AIAA Executive Director Dan Dumbacher interview

This is a lightly edited transcript of an interview with Dan Dumbacher, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, by Ben Iannotta, editor-in-chief of Aerospace America, at AIAA headquarters in Reston, Virginia, on Jan. 5, 2018.

Ben Iannotta: So, you know, looking at your bio, and knowing of you, at least, you’ve been involved with some real cutting-edge NASA projects. So, why’d you choose that line of work?

Dan Dumbacher: Why did I choose the NASA line of work?

Iannotta: Well, or the engineering line of work?

Dumbacher: Because I couldn’t be an astronaut. I was too tall.

Iannotta: OK. [laughs] Too tall.

Dumbacher: Yes, I exceeded the height requirement: 6-foot-4.

Iannotta: “Too-tall Dumbacher.” [laughs]

Dumbacher: [laughs] I would  — that’s actually a funny story. When I was interviewing for jobs getting out of school, I went to Rockwell Downey, and they had a full-scale shuttle mock-up. So, I’m walking around. One of the things they’d like to take the potential recruits through was the mock-up, and I’m walking around that thing: So, I see now why they have the height requirement. [laughs]

Iannotta: Oh, right.

Dumbacher: Except, I wasn’t accounting for zero gravity when I did that.

Iannotta: Oh, OK.

Dumbacher: [laughs] So, I quickly gave up on the astronaut idea, and said, “OK, the idea is to just go into engineering,” and I always wanted to work at NASA, so I was lucky enough to end up there.

Iannotta: Yeah, gotcha. So, your interest in being an astronaut. About what ages was that? Was that when you were a kid, or  —

Dumbacher: Elementary school.

Iannotta: Elementary school. So, that’s when you figured out the bad news?

Dumbacher: The way my mother tells it is — [laughs]

Iannotta: This is always good —

Dumbacher: — the way, the way my mother tells the story is that Dan never missed a launch on TV —

Iannotta: Oh.

Dumbacher: Including Alan Shepard’s.

Iannotta: Oh, OK.

Dumbacher: Now, I only vaguely remember John Glenn’s first flight. [laughs]

Iannotta: OK.

Dumbacher: But for some reason, there must have been something back there a long time ago.

Iannotta: Good. So, all right. So, then you end up getting an MBA. Why did you do that, and how has it helped you?

Dumbacher: That’s a really good question. I did the MBA, because I realized pretty quickly that my interest was more in the systems, higher project management kind of role. I was not — I didn’t see myself as a Ph.D.-level, understand all the details of combustion or fluid flow or any of that kind of thing.

Iannotta: OK.

Dumbacher: I saw myself more as a chief engineer, project management, and so I thought an MBA would help me understand that world better, and better prepare me for that world. It turns out that that was a lucky guess, because a lot of the things that I used through the rest of my career probably came more from the master’s degree, as well as what you learn in kindergarten of how to play nice with others.

Iannotta: OK. So, is that —

Dumbacher: So, I really just needed to go to kindergarten and go straight to master’s school, I’d have been OK.

Iannotta: [laughs] So, is that a transition you would recommend for students and young professionals, or does it just sort of depend on who they are?

Dumbacher: You’re right on target, ’cause, a lot of students, when they would ask me, and they’d come in my office for career advice, my first question back to them —

Iannotta: At Purdue.

Dumbacher: Yeah, at Purdue. I would never answer their question until they answered the question as best they could of, what did they want to do when they grew up? I would always ask them, “Describe for me as best you can your ideal job 15, 20 years from now.” And if someone said, “Well, I see myself as a researcher. I want to be the world’s expert in combustion,” or “I want to be the world’s expert in human factors,” I’d say, “Well, OK. You need to consider technical master’s, Ph.D., get the research and go.” But if they walked in and said, “Well, I want to be a chief engineer,” or “I want to be a project manager,” or “I want to run my own company,” or “I want to be an entrepreneur,” I’d say, “OK. You might want to go consider the MBA option.” Or an engineering management kind of degree somewhere.

Iannotta: OK. What’s satisfying about being in management as far as technology work is concerned?

Dumbacher: The satisfying thing for me is to help the team be successful in the mission, and being able to help facilitate and get the roadblocks out of the way so that the whole team can achieve the mission.

