Aircraft and engineers: Time to SHINE at the Virgin Atlantic Hangar

Holly Branson at the Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Hangar
Kami White
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 18 October 2023

I’m still beaming after heading to Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow hangar to meet the team and check out one of the newest and most fuel efficient aircraft in the fleet – the A330-Neo. 

Holly Branson at the Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Hangar
Kami White

A real highlight of the day was meeting Virgin Atlantic’s new SHINE (She’s In Engineering) group – which is made up brilliant women who all work in engineering. It was wonderful to sit around a table and have a candid conversation about our various experiences in the workplace, and how we can encourage more women to pursue careers in aviation, engineering and all areas of STEM.

When asked what advice I had for women working in male-dominated industries, I mentioned how important it is to overcome imposter syndrome and to speak up (even when it feels intimidating). Almost everyone suffers from imposter syndrome at some time point in their life (regardless of gender), but it feels like women experience it to a greater degree. I recalled a time when I was younger and was interning across our biggest Virgin companies. I was very new to the world of business and I kept finding myself siting in meetings and silently nodding! No matter what sector the company was in (travel, telecomms, finance, etc), they all used acronyms and confusin terminology, and I had no idea what most of it meant. Eventually, I plucked up the courage to say so, and it turned out quite a few others in the room didn’t understand what was going on either! A valuable lesson learned. 

Holly Branson meets female engineers from Virgin Atlantic

The wonderful thing about groups like SHINE is the ability to bring together like-minded colleagues – united by anything from gender, to life-stage, to ethnicity. You gain access to a support system of people with shared experiences (both the good and the bad) and advice. It is the perfect opportunity to ask for advice, brainstorm ideas, tackle problems together, educate people outside the group, and share your own wisdom too.

It was also brilliant to talk to the group about our purpose at Virgin of ‘Changing Business for Good’. Virgin Atlantic is a company that truly embraces our purpose and takes bold steps to bring it to life. From introducing a new Gender Identity Policy to allow for uniform choice, to preparing for the world’s first transatlantic flight powered by entirely by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the team is always thinking: ‘how we can do things better?’ This then creates a positive ripple effect throughout the entire industry, which is what ‘Changing Business for Good’ is all about.

While I was at the hangar I met with Holly Boyd-Boland, VP of Corporate Development, to learn more about the upcoming sustainable aviation fuel flight, which will fly from Heathrow to JFK on 28 November. The flight will be such a cumulative moment for Virgin Atlantic, after leading on the development and adoption of SAF for 15 years now. It will also be a huge moment for the industry at large, because the adoption of SAF plays a fundamental role in decarbonising the aviation industry and reaching net-zero targets. In fact, SAF typically delivers CO2 lifecycle emissions savings of more than 70% whilst performing like the traditional jet fuel it replaces. Currently, SAF represents less than 0.1% of jet fuel volumes across the industry, and fuel standards allow for only 50% SAF blend in commercial jet engines. Virgin Atlantic’s upcoming SAF flight will show that it is entirely possible for a flight to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel and will propel the entire industry forward. Incredible. 

I was also lucky enough to tour around an A350 aircraft with two wonderful Rolls Royce engineers, including Rebecca Hoibak, who joined Virgin Atlantic as an apprentice engineer six years ago.

Holly Branson with engineers at Virgin Atlantic's Heathrow Hangar
Kami White

It was brilliant to hear Rebecca and Gareth speak so passionately about their work. I just love meeting people find their purpose at work and get to live it every day.  

Holly Branson visits Virgin Atlantic's Heathrow Hangar

Thank you to everyone at the hangar for showing me around and always striving to reach new heights. I just can’t wait for 28 November!