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Chairman's Annual Report - 29th October 2010

Having completed my three year term of office as the Chairman of our Association, I was given the seal of approval by the membership for continuation of my tenure for a second term at the Annual General Meeting held on 6th November 2009 at the Aviation Viewing Park, Manchester Airport. This is in line with our Constitution originally authored by Dr Mike Jacobs. Earlier that day, the delegates had been treated to exciting technical presentations by students of their project work with Joshua Jordan from Sheffield University winning the Dr John Barnes Trophy.

I readily accepted an invitation to represent our Association at the Strategic Business & Skills Summit organised by the Aero Engineering ’09 on 11th November 2009 at the Manchester Central Convention Centre. Rear Admiral Terry Loughran CB did a splendid job chairing a very productive post-presentation discussion.

It was at this event that I was introduced to Dr Carol Featherston BEng CEng FIMechE FRAeS by Chief Executive of Aerospace Wales Forum John Whalley. Carol holds the position of Aerospace Research Theme Leader at Cardiff University and she heads a team who supervise many PhD students conducting aerospace research. I am very pleased to report that Cardiff University became a member of the AAU soon afterwards. I have since been discussing the feasibility of introducing an undergraduate aerospace degree programme where our Association could assist with the development of a suitable curriculum, provision of contacts for additional staffing and easing the path to course accreditation by the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS). Indeed, this is one of the items in the agenda for one of our technical events scheduled to be held early next year at Cardiff University.

After initial discussions with the current Vice Chancellor Professor Arne Erik Holdø and with the blessing of Professor Per Nicklasson, Narvik University College (NUC) based north of the Arctic Circle in Norway was the next institution to join our Association and hence became the first member from outside our national border. It was with delight I gave them a “warm” welcome on board. Their Department of Scientific Computing, Electrical Engineering and Space Technology conduct a number of aerospace projects many of which are funded by the European Union.

NUC has been regularly represented at our gatherings by the Head of Multiphysics, Professor Moji Moatamedi and he has been instrumental in making arrangements for our gathering on Friday 8th July 2011 scheduled to be held in Narvik. In addition to the technical workshop, a visit to an industrial site is being planned for the delegates.

Further to our sponsorship of the Handley Page Centenary event in June 2009, our Association also sponsored to the tune of £200, the Avro Centenary celebrations that were held at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. The proceedings included the unveiling of a memorial plaque, a lecture by Eric Verdon-Roe (grandson of Alliott Verdon-Roe) and an after-dinner speech by Sir Charles Masefield.

Our Association’s first official meeting in 2010 was held on 16th February at the Design Creativity Centre at the University of Brighton and was hosted by the Head of Engineering and Product Design Division Dr Dal Koshal. Dal was the Chairman of the Sussex & Surrey area of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and had arranged for me to deliver a lecture on the Airbus A380 to their members the previous evening.

After the initial formalities the following morning, our Secretary Dr Simon Prince briefed us on the all-important survey of UK’s aerospace test facilities and Dr David Philpott confirmed that all Engineering Sciences Data Unit sheets were now available in electronic form to facilitate document search and provide wider access for students and staff alike. The meeting was concluded with a discussion of the arrangements for our stand at the Farnborough International Air Show 2010.

Professor Alan Jocelyn, who is the Technical Director at LisTechnology, gave an outstanding presentation entitled “from technology push to industrial pull: Superplastic Forming and Diffusion Bonding using Lasers” and was assisted by his colleague Alexander Fanourakis. Alan ended his talk with the question “Are you ready for a lighter, stronger and shinier future?” which sparked an informative questions and answers session. The last part of the day involved a most enjoyable conducted tour of the research and teaching laboratory facilities.

Due to the threatened rail strike in early April, the meeting postponed to 20th May was held at the Aerospace & Defence Knowledge Transfer Network (A&D KTN) at Salamanca Square. I am particularly grateful to the Director of A&D KTN Dr Ruth Mallors for making available a venue and refreshments free of charge at short notice. Her contributions have been most valuable and reflect her unreserved enthusiasm for the future of aerospace teaching and research.