Iannotta: OK. So, shifting gears on you, people sometimes poke fun at us here in or near the Beltway in Washington, D.C. —

Dumbacher: It’s a 17-mile-wide logic-free zone, I’ve been quoted saying? Is that where you’re going? [laughs]

Iannotta: Yeah, that’s where I’m going. So, you had an interesting gig at Purdue. Why come back here?

Dumbacher: Well, for a couple of reasons. At Purdue, I was working with the students in the next generation, getting them ready to go do what the next generation needs to go do. And that was very rewarding, but a smaller subset. The AIAA allows influence on a broader scale, but for the same thing: To still help the young professionals, the students, and to help them get engaged for their careers and get prepared for their careers.

Item number two was, you know, sometimes we get caught in the reality that what we say, we — actions need to line up with words. And I always told the students that if you want to change the game, or you want to make things, or you want to improve things, or you don’t like the way things are going, you’ve got to get in the game to play it. Well, in our system of government, the decisions for the funding, the decisions made by the 536 investors in Washington, D.C., are — and that’s the Congress and the White House — you have to be here. You have to be in the game to play it. You have to be in the game to affect it. So, when I got the call from Jim Maser, it was an opportunity, OK?

Iannotta: The AIAA president.

Dumbacher: Here’s now an opportunity, and you keep telling the students that if you want to affect the game you need to get in and play it, so I guess that means — and my wife was willing to move back to the D.C. area. [laughs] And so, uh, here we are.

Iannotta: So, what is there in the game that needs to be — I’m trying to stick with the game analogy and failing. But, you know, what is it you see unfolding in the game that you could help make more efficient or better, or move aerospace forward?

Dumbacher: Well, I think AIAA on a couple of fronts, is a great organization, one, to help provide the networking learning opportunities for the young professionals and for the students to get them prepared for their careers, and also for everyone, as the midcareer professionals, to continue to learn, to continue to gain knowledge and contacts as they go through their careers. That’s one aspect of it.

The other aspect of it is the AIAA, also, because of its broad membership, has the potential to influence key policy discussions. And that’s what “getting back in the game” from a policy level — AIAA can be that objective broker, or provide objective policy input to the policymakers that can help influence the pathway that this country and the world takes as we move forward.

Iannotta: What are some of the policy areas you mean there?

Dumbacher: Well, workforce development being one of them. That’s a key one, particularly in the STEM fields.

Iannotta: And not just government workforce, but industry?

Dumbacher: Industry workforce, government workforce, academia workforce, across the board. And it’s not just space. It’s also the aviation side. It’s the whole aerospace community. The other part of this is, where there’s workforce development, there’s the investment that we need to be making and improving in this country to stay the leaders in aviation and space. And those are two of the key elements from a policy perspective that that AIAA can help influence, along with others.

Iannotta: OK. So you’ve been an AIAA member for about how long?

Dumbacher: 31 years.

Iannotta: 31 years.

Dumbacher: I need to renew. I just got the email the other day.

Iannotta: Oh, good. Glad to hear that’s working.

Dumbacher: [laughs] Yeah.

Iannotta: So, how has AIAA evolved, and how have professional societies like this evolved in general?

Dumbacher: Well, I think the AIAA in particular over the last four or five years has evolved greatly — and there’s still room to grow— to stay in pace with the industry and the rapid evolution of private enterprise space, new technologies in aviation, all those things that are driving the the marketplace today. So, I think the AIAA, particularly with the improvements over the last few years that this team has worked on, with Sandy’s leadership, has been key to setting up AIAA for a wonderful future.

I watch the professional societies as the social media world evolves, as things move quicker and quicker in our society. They still can provide that fundamental need for networking and the human interaction and contacts across an industry, and even across industries. So, working with other professional societies. Also being able to move things, look forward a little bit —

Iannotta: Right

Dumbacher: In terms of what are some of the policy issues that are coming ahead that we need to be preparing for, and looking ahead for, what does the workforce that we have today and the workforce we need 20, 30 years down the road, what does that look like? And how do we prepare for that? So, we have lots of opportunity. It’s a target-rich environment out there.

Iannotta: I gotcha. In terms of membership numbers, how do we retain members and maybe even grow membership? How big a priority should that be?

Dumbacher: Well, I think it should be a really big priority. I think if you look at it over the last few years, the AIAA membership has been on a small decline, and whether that’s retirements or what-odd, I’m not smart enough to know yet. But I do think membership and growing the membership for the future is important to help continue to build the network, or to allow people to build their networks, to facilitate the building of those networks, and also to facilitate the learning and the competition, frankly, as technologies move forward, as research and development moves forward. So, it’s an important aspect of this that AIAA continue to have that forward-looking, forward-thinking, “What do we need to be doing to help facilitate for the future?” in addition to “What can we do now to help move that along?”

