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Chairman's Annual Report - 26th October 2007

It was with a feeling of delight and some trepidation that I accepted the appointment of Chairman of the Association of Aerospace Universities (AAU) at the previous annual general meeting (AGM) held at the University of Salford on 1st November 2007. My predecessor, Professor Alan Jocelyn, had chaired this association since its inception and thanks to the hard work of all members, the AAU has grown from strength to strength and the current membership stands at 27 universities and 10 aerospace organisations. I am pleased to report that our ranks continue to swell with the University of Glamorgan joining us earlier this year and London South Bank University (LSBU) in the process of finalising their application for membership. Such was the keenness of LSBU, that they have already hosted one of AAU’s meetings.

The existing specialist groups were streamlined and consolidated in to two; the Materials and Manufacturing Specialist Group headed by Dr Colin Johnston from the University of Oxford, and, the Aircraft operations and Flight Simulation Specialist Group led by Dr Guy Gratton from Brunel University. The AAU launched the Sustainable Aerospace Specialist Group earlier today. All committee meetings will be combined with technical workshops by the specialist groups leading to discussions on identification of funding sources and application procedures in order to ensure a high level of research collaboration among the members. It is also the intention to swap notes on innovative teaching methods using new tools that are entering the education scene and recommend adoption of ‘best practice’ methods at these gatherings.

On the day after my appointment (2nd Nov), I had the pleasure of representing the AAU at the inaugural event of the Annual Northern Aerospace Forum (ANAF) which was held at the Dunkenhalgh hotel near Blackburn, Lancashire. Since this event turned out to be more successful than expected, the organising committee decided to repeat it the following year and I was invited to be one of the speakers in my capacity as the new Chairman of the AAU, along with Allan Cook (President of the Society of British Aerospace Companies and the Chief Executive of Cobham plc) and Dr David Bailey (Executive Director, Aerospace Innovation Centre, North West Aerospace Alliance). This was held on 18th October 2007 at the same venue and due to the continuing success, the organisers have decided to make it an annual fixture and I have been asked to join the organising committee as the theme for 2008 is aerospace education and training. I intend to use this opportunity to further publicise the achievements of the AAU and expand the horizon of our activities by projecting to outsiders the wishes of the AAU members.

In accordance with comments received at committee meetings, formal links are being forged with a number of other related organisations. A letter to the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) which laid down an informal agreement is now being scrutinised as a memorandum of understanding and the feedback from many RAeS Executives has been positive. Indeed, it was with delight that I have accepted an invitation from them to take part in their next meeting of the Corporate Accreditation Committee to be held on 30th January 2008.

It has been my pleasure to serve in the committee of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Aerospace North West (IMechE ANW) for some years and I am pleased that this has provided me with a route to their headquarters; at present, I am corresponding with Nick Barnett, the Chairman of the Aerospace Industries Division, IMechE. Salford University is not alone in having its aerospace degree programmes accredited by the RAeS as well as the IMechE. I was invited to give a lecture to a local branch of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and I am using this opportunity to establish a link with their headquarters as well. Some of our members boast accreditation of their aerospace degree programmes by the IET.

Thanks to the initiative by Professor Jonathan Cooper, the AAU has been given responsibility for the newly created Aerospace Sectoral Group within the Engineering Professors’ Council. As a result, the AAU has been represented at many of their events including their annual Congress which was held at the University of Staffordshire last year and at the University of Leeds earlier this year. Perhaps the most useful aspect of this link has been the exchange of information concerning the sixth Research Assessment Exercise 2008 and the long term goals of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. I would like to thank Professor Andy McIntosh for his services not only for liaising with the EPC but also for temporarily acting as the Vice Chairman since the last AGM.

Although the AAU web site is built on solid foundations and provides all viewers with the basic information, it has not been possible to update the news and events pages on a regular basis due to lack of staffing resources. Steps are being taken to remedy this situation with the help of Dr Chris Toomer and the intention is to make the ‘front end’ of the web site more dynamic with rapid posting of results of AAU organised and sponsored student competitions, agendas for technical workshops, news of collaborative research programmes, proposed two year rolling programme, … etc. In February 2007, AAU Honorary Fellowships were awarded to the Web-Page Manager Alexander Fanourakis and Vice President Professor Alan Jocelyn in recognition of their contributions since the founding of the AAU in 1997.

In addition to the many committee meetings that were held during the year, I was also invited to take part in a teleconference on Training Provider Workshop which was chaired by Jim Angus at Cranfield University. It was with regret that the AAU had to cancel a national event which was scheduled to be held in mid-September due to the attendance falling considerably short of that anticipated. I would like to thank Ms Nicola Dunne for her services as a temporary part-time AAU Development Officer over a period of about eight moths.

The AAU took great pride in organising the Dr John Barnes Trophy competition yet again, and this year, the winner was Mr Robert Stringer from the University of the West of England and Mr Robin Pickford from the University of Hertfordshire was the runner-up. Mr Neil Harris, Head of Manufacturing, Airbus Filton, was the Chief guest at this event and I am delighted to say that he has offered to host this competition next year; the proposed date yet to be confirmed is Friday 30th October 2008.

The AAU took the opportunity to sponsor the 7th Annual Aircraft Design and Handling Competition organised by the Merlin Flight Simulation Group and the RAeS Flight Simulation Group. I took great pleasure in awarding the AAU prize to the team from the University of Bath for the ‘most innovative design’. The AAU is thankful to John Farley OBE for organising the University Aerospace Challenge Award to First Year students who demonstrate commitment and determination.

Furthermore, in accordance with the wishes of the members, the AAU is one of the stakeholders of the European Student Competition of Unmanned Aircraft Systems that has been scheduled to be held in 2008 at ParcAberporth. In addition to sponsoring these events, the AAU sent a letter supporting the award of a knighthood to Richard Noble for his contribution to UK’s engineering and technology. The AAU was delighted to learn that one of its key supporters, Professor Srinivasan Raghunathan, was featured in the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours list. Congratulations are in order on being awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and he now joins the ranks of John Farley OBE. Post-nominals such as these dramatically increase our firepower when dealing with non-technical personnel at the highest levels in the government.

There have been two newsworthy items during the last few days: One was the triumph of the Avro Vulcan returning to the realm where she belongs; on 18th October 2007, XH558 roared into the sky above Bruntingthorpe after a lapse of 14 years with Al McDicken at the helm assisted by David Thomas. It was a faultless flight. Secondly, launch customer Singapore Airlines inaugurated commercial service of the Airbus A380 on a fully complemented flight to Sydney yesterday after taking delivery of the craft on 15th October. Earlier today, she returned to Singapore, again with a full load of fare paying passengers. May God bless her and all who fly in her.

The AAU continues to grow in strength and visibility, thanks to the technical workshops that are being facilitated free of charge to all members. It is such ‘learned society’ activities that make the AAU attractive to the members (despite the annual membership fee of £300!) and enables it to influence the aerospace curricula at national level. The AAU’s input is highly valued by the professional bodies and future liaising with organisations such as the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society is likely to occur on a more frequent basis.

Finally, I would like to emphasise that none of this would have been possible had it not been for the unlimited support I received from the members, in particular

the Treasurer, Dr Mike West, who has been a pillar of strength throughout,

the Secretary, Dr Andrew Lewis, who performs the hardest tasks,

the President, Dr John Barnes, who is the main contact at the highest levels, and

the Chief Advisor, John Farley OBE, who corrected us on many occasions.

Dr Thurai Rahulan
AAU Chairman

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