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Engineers and war

With regard to your defence and security special report (September 2011), the modern definition of an engineer has advanced from the simplistic “one who makes engines and operates them” to a much broader one. The American Engineers’ Council talks about economics of operation and safety to life and property.

The general perception of the engineering profession today is predicated on nobler aspects of benefits to humanity rather than destruction of life and property. So where do those engineers employed in the so-called defence industry fit in, when their task is “maximum destruction at minimum cost and lives lost to one party only in the conflict situation?”.

The case in point is the non-perishable land-mines and UAVs which often end up killing innocent, non-combatant civilians including children; and that are operated from remote locations.

Rashid Samnakay FIET

By email

Time for IED solution

The photo essay in your September 2011 issue outlines a proposal to use ‘simulated training’ to help soldiers deal with IEDs. Alas this is just not an adequate solution to a dreadful situation that should not be allowed to continue.

If, after 10 years of war, the combined armaments industries of the USA and the UK have still not been able to devise a really effective way of dealing with home-made wayside bombs, then it is unreasonable to expect individual soldiers to deal with them in such a dangerous manner as at present required.

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to find themselves in a minefield even on just one occasion will remember it as one of the most stressful situations imaginable. To expect soldiers to face such terrors day after day is utterly unreasonable.

RH Pearson CEng MIET

Bourne, Lincolnshire

Dyson 'hypocrisy'

Three readers whose letters appear in the October issue of E&T spring readily to the defence of Sir James Dyson in what seems a rather emotive fashion. In response to Rodger Yuile, my own letter published in the September issue did not in any way bemoan the inclusion of Dyson as a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, but rather expressed concern at the hypocrisy involved.

According to the Academy’s website: “As Britain’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the country’s most eminent engineers from all disciplines to promote excellence in the science, art and practice of engineering.” Dyson is simply not an eminent engineer, but essentially a manufacturer of domestic products, and has been awarded for his efforts with both a knighthood and lots of money.

I can assure Michael Cox that there is nothing of the elitist about me other than having had a university education, but I have also the benefit of a background in several areas of engineering from iron and steel to aerospace, railways and eventually the nuclear industry. I have seen many people with whom Dyson could not even remotely compare in terms of engineering ability or ingenuity, yet none of them are fellows of the RAEng.The fact that Dyson may make a good product is not the point, but the role he has subsequently adopted.

In response to Mark Ward, I do not bear any animosity towards Dyson, but I do think that he is something of an imposter when it comes to calling himself ‘chief engineer’. If a hospital technician developed a clever device that made a specific surgical operation quicker, cheaper and revolutionised the task and earned him a fortune, do you suppose the Royal College of Surgeons would make him a fellow and permit him to describe himself as ‘chief surgeon’?

Dr CL Murray, chartered mechanical & electrical engineer

Wigtown, Cumbria

IEng still has a long way to go

I have been a registered incorporated engineer for 10 years and have been proud to display my post nominals and enter discussions as to their meaning with my peers, both within engineering and from other professional backgrounds. When I received the email from the IET asking for IEng registrants to use the ‘I am Proud To Be An IEngineer’ logo to help promote the grade, I was happy to oblige.

Imagine my delight when, on a recent business trip to Italy, one of my colleagues asked me what the logo was. Ah, I thought, it is working and is raising interest and discussion. You can imagine my dismay when he followed his question with a second, asking whether it was some kind of joke. This was not quite the reaction I was hoping for.

My colleague’s comments, though discouraging at the time, left me asking myself whether we are any nearer to solving the issue of professional recognition; not just within the UK community, but within the European Union too? I know as IEng registrants we are offered the IntET grade which is supposedly aimed at helping IEng registrants with mobility and issues of parity within neighboring countries. However, are the underlying competencies and professional status of the grade be it IEng or IntET understood?

My personal experience of working throughout the EU is that we still have a long way to go in helping the wider community to understand the IEng professional and the significant contribution we make to our respective fields of engineering.

Aaron Broadhurst IEng MIET

By email

Government and engineering

‘Should Government Do More To Support Britain’s Industry’ (August) gave a good overview of the current situation. You are right to point out that manufacturing accounts for 15 per cent of our economy, rather more than the much favoured financial sector, but this is not likely to be sustained in view of the government’s lip service to its ‘made in Britain’ campaign.

It seems we have yet again been lumbered with politicians who make instant statements in the heat of the moment, only to ignore them when action is needed.

You correctly raise the situation of new train orders that our politicians have placed outside the UK. This is likely to finish the destruction of our own train-building industry, which is more than capable of supplying trains for both Thameslink and the IEP programme.

You are right to point out that our near European neighbours would never place an order elsewhere when they can make it themselves, so there is plenty of precedent for us to follow suit. It is especially true that the total consequential cost of ignoring our own industries has clearly not been evaluated, and in the East Midlands we are going to feel the brunt of that.

WM Stanier CEng MIET

Belper, Derbyshire

Shard bargain

In your article about the construction of the Shard skyscraper in London (October 2011) you state that it is expected to cost £4.3m. For a price tag like that, I expect everyone with a bit of cash in their bank will be getting one.
Jamie Smith, Student member

By email

Apologies for the typo. The estimated cost of construction at the time the article was published was a less affordable £430m.

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