Iannotta: So, you’re on day two.

Dumbacher: Right.

Iannotta: How do you go about assessing where we are and getting some ideas for working on the membership problem?

Dumbacher: Well, the first thing on the membership problem, I will have to dive into the numbers a little bit more, and I know that this has been a key element and a key agenda item for the AIAA board, and will continue to be, and it needs to be. So, there’s going to be some, for me personally, getting up to speed and understanding the layers of the onion two or three levels in in terms of what is behind the decline as best we can.

But also, look at those value statements. What is the value proposition that we can put forward to late-career professionals, the experienced career, the midcareer, and the early, young professionals, and the students? What is the value proposition that each of those different audiences is looking for out of a professional society, and then how do we provide that value proposition?

Iannotta: Right.

Dumbacher: In- in my mind, we have to be a little careful. The numbers are an important metric and we need to pay close attention to those. But it is also — those numbers actually reflect the value proposition. If we can get the value proposition and build the relationships among all those audiences, the membership number will follow. So, we just have to figure out what some of those value propositions need to be: What is attractive to those audiences, to those potential customers? And figure out how AIAA can best serve them.

Iannotta: So, membership has been a concern for our president-elect, John Langford, as it has, you know, lots of people. What kind of relationship do you anticipate having with John? What will his role be, and what do you see as your role?

Dumbacher: Oh, I think the relationship with John and I will be very good. In fact, we’ve already had one dinner together.

Iannotta: OK.

Dumbacher: It was rather informative. I learned a lot from him in terms of what he was thinking and his priorities. And we shared thoughts and ideas on how to build those value propositions to improve the membership. We also shared ideas on some other issues that need to be addressed. I think it’ll be a great working experience with John. I look forward to working with John and the whole board, and I look forward to working with Jim Maser too, as he’s transitioning over to John — as his role will transition to John.

I think, the idea is — my main goal is to do everything I can to continue the upward success that AIAA has been on for the last five years or so. There have been great strides made, and we want to build on all of that success, and continue to move the organization forward, and have it even more valuable to the aerospace professional across the board. And I think John’s totally on board with that, and I look forward to working with him on it.

Iannotta: What do you see as some of the successes over the last five years that we can build on?

Dumbacher: I think the big one is getting the governance structure simplified, and we’re going to have to learn what that means and how we implement that, and get our behaviors set up so that we make the best use of that governance change, governance improvement. And I think, I think that’s one of the big changes. Building on and increasing the involvement of the student chapters and the regionals and the sections. I know Sandy and the team have been working hard on getting more involvement at the section and regional level, and I think we’ll continue to work on that and improve that.

The other — going to the forum approach, I think, has been very valuable in terms of continuing the necessary and important technical research and development discussion and membership activity, but also it’s helping provide — the Forum 360s and the plenary sessions — help provide the context in which those technical discussions need to occur, which provides — in my mind — it provides a more holistic view, a better-integrated view, a more connected view, so that the technical is connected to the context, and the context is informed by the technical. So, I think all of the work on all of those fronts across the board over the last five years has been a great effort.

Iannotta: So, AIAA, and Aerospace America being an extension of that, are really in the information, collaboration business. That’s a really dynamic market. How can AIAA work at the speed of that market?

Dumbacher: Well, that’s a good question. And we have to figure out the ways. I think we’ll have to rely — we’ll take advantage of the membership skills, we’ll take advantage of the staff skills, and continue to build the staff skills to help facilitate that collaboration, that working with the membership and the forward thinking to prepare to build us and to continue to look for the future down the road.

Iannotta: Great. Oh, I meant to ask. Being a 31-year member, what have you gained from that, either career-trajectory-wise or just personally?

Dumbacher: Well, it’s come on several fronts, Ben. The professional — well, let’s do the personal part first.

