can’t be addressed just by engaging more with young people’, said Morgan. ‘Universities are almost at capacity,’ he said. ‘So even if we did get more students coming through to study STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] subjects, we’re not going to have the capacity. There’s a real timebomb coming up.’

apprentice Zac Huckle

Apprentice Zac Huckle with his mentor

This is why companies like Rotec offer apprenticeships or in house training schemes.

(See interview with Zac Huckle, our engineering apprentice)


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