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Aeronautical Engineering

In this blog I’m going to try to simplify Thermodynamics for all.
Thermodynamics is a concept or a way of application or doing things, crucially it’s more of an engineering tool used to explain processes that involve change in temperature, transformation of energy from one form to another. Thermodynamics is simply put as the relationship between heat and work. If you look at the name, Thermo – heat; dynamics – constant change in movement i.e. work.

Thermodynamics quiet literally means heat and how it operates/responds in ever changing situations environments & the relationship between the heat & work.

It can be said to be as a generalization of an enormous body of empirical evidence It is extremely general there are no hypotheses made concerning the structure and type of matter that we Engineers deal with. It is used to describe the performance of propulsion systems, power generation systems, and refrigerators, and to describe fluid flow, combustion, and many other applications.

The focus of thermodynamics in aeronautic engineering is on the production of work often in the form of kinetic/moving energy.
Basically the exhaust of a jet type engine or shaft power, from different sources of heat. For the most part the heat will be the result of combustion processes (combustion is heat & fuel mixture), but this is not always the case. You can look at it as a “propulsion chain” as shown below in my simple figure.

Above we see a progression from an energy source to useful propulsive work (thrust power of a jet engine). In terms of the different blocks, Parts I and II are mainly about how to progress from the second block to the third; Part III takes us from the third to the fourth. Below we see a practical example of Thermodynamics the progression from heat to work.

Thermodynamics Laws

I Know this is the part where it kinda gets boring and complicated so allow me simplify the three laws.

Oth Law (zerowth law)

“Temperature exists” when two items have been in contact for long period of time they will have both be of the same temperature, temperature affects the direction of heat flow,  the symbol for heat is Q.

1st law “Conservation of Energy

“the amount of heat done on a system is equal to the amount work it has received and vice versa” As a thermodynamics system works, it losses heat, when work is done on the system it gains heat, heat is converted to work & work is converted to heat, together the work & heat transfer into & out of the system represents the change in its Internal Energy (total kinetic energy & potential energy).


2nd law of Thermodynamics

“Entropy is always increasing” simply put Entropy means disorder, chaos or lack of arrangement and so it this chaos is always increasing, so for example, we all sleep in a bedroom and we try to keep it neat & tidy put everything in its place, but with time it always get disarranged and becomes a mess.

A thermodynamic example would be if you take an ice cube and drop it in a hot glass of water it will melt & there is no way they can remain separate or be reversed once mixed together (this goes for any other substance that can be mixed). So the more entropy we generate the less energy we have to do work.

3rd Law

“A perfectly crystalline solid at absolute zero has entropy of zero”

Very simply it’s as follows, the entropy (disorder) of a perfect crystal of a pure substance will approach zero as the temperature approaches zero. In Layman terms the hotter an item gets the more disorder it will have (at a molecular level) and the colder the item gets the more organized it will be, or the entropy shall be less.

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Aeronautical Engineering
So a few weeks ago someone asked me what is aeronautical engineering, being one myself my response to such a question is almost instinctual, I paused for moment to think and I realised the number of areas in aeronautical engineer can work in are vast, therefore the number of fields in which aeronautical engineering can be applied are endless, of the top of my head i.e. flight systems (avionics or glass cockpit), plane design (aerodynamics, AutoCAD), weapons design defence (Denel S.A), propulsion systems and of course plane manufacturing by my personal favourite Airbus and Boeing, of which the latter as of end of Feb 2017 will be setting up offices in Nairobi, I nearly fell over when I found out Boeing will have offices in Nairobi, Joburg not so much, so it got me thinking what does an Aeronautic company need to succeed

The fundamentals (ABC’s) – Concept
Online you will find a plenty of fabricated information on how to start an Aeronautical Company such as you need plenty of capital to get started, and an enormous jig (warehouse). As long as the idea is sound and you have the research and testing to back it up, you can make it happen. Of course, it’s unlikely you will be able to build a new attack helicopter in your back yard – but the truth is, you don’t have to. If you have Capital this is not the time you invest. A good but unfair example is the Dreamliner many people didn’t think it would ever reach service of fly, I remember watching the painful Boeing press conferences announcing the 6months delivery delays and the industry didn’t think the fuel efficiency would materialise but the plane eventually flew and it saved fuel and after that the orders came so get Proof of Concept.  

