|Interview of Dr. Oussama Jadayel, Chairman of the mechanical and aeronautical engineering department of the University of Balamand
|This week we went to the University of Balamand to meet Dr. Oussama Jadayel the Chairman of the mechanical and aeronautical engineering department and Mr Fadi Ghorayeb the aeronautical engineering lab supervisor.
F.L: Mr. Ghorayeb what are you teaching at the University of Balamand.
UOB: I work as an instructor in the aeronautical lab at the University of Balamand.
F.L: What does this department train the students for ?
UOB: Mainly to mechanical engineering and aeronautical engineering, we have a BS in mechanical engineering and a master of aeronautical and mechanical engineering.
F.L: And how many students do you have at this stage ?
UOB: All together we have 160 students divided between under graduate and post graduate levels. At BS level we have some 120 students and 40 at master level. In addition we have between 15 and 20 students in the aeronautical section.
F.L: How many years are necessary to complete the courses ?
UOB: Students can get their BS in three years and the master in two years more.
F.L: We visited your equipments and facilities, could you describe them and tell us what they are used for ?
UOB: We have a Pratt and Whitney JT3D engine that was used on Boeing 707 and DC8 and on many other aircrafts. We have a Cessna that we use to train our students in aeronautical engineering. And a flight simulator on which they can experience in real conditions what they have learned or tested in the labs.
In addition we have a fully computerized Fluid Dynamics lab which allows us to simulate air flows on different surfaces and profiles.
F.L: Are there universities dispensing such programs in Lebanon or elsewhere in the region ?
UOB: In Lebanon, almost every university has a mechanical department. But we are the only one to have the aeronautical specialization. It also exists in Egypt and Jordan but not at such an advanced level.
We are still in the process of acquiring new equipments, next year we will receive a gas turbine engine and a lab to train our students on composite materials.
F.L: Do you have any female students ?
UOB: Only one so far!! But we hope we will have more and more in the coming years…
F.L: Are foreign students coming to Balamand to get such trainings ?
UOB: So far, in the masters programmes we have like three or four foreign students mainly coming from Syria. We are getting a lot of inquiries for aeronautical engineering especially from Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. But, the programme here has been running for only 4 years, so, we are moving forward the very first steps and we don’t want to expand very fast. We want to make sure that what we are doing is done correctly and to gain the trust and recognition that we are doing so. Couple of years ago there was nothing herein term of equipment but with the support of the university we are now trying to attract very qualified people in term of personnel, human resource which is much more important than the machines and the equipments we have. This is our major target.
Once we have reached this we’ll be ready to expand and attract people from outside.
For the time being we’re trying to set the culture.
F.L: How do foreign students happen to know that Balamand University offers such programs ?
UOB: We as a University participate in a lot of education exhibitions, university fairs and so on… We also have a very good website that keeps visitors updated on what we offer. So basically it’s the word of mouth plus our web site plus our publications. One happy student is the best advertising campaign there is.
It is a snowball effect, you gain confidence, then you get a track record.
F.L: Where does the idea of creating such a courses come from ?
UOB: Well believe it or not, it was by chance, we established mechanical engineering 6 or 7 years ago, and it so happened that the first two people who were responsible for setting up the department were aeronautical engineers by training. Two people with similar backgrounds met here and started to exchange ideas: Doctor Hamdi Chaouk who is now the director general of the civil aviation authority in Lebanon and yours truly. We are also both pilots.
And then the idea started coming: “yes, we can do it.” Once we were in a social gathering with the dean we said:” why don’t we have a course of aeronautical engineering, can we do something in this regard?”
So really it was by chance, the right people happened to be at the right time in the right place.
We started setting up the program, attracting good quality people, we have now in the faculty people who have worked at Pratt and Whitney, we’ve got people who have worked for Bell helicopters and people like Fady who has got tremendous training and experience at Middle East Airlines. A year ago we acquired an aircraft and with the help of Fady we set up an aircraft maintenance technology course, so students really take it to parts, identify faults put it back together according to international standards as if they were working at MEA. They get the on job training here. We also have plans to link with the Lebanese army, with the aero club of Lebanon. We've already signed a memoranda of understanding with MEA and TMA by which we can exchange know how and send students for training.
The whole idea is to create the demand, we created the practical lab and the computational lab, we’ve got very powerful wind tunnel whereby we can study the flow over wings and airplanes and our students are working on them. Now we need people to supervise the labs. And our students who graduate may be employed by us.
F.L: What kind of position your students can expect at the end of their courses ?
UOB: The starting point is why don’t we Lebanese have an aircraft industry? Because we don’t have engineers, and because we don’t have any engineer, we don’t have an industry. So it’s a chicken and egg situation.
So we give them the basic training, know how and the skill, when they complete the training they have to be at the right time at the right place, to have a little bit of luck and they can occupy any position.
I think that companies like MEA that have not been recruiting for such a long time will have to get new blood. If I may speak on behalf of the Lebanese army, I think that they are in need of aircraft engineers and the have approached us to exchange ideas along this line.
Graduates can also go abroad, there is a definite shortage in the aircraft maintenance industry.
F.L: Where does the Lebanese aircraft industry originates back ?
UOB: The research I’m doing covers the period from 1913 and 1944, between the day the first airplane landed in Lebanon until the first Lebanese made aircraft took off.
In 1942 France wanted to built a French airplane, with French pilots on a French airfield with French instructors and France was occupied at that time. So they decided that Lebanon would be the site and they built twelve airplanes that were called Rayak 43. It flew for the first time in 1944, it was flown by a gentleman called Jean Demozay and it was built by Lebanese people.
This is to say that we have aeronautical history in this country and we’re trying to put it back on track.