International engine technology exchange
Dr. Rainer Walther, Administrative Secretary of the International Society of Air Breathing Engines (ISABE) since 2013, discusses its objectives and topics.
11.2017 | Text: Eleonore Fähling
Eleonore Fähling has been on the AEROREPORT editorial team since 2014 and in charge of the MTU employee magazine since 1999. As an aerospace journalist, she specializes in aviation history and market topics.
Dr. Walther, what does your job as Administrative Secretary of the ISABE entail and how did you come to obtain this post?
Dr. Rainer Walther: My tasks as Administrative Secretary are very multifaceted. They include, for example, choosing attractive venues for the ISABE Conferences held every two years, as well as planning and organizing them together with ISABE’s Board of Directors and National Representatives.
Dr. Rainer Walther Administrative Secretary of the International Society of Air Breathing Engines (ISABE) since 2013.
Dr. Rainer Walther until recently worked in technology development at MTU Aero Engines as coordinator of technology networks with research institutions and universities. From 1985, he worked in various areas of R&D at MTU. In 1985, he obtained a doctorate in aviation and aerospace engineering at the University of Stuttgart, where after graduating he held a post as research associate. Since 1993, he has been an assistant lecturer there and was granted an honorary professorship in 2001.
In 2003, Walther was elected Vice President of the International Society of Air Breathing Engines (ISABE). In 2006, he was appointed to ISABE’s Board of international representatives as Germany’s second National Representative and has been the organization’s Administrative Secretary since 2013.
Recently, we chose Canberra, Australia, as the location for the next conference in 2019. In addition to this, I support the local organizational committees with selecting speakers and deciding on the themes of the conferences.
I’ve personally always been passionate about attending the ISABE Conferences, which I’ve participated in regularly and actively for more than two decades. In 2003, I was elected Vice President of ISABE. That involved organizing and hosting the 17th ISABE Conference in Munich in 2005 which, thanks to the great support from MTU and many of my colleagues, was an unforgettable success.
ISABE was formed over 40 years ago when the industry giants were still paralyzed by the Cold War, and when the Concorde and Tupolev Tu-144 were the aviation technology flagships of the superpower blocs. Given those circumstances, how was it possible to discuss technology development at a global level?
Walther: The first ISABE Conference was held in Marseille in 1972. Granted, an open international exchange of knowledge in the field of air-breathing engine technology certainly wasn’t easy in those days. However, even then, an exchange of research and development findings took place not only between industrial enterprises, but also between internationally recognized large research centers such as America’s NASA, Canada’s NRC, Russia’s CIAM, France’s ONERA and Germany’s DLR. In the early years, there were only around 100 conference participants, far fewer than there are today. This year’s 23rd ISABE Conference in Manchester, UK, in September attracted some 400 experts; in Munich in 2005 around 500 people attended.
What propulsion technologies of the future are engineers and companies in the aero engine industry working on today?
Walther: The presentations given at the ISABE Conference today focus on cost-effective, fuel-efficient and low-emission engines and components. Examples include Geared Turbofan™ engines, open-rotor engines and, with a more long-term perspective, electric and hybrid engine concepts. Other topics addressing the latest developments and applications for advanced manufacturing technologies such as additive manufacturing are also raised and discussed at length.
This year, I was surprised by the level of enthusiasm and untiring commitment with which representatives reported on extensive research and development work in the field of air-breathing engines for hypersonic propulsion systems—notably from a number of Asian countries.
What will an ISABE Conference be like ten years from now?
Walther: Looking forward, it’s my belief that aspects of engine-airframe integration will increasingly take center stage in presentations and discussions with airframe developers at ISABE Conferences. The reason is that with the potential application of future open-rotor and hybrid powerplants, their integration into the airframe will play an important role in ensuring synergies between the engine and airframe are leveraged to their full potential.
Apart from this, I think the number and diversity of conference papers, especially from Asian countries, will continue to increase. We will also see interest in the conference grow in countries with little or no representation to date. This year, for example, Kenya was the 29th nation to be granted ISABE membership.