Correcting mistakes: how to bring professionals back to the aviation industry

Correcting mistakes: how to bring professionals back to the aviation industry
Correcting mistakes: how to bring professionals back to the aviation industry
17 May, 11:25Photo: Соцсети
A real engineer is not at all what officials and modern Russian educational standards mean by this.

Andrey Zlobin, Ph.D., aircraft engine specialist

I do not want to once again mention the sad state of the domestic aviation industry. With this, everything is clear. Recently, not so much technological problems have been noted as personnel shortages - a shortage of highly qualified specialists. It seems that there are production buildings, there is equipment, machines, documentation. There are not enough people capable of turning all this into a large series of the most modern aircraft engines, airplanes, helicopters. Let's try to refresh our ideas about what needs to be corrected in personnel policy in order to revive the aviation industry, at least in the foreseeable decades.

Let's start with engineering and scientific schools. Having entered the Bauman Moscow State Technical University in 1977, I still found real titans of engineering thought and I know what I'm talking about. At our department "Turbobuilding" we managed to listen to the parting words of the founder of the direction of gas turbines, Professor V.V. Uvarov. It was under the leadership of Vladimir Vasilyevich that a powerful high-temperature aircraft turboprop engine was created for the first time in the world. In the seventies, in the corridors of the Faculty of Power Engineering at Moscow Higher Technical School, I saw another legend almost every day - Academician N.A. Dollezhal. Nikolai Antonovich supervised the creation of a reactor for the first nuclear power plant (NPP) and the first reactor for nuclear submarines. During the years of our studies, the famous Baumanka was headed by Academician G.A. Nikolaev is the largest specialist and indisputable authority in the field of welding. All these outstanding people were united by a common engineering school, the main know-how of which was a “general engineer”.

Graduate of MVTU im. Bauman of the Soviet years had a huge baggage of versatile knowledge. Our professors told us this: "Each of you is being trained as a potential General Designer." And it was the absolute truth. For six years of intense training, a student of the Moscow Higher Technical School mastered a lot of professional skills, ranging from technical drawings, calculations, experiments, drawings, and ending with a specific “hardware” in production and operational practice. Much attention was paid to the development of organizational and creative skills, when students were given tasks that required new, original engineering solutions. Each student of the main technical university of the country was trained at the military department, at the same time received a higher military education and lieutenant shoulder straps. This further expanded the horizons of graduates, including defense topics.

Such specialists were highly valued, since they combined military responsible and highly competent technicians. Not without reason, many graduates later successfully worked at the enterprises of the military-industrial complex. Baumanka became the generally accepted high standard for broad engineering education, and a number of faculties of the Moscow Higher Technical School (MVTU) eventually emerged as independent educational institutions. The word “school”, starting from tsarist times, reflected not only the theoretical, but also the traditional craft, practical orientation of higher engineering education. It is no coincidence that Bauman graduates became famous for the creation of real rockets, aircraft, ships, cars and other complex modern equipment, made a huge contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany.

The golden age of domestic engineering schools ended with the beginning of the so-called market reforms. To be honest, since about the 1990s, the production of real engineers has stopped in our country. Everything was spoiled by the parrots, who decided without any critical analysis to copy the worst Western educational standards. Under various pretexts, Russian higher education institutions began to graduate dropouts, most of whom, moreover, had an extremely narrow specialization. If a highly educated generalist engineer is a generalist and quickly masters any technical innovations, then a narrow specialist often becomes a brake in everything that goes beyond his competence. I never get tired of repeating a very apt statement on this subject by Bernard Shaw: “You cannot become a narrow specialist without becoming, in the strict sense, a blockhead.”

The mass production of such blockheads with supposedly engineering education has become a real disaster for modern Russia, and the current personnel problems of the aviation industry are a vivid confirmation of this. Now even what looked like a crime in Soviet times has become the norm - many senior positions in the aviation sector began to be occupied by people who do not have any aviation technical training at all. The situation with engineering education should be corrected immediately. It is necessary to restore the destroyed engineering schools that trained REAL engineers of a wide profile. Specialists separately “on the bolt” and separately “on the nut” will never and under no circumstances create a full-fledged design of a complex aircraft or its engine. A real engineer is not at all what officials and modern Russian educational standards mean by this. For example, with three higher educations, including technical (MVTU) and mathematical (Moscow State University), I had to study for more than 30 years in order to become a highly qualified specialist in aircraft engines. But it has reached a level at which I am not afraid of any Western competitors.

Separately, it should be said about the social status of Russian engineers and scientists, whose standard of living is clearly insufficient for fruitful work on aircraft engineering of the 21st century. If someone believes that the aviation industry will be revived by students in rented apartments, then this is a profound delusion. It seems that now in high offices they have no idea that a modern qualified aviation specialist needs to create the best conditions for work and leisure.

A real aviation professional works with his head almost around the clock. Hoping that a specialist will gather all the information necessary for work from the Internet is at least naive. A real engineer, a real scientist needs a rich home scientific and technical library, for which at least one additional room is required in the apartment. Another room is needed for a study, where the necessary computer and office equipment should be located. Indeed, in the current conditions of frequent epidemics, remote work, in a home office, is becoming almost the main form of labor organization. A real aviation pro must constantly improve his skills, keep abreast of new achievements in world science, and keep track of important technological trends. To do this, he needs to buy very expensive books and subscribe to even more expensive scientific and technical journals.

Let us recall Professor Preobrazhensky from Bulgakov's story "Heart of a Dog". He considered it normal to live and work in seven rooms and would like to have an eighth. How many aeronautical engineers and scientists live today in such conditions? And add family concerns to this? And a country house to fully relax with your family in nature? How about a car for convenience? So it turns out that with the current tiny salaries of workers in the aviation industry, one can hardly count on a quick restoration of civilian aircraft production. Elementary calculations show that in order to have an acceptable standard of living, comfortable conditions for work and leisure, a Russian aircraft engineer must receive a monthly salary equivalent to the price of a new car. Then, receiving about twelve cars a year, like his foreign colleague, our engineer or scientist in practice will be able to wipe the nose of foreigners.

It is possible that such privileges will seem prohibitive to the current Shvonders, but in Soviet times the state stimulated techies in approximately the same way. Indeed, as far as I remember, in the USSR, when receiving a free apartment, a specialist with an academic degree was entitled to an additional room for a scientific and technical library. Another example: for sure, General Designer S.P. Korolev began to work more comfortably when the government allocated for him in Moscow in the VDNKh area a piece of land with a park and a small personal cottage.

Since then, more than half a century has passed, technology has become much more complicated, and concern for a high standard of living for engineers and scientists should become a legal norm. Every official, on whom the future of Russian aviation and the aviation industry depends, should wake up with the only thought - what else can he do for aviation personnel. It is a sin to be shy and save on salaries today. The lack of money for salaries, which has set the teeth on edge, is for fools. If foreigners easily “divorce” the country for hundreds of billions of dollars, then God himself ordered domestic aircraft manufacturers to eat on pure gold.

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