Dawn Elson

"I am absolutely thrilled and truly honoured to receive this award. I always endeavour to make a difference; whether at work or through inspiring young people to embrace engineering. Being recognised has demonstrated to me that I might just have achieved this in some small way."

Dawn Elson

Dawn Elson was appointed Head of Engineering at Gatwick Airport in November 2012. Prior to this promotion, and notably being the first woman in post, she was recruited from the Royal Air Force to the role of Senior Engineering Manager just one month earlier.

A move she described as “from engineering the aircraft to engineering the airport” and requiring not only a cultural shift from military to civilian, but also a step from aeronautical engineering to infrastructure and services support.

A distinguished 23 year career with the RAF involved Dawn in various roles including: Head of Engineering at RAF Waddington; Deputy Chief Engineer for the Air Transport and Air to Air Refuelling; Logistics Transformation Programme Lead for Air Command; and Senior Engineer 216 Squadron.

Dawn was the Chairman of the RAF Equitation Association for many years and as a keen equestrienne has competed in show jumping and eventing at Inter-Services level, and she enjoys flying, having a private pilot’s licence.

Dawn’s educational journey is equally as impressive featuring a BEng in Mechanical Engineering from Bath University, an MA in Defence Studies from Kings College London and an MBA from Cranfield University.

In 1997 she received the Barrie Smart Memorial Award for women making the most significant contribution to the RAF community, and in 2013 the First Women Award (Tourism and Leisure) in association with Lloyds Bank, created by the Confederation of British Industry and Real Business, in recognition of Dawn’s pivotal role at Gatwick. The judges described her as “an exceptional candidate and passionate supporter of other women.”

A Fellow of both the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and the Royal Aeronautical Society, Dawn also dedicates time to support Design and Technology students attending Alton Sixth Form College for Engineering, Hampshire, in the role of Ambassador, and is committed to seeing more youngsters taking STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

The award of Honorary Doctor of Science is bestowed upon Dawn in recognition of her notable contribution to mechanical and aeronautical engineering in her current role and throughout her career with the RAF.  It also recognises her dedicated engagement with education by promoting the study of STEM subjects.

She said: "I am absolutely thrilled and truly honoured to receive this award. I always endeavour to make a difference; whether at work or through inspiring young people to embrace engineering. Being recognised has demonstrated to me that I might just have achieved this in some small way."