Iannotta: Yeah

Dumbacher: The personal part first was the contacts and the networking that was facilitated through the different conferences and now the forums, along with the ability and the opportunity to go see what other people were doing in other fields that might have a relationship to what I was doing. What can I learn from others that could apply to what I’m doing? And vice-versa. Are there people out there who need some help, or have an issue, that maybe I’ve dealt with that we can address at a conference or even just in the hallway conversation? That to me, has been a key element of all of my AIAA involvement. And even at the — I guess the professional and the personal actually get tied together, because from a professional perspective, just the things like Aerospace America that comes out and, you know, gives some more depth on technical issues that I normally wouldn’t go look at, but it puts it in front of me and gives — makes it easier for me to go take — to learn a few things. Things like the the Daily Launch. Since that has been instituted by AIAA, that’s been standard reading every morning first thing on the email, because it gives you a snapshot of what’s going on day to day. What are the news headlines in the industry? And it’s, — yes, I spent most of my career, all of my career, basically, at NASA. But it gave me the opportunity to look at what’s going on in the aviation world. What’s going on — what are some of the other issues? Yeah, the space stuff is important, but also, what’s going on in the rest of the world that might have some effect? Because, let’s face it, the aviation, the commercial aviation, all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep that safe and to keep that more efficient and make that more efficient, it affects all of our daily lives.

So, being able to keep up with that has been, and helps keep me — I use it to make sure I have some understanding of what’s going on, going on in the larger world so that I can apply it and use it as necessary.

Iannotta: So, what do you see as some of the interesting work or trends underway in the aviation area?

Dumbacher: Oh, the — electric propulsion is a big thing, how well that will work. The hypersonics is becoming more and more important, for many reasons, either national defense or private enterprise. The, and I particularly, I guess I’m somewhat motivated for flying cars and other things, because one of these days, my kids are going to take my driver’s license away ’cause I’m too old, and I need to be able to punch a button and just have it take me wherever I want to go.

Iannotta: Oh, wow. I never thought of that. [laughs] That’s a good point. That’s a good point. So, you — it sounds like you think that’ll happen quickly enough to be relevant for you and me.

Dumbacher: I hope it is. I hope it is. [laughs]

Iannotta: Well, you know, we should be optimistic about these things, right? [laughs] Of course, it’s an equation. It’s when the cars come, and it’s how long we last.

Dumbacher: That’s right.

Iannotta: So, how would you describe your management style?

Dumbacher: I would describe it — there are probably two key aspects to this. The first thing is, I’m very team-oriented. The way I look at things is, we have a mission to achieve, all of us have role on the team to help achieve that mission. My personal role on the team is to help the rest of the team do their jobs, and to help set the direction, or to figure out where we’re going in the longer term.

I tend to work in a very collaborative style, very team-oriented, and the biggest thing that’s important to me is the trust and the integrity among the team. You can’t have good teamwork unless you have trust among the team members, and that’s built on integrity. So, those are my important points. I’m very open-door, very collaborative, as transparent as I can possibly be, is the way I like to approach things.

Iannotta: So, how do you deal with — you know, from my experience coming out of journalism, it’s been interesting at AIAA, because we tend to work more in committees and as teams than, you know, I’m used to from my background in journalism. So, how do you deal with the need to move at the speed of the market on one hand, and on the other hand, the need to work as a team?

Dumbacher: That’s where you have to put — you have to have the environment such that the teams are trusted to go work on issues and to be innovative and to try new things. Some will work, some won’t. We’ll have some failures. But you have to allow the, you have to allow the teams to innovate. For example, Google and Apple work in teams, and they are very successful at keeping up and even driving the market.

Iannotta: Right.

Dumbacher: And the way they do it is, fundamentally, they allow the teams to innovate and to go — with leadership in terms of the direction and the constraints — but within those, let the teams go. And trust the teams to go do what they need to do to innovate, to help make the mission happen.

Iannotta: So, a team can actually work quickly.

Dumbacher: Much more quickly than a — a team can work much more quickly than a highly constrained decision authority chain up and down an org chart.

Iannotta: OK. Right. Interesting.

Dumbacher: At least that’s been my experience.

Iannotta: Yep. So, are there unique things about working with engineers? Cultural aspects, personal aspects?

Dumbacher: There certainly is. Engineers are very data-driven people. They’re still people, and we all have our biases, our experiences, and we’re subjective to some degree, but engineers in particular want to see the data. They want to see examples. So, when you are talking about and trying to work through changes and innovation, one of the best things to do with engineers in my mind is to run a couple of examples, see what the data tells you, and then grow it from there.

Iannotta: Right.

