AIAA Member Spotlight - December 2017 Written 18 December 2017 by Lawrence Garrett, AIAA web editor

AIAA Profiles AIAA Senior Member Dr. Ian Tuohy

By Lawrence Garrett, AIAA Web Editor

AIAA Senior Member Dr. Ian Tuohy

For the past quarter-century Dr. Ian Tuohy has helped guide Australia’s aerospace industry. His key role in expanding AIAA in the region, notable technological contributions, and support of the next generation of aerospace engineers makes him the ideal candidate for the December 2017 spotlight.

A Senior Member of AIAA and a retired Space Systems Manager for BAE Systems, Tuohy initially joined the Institute in June 1994, and has been heavily involved in its activities ever since. Having served as AIAA Adelaide Section Chair for seven years, he continues to play an active role on the Section’s Council.

Tuohy has had a strong interest in aerospace ever since he was a young boy. Having learned to fly by the age of 17, he began his aviation career by following in his father’s – a Royal Australian Air Force Officer – footsteps, and enrolled as a cadet in the Australian Air Training Corps, and later, in the University Air Squadron.

Tuohy’s passion for aviation grew over time and evolved into a “life-long interest in space,” which, he said, “greatly influenced” his career in both academia and in the aerospace industry. Tuohy noted that the launch of Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight, and the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs “were particularly inspiring” to him in his “formative years.”

Before his retirement in December 2014, Tuohy enjoyed a lengthy and exciting career in aerospace. In his earlier years, as a research student at the University of Adelaide, he had the opportunity to combine his passion for space with his enthusiasm for astrophysics “by collaboratively developing X-ray Astronomy payloads that flew on sub-orbital sounding rockets from the Woomera Rocket Range.”

Following his time as a research student, Tuohy continued to perform research in the field of X-ray Astronomy and received postdoctoral appointments at both University College London, and the California Institute of Technology, where he participated in the launching of payloads on sounding rockets and carried by satellites, “including the first NASA High Energy Astronomy Observatory (HEAO-1).” 

After a 10-year stint at the Australian National University in Canberra where he conducted research in space-related astronomy, Tuohy joined BAE Systems in Adelaide, and worked on “a wide range of exciting aerospace projects, [most] notably” Woomera Test Facility.

Touching upon a number of his most memorable career highlights while a Space Systems Manager with BAE Systems, Tuohy described his time collaborating with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) at Woomera. BAE Systems provided support for a number of JAXA projects including landing trials of the Automatic Landing Flight Experiment (ALFLEX) scale-model spaceplane, explosive testing of Solid Rocket Booster propellant for the H-IIA launch vehicle, rocket-boosted launches of a scale model supersonic airplane (NEXST-1), and the Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission. Commenting on the latter, Tuohy said, “It was an exciting moment witnessing the 2010 nighttime re-entry of the Hayabusa capsule carrying precious grains of material from asteroid Itokawa after a seven-year round-trip journey.”

Tuohy’s AIAA involvement began in 1994 because he needed access to the unparalleled amount of technical resources offered only by the Institute. Heavily involved in a German-Japanese spacecraft re-entry mission, he needed access to relevant AIAA publications “to educate” himself about the mission.

Tuohy touted the “great initiative” that four founding members showed in creating the AIAA Adelaide Section, referring to it as “an AIAA outpost in Adelaide, home to the bulk of Australia’s aerospace and defence industry.” The section’s founding was “instrumental in providing networking opportunities and a regular program of talks of great interest to the local aerospace community.” He noted that throughout the years the section has worked in close collaboration with the AIAA Sydney Section to take advantage of the AIAA Distinguished Lecturer Program. Working together, the two sections have brought to Australia “a number of high profile speakers” who have given public presentations in five capital cities. 

