Longer service life for aircraft

One of Honorary Doctorate in the Ceremonial Conferment of Doctoral Degrees is Brigadier General (Eng.) Kari Renko, MSc (Tech.).

Research collaboration between Aalto University and the Finnish Defence Forces has helped extend the service life of fighter planes. This has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of euros, says General Kari Renko, on whom an Honorary Doctorate will be conferred.

This year, an Honorary Doctorate will be conferred on 11 people in the Ceremonial Conferment of Doctoral Degrees of the schools of technology. One of them is Kari Renko, Chief Engineer of the Defence Forces and Deputy Chief of Logistics Command of the Defence Forces.

Since 1992, Renko has significantly promoted collaboration between the Finnish Defence Forces and Aalto University and its predecessor Helsinki University of Technology.

‘Thanks to collaboration with Aalto University, we have methods that are based on a very high level of expertise and difficult science,’ says Renko.

In the Defence Forces, Renko has participated in planning and managing research in aeronautical technology and has developed management of fatigue of military aircraft structures. When planes exercise manoeuvres required in air combats, such as curves and loops, fatigue occurs in their structures.

‘This affects the service life of the planes and it is therefore a significant cost issue.‘

According to Renko, the aim is to manage the fatigue of aircraft structures so that planes can reach their intended 30-year service life.

‘Fatigue management requires technical knowledge and various tools such as computer programmes and tests for materials. We have been developing these in collaboration with Helsinki University of Technology and more recently with Aalto University.’

Academic research saved society money

Thanks to collaboration between the Defence Forces and Aalto University, the service life of Hawk fighter planes has successfully been extended. It has also been possible to avoid many expensive repairs by managing the use of Hornet fighter planes.

‘It has saved taxpayers many hundreds of millions of euros. For example, if the service life extension of Hawk training fighter planes had been ordered directly from the aircraft manufacturers, the costs would have been €200 million more.’

In addition, the Defence Forces have carried out research collaboration on modelling air combats and related decision-making with the System Analysis Laboratory of Aalto University.

According to Renko, here too the benefit is, above all, economic – the investment should provide the best possible defence efficiency.

‘The targets of the investments are a question of values and can be negotiated. But once you make the decision to invest, it is best to use the money as efficiently as possible.’

Career as an aircraft engineer was interesting

Kari Renko says aeroplanes already became part of his life in his childhood as his engineer father was an amateur pilot. Renko started his studies at Helsinki University of Technology in 1982, majoring in aircraft engineering.

‘I wanted to be an aircraft engineer and Helsinki University of Technology was the only place where it was possible to study the field. However, as a student I would never have thought that I would one day work for the Defence Forces.’

After graduating with a Master of Science degree in Technology, Renko worked as a researcher at Helsinki University of Technology, mainly carrying out research assignments commissioned by the Defence Forces. In 1992 he moved to the other side of the desk – to work for the Defence Forces to commission the research.

Renko regards the title of Honorary Doctor as a great honour:

‘It is definitely one of the greatest honours of my life. I have always held academic knowledge and research in high regard. It feels especially great to be acknowledged by an institution that I hold in such high regard myself.’

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