Dumbacher: Because I’m an engineer, I think that way. I’m open to the new ideas, but let’s go try it to see what we might have missed, or what we need to fix. The fail-forward or the fail-fast kind of mentality that you hear out of Silicon Valley is, I think it’s somewhat applicable. I don’t want to fail too fast on some things, but you also don’t want to have analysis paralysis, where you can sit back and just not do — make very little progress because you’re trying to answer all the questions before you do anything. You try to get that innovation in there, and give people a little bit of freedom to go do things.

Iannotta: OK.

Dumbacher: Go try things.

Iannotta: Right. Yeah. So, how do you see AIAA’s relationship evolving with some of the new players in aerospace, from, you know, the space startups, the urban mobility people, you mentioned flying cars, Silicon Valley? Is that an area where AIAA plays, or are we more in the big contractor realm?

Dumbacher: Oh, no. I think our heart and soul is aerospace and the aerospace industry, and we have to evolve with that industry. And commercial aviation has evolved from the days of the Wright brothers through World War II through key technology enhancements in terms of the turbofan engine and other things that have led us to where we are today with commercial aviation. And we need to continue to do that. That’s a continuing effort to get more efficient, to get safer, to provide more and better services, and quicker services. So, commercial aviation will be continuing to do that.

The space world today is comparable in maturity to commercial aviation in the 1930s and ’40s, learning how to come out of the government, all-government all the time, to: What’s the right role for government? What’s the right role for industry? And how can we accelerate and enhance the private enterprise development in the space industry, just like we helped facilitate commercial aviation? So, what do we need to do? How do we go about that? What are the opportunities? What are the potential markets?

One of the reasons we got commercial aviation off and running was because the government funded the initial airmail contracts. Well, that’s not a whole lot different than private enterprise delivering cargo and crew to space station. So, you know, and we want to continue to build on those models, because we want to take the best of all of our talents — what private industry’s best at, what the government is best at — and move those forward. Private enterprise can’t take all the risk. Government has the ability of making investments in risk areas that private enterprise doesn’t want to do, or can’t afford to take on. So, how do we get that right balance? How do we move that forward so that the whole space economy comes along and we get the space world being as big or bigger than commercial aviation is?

And all of that’s — the heart and soul of all of that is the technical capability, the research and development capability, the technical knowledge that’s inherent in our membership, and how do we help move all that for-, bring all that to bear to move forward for the, for the future?

Iannotta: So, relatively new players like SpaceX or Blue Origin, do they benefit from research that NASA and others have funded over the years? Or are they just whole cloth doing things differently?

Dumbacher: Well they have benefited from research that the government has funded in the past, and even recently, I think. For example, the Orion parachute data was provided to private industry for the parachutes that they need to bring their capsules back to Earth. Propulsion investments that led to earlier versions — well, propulsion investments that led to, that allowed and gave SpaceX the ability to put the Merlin engine together. Vertical landing capability that was invested in by the government back in the mid-’90s provides some of the heritage for Blue Origin and SpaceX to do vertical landing, and some of their concepts.

So, those investments have been made. It’s not — We don’t — only if you’ve been around the industry for a long time, and even had knowl – and was aware of some of these investments do you, do you understand that there’s some linkage. But that linkage exists, and that’s one of the things that AIAA can help do, is help make everyone aware of that linkage and that continuum and those investments, because that’s the same kind of thought process we need to accelerate for the future.

Iannotta: Right. So, footsteps on the moon or Mars? Which do you think will happen  —

Dumbacher: Yes.

Iannotta: — next. [laughs]

Dumbacher: Oh, wow. Hey, you put a “next” word in there.

Iannotta: All right. [laughs]

Dumbacher: I am one of those who tends to believe that we still have a lot to learn at the moon. The Apollo experience and what we had with Apollo 11 through 17 was primarily in the lunar equator on the near side. We still have the far side of the moon and the poles to deeply explore. The moon will provide us the learning that we need to be able to go out to Mars.

Iannotta: Would that be done robotically or by people  —

Dumbacher: All of the  —

Iannotta: — on the ground? On the surface?

Dumbacher: All of the above. It’ll be by humans and robots. Both. Because exploration is utilizing all these tools to move things forward. It’s not  —

Iannotta: Right.

