Brace for impact - is flying riskier than we thought?

Professor Brendan Walker
10 Jun 2013 17:32:58.103
PA 188/13

In our 24 hour TV news culture, we are all too familiar with dramatic images of air disasters such as the 9/11 terror attacks, the Lockerbie bombing and American Airlines Flight 587, which crashed into a residential area in the New York district of Queen’s in November 2001.

And while disasters like this remain a rare occurrence, a new TV series presented by a University of Nottingham academic is claiming that aviation near misses could actually be more common than many frequent fliers would care to contemplate.

Former aeronautical engineer Professor Brendan Walker takes an in-depth look into the risks of flying in Terror in the Skies, a four-part Channel 4 series on the aviation industry. The series investigates the causes of recent terrifying near-misses, with each episode tackling the individual issues of Nature, Human Error, Machines and External Factors.
Click here for full story

Professor Walker, a senior research fellow in the University’s School of Computer Sciences, said: “Air travel is a microcosm of everyday life: we eat, we interact, we sit and we sleep in a tiny metal tube at altitude.

“We're made to feel as comfortable as possible, and as oblivious as possible, to something which is quite an abstract concept — and an amazing engineering feat — travelling at 32,000ft at 85% the speed of sound.”

Tales of terror and survival

The series follows Brendan as he visits world-leading aviation centres to examine the science behind flight safety and the ongoing efforts to prevent accidents and incidents. From sleeping air traffic controllers to lightning storms, the show is sure to provide some fascinating — if unsettling — tales of terror and survival in the skies.

Professor Walker is no stranger to the concept of the fear factor and has forged a career for himself as the world’s only ‘Thrill Engineer’. His more recent projects have revolved around his research with the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute, based at Nottingham, where he leads the Vicarious research project, which investigates the application of biosensors to enhance entertainment platforms.

Past projects have involved developing roller coasters that alter the level of thrill they deliver depending on the emotions of its human riders and a live experiment into the paranormal with Professor Walker’s science performance company the Thrill Laboratory.

This latest venture marks a return to Brendan’s original training as an aeronautical engineer. His vast experience within this field will allow him to provide an authoritative insight, having trained as an aeronautical engineer at Imperial College and worked for British Aerospace Military Aircraft for five years before undertaking an MA in Industrial Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art.
The show Terror in the Skies is airing on Channel 4 at 8pm on a Sunday. The first episode is now available to watch again on Channel 4 OD.

— Ends —


For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter or find out more on our Press Office blog

Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Brendan Walker on +44 (0)20 8983 0293,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

Additional resources

No additional resources for this article

Related articles

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Room C4)
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798