Engineer: A James Bond Life
We all know Planes, Trains and Automobiles to be a tacky, slapstick Steve Martin comedy. But that phrase takes on an entirely different, much less Mr Bean meaning when you look at the life of young engineer Jamie Lansdell. He’s basically Q from James Bond, but not an ageing John Cleese or a be-spectacled Ben Whishaw. He’s a Q, that lives like a Bond. Tough life, huh…
In his early thirties, he’s still fresh as a daisy (obviously), but the man has helped develop some of the best machines in the automotive and aerospace world. He’s been part of teams responsible for Supercharged Jaguars, the Aston Martin DB9, the Ford GT40 Supercar, jet engines for military aviation (read spy-planes) and, more recently, he’s worked on propulsion systems for UAVs with the likes of NASA. Not that impressive, actually, when you think about it… (who are we kidding?).
It’s almost a little scary to think that a youngster like him – and he’s not at all the Big Bang Theory type of geek who spends weekends trying to reinvent particle theory – has had his finger in so many staggering engineering pies. You’d expect a man behind spy-planes to at least have a beard. Nope. Lansdell is distinctly beardless, and by all accounts, quite the party-animal.
He might not be the nerdy stereotype from *insert any old crappy American sitcom*, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t approach the engineering world with another kind of big bang.
Gumption – pretty much the best word to describe Lansdell’s secret to success. Astoundingly, for an engineer, he left school at 16. Any more stereotypes you’d like him to blow out of the water? He’d probably welcome the challenge. “I had a strong work ethic and reasonable grades,” he explains, “but I was by no means exceptional.”
So, he took his career firmly out his school’s hands and into his own. “I was fortunate enough to be offered an apprenticeship at a company that was part of Jaguar and had enough drive one day to go and knock on the Engineering Director’s door and ask for him to give me a chance,” he says. There’s that gumption we were talking about.
“He took me under his wing and taught me, essentially, that every good decision is based on interpreting data, coupled with an unwavering commitment to succeed,” Lansdell continues, “So, 16 years later, I still live and work by these precepts.”
Every career has its highs and lows, or so we’d all like to think, slumped at our desks on a Friday afternoon. Well, Lansdell’s seems to have been a life of one high after another – some very high, do we need to mention the planes again?
“I started my career as a humble manufacturing engineer, but moved quickly into design and then up the ladder into advanced technical management. Every day has been a highlight,” he says, a touch smugly, but with reason, “Each incremental step of my career has been striving to do something else that I am thoroughly passionate about. Meeting the President was obviously a highlight, but it was equally fulfilling to help a guy called Geoff develop his idea of a ‘flying saucer’.”
“Every design concept comes with its own challenges – any artist or inventor will testify that seeking perfection is the biggest challenge, but there is always a point at which a judgement call has to be made.”
“Actually, hang on, the last thing I worked on was a flying Hummer! THAT was a big challenge.”
Is it glue that glows in the dark? Too many acronyms, too little time.
“UAV simply stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Essentially, they are the future of everything that flies,” Lansdell explains, without a hint of condescension. “UAVs vary in size, from a tiny vehicle the size of a hummingbird, right through to a large commercial jet. They could be helicopters, fixed wing conventional aircraft, flying dustbins or, most recently, those that have been adapted to mimic flying birds.”
Right so, like the horse that led the plough, pilots take note, your days are numbered.
The life of the jet-setter is one that has been envied time and time again by the lowly desk-dweller. However, as many business travellers will tell you, there are some drawbacks. It sure makes having a girlfriend a bit tricky…
Having started his career at 16, Lansdell has already got quite a lot of city-hopping under his belt. Interestingly, he’s settled for the time being in Dubai. We had no idea that Dubai was anywhere near the engineering front-line.
“I came to the Middle East to attempt to find a job I can grow with and which would allow me to settle down a bit. I actually hope to help develop the Middle East’s Space Program – that would definitely give me enough reason to stick around for a while.”
If the laws of Physics didn’t apply, what fantastical thing would you design?
It would have to be a teleporter. Quickly teleporting back to England for a brew with my mum, a quick read of an unbiased newspaper, before zipping back to this sandpit to meet the next VVIP who wants to go into space – ideal.
Stuff the high-tech nonsense for a minute and let’s get back to basics. Design implement of choice: HB pencil, Uniball, Lamy or the humble biro?
I do 3D design on an ultra fast computer, normally using a system called Solidworks, the invention of 3D printing allows my concepts to be turned into something tangible and into a test scenario in a few short hours. (Did I just turn your simple question in to a geeky response? Sorry).
Yes, you did.
When you met the President, was there anything you wished you could have said to him? A joke? Well done on a great job? My mum loves you?
I met the less popular recent President. My mum didn’t love him. I wanted to high five him so badly, but no one wants to be the guy who was left hanging by the President of the United States.
Favourite James Bond car gadget?
I worked with Jaguar Cars (Special Vehicle Operations) when they developed the green XKR (as seen in Die Another Day in 2002) – the year of the most outrageous Bond Car gadgets yet..the year when Bond finally went too far…I am far happier to see Bond return to chivalry, class and, of course, Aston Martin.
If you were to be paid in anything other than money, what would it be?
I would love for the companies to pay me with the products I developed, imagine the fun you could have sending your Spyplane to go and pick up a pizza for you…my next career step would hopefully mean I’d have a spaceship parked on my drive way.
When you’re given your big budgets, do you ever have the urge to spend it on something completely mental? If so, what?
Some of the budgets I have worked with are astronomical. The UK spent over £800 million on their most recent UAV – that kind of money could buy a serious amount of penny sweets, or a nice garage to park my spaceship…