Three Turkish Aeronautical Engineers in Three Distinct Periods: Ali Yar, Salâhattin Alan and Ahmet Cemal Eringen
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Emir Öngüner

Three Turkish Aeronautical Engineers in Three Distinct Periods: Ali Yar, Salâhattin Alan and Ahmet Cemal Eringen

Issue 11 - 2022
Three Turkish Aeronautical Engineers in Three Distinct Periods: Ali Yar, Salâhattin Alan and Ahmet Cemal Eringen

In today's Turkish aviation history narratives, the “education” has unfortunately been overlooked and not given due consideration. Thus, there are problems in interpreting the aviation history appropriately. Aviation is an industry and engineering branch, like maritime, railway and automotive. Success is achieved in such areas if it is handled by educated people who are technically competent about the subject.

There are three noteworthy periods that Turkish education and aviation history intersects with each other, as well as three important engineers.

a. Ali Yar studied aviation in Europe during Ottoman (Turkish) Empire period. 

b. Salâhattin Alan received aviation education in Europe during the Republican Turkey period.

c. Ahmet Cemal Eringen studied aviation at the educational institution established by Turkey during the Republican Turkey period.

Born before the Republican period, these three Turkish engineers lived during the same period, but continued their lives quite differently.

a)  Ali Yar (1885-1965)

Born in the Russian Empire to a Kazan Tatar family, Ali Yar came to Istanbul for his education and enrolled in Galatasaray High School. After graduating from here, he enrolled in the Sorbonne University in Paris in 1908 for university education. Afterwards, he studied at the newly established École Nationale Supérieure de l'Aéronautique in France for aviation education and became an aeronautical engineer (MSc). He returned to his hometown in 1912 as the first Turkish aeronautical engineer. Ali Yar's first professional experience was as an assistant mathematics teacher at Galatasaray High School. Then he was appointed as a physics teacher at the same school. In 1915, he transferred to the Faculty of Science of Darülfünun (former Istanbul University's before the reform) and started his academic career. In 1927, he was additionally recruited to the Certified Engineering School (former Istanbul Technical University). He worked as a lecturer in both universities until 1946. He became a professor at Istanbul University and served as the Dean of the Faculty of Science. He did not have a doctorate degree. 1

Considering Ali Yar's education background in France, it is necessary to highlight two more important names who graduated from the same university during the same period: Marcel Dassault and Mikhail Gurevich.

Marcel (Bloch) Dassault's family was former Ottoman citizens. the Allatini mansion where Abdulhamid II was exiled in Thessaloniki was owned by his maternal side. He was educated in France where was born. He started manufacturing by establishing his company in the 1920s. He was sent a concentration camp in World War II, but he resumed his activities after the war. Currently, one of France's largest aviation companies bears his name.

Mikhail Gurevich, while studying at the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute, was expelled from university due to his political stance and continued his education in France. After the revolution, civil war and Soviet order in Russia, he tried to hold down a job in several companies and in 1939 he established the MiG Design Office with Mikoyan. One of Russia's largest aviation companies now bears his name.

Mirage and Rafale produced by Dassault and many MiG models produced by Mikoyan-Gurevich have entered the inventory of many countries of the world. Following questions need review by the Turkish side:

• While Dassault and Gurevich could become giants in France and the Soviet Union, why did Ali Yar only have an academic career?

• Was it Ali Yar's choice or was it an obligation?

• In 1912, were there private enterprises in Turkey as well as an industrialization environment?

b) Salâhattin Alan (1903-1938)

Born in Prilepe - Macedonia, Alan was sent to France for aeronautical engineering education in 1926 with the scholarship provided by the Turkish Aircraft Society (former Turkish Aeronautical Association). He was among the first team to be sent abroad for education in the field of aviation in the Early Republic period. Like Ali Yar, Alan studied at the École Nationale Supérieure de l'Aéronautique and graduated in 1928. He did his internship at Hanriot company and then received a pilot training and returned to Turkey in 1931.2  

Since he was supported by a state scholarship during his education, he was assigned to the aircraft workshop in Eskişehir for his compulsory service after returning to the country. During his service there, he completed the design of the aircraft model which he named Salâhattin-1. A prototype named MMV-1 was produced within the body of the Ministry of National Defense. This model was the second Turkish type aircraft after the Vecihi K-VI. He could not reach an understanding with the Ministry of National Defense on the production of the MMV-1 and resigned from his position upon meeting Nuri Demirağ. He started his aviation journey in the private sector together with the master of railways, Nuri Demirağ.

In Demirağ's workshop, which was founded in Beşiktaş in 1936, the MMV-1 model was developed and produced as a training airplane with the code Nu.D.36. The airplane took off from Istanbul with mechanic İlhami Bey to attend the commemoration ceremony of the air martyrs held in Eskişehir-İnönü on July 13, 1938. As a result of an accident during the landing on the runway, Salâhattin Alan lost his life.

c) Ahmet Cemal Eringen (1921-2009)

Born in Bünyan – Kayseri, Eringen started his higher education in 1937 at the Certified Engineering School in Istanbul. Established in 1941 within the body of Certified Engineering School, the Mechanical-Aviation department is Turkey's first training department in the field of aviation engineering. Eringen, who graduated from this department with the diploma number 1057 in 1943, was the first aeronautical engineer graduated from Turkey’s educational institution with its own curriculum.3

After his graduation, he was sent to the Glenn L. Martin company in the USA for an internship with other graduates. After working at the Turkish Aeronautical Association factory for a while, he went to Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute for his postgraduate education. He received his doctorate in 1948 with a thesis on the elastic stability of cylindrical objects. After his instructor post at the Illinois Institute of Technology and Purdue University, he became a professor in continuum mechanics at Princeton University in 1966. He published more than 100 academic papers. The "Society of Engineering Science" that he founded has been awarding the Eringen medal to successful scientists in their fields since 1975. He is an honorary member of the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA).

Professor Anwar Beg from the University of Manchester-Salford, who published a book on pioneering engineering scientists in 2003, described Eringen as the "founder of modern engineering".4


Considering the education and career of these three significant individuals, whose background story is briefly given above, the following findings stand out for Turkey.

Without doubt, it would be impossible for Ali Yar to establish an aircraft industry with private enterprises like Dassault and Gurevich under the current conditions, since educated workforce, infrastructure, capital and an indigenous industry could not be achieved in Turkey that failed to take advantage of the industrial revolution in the second half of the 19th century. For this reason, Ali Yar's life story is a significant touchstone in Turkish aviation history in terms of education and industry arguments.

Alan's death is a great loss not only for Demirağ but also for the Turkish industry. For the first time in the history of Turkish industry, a capital owner (Demirağ) and an engineer (Alan) who received technical training had started a business in the aviation field. This partnership has been an important step for Turkey in terms of the private sector.

While Eringen is a world-renowned professor and medals are awarded after his name, unfortunately he is barely known in his hometown. Although he is the first aeronautical engineer that graduated from Turkey's own educational institution, he has not performed any known studies for the benefit of Turkey with this title. He has spent all his productive years abroad and carried out all his academic studies outside of Turkey.

Among Turkey's "first" aeronautical engineers, Ali Yar and Ahmet Cemal Eringen regrettably could not make any concrete contribution to the country in this field, on the other hand Selâhattin Reşit Alan unfortunately died at a young age while he was practicing his profession. From an objective point of view, it is obvious that Turkey has failed to benefit from its first aeronautical engineers duly 

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