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Chairman's Annual Report - 6th November 2009

After a most educational and enjoyable day of events hosted by the Programme Director for all Single-Aisle Products Neil Harris at Airbus Filton, I resumed my third year as AAU Chairman during the evening of Friday 31st October 2008 after the Annual General Meeting (AGM). I would like to thank Elizabeth Donnelly, Skills Project Manager at the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) for auditing our financial accounts by random sampling before submission by our Treasurer Dr Mike West at the AGM, held at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Filton. The AAU banquet which followed was made all the more enjoyable with award of AAU Honorary Fellowships by the President Dr John Barnes to Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board and Richard Noble OBE, in recognition of their outstanding support for British Engineering Excellence over a long period.

Rolls-Royce Derby hosted the first event of 2009 on 7th January starting with a tour of fabulous Heritage Trust Collection of historic hardware at the Light Alloy Factory led by a most knowledgeable team headed by Iain Craighead and John Scott-Scott. The Learning and Training Centre (LTC) about a mile down the road was the venue for a lecture entitled “Aero Gas Turbine Engine Design” by Jim Wickerson; his holistic “easy to grasp the concepts” approach made the subject both exciting and entertaining. Jim then took us into the training facility where, for me, the highlight was a Trent 900 engine with the cowls opened for close inspection. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s visit to the LTC that afternoon was purely coincidental.

It was shortly afterwards that I was tasked by the President-Elect and the Branches Chairman of the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) Dr Michael Steeden and Graham Roe respectively, to chair the Regional Advisory Group for the forthcoming Air and Space Conference organised by the Council of European Aerospace Societies (CEAS) of which the RAeS is a member. This international conference which was held 26th – 29th October at the Manchester Central Conference Centre was launched by the Minister for Business and Regulatory Reform Ian Lucas MP under the chairmanship of Dr Steeden and the delegates witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Korean Society for Aeronautical & Space Sciences and the President of CEAS Professor Joachim Szodruch during the opening ceremony.

The conference attracted nearly 600 delegates from more than 30 countries and academics from AAU member universities accounted for many of the 350+ excellent technical papers. The Chief Guest at the Civic Reception held at the Palace Hotel was Manchester’s Lord Mayor Councillor Alison Firth. The Gala Dinner the following evening was held underneath Concorde at Manchester Airport. The Aerospace & Defence Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) hosted a one-day event and “The European Connection” was organised by RAeS’s Young Members Board at the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry. Thanks to a surprisingly high level support from a bewildering variety of sources, this conference did not incur any financial losses despite the fears over the current economic turmoil.

On 30th January, I took the opportunity to represent AAU’s views at a meeting with Dr Ruth Mallors and Sameer Savani, Director and Operations Manager respectively of UK Aerospace & Defence KTN at Salamanca Square before the start of AAU events hosted by Elizabeth Donnelly (SBAC). The afternoon commenced with Vice President Professor Alan Jocelyn awarding AAU Fellowships to David Marshall, the Immediate Past-President of the Royal Aeronautical Society and Christopher Neal, Managing Director of Merlin Flight Simulation Group for their outstanding support over many years. Alan himself was the worthy recipient of the Fellowship some time ago for playing a vital role in establishing the AAU late last century and his contributions to the AAU continue to be valued. January also marks the standing down of our President Dr John Barnes since the founding of the AAU. All of us wish him well in his retirement from active duty.

The award of Fellowships was followed by a very constructive discussion on many matters relating to accreditation of degree programmes with Lynn Beattie and Paul Bailey from the RAeS. I am pleased to report that academics at AAU member universities have volunteered to serve on RAeS’s Corporate Accreditation and Corporate Grading Committees. I have nothing but great admiration for Elizabeth Donnelly who despite being very ill that day, ensured a smooth start and a steady progress prior to taking her leave before the end of the proceedings. Amongst the feedback comments by attendees was “What a good get-together that was”.

1st April was to prove a most memorable day starting with the first ever AAU meeting to be held at RAeS’s Headquarters (HQ) in London signalling further strengthening of the bonding with the world’s oldest learned society dedicated to aerospace. On this day, the RAeS secured the freehold ownership of its HQ at 4 Hamilton Place after outright purchase of the property from Crown Estates.

The AAU was very fortunate in being able to choose from excellent candidates to take over from Dr John Barnes and as a result of a consensual decision by the members present, John Farley OBE was appointed the new President. I had no hesitation in using the Chairman’s privilege to be the first in line to congratulate “our new Supremo” in the elegant Sopwith room before flooding him with the many duties the post entails! John had been our Chief Advisor since its founding and provider of priceless technical information on flight testing. The AAU is very grateful to the RAeS for providing the use of the Sopwith room free of charge.

Increasing difficulties were being encountered with the functionality of our web site and the updating of member contact details. I am delighted to report that Mrs Charley Crocker was appointed as our new Communications Officer and it was an honour to meet her for the first time at Hamilton Place and introduce her to all present. This also turned out to be the last meeting attended by Dr Andy Lewis who had decided to move on to pastures new by accepting a senior position at MBDA Missile Systems. He was appointed as our Secretary in November 2006 and continued the excellent standards set by his predecessor Dr Mike West. We wish Andy well in his new post and very much look forward to maintaining our links with him in the future.

