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Chairman's Annual Report - 28th October 2011

Morning presentations by student finalists Kris Parag, Nicholas Vitale and Daxing He from our member universities set a wonderful prelude to the 2010 Annual General Meeting held after lunch at RAF Cosford. In accordance with the wishes of the membership, President John Farley OBE sent a hardcopy of my annual report with a covering letter to all Vice Chancellors of universities offering aerospace programmes.

As in past years, the AAU was one of the proud 'benefits in kind' sponsors of the annual Multiphysics Conference held in mid-December in various parts of the world. This time it was held in Kumamoto, Japan and the quality of the papers were of very high standard as usual and many dealt with fluidics.

A key development in early February was a communiqué to all our members from Publisher Dr Harry Colson offering free online access to all 19 journals in the Emerald Engineering eJournal Collection. Emerald Group Publishing Limited has been a member of our Association for more than a decade.

Dr Carol Featherston, Reader and Aerospace Research Theme Leader at Cardiff University, hosted the first event in 2011 at their Gas Turbine Research Centre (GTRC) in Margam on Friday 25th February. After a most satisfying buffet lunch following the customary committee meeting in the morning, Carol discussed her team's research on materials & structures, propulsion & transmissions, lightning protection and airborne systems (sensors, actuators and communications). Dr Mark Eaton then presented his findings on crack detection in aircraft structures using principles of arrival time extraction of acoustic emissions and studies on directed Lamb waves and their application to landing gears.

Researcher Philip Leichauer gave us a fascinating insight into lightning strikes which cause disruptions in avionic circuits by inducing unwanted currents. An interesting observation is that negatively charged lightning flickers but positively charged lightning doesn't! Equally fascinating was Researcher Lukasz Mierczak's talk on detecting manufacturing caused residual stresses using Barkhausen noise compared to time varying magnetic fields whose excitation frequency is typically 120 Hz. This method has proved quite effective in isolating cases of grinder burns.

The delegates were treated to an amazing tour of the GTRC test site by Facility Manager Dr Steve Morris and Professor Philip Bowen who is not only the Director of GTRC but is also the Deputy Director of the Cardiff School of Engineering. When Pyestock ceased operations in 2003, QinetiQ approached Cardiff University for an expression of interest and the result was the relocation of the facility to the Engineering Centre for Manufacturing and Materials (ECM2) site in 2007. The most futuristic project is the pulse detonation engine study spurred on by Fred Schauer's achievements in the USA. Since the combustion front travels as a shock wave, vastly greater pressures can be achieved when compared to allowing the air-fuel mixture to simply deflagrate at subsonic speeds.

The annual joint event with the Flight Simulation Group (FSG) of the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) was held on Tuesday 19th April and hosted at the Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility at RAF Benson by their Tactical Control Centre Manager Group Captain Gordon Woolley OBE AFC FRAeS. Gordon at that time was the Chairman of the FSG and one of its Committee Members Barry Tomlinson was instrumental in organising the Flight Simulation and Universities Seminar in the afternoon with support from FSG's past Chairman Peter Tharp. During the morning Committee meeting of our Association, Mrs Rosalind Azouzi provided precise updates on RAeS's Centennial Scholarship application procedures and Careers Workshops along with password protected web sites for entry to university directories. Dr Simon Prince reported that the Secretary of State for Universities and Science Rt Hon David Willetts MP, had requested from Aerospace Defence & Security (A|D|S) a condensed version of the highly sought after "National Engineering Test Facilities" report he produced for our Association.

CAE plc's Programme Manager Matt Disney, Technical Manager Phil Scott and Marketing Manager Paul Abraham gave an overview on synthetic training and current developments including replacement of traditional (and heavy!) glass panels with mylar foils held in place against a framework with suction to provide an ultra-smooth display screen. Research at Liverpool University by Drs Mark White and Philip Perfect was well represented with an excellent presentation by PhD student Emma Timson on simulation fidelity. In addition to the other inputs, Don Stirling discussed the use of low cost Microsoft simulators for teaching and research at City University.

The day ended with not just a tour of the facilities and demonstrations of networked based training but also time in a Puma simulator where Gordon took great delight in putting the delegates through their paces!

The next technical event on Friday 8th July 2011 made history by being held at the location of our very first member institution from overseas. Narvik University College (NUC) located north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, joined our Association last year reflecting their increasing activities in research and teaching of aerospace subjects. The institution has just purchased wind tunnels from a British University and has now installed them in their laboratories along with other experimental rigs.