The market – speak to your Customers
Evaluate your market well. Know what your customers want, or how you could improve a current technology and not always from a technical point of view but the lighter side of Aeronautics such as customer care, aesthetics and everyday practicality. A good example, in the mid 1950’s to early 60’s the B707 was built and followed by the B727 1000 orders at this point Boeing wanted to head a different direction but after speaking to airlines it might seem obvious to us now but back then it certainly wasn’t for Boeing on the contrary they were shocked at the feedback, the airlines wanted a bigger long-haul plane, the Key lesson here is that Boeing hadn’t considered that option. Boeing nearly went bankrupt in 1968 building the 747 but in 1969 on cold misty overcast day in Seattle what was the biggest commercial plane in the world finally flew. Only after getting customer feedback do you invest large amounts money.  

Watch out for market trends. Look to industry experts such as Deloitte and PwC to make sure you don’t build something that no one wants. The aerospace industry tends to have cycles where more focus will be on one thing rather than another. For example, Deloitte expects that more money will be put in defence this year – due to the rise in global conflicts and with the US president Trump seeking a 10% military budget increase to the tune of $54B and China announcing 7% increase in military budget announcing a I am pretty sure Missile defence companies will greatly benefit.


If you are reading these chances are your company has a design division and you know your stuff well and being an Aerospace company, you will have all the skills you need to start designing your product. You will also understand the importance of getting things as close to right as possible. If you are making parts for an aeroplane or defence systems, you will undergo stringent quality checks right from the get go, if there’s a hint of a miscalculation or design fault, you run the risk of losing everything. But, design doesn’t just include products. There are plenty of other ways for a company to improve example In Your design team get someone who has good people skills, an engineer perhaps with a background in media someone with a type personality to deal with the communication of the design or engineering team.


The manufacture of your products depends largely on what you are making. For example, perhaps you are creating parts for machinery, spacecraft, or planes. In this case, it would be wise to have your own manufacturing plant to enable you to have more control over your business. However, if you plan to create complete machines, then things can be a little murkier. You might need to have special parts made, from an external supplier a good example is metal spinning which is popular with many different industries, including defence and aerospace. So to conclude they key to succeed in the Aerospace industry is to try and focus on the other areas in which your company doesn’t typically focus on such as
– PR,
– Customer feedback
– Everyday practicality for the End User of your product
– Customer care
– Be proactive to announce bad news and avoid knee jerk reaction.

A few years ago as walked through the streets of the Joburg CBD to que for a matatu to Bez-valley (suburb) where I grew up one doesn’t have to look far to see the poverty and hopelessness around, today as I sit on the balcony of iHub along Ngong writing this piece on my humble evaluation of the NGO sector I can’t help but wonder, can’t we as Kenyans just get things right. Having worked in the in Kenya, South Africa and having passed through a few Sub Saharan countries, there is stark difference in the project implementation culture of these different nations. My first serious job I worked for an NGO in Johannesburg I was in my early twenties as a field assistant, I was fresh faced and this is what happened.

The South African vs. the Kenyan approach:


Having lived my life in these two countries, a few things are immediately clear Kenya is 3rd world and SA is 2nd world some would say 1st but not quite.

The NGO space in SA isn’t so funded and therefore the few NGO’s around are mostly driven by people whom genuinely want to see a change and know that change won’t come from anyone but the individual themselves, so the projects they implement aren’t big like the UNs and Computer Aids of this world but are community based projects that affect the common man. The NGO I worked for was small, they would receive food donations from McCain foods which would come in the form several hundred  kilos of frozen food and we had to organise distribution points in an area called Vooslorus (Jhb south) and run weekly soup kitchens. I remember one time we literally received 1ton of frozen food, that was a tough day.

The NGO used to receive special privileges with KQ and allowed a certain amount of KG’s to ship to DRC as aid, since food was perishable I was responsible for shipping clothing to DRC and Tanzania and ensured it reached the needy folks, in summary I felt like we had a real impact on people’s lives on a constant basis with minimal funding.


Having relocated in Nairobi from Joburg in 2011 there was a plenty of culture shock for me, I did my engineering degree and my first job here was with an ICT NGO as a programmes assistant it was an office job in the NRB CBD no salary whatsoever. I came to be quite good at proposal writing and implementing projects, my colleagues and I did plenty of developments of note.

