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Chairman's Annual Report - 31st October 2008

I would like to start by thanking the executives from Aircelle Limited and Middleton Sheet Metal Company Limited for auditing our finances by random sampling before the accounts were submitted by our Treasurer Dr Mike West at the previous Annual General Meeting which was held at the University of Sheffield. After lunch, Professor Costas Soutis and his colleagues marked the start of the new season with excellent presentations on aerospace composite materials and micro uninhabited air vehicles which led to a discussion on research funding sources and application procedures. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Titus Kehinde Olaniyi in which he laid the foundations for a new specialist group focusing on Sustainability issues.

Not to be outdone by Sheffield, the staff at the University of Leeds led by their three Professors (Andy McIntosh, Gordon Andrews and Mohamed Pourkashanian) stunned the audience with their research programmes on combustion and bio fuel technologies at the beginning of the new calendar year. The presenters encouraged all members to join various consortiums which were receiving funding from many sources including DEFRA and the EU.

Dr Guy Grattan hosted the next major event at Brunel University and due to a last minute call to appear as a Panel Member at an event organised by the Science Media Centre, I had to rush off to the Royal Academy of Engineering headquarters during lunch. I am very grateful to Dr Mike West for chairing the rest of the day’s session. Guy gave a splendid presentation covering a broad range of issues concerning many aircraft configurations/operations, air safety and accident investigations. This was followed by an excellent lecture by Chris Neal entitled “Flight and Flight Simulation in Academia and the Real World” which contrasted and compared the needs for training of pilots and teaching & researching in flight mechanics.

In the meantime, thanks to the strengthening relationship with the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), I had no hesitation in accepting their offer to become a Co-opted Member of their Council earlier this year. It is an immensely enjoyable position to hold especially since this year marks the Centenary of British Aviation. I took great delight in showing our support at a Garden Party organised by the RAeS at Shuttleworth Aerodrome on 6th July and at one of the ‘Cool Aeronautics’ events which involved construction and basic analysis of rubber motor powered aircraft.

I was also tasked with obtaining feedback from our members on programme accreditation issues and the presentation of my findings to members of their Corporate Accreditation Committee chaired by Professor Mike Graham from Imperial College took place on 16th July at Hamilton Place. As a result, their new Professional Standards Manager, Lynn Beattie has very kindly offered to attend our meetings where accreditation issues will be discussed. I am delighted that our Association was able to assist one of our new members, University of Glamorgan with accreditation of a new aerospace degree programme. Our latest recruit, the University of Brighton will also be offered assistance with any accreditation issues of their aero programmes.

Our Association sponsored for the second year, a prize for £250 for the most innovative design at the Aircraft Design and Handling Student Competition organised by the Merlin Flight Simulation Group and the RAeS Flight Simulation Group. Purely by coincidence, the winner of this award turned out to be my project student Duncan Cartwright and I took particular delight in shaking hands and handing him the cheque.

Thanks to our Association acting as a Facilitator, Dr Chris Toomer and Dr Titus Olaniyi set up a multi-university 10 credit stand-alone module on ‘Sustainable Aviation’ at Masters Level for the industry as part of the Continuing Professional Development in Aerospace. I have nothing but admiration for showing this initiative as this is one of the key functions of our Association.

Apart from organising my own teleconferences with our executives, I took part in representing us at the National Aero Training Provider Working Group teleconferences organised by James Angus at Cranfield University.

Cllr Paul Hogan who is a Senior Lecturer in Aviation Management, Policy & Planning hosted the 25th June meeting at London Metropolitan University and the main item for discussion was the arrangements for the Farnborough Air Show. A great deal of credit must go to Dr Chris Toomer aided by Alexander Fanourakis who did a marvellous job representing our Association in conjunction with the RAeS and the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) to entice the best of the next generation, including those from overseas, into the realms of Aerospace UK. Alex was also instrumental in helping update our web site with the latest information.

16th October 2008 marked the official Centenary of British Aviation when the first powered and controlled flight in the UK was demonstrated. The celebrations started with a charity dinner on the eve of Centenary organised by the RAeS at Farnborough International Venue & Events. The day of the anniversary saw a fly past by many historic aircraft at Farnborough Airport, the unveiling of a full-size replica of the original aircraft at Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Museum and a lecture by Philip Jarrett on the achievements of both pioneer aviators Samuel Franklin Cody & Alliott Verdon Roe at Farnborough College. I felt greatly honoured to represent our Association at every one of these events and show our unreserved support.

I thoroughly enjoyed being a Panellist at last year’s Annual Northern Aerospace Forum (ANAF) and I had the pleasure of promoting our Association at the repeat event which was held at the Dunkenhalgh hotel last night. This year’s theme was ‘Preserving the Engineering Capability for the Future of the Aerospace Industry in the North of England’ and Professor Gareth Padfield from Liverpool University was the Panellist representing the academia; the other three were the President of the RAeS David Rowland, the Chief Executive of the North west Aerospace Alliance Martin Wright and the Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board at the Department of Innovation Iain Gray.

The lectures earlier today by the student finalists Miss Pavandeep Johal, Andy Knight and Jason Parker for the Dr John Barnes Trophy were of exceptionally high standard as on previous occasions. The icing on the cake was an additional presentation on a survey of aero-experimental facilities by undergraduates Craig Handford and Dominic Johnson under the supervision of Dr Simon Prince from City University. I am most thankful to the Programme Director for all Airbus Single-Aisle products Neil Harris for his enthusiastic support and hosting the competition at Airbus Filton. He then arranged a superb tour of the A400M wing assembly facility which was conducted by Simon Roberts. The tour of the Concorde Experience in the afternoon was particularly poignant to me as I am one of the Technical Tour Guides for the flagship Concorde (registration G-BOAC) at Manchester Airport.

I very much look forward to the banquet tonight organised by Professor Alan Jocelyn where AAU Fellowships are scheduled to be awarded to Dr John Barnes who became a Fellow of the RAeS earlier this year, Iain Gray (mentioned earlier) and Richard Noble who has held the world land speed record in the past and has done much to sell Aerospace UK. Two other awardees, the immediate past President of the RAeS, David Marshall and the Managing Director of Merlin Flight Simulation Group, Christopher Neal are unable to be with us this evening due to other commitments and hence their certificates will be presented to them at a separate ceremony in the future.

It is most heart warming to note that our Association is facilitating a number of free technical workshops for our members where aerospace research & teaching issues are discussed on a regular basis between our university and corporate members. Furthermore, the student competitions and involvement by our members at schools & colleges levels means we are contributing for future sustenance and growth of Aerospace UK. Since the new style rolling programme has proved be quite successful, I have projected the same format for the 2009 – 10 programme of events. The most pleasing aspect is perhaps the strengthening links with other learned societies such as the RAeS and the Royal Academy of Engineering who view our activities as highly valuable and complementary in emphasising the need for this nation to maintain scientific leadership at the cutting edge of technology.

As always, 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, especially (in alphabetical order) John Farley OBE, Dr Andrew Lewis and Dr Mike West. Despite the economic climate we face with loss of confidence in world banking systems, the future for aerospace and our Association looks as bright as ever.

Dr Thurai Rahulan
AAU Chairman

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