School of Engineering


Mechanical Engineering’s New Academic Leader Elected Vice-President of the Aeronautical Society of South Africa

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Professor Glen Snedden was recently appointed to the position of Academic Leader of Mechanical Engineering and elected Vice-President of the Aeronautical Society of South Africa (AeSSA) on the same day.

The Discipline of Mechanical Engineering has always played a strong role in research and human capital development nationally. It is particularly well known for its decades-long involvement in aerospace propulsion systems research – both jet engines and rockets – with graduates playing leading roles in national industry, the research councils as well as major international companies such as Rolls-Royce.

One of the Discipline’s innovations in the form of a vertical compressor test rig even found its way to the world-renowned Whittle Laboratory at Cambridge University where it was replicated several times over. Compressor casing treatment technology, ubiquitous in modern gas turbine engines, is largely a result of the work done by UKZN graduates.

Snedden is also on the management team of Mechanical Engineering’s Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG) which is at the forefront of South Africa’s indigenous space launch programme and recently successfully test fired the ABLE engine at the Overberg Test Range. This is one of the most powerful liquid rocket engines ever fired by a university.

The Aeronautical Society of South Africa came into being in 1911 and is a division of the Royal Aeronautical Society, which itself began before controlled flight was even possible. The Aeronautical Society of South Africa is a volunteer association to the Engineering Council of South Africa and plays a key role in the registration of professional engineers in the discipline of aeronautical engineering and in facilitating continuous professional development activities for the profession.

The AeSSA also organises the only annual conference focused on Aerospace Engineering in South Africa. Snedden has been a past president and treasurer of the society and as Vice-President hopes to assist the first female President of the Society, Ms Marie Botha, to reinvigorate the society and the profession post-COVID-19.

Developing a KZN Chapter of the Society is also on the cards as UKZN now has one of the largest university research groups in the aerospace sciences in South Africa. Snedden’s election as Vice-President of AeSSA is not only a tribute to his efforts in advancing aerospace technology in South Africa, but also raises UKZN’s propulsion research profile globally.

Words: Michael Brooks

Photograph: Supplied