75 Years of Aerospace Engineering

Why is the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering the seemingly furthest point on campus? Who were the pioneers of space engineering? What was the first-flight like? If any of these questions piqued your interest, then you might want to join one of the many events being held to mark the 75th anniversary of the academic pursuit of aeronautical studies on campus.

In 2015, the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering celebrates 40 years, but courses in the field began being taught at the university in the 1930s. In fact, the story of their genesis dates back even further. According to ‘Tussen Tandwiel en Turbulentie’, a book about the history of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Luchtvaart (Dutch Aeronautical Association) came up with the idea of starting a chair in aeronautics in 1920. “Until 1931 many professors believed that disciplines such as heating and cooling technology and automobile technology were much more viable than aeronautics. By 1931 a number of staff members were enthusiastic about this subject and requested for funding and facilities such as wind tunnels, leading in that year to the appointment of a teacher,” said Hester Bijl, the dean of the faculty.

Finally, in 1940, Hendricus Jacobus van der Maas was appointed as the first aeronautics professor at the university. He headed the sub-department Vliegtuigbouwkunde that was part of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. When the faculty split and became independent in 1975, it was reportedly Van der Maas wanted the building to be located at the edge of the campus so they would have plenty of room to expand.

Fittingly then, the theme for the lustrum celebrations is Pioneers. “All of our activities are somehow related to pioneers. We already had a Van der Maas lecture in which former Professor Bob Mulder re-enacted one of the lectures of Van der Maas on the basis of documents we found in the basement. On September 24 we will have lecture about Anthony Fokker and one of the first flights of Fokker will be programmed in our Simona flight simulator,” said Bijl.

Every second Wednesday of the month, a classic movie about aerospace pioneers will be screened. There are also symposiums and an exhibition. Entrance to the screenings and events is free and open to people across faculties.

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