The key item of business was the finalising of the arrangements for our stand at Farnborough Air Show provided free of charge by Aerospace, Defence and Security (A|D|S) with the intention of supporting the launch of “Inspiring Young Minds towards a Career in Aerospace & Defence” during the Futures Day on 23rd July. I am very grateful (in alphabetical order) to Nick Coleman, Rob Crocker, Paul Hogan and Chris Neal for manning our stand throughout the day and engaging youngsters.

The other main item of business was agreeing to re-sponsor to the tune of £200 a prize for the most innovative design at the annual Aircraft Design and Handling Competition organised by Merlin Flight Simulation Group’s Marketing Director Marion Neal which was to be held at Coventry University on 11th June. As always the competition proved to be a successful event with this year’s worthy winners being Michael Illsley and Salman Iqbal from Bristol University who conducted a study on replacing the function of the tailplane with rear mounted thrust vectoring engines in a regional airliner. The project was carried out under the supervision of Dr Askin Isikveren and I thanked him for encouraging his students to think laterally.

After lunch, all members of our Association were invited free of charge to the “Flight Simulation and Universities Seminar” organised by Barry Tomlinson of RAeS’s Flight Simulation Group which was held at their headquarters at 4 Hamilton Place. As in the past, in addition to the academics and students, the industry was also well represented with participants from BAE Systems and Thales Limited.

The meeting on 28th July following the Farnborough Air Show was held in the premises of another of our members Reaction Engines Limited at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire. The general discussion centred around the experiences of our stand and proposals for improvements in the future. After a sumptuous lunch courtesy of Reaction Engines the afternoon workshop started with an exciting presentation by Future Programmes Director Mark Hempsell on past achievements, current projects and future aspirations on space travel. The key component that featured most in the discussion was the pre-cooler heat exchanger for the Sabre hybrid engine, two of which will power the reuseable spaceplane Skylon which will have completely self-contained horizontal take-off and horizontal landing capability. This particular heat exchanger will be designed and built by Reaction Engines. The delegates were then taken to the outdoor test facility a short walk away and given a tour of the hardware.

The presentations earlier today at RAF Cosford by student finalists Nicholas Vitale on “high lift devices” (supervised by Dr Laurent Dala) and Daxing He on “trailing vortices” (supervised by Dr Edmund Chadwick) were of a very high standard but Kris Parag was judged the worthy winner of the Dr John Barnes Trophy for his work on “Conflict Detection and Resolution”. Kris’s project was supervised by Professor David Allerton and hence Sheffield University will retain the trophy for another year. All three were awarded cash prizes and on behalf of our Association I wish them the very best in their future endeavours.

I am pleased with the opinions of our Association being sought by formidable industry focussed organisations such as A|D|S and A&D KTN. Only last week, our Association published a letter in the press with the blessing of our partners. It is satisfying to note the further strengthening of our ties with the RAeS and I take great delight in representing our Association at various aerospace forums. The British and the Norwegian governments needs to appreciate that all of us who work in the aerospace sector, speak with one voice to ensure a prosperous future which is safe, secure and sustainable (especially in the environmental sense) for all mankind.

Engaging our students via competitions and other events is crucial to enthuse them further and for succession planning purposes. We need to sustain and grow this rapidly evolving business for their future. Our activities are regarded as highly valuable and complementary in emphasising the need to maintain scientific leadership at the cutting edge of technology and ensure transfer of technologies.

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 many members, especially President John Farley OBE for his invaluable guidance & wisdom on a regular basis, Secretary Dr Simon Prince for displaying so much passion on projecting the ideals of aerospace, Treasurer Dr Mike West for keeping us pecuniarily solvent despite the highly challenging financial circumstances and Mrs Charley Crocker for her services as our Communications Officer.

In addition, I would like to very much thank Health & Safety Laboratory’s Business Development Manager Aerospace, Dr Nigel Moss for comprehensively auditing our well kept accounts and giving us a clean bill of health.

No matter which way one looks at it, the aerospace business as a whole is still in its infancy and promises to evolve at a rapid pace with contributions from our twenty university and five corporate members. My heartfelt thanks again to all concerned.

Dr Thurai Rahulan
AAU Chairman

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