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GAINING ALTITUDE

DR. KHALED ALHUSSAN is general director of Special Programs and the director of the Space & Aeronautics Research Institute at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Riyadh. Specializing in mechanical engineering,
aerospace and aeronautics,he attended George Washington University
He has published more than 100 scientific papers and has over 50 patents registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office. He was recently admitted as a member of the prestigious International Academy of Astronautics. LEADERS spoke with Dr. Alhussan about several projects in which he is currently involved.

What is KACST’s mandate?
Between 2008 and 2014 KACST implemented the First National Science, Technology and Innovation Plan or what we call “Maarifah I”. This was intended to be the first of four stages of implementing the national policy for science and technology. It aimed to develop the infrastructure for a national ecosystem and ultimately contribute towards the transition of Saudi Arabia from a resource-based economy into a knowledge-based economy. In the broader context of Saudi Vision 2030 which was developed in 2016 and the National Transformation Plan 2020 our aim is to help establish Saudi Arabia as a regional leader in the field of science, technology and innovation. I think many of our readers will be quite surprised to learn that Saudi Arabia is well advanced in the field of space and aeronautics
Yes, our country’s achievements in these areas are not widely publicized. Space and aeronautics is of strategic importance to the kingdom and an important element of our National Plan for Science, Technology and Innovation.

Through the development of advanced industries, our aim is to become a regional leader Here at KACST we are working hard to strengthen our position through R&D programs, technology transfer and localization.
Kindly tell us something about one

of your most recent projects – the Antonov An-132D. Certainly. As I mentioned, one of our aims in the kingdom is to develop advanced industries, including an aircraft industry. In 2015 we began to investigate the idea of a cargo plane that would meet the needs of the local market. This was envisioned as a first step on the way to developing an indigenous aerospace industry We eventually settled on the Antonov An-132D which we at KACST developed with
Antonov and our Saudi partner, Taqnia Aeronautics, a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, the kingdom’s soverand aeronautics which was set up in eign wealth fund. association with Stanford university,
director of the decision support center for KACST-Boeing, and director of the National Center of Aeronautics
– before taking up my present positions as general director of Special Programs and director of the Space & Aeronautics Research Institute.

Tell us something about KACST
Actually, KACST began life as the Saudi Arabian National Center for Science & Technology, an independent organization responsible for the promotion of science and technology in the kingdom. In 1985, the name was changed to King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and in 1987 KACST became a national member of the International Council for Science.
Tell us more about the aircraft
The aircraft is part of a new generation of light, multi-purpose aircraft. The An-132D is intended for short- and
medium-haul routes and will have varied use, from troop transport to cargo and can be outfitted with a variety of
cabin configurations. It has a cruising speed of up to 550 kilometers per hour and a cruising altitude of up to 9,000 meters with a maximum payload of 9.2 tons.

It features new Pratt & Whitney PW150 engines, Honeywell avionics, and Dowty R408 propellers. The new design retains the cross-section and ramp of the original Antonov An-32. The rear ramp, in particular, gives
the aircraft the ability to load pallets and equipment using an installed onboard hoist system, as it can fold underneath the outside of the fuselage. In addition to cargo missions, the aircraft can be equipped to carry military personnel. I should mention that Saudi Arabia owns a 50% share in the intellectual property invested in the design
of the plane.

What’s the current status of the project?

The prototype was rolled out in Ukraine in December 2016. This was followed by the first flight which took off from Antonov’s factory in Kiev in March 2017. It was showcased last year at both the Paris Airshow and the Dubai Airshow. Aircraft production will take place in parallel in both the kingdom and Ukraine, and Saudi engineers and technicians along with their Ukrainian counterparts will participate in production lines. The first deliveries are scheduled for this year.

We are planning to produce as many as 250 to 300 aircraft by 2035. Several countries such as Turkey, Malaysia, Peru, Mexico and the UAE have already expressed interest in purchasing the planes
First of all, Dr. Alhussan, we’d like to congratulate you on being admitted to the IAA. Tell us about
something about that.

Yes, thank you very much. It’s really a great honor for me. The International Academy of Astronautics was founded
in Stockholm. It’s an independent non-governmental organization recognized by the United Nations which aims to promote the development of space science for peaceful purposes. It’s a great honor to have been admitted to the academy whose members include two other Saudi nationals -Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the first Arab astronaut, and Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed who is the current president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). As an IAA member, I hope to be able to contribute even more to international efforts and cooperation to advance and develop space technology Please tell us something about your academic and professional
background My particular interest is in applied research in the field of aerospace and aeronautics. I began my career as a professor at George Washington University.

Between 1998 and 2003, I received the title “Professor of the Year” several times for my work in different
departments – civil engineering, environment, mechanical engineering and aerospace. I returned to Saudi Arabia to
join KASCT where I’ve worked in several positions – as director of the NumericalSimulation Center, deputy director
of the Space Research Institute, director of the center of excellence of space