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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.