Additionally, Tuohy said, the Adelaide Section maintains a close relationship with the AIAA University of Adelaide Student Branch and has provided financial and mentoring support on a number of student projects. He explained that the Adelaide Section’s support of Careers Night, coupled with regularly scheduled Young Professional events, “has been particularly beneficial to the next generation of aerospace engineers,” adding that, “overall, the Adelaide Section has contributed greatly to raising the profile of AIAA in Australia.”

The Adelaide Section has been honored with numerous section awards, including the Institute’s Outstanding Activity Award (2011), the Career Enhancement Award (2006), and the Outstanding Section Award (2005, 2006, 2007), but Tuohy is most proud of the 2005 Outstanding Activity Award. Received due to successful efforts on the section’s behalf to persuade Burt Rutan, CEO of Scaled Composites, to provide a presentation, Tuohy noted, “It seemed like quite a coup to entice arguably the foremost aircraft designer in the world to Adelaide.” Rutan’s October 2005 “Space, for the Rest of Us” presentation attracted a large public audience, and came at a time not long after Scaled Composites had won the Ansari X-Prize for having successfully completed consecutive flights of its SpaceShipOne to the edge of space. Tuohy added that it was satisfying that the Adelaide Section was able to share its success with others by arranging for Rutan to give a subsequent talk to AIAA members in Melbourne.

Tuohy also served as a key facilitator leading up to the May 2007 designation of the Woomera Test Facility as an AIAA Historic Aerospace Site. He explained that “the Woomera Test Range, as it is now known, is a national icon in Australia,” and is the site where Australia’s involvement in missile and rocket technology and testing began “more than 70 years ago.” From this site, over 250 British Skylark sounding rockets were launched, some with Australian payloads; a series of indigenous sounding rockets and military systems were developed; Australia’s WRESAT satellite (1967) and the UK’s Prospero satellite (1971) were launched; and “innumerable test & evaluation trials for the [Australian] Department of Defence” took place. Woomera Test Range, managed and operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), “continues as a vital strategic asset for the testing of aerospace systems and the conduct of space-related programs including pioneering hypersonic rocket launches.”

Tuohy’s favorite memory from the site’s dedication ceremony was the formation-flyby of four RAAF Hawk jet trainers, “right on cue.” The fact that the aircraft had been deployed from a base on the east coast of Australia “signified the importance attached by the RAAF to AIAA’s recognition of Woomera as a Historic Aerospace Site.”

For internationally-based students who may be considering pursuing a career in aerospace engineering, Tuohy said that he would “absolutely recommend“ joining AIAA to “take advantage of the opportunities and services offered through membership.” As he explained, “Relationships developed through AIAA can lead to new insight about potential career paths and even employment offers.”

Furthermore, Tuohy advised students that they may also benefit greatly by gaining several years of experience working with “overseas aerospace organisations” because employment opportunities in Australia “are limited,” and “overseas experience can provide a significant differentiator.” He also noted that with the recent announcement of the formation of the Australian Space Agency, it is anticipated that space-related opportunities in Australia will increase dramatically in coming years.

In his free time, Tuohy most enjoys “expedition cruises to remote parts of the world,” noting that to date, he has voyaged to east and west Antarctica, Patagonia, South Georgia, and most recently, to Svalbard and Greenland, “in the high Arctic.” He expressed how exciting it is for him to experience such beautiful scenery as well as the opportunity to see pristine wildlife, “including polar bears in their natural habitat.” 

Another favorite leisurely activity, said Tuohy, is spending time with his wife, Ann, on Kangaroo Island, south of Adelaide, where they own and manage some vacation homes that are rented out for guest accommodation. Tuohy described the location as “a sanctuary from suburbia [that] has spectacular scenery and wildlife along with boutique food and wine experiences.”

The Institute congratulates AIAA Senior Member Dr. Ian Tuohy on his selection as the December 2017 AIAA Member Spotlight subject. AIAA thanks him for the vital role he’s played in the development and evolution of the Australian aerospace industry, and wishes him all the best as he continues to serve as a mentor to the younger generations pursuing aerospace engineering careers, and as he pursues his well-earned adventures.