Countdown to a Milestone

A look back at the origin of SAE Technical Committee AGE-2 as it approaches its 100th meeting.

For some of us in the aerospace industry, a milestone will take place Oct. 20 - 22, 2008 in Indianapolis — the 100th meeting of the SAE Technical Committee AGE-2. For others, they are asking, “What is SAE, what is this committee and why all the hoopla?” As with any good story, the best place to start is at the beginning, so let’s begin with SAE in general.

SAE Origin
SAE International was originally known as the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE). Established in 1905, SAE started with 30 members, including one by the name of Henry Ford. Its purpose at that time was to be the focal point for the collection, organization and distribution of information to help develop standardization in the automobile industry. Five years later, in 1910, with the tremendous amount of engineering activity going on in aircraft development, the SAE Council decided to broaden its scope to cover aviation. Because of this, SAE’s charter was amended to cover all forms of self-propelled vehicles, whether borne by land, sea or air.

This broader scope of coverage became a reality six years later at the June 1916 SAE Council meeting. Many new faces from the aviation field attended the meeting, including Orville Wright and Glenn Curtis, and representatives of the US Army and Navy aviation, and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

There was at that time a loose association called the “American Society of Aeronautic Engineers,” but some, including Curtis and Wright, thought that joining with an already established SAE organization would be a more effective course of action. So they had come to “confer with the council” to explore the possibility of having aeronautical engineers join and participate in SAE. This, of course, was exactly in line with the council’s earlier ideas of broadening SAE’s scope, and the notion was warmly received. However, there emerged one very big sticking point: The name “Society of Automobile Engineers” didn’t sit at all well with the aviation professionals. In the end, however, a solution was found. It is reported that Elmer Sperry came up with the idea that the word “Automobile” be changed to “Automotive” (meaning all things self-propelled).

The name was then changed to the Society of Automotive Engineers and very soon afterward, members included Orville Wright, Glenn Curtis, Glenn Martin and many other famous aviation industry pioneers.

One year later, SAE developed its first aerospace standard (AS) for an interchangeable aeronautical spark plug, which was formulated in cooperation with the British, French and Italians.

SAE Today
In 2006, SAE officially changed its name to SAE International. SAE’s technical standards are recognized worldwide and cover four major areas of mobility engineering: aerospace, automobile, commercial vehicle and motorsports. Activities in each of these areas are overseen by separate councils and were further segmented into various specialties.

In the case of aerospace, the Aerospace Council, comprising executives from across the industry, oversees eight divisions that cover all aspects of aerospace technology, including electronics, avionics, propulsion, materials, mechanical & fluid, etc.

SAE International has aligned itself with such affiliate organizations as the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA), Performance Review Institute, SAE Foundation, SAE BRASIL, SAE INDIA, SAE UK and SAE Institute. Truly, global engineering barriers have been brought down through these relationships.

Air cargo and aircraft ground equipment is part of one of these aerospace divisions (Airport/Ground Operations and Equipment Division), and is handled by the Technical Committee AGE-2 (Air Cargo & Aircraft Ground Equipment & Systems). This committee’s work on technical standards development is done by its two subcommittees AGE-2A and AGE-2C. The former deals with onboard aircraft cargo handling; the latter deals with ground-based cargo handling and aircraft servicing.

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