An open letter from the General Director

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Every crisis brings opportunities – What impact will this crisis have on our students?

The coronavirus crisis has been brutal, but it is a short-term phenomenon that does not affect all of our graduates’ activities in the same way

Olivier Lesbre, Directeur général de l’ISAE-SUPAERO

The health crisis that began in March is now becoming an economic crisis, creating legitimate concerns for young people entering the job market. While we still don’t know how long it will last, it is already clear that it will not affect all sectors in the same way – some will even see their business grow to meet specific needs. In the aerospace field, air transport has been hit hard, with a strong impact on construction for civil aviation; but military aviation, space, civil defense and drones have been spared. In this context, like in previous crises, the ISAE-SUPAERO Class of 2020 will be able to use their versatility, their innovative abilities and their mastery of complexity to find high-quality jobs in growing sectors. We mustn’t forget that the aerospace sector’s high technology and demand for technical excellence can open doors to other branches of industry such as transport and energy, but also digital technologies, consulting, finance, etc., and that this makes our diplomas very valuable in all these sectors. In 2019, even as aviation was recruiting massively, half of our engineering graduates started their careers outside the aerospace sector. ISAE-SUPAERO also provides support for those who want to venture into entrepreneurship and serves as an incubator for a growing number of start-ups each year.

In a few years, air transport will bounce back, as it always does, for the simple reason that there is no competitive alternative for transporting passengers over long distances. Aircraft construction will follow and is now projected to return to its 2019 production levels in the years 2023-24.

The challenge in the medium term for the aviation sector is the ecological transition: it is an exciting challenge for our engineers and the coronavirus crisis is speeding up this transition

In one century, aeronautical engineers have taken up extraordinary challenges. After inventing aviation, they made air transport very safe, then accessible to all. We’re no longer surprised, but fifty years ago who would have predicted that it would not only be faster and more comfortable, but also safer and less expensive to take a plane rather than a car or train when traveling distances greater than 1,000 km?

Air transport has made equally impressive progress in energy efficiency. The latest aircraft such as the A350 can fly at 800 km/h while consuming less than 2.5 l per 100 km per passenger. Aviation’s contribution to global CO2 emissions has thus remained marginal (approximately 2.5%, or one-fortieth of all emissions).

But that is not enough if we want aviation to continue its development. After inventing safe, democratic air transport, the aviation sector now has to decarbonize it. This is a new challenge, one requiring as much ambition as previous challenges. New aircraft will have to be invented, working with all aspects of technology and our engineers’ creativity.

Technological opportunities have been identified: ever lighter materials and structures, refined aerodynamics, new aeropropulsive integration, electrification of systems and actuators, with a particular challenge in the area of engines and the replacement of fossil jet fuel with other energy carriers. A considerable amount of work remains to be done to bring all these technologies to maturity and to ensure the level of reliability and safety required for use in air transport. This is the job for a new generation of engineers!

The French aeronautical recovery plan makes no mistake about it – beyond financing to get through the coronavirus crisis, it is also developing major funding programs to speed up the energy transition in the sector. In order to move the transition up from 2050 to 2035, the plan calls for quadrupling civilian research credits starting in 2021 and the launch of several large, decarbonized aircraft demonstrators by the year 2030.

The coronavirus crisis is turning into an opportunity for the aviation sector, and especially for young engineers. This plan is designed to invent a complete generation of new decarbonized aircraft, and work needs to begin immediately – this is an extraordinary challenge for our design offices, a challenge for the next 20 years! This has already been well understood by the engineering students all over the world and the number of applicants for our masters programs has never been higher than this year.

ISAE-SUPAERO is playing its role in foreseeing these changes and providing its students with the keys to invent the world of tomorrow

The Institute’s mission is to train engineers who will enable our aerospace industry to maintain its leading position in the world. We were consulted on the subject of developing the French aeronautical recovery plan and we shared our vision for tomorrow. Alongside the French Aerospace Industry Association, we are preparing the future of the aeronautical and space sector, and of French society as a whole. Our aerospace industry’s leadership is technological, it must also become environmental.

It is in this spirit that ISAE-SUPAERO is adopting a renewed strategy in the area of sustainable development. The specific skills found at the Institute in terms of training, research and innovation mean that it can grasp the problem of air transport’s impact on global warming and significantly contribute to finding solutions.

In this context, the Institute mobilizes its educational competencies and its scientific expertise, to contribute to building the aeronautical and space components of a sustainable society, and notably to inventing the decarbonized air transport of tomorrow.

Since 1909, ISAE-SUPAERO has been training high-level engineers and managers who have brought about advances in the aerospace industry. Our current students are those who will meet the challenges of decarbonized aviation, which is why our programs are evolving to prepare them for the task. We have always educated creative, rigorous, committed engineers who are capable of mastering complex systems. The flexibility of our curriculum is also a key factor of success for each of our students, by allowing them to customize their program in order to take into account their talents and their dreams.

By also providing training in the challenges of sustainable development and the energy transition, we are preparing our graduates to build a sustainable society and to invent the decarbonized air transport of tomorrow.

For years our research has been directed at future generations of aircraft and mobility for tomorrow. We are working on questions of propulsion, aerodynamics, materials and eco-design for all systems, but also on intelligent man-machine collaboration. Our students are in immediate contact with our laboratories and many of them contribute directly to R&D projects.

The crisis we are going through today is also an opportunity to speed up the ecological transition in air transport. It is an exciting challenge for a new generation of engineers, and ISAE-SUPAERO is mobilized to give them the keys to take up this challenge successfully!

Olivier Lesbre
General Director of ISAE-SUPAERO

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