Mr Lahoud, since August 28, you have been on the Board of Directors of ISAE-SUPAERO, from which you graduated in 1989.
Why did you accept this mandate? What are your ambitions for the school?
Getting involved in the school is a way to give back a bit of what the Institute gave me. I learned my trade there, and thanks to it, I had my first experiences in aeronautics.
Aeronautics and space are undergoing a revolution: more than ever, talent must be attracted to these fields. Our mission is to ensure that young women and young men with an appetite for science and technology are enchanted and dream of flying – just like me when I was their age!
As Chairman of the Board of Directors, my tasks are to steer the school’s governance, to participate and facilitate the definition of a strategy and to assist management in its execution. There is no worthwhile strategy if there are no associated resources. We have the full support of the Ministries of the Armed Forces and Higher Education and Research, but raising private funds is essential and I will focus on these aspects.
ISAE-SUPAERO has historically been closely linked to the French aeronautical and space industry and has provided it with its major pioneers and leaders. The global reach of our school and French aerospace is closely linked, and it is certainly this “French engineer” model applied to such demanding fields, which today positions ISAE-SUPAERO among the few higher education and research establishments in France whose recognition goes far beyond our borders. To this day, ISAE-SUPAERO continues to irrigate, through its work and talents, industry and aeronautical and space research not only in France, but Europe-wide.
The Institute’s pillars are training, research, and innovation: what are the school’s major challenges in each of these areas, to support transformations in the sector?
Our ambition is to be the world’s leading aerospace training institute and attract the best students from 5 continents. This requires training at the best level in the world. We have very high-quality teaching staff, we must give them the means to maintain the level of excellence that the school is renowned for.
Regarding research, I was able to observe the high level of scientific production specific to ISAE-SUPAERO. It needs to be developed and emphasized, as we cannot design training at the best level in the world without research of the same quality. Both are intimately connected.
On the last pillar, I was not only impressed by everything about entrepreneurship and innovation, but also by the encouragement students receive from teachers and the entire school ecosystem to launch innovative projects and start-ups. We must continue to offer them this favorable environment. Our reputation must be an accelerator and facilitator for these promising start-ups to find funds, support and markets.
What do you think are the advantages of an ISAE-SUPAERO graduate in dealing with the major challenges of the industry and society of tomorrow? Do engineers have a special role to play?
We are currently witnessing a shift in the stakes of our modern society, with engineers placed at the center of this shift. After a period focused on all-management, when it comes to decarbonizing, digitizing or resuming exploration and space conquest, science and technological development are back at the forefront. Engineers have in their hands the keys to meet these challenges.
Let’s take the example of decarbonization. The engineers at ISAE-SUPAERO naturally have a major role to play in this revolution. Despite changes in behavior and the implementation of sobriety measures, the demand for air travel will continue to increase, particularly in areas outside Europe. Because they have the means to design the decarbonized aircraft of tomorrow, ISAE-SUPAERO engineers have a historical responsibility for the planet and for society.
Could you tell us about your career path and the reasons behind your choices?
I started as a test engineer at the Landes Test Center within the DGA, a position with a strong technical dimension. If I have any advice to give to young graduates and students, it is not to be too rushed to move into management. The best years of my working life have been spent on technology and watching objects fly!
I then took up positions within the State to later switch to aeronautical construction, because I was afraid of becoming a technocrat and wanted to go back to my roots. I joined AIRBUS (formerly Aerospace, Matra and EADS). In 2017, I decided to develop my profession, and I joined Tikehau Capital to work on financing the aerospace industry. Today, we are one of the leading investors in this field.
What is your best memory of ISAE-SUPAERO?
I have two fondest memories: friendships and community life. I was an Armaments Engineer and didn’t stay on campus. It did not prevent me from having a rich academic life and a busy social life. I spent a lot of time in the residences and at home, and from the first week I joined the rugby team. We participated in sporting events all over the Region, and traveled to England, Ireland and Scotland – I have some great memories. I would be remiss if I failed to mention our third-year study inspector and rugby coach Joël Daste, with whom I’ve remained in contact to date. The friends of that time remain the friends of today. Among them, I would like to mention Valérie Guillemet, HR Director of Dassault Aviation, who also recently joined the school’s Board of Directors.