February 15th, 2012
Academic colleagues and representatives from the world of ballooning have been paying tribute to Dr Janet Folkes, who has died after a long battle with cancer.
Janet, an expert in the field of lasers and high powered water-jetting, was also recognised across the globe for her record-breaking achievements in hot air and gas ballooning. Dr Folkes also piloted the University’s hot-air balloon at events across the world.
Professor Paul Shayler, Head of the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, said: “Janet has been a wonderful colleague, a high flyer in her academic achievements as well as her record-breaking ballooning adventures. She was a highly respected teacher and an outstanding researcher who excelled at finding industrial applications of her research. She was exciting and rewarding to work with; always vitally interested and interesting. She leaves us an enormously impressive legacy of achievements and many fond memories to remember her by.”
Colleagues in the Faculty of Engineering have described Janet as elegant, brave and adventurous — a great friend who will be sadly missed. Her enthusiasm to pass on her expertise is also recognised.
Many comments have been posted on the Periodic Tables BlogSpot, where Janet was a regular contributor. Brady Haran – the University’s film maker in residence – who made a series of films with Janet, said: “Janet was a brilliant woman, genuine and brilliantly understated. We have been left with many great memories.”
In April 2010, with co-pilot and Nottingham alumna Dr Ann Webb, Janet was presented with the British Balloon and Airship Club’s Charles Green Salver for exceptional achievement. The pair broke the female duration world record while competing in the 2009 Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett. Janet established more than 50 world records. She won the 10th America’s Challenge gas balloon race in 2005 with her co-pilot Bill Arras. They flew nearly 1,500 miles from New Mexico to Canada in 46 hours and 14 minutes, giving her the British General distance and duration records by a large margin.
In an interview with the BBC, as she prepared for the 2010 Gordon Bennett gas balloon race, Janet talked about the chemotherapy she was having to keep her breast cancer in remission. She said: “You should make the most of what you’ve got… if you can go and fly that puts your worries in perspective. Just to be able to get in the air and stay in the air — it’s just amazing. You see the sunrise, you see the sunset, you just see the world from a different perspective up there.”
Janet was recognised last year as one of Nottingham’s 100 women of substance. She was made a Freeman of the City of London in 2008. As a result of her work for the Nissan Motor Company she holds two Japanese patents on the hardening of titanium. Although Janet travelled all over the world, she returned regularly to Burton Joyce to spend time with family and friends. A website has been set up for people to post tributes to Janet: http://ourmemoryof.com/janetfolkes.
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