There were two main projects that stunned me though, amongst others, a major multinational software IT company held a public social media competition for NGO’s in which the winner would receive a ksh5m donation, and I being In charge of the social media, a few days after the competition was over there was gala dinner to be held at a NRB 5star hotel in which the winner would be announced, 1 week before the competition was even over my manager pretty much tells me it was predetermined that we would win and that they (him and the accountant) are actually sorting out the banking information for the money to be wired and at the gala dinner everyone must act surprised I remember feeling so deflated and bad for the other NGO participants who would attend the gala night thinking there # campaigns stood a chance. Iniquity; heinous; corruption.

I  – used to ride the bus on Saturday mornings where I always sat in the left aisle 2nd last seat at the back looking out the window wondering why on earth am I going to work on a Saturday, and knowing its cause the bosses just want us there even though everyone knows and clearly sees full well there is 0 productivity that happens on Saturday not after yrs of Mon-Fri, and the fact that our office was far from Nairobi that when you look out the window from your desk you see donkeys roaming around the dusty road and you know you’re in their habitat, surely doesn’t help.

The organisation I worked for was IT NGO and there once was a major software IT multinational that had called about 2-3 high school principals to donate 20 computers each to the respective schools, now at face value it was a great PR event even a few journalists had come to cover the event and at this point the NGO had “received” a 5 acre piece of land in one of the satellite towns in Nairobi and built offices out of containers (loved that). I had a database of almost all the high school principals in the country, funny I had the task of selecting the schools that would get the donations under the guidance of the director, I later learned that the multinational software company had bought the computers from us, the NGO and would donate it to the schools from our offices, now, as if it wasn’t enough that our NGO had made a handsome profit our organisation ensured that in order for the principals to get these computers even though they were paid for by someone else the school had to sign a one year 150k maintenance contract  with us in order to receive the pc’s. At this point I was bewildered and what’s more is that I took the photos and had to upload on twitter to show the world what a great job our organisation was doing, never mind that I have to try and keep a straight face and hide the shock.





Overlooking the windy balcony of the Bishop Magua building where I’m seated I can see the expansion construction of Ngong road, being an engineer myself I can make sense of what I see construction wise, if I speak to anyone around me and ask how was the Ngong rd contract issued they would quickly delve into the vices utilised to issue the contract. I ask myself what are we in the NGO space missing? Why is there such a high density of NGO’s in Kibera yet the impact minimal, why are the 4 beautifully parked ambulances parked along Juja road but people still die in Kariobangi, why do we donate Computers, have workshops, have trainings but the ICT illiteracy still so high.

When I was 20yrs old 5 other people and I applied for a Job at an international sunglasses retailer in the upper end of Joburg, that stocked sun glasses that cost a small fortune, we were interviewed along the normal procedures but there was final test that made us all cringe, if we all past this test we would be hired, what was it? A real life Lie Detector test, a chain around your chest to detect breathing rate, a palm sweat detector and of course heart rate monitor, needless to say the out of the 5 of us only 2 got hired it also just happened to be the 2 people who not South African myself and my Congolese friend passed the test and met the minimum standards.

Before I took the test I stared at this old white man with sheer apprehension, he made me sign agreement and explained that we have all lied, we have all stolen either as children or adults, but the key here is to what extent, we have all stolen 5bob from our mothers purse to buy sweets but have you stolen groceries from a supermarket, stolen stock from you workplace, have you stolen a cellphone have you taken money that you didn’t earn,  have you lied to a police officer, lied under oath, the question here is can you be trusted.

The issue is not that my boss (Director) was a bad leader or doesn’t know management or isn’t qualified or uneducated on the contrary he was DR. The truth is most of us are educated and know the basics of right and wrong and know supreme ethics but don’t apply it, that’s all. There was a building that collapsed in pipeline just over a month ago, now, is it that the Engineers didn’t know what they were doing that caused the building to collapse, NO I can confidently say there is high chance they knew what ought to be done to ensure structural stability.

The issue is much deeper we need a reference point to adhere to, that is GOD, some will say that we don’t need GOD or the bible and human beings can self-govern without a God (atheism) or a moral compass for direction to tell us what is morally justified and what’s not. The reality is we need the morals of Christ to adhere to not as a Sunday thing but as culture so as to make us great again. If you don’t believe we need a moral compass a supreme being greater than us whatever the direction Islam, Christ, Buddhism etc…  Its fine you just ask yourself this,                                                                                                                   Do you lock the door when you sleep at night?