After lunch, the AAU members were treated to a “Flight Simulation and Universities Seminar” organised by Barry Tomlinson of RAeS’s Flight Simulation Group (FSG). Following Barry’s initiation, the Chairman-elect and the incumbent Chairman of the FSG, Gordon Woolley and Peter Tharp respectively, set the scene for a wonderful series of presentations from seven universities supplemented by views from the industry. The seminar was concluded with a most productive discussion.

As in the past two years, the AAU sponsored the £200 prize for the most innovative design at the Aircraft Design and Handling Competition organised by the Merlin Flight Simulation Group and the RAeS’s FSG. In accordance with the decision by the appointed judges (I was not one of them!) this prize was won by my project student Duncan Cartwright who was awarded the overall Second Prize of £500 as well which was donated by Messier Dowty plc. This particular event had a historic aspect in that the participating test pilots Capt Eric Brown, John Farley OBE and Dave Southwood from Empire Test Pilot School, represented three generations of pioneering aviators; no prizes for sorting them in chronological order!

As a result of an earlier decision by our members, our Association supported and sponsored to the tune of £250, a conference entitled “The Handley Page Centenary: 100 Years of Education in Aeronautics – Time for a Change?” organised by the RAeS in conjunction with one of our members, City University. This two-day event was timed to be held after the end of semester exams (23rd and 24th June) to maximise the availability of university students and young members.

The 8th July event was held at London South Bank University (LSBU) with Dr Titus Olaniyi as our chief host. We were welcomed by the Head of the Department of Mathematics, Statistics & Foundation Studies Dr Lee Rose who then invited Professor Emmanuel Ezugwu (Provost, Air Force Institute of Technology, Nigeria and Director of the Machining Research Centre at LSBU) to address the audience. Dr Simon Prince and Dr Steve Bond from City University were ensured full support towards the voicing of UK aerospace academics in the European arena of research funding allocation. This work is being conducted with Dr Ruth Mallors (KTN). Simon also provided an updated status report on the highly valued survey of aerospace test facilities in the UK.

The technical workshop in the afternoon concentrated on Sustainable Aviation in the presence of many research staff and students. Airbus’s Customer Acceptance & Delivery Manager Aymen Mussad from Toulouse, provided industry’s roadmap for future sustainability and Anthony Burn from SBAC discussed the noise/emissions issues. The proceedings were concluded with a panel discussion on future collaborations, sources of funding and research grant application procedures.

On 26th August, Professor Gareth Padfield and Dr Mark White organised a glorious “Reims Centenary Day” at the Flight Simulation Laboratory, University of Liverpool. The technical presentations coupled with the re-enactment of the air races including the “Gordon Bennett Trophy” using both six-degree-of-freedom engineering simulators proved to be more exciting than I had imagined. Of particular interest to me was the build of mathematical models of Edwardian flying machines such as Wright, Bleriot, Farman, Curtiss, Voisin and the Antoinette monoplane. These were flown by test pilots from the Shuttleworth Collection. To further enhance the “Grande Semaine” atmosphere, even the catering was based on French menus.

At the Annual Northern Aerospace Forum held on 8th October at Dunkenhalgh Hotel, Lancashire, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Aerospace North West (IMechE ANW) provided me with funding to encourage student participation. I had no hesitation in arranging attendance by four undergraduates reading aerospace related degrees with Honours. The other joint sponsors of this event were the RAeS, SBAC, the North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). The students took the opportunity to network with many potential employers amongst the 150+ attendees during the afternoon workshop and the evening banquet. I have always emphasised AAU’s policy of involving the next generation at professional gatherings.

I would like to thank Mrs Crocker for taking the initiative in developing our new web site with highly valued inputs from Paul Hogan and others. The web designer Paul Godden is making good progress and the new web pages are being trialled (en-route to achieving initial operational capability) in parallel with the existing site.

Joshua Jordan from Sheffield University was the worthy winner of the Dr John Barnes Trophy this year at the “Aerospace Odyssey” event held on 6th November at the Aviation Viewing Park (AVP), Manchester Airport. Dhiraj Tatipalli from Salford University added flavour with his findings on work done with Nigel McKnight who heads the Quicksilver Water Speed Record team. I am very grateful to the Concorde Administration team at the AVP for their help with the overall arrangements which included guided tours of Concorde’s flightdeck by Vince Chadwick and Peter Guy.

For the 2009/10 academic season, I have recommended a rolling programme of events built on the successful format over the last three years of morning meetings followed by free technical workshops to all university and corporate members in the afternoon. Increasing student involvement and further strengthening of links with the many organisations mentioned above, helps sustain and grow Aerospace UK. Our activities are regarded 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 all members, especially John Farley OBE for provision of invaluable knowledge & wisdom on a regular basis, Dr Mike West for keeping us pecuniarily solvent with a handsome margin despite the credit crunch, and Dr Andrew Lewis for his sterling service as our Secretary until he was lured by the industry. We are headed for a future filled with exciting challenges focussed towards autonomous air systems and new material developments.

Dr Thurai Rahulan
AAU Chairman

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