Vice Chancellor Professor Arne Erik Holdø was instrumental in enabling NUC to host the workshops and the entire programme of events was masterminded by Professor Moji Moatamedi who is the Director of High North Technology Centre based at the NUC. The Manager of the Centre Knut Ravlo played a key role in attending to all the details and trouble shooting whenever problems arose. With such men in charge, the overall success of this inaugural event overseas was never in doubt at any stage.

All delegates arrived in town the previous evening via Oslo to be fully prepared for the packed programme of events that awaited them the following day. The main items for the morning Committee discussions were establishment of a National Fluid Mechanics Facility led by Professor Jonathan Morrison from Imperial College and stronger representation of our Association at the annual Multiphysics Conference; this year it will be held in Barcelona in December.

After the meeting, PhD student Kamran Zaman presented his findings on "Active thermal protection of a spacecraft using rotational polarised discs" followed by Doctors Muhammad Shakeel Virk and William Tiu's talks on "Winterisation and atmospheric icing" respectively. It was during this session that Professor Moatamedi and I were interviewed by the local press who were running a story on Narvik's growing influence as an intellectual powerhouse in Northern Norway. During the buffet lunch, Dr Tiu played several popular pieces on a piano; the visitors were completely unaware that he was a highly accomplished instrumentalist. The delegates were also very thankful to him for driving the minibus during our stay in Narvik.

Lunch was followed by a tour of the experimental facilities at the NUC which was not surprisingly dominated by cold weather testing facilities but from a student project point of view, the most spectacular product was the magnetic torque equipped 10 cm cube satellite scheduled for launch in the not too distant future.

A visit to Nygårdsfjellet windfarm (Nordkraft Vind AS) was next and the delegates wearing safety gear were given an excellent conducted tour of the site by Simon Stokvold where turbines were in various stages of being installed and commissioned. Each of the three-bladed turbines has a swept area of 6,800 m2 with a rotor speed of 6 - 16 revolutions per minute at wind speeds of 4 - 25 m/s. The grand total weight of the entire windmill is about 300 tons and Stage Two is expected to be completed today taking the annual electricity production to 81 GWh.

The delegates were then driven across the unmanned border to Sweden for afternoon tea before being brought back for a lavish dinner at the famous and historic Tinja restaurant with the owner and the waiting staff in full and effective attendance. Accomplished singer Liz, wife of our Association's Vice President Dr Mike West, was kind enough to entertain all with excellent recitals followed by an involuntary demonstration of a fire hazard by her husband before the guests were taken back to the hotel for a well earned rest in rooms with thick dark curtains. Never has a hosting institution been so comprehensively generous in sponsoring so many events organised by our Association.

I still find it difficult to believe the shirt-sleeve 20+ C temperatures we experienced at midnight despite the high latitude and the need for darkened glasses to view the midnight sun shining from the North! All took the opportunity to extend their stay to sample the many local delights and take advantage of the clear weather by taking the cable car ride to the top of a nearby mountain to savour the spectacular views.

Friday 28th October 2011 marked the climax of the annual Dr John Barnes Trophy Student Competition held at Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield Airport (formerly RAF Finningley) where Hangar 3 houses the only airworthy Avro Vulcan Bomber (XH558) which will make a special tour next year by Royal appointment. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Pauline Chadwick and Airport Director Steve Gill for their enthusiasm and friendship in making all the necessary internal arrangements.

The excellent presentation entitled "Can Haneda's 4th runway solve Japan's hub crisis" by finalist Aaron Rodrigo from London Metropolitan University supervised by Paul Hogan was of a very high standard but was eclipsed by that of the other finalist Luke McKay Smith from the University of Sheffield who was judged the winner for his work on "Finite element analysis of titanium carbon fibre reinforced plastic fibre-metal laminates subjected to ballistic impact" supervised by Professor Costas Soutis.

Hence, Sheffield University will retain the trophy for a third year but both finalists were awarded cash prizes and on behalf of our Association, I wish them the very best in their future endeavours. In addition, I would like to very much thank all other students whose reports were entered for the competition by their supervisors. It is their enthusiasm and passion for aerospace that makes the entire profession so attractive and exciting for future generations. I would also like to thank Councillor Paul Hogan for arranging the venue and his wife Tanya for managing our web site.

Our forging of relationships with professional bodies and industrial partners goes from strength to strength, and governments need 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.

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, Vice President & Deputy Treasurer Dr Mike West for his continual assistance with solving the many inevitable day-to-day problems, Secretary Dr Simon Prince for doing his utmost despite sustaining a particularly bad leg injury and Treasurer Paul Hogan for his excellent stewardship of our Treasury.

My heartfelt thanks once again to our members, the sponsors and the organisers of our technical workshops for the continuing success of the AAU.

Thurai Rahulan PhD FRAeS
AAU Chairman

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