Dumbacher: I don’t buy into this “us versus them” conversation. I don’t buy into this “us versus them” between robots and humans. I don’t buy into the “us versus them” when it comes to government and private industry either. It is a continuum, and all the capabilities are needed for the complexities of space exploration. There are roles to be— that need to be executed. And I do believe that there is a lot for us to learn when it comes to human — when it comes to space exploration with — and we’ve done a lot of robotic work on the moon, but we can still learn some more. But let’s keep in mind, the space station is 220 miles up. The moon is 220 thou — 240,000 miles away. A few orders of magnitude more. The moon — Mars is now 35 million miles away. Now, I would like to think that we could do all that in one continuous swoop, and I would like to think we’re that smart, but I also know Mother Nature has a wonderful way of keeping us humble. And we need to learn how to operate. Keep in mind that NASA, when it puts crew up in EM2, Exploration Mission 2 or whatever it turns out to be, the crew’s gonna be nine days away from home. Not three days away, like Apollo. Not an hour and a half away, like they are on space station. So, now I have to have higher reliable hardware, more reliable hardware. And my whole operational scheme has to account for that delay, and that distance. And I start to extend that out to Mars, it’s even more so. So, we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. I’m fully confident that we can figure it out with the proper investment. And we just need to go do it.

Iannotta: Gotcha. So, speaking of the future, AIAA has identified some growth areas it sees. I’m wondering what you think about those. Are they the right ones? Might there be others? Do we shape the next growth area, or do we recognize it?

Dumbacher: Well, I think AIAA has done a really good job of identifying the growth areas. I think the growth areas in — and AIAA is working to get to a strategic plan that helps, that guides us in terms of working in those growth areas. And I think the work that has been done by this team, teams in the past, and the board are all — we want to build on that. We don’t want to start all over again. I’m not a big believer in starting all over again, because there’s been too much investment, too much progress to be made — too much progress made — and now let’s build on that, and let’s go attack the growth areas.

Iannotta: Gotcha. Yeah, I mean, I think from the Aerospace America perspective, being part of an organization like AIAA can help us, you know, be the first one to write whatever the next additive manufacturing or urban mobility or drone development is. It’s probably something we can’t conceive right now.

Dumbacher: That’s typically the way this has gone in the past. We think we’re really smart, but then we  —

Iannotta: Right.

Dumbacher: — end up in totally different places than we ever dreamed of.

Iannotta: Right. You know, I mean, I think if you’re not an inventor, it can kind of feel like everything’s been invented. [laughs]

Dumbacher: Well, but that’s the beauty of being — that’s what’s fun about this industry — is you keep moving the ball forward and you keep looking over the horizon, and you learn new things, and you come up with new ideas, and you come up with new solutions to problems, and you come up with new markets.

Iannotta: Right.

Dumbacher: We want to — be constantly evolving, learning and taking on the new challenges is the fun part.

Iannotta: And one thing I really like about our events, our forums, are the technical sessions, because you can go to one of these and you can hear just — sometimes it’s just a phrase, or somebody’s got an idea, and you wonder, “Could that be the next — ”

Dumbacher:   Right.

Iannotta: “ — big thing?” It’s fascinating.

Dumbacher: Well, one day we’ll look back and we’ll we’ll start to figure out, “Well, that invention was first discussed back here in this forum.”

Iannotta: See? And we call that a feature lead in the magazine business.

Dumbacher: [laughs]

Iannotta: So, if we could be there, that would be perfect.

Dumbacher: Yeah.

Iannotta: Well, I’ve enjoyed this. Is there any message you want to get through to, um, the members you’ll be serving that maybe you haven’t gotten to do?

Dumbacher: Well, the only thing I haven’t said so far, and I really should have said it right up front, is it’s an honor and a privilege to be part of this team. I am thrilled to be here. I look forward to the future with AIAA. I look forward to being a part of the future. I think it — aerospace has been, has been my passion. Mostly I’ve spent my time in space, but it goes back to my father taking me around in his Mooney 201 back when I was in elementary school, and my father — was flying his own airplane until he was 80.

Iannotta: Oh, wow.

Dumbacher: And he actually joined the octogenarian flight club.

Iannotta: There is one, I believe, yes.

Dumbacher: There is one of those things. You have to be 80 to be a member.

Iannotta: [laughs]

Dumbacher: And he remains active with young people on flying and working with other — he’s got a couple of contacts. Aerospace has been a part of my — has been my passion from the early days. And the opportunity to be at AIAA and help continue the aerospace profession for the future is a thrill. Glad to be here.

Iannotta: Great. Well, if you feel good, I’ll stop it.

Dumbacher: I’m good.



AIAA Executive Director Dan Dumbacher interview