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.

“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.”

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.

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