It’s Been An Honor

It’s hard to believe that this is my last column as AIAA president. I am proud of what we have accomplished together and to have led AIAA during a period of positive change and organizational evolution. Although our transition to the new governance structure is ongoing, I believe that we are already much better positioned to be flexible and adapt as necessary to better serve our members and the industry. There are so many people who made possible our successful transition to date, including Sandy Magnus, my predecessors as president, Jim Albaugh and Mike Griffin, and my fellow volunteer leaders and, of course, all of you, the members. We shared the extraordinary vision, dedication, courage to do what was right, rather than what was easy. Because of this hard work, our Institute is now on a path to be strategically focused, relevant, and better positioned to deliver programs and events that will help our members and the global aerospace industry flourish.

The changes put into motion over the past few years are already paying dividends. This January’s AIAA SciTech Forum in Kissimmee, FL, had the largest attendance ever—with more than 4,200 professional and student participants from 39 countries and all 50 states. High-level discussions about “flying cars,” digital engineering, and autonomous vehicles packed rooms. Attendees dove into the details during technical and Forum 360 sessions covering ground-breaking aerospace technical and scientific research, with the session on “Disrupting Aerospace Business Models” garnering more than 110,000 views on Livestream! Our forum event strategy is working!

As you know, next year is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first manned lunar landing. I am excited that the International Astronautical Federation selected AIAA to host the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington, DC, in October 2019 during this pivotal time. The event will bring together thousands of decision makers from all sectors of the global space industry, creating opportunities to collaborate with top international innovators and discuss the latest space discoveries and advancements—and what that next giant leap might be.

Giving AIAA’s members a more influential voice is part of AIAA’s mission and a focal point of the new governance structure, which provides you with a greater say in AIAA’s future. We also launched a new social platform in January to connect our members to each other and bring the aerospace community together. AIAA Engage ( is a place where you can meet fellow aerospace professionals, share your challenges, float new ideas, build your network, and further your career. The platform has resonated with our student members, who are reaching out to AIAA’s experienced members for advice. There are already hundreds of active discussions ranging from space systems engineering to technical standards. AIAA Engage soon will be adding section-specific sites so members can discuss local issues.

AIAA is always looking ahead. During my tenure, the Institute formalized its efforts to increase diversity and inclusion as a starting point to a long-term and meaningful commitment. We as an Institute and industry have much work to do in this area but we’ve gotten the ball rolling and set the tone for the future.

As my term ends, we are also saying goodbye to amazing colleagues and welcoming new ones. While it took scores of people to transform AIAA into a more nimble and essential organization, few had a deeper impact than Sandy Magnus. Sandy’s energy, courage, and determination were key to many of the strategic changes and “wins” we had during the past five years. She leaves the Institute both financially stable and well positioned for the future. Her strategic vision and determination led the way. I know I speak for her staff and fellow members when I wish her all the best in her next adventure.

We are excited and fortunate to have Dan Dumbacher take the helm as the Institute’s new executive director. He has been an AIAA member for more than 30 years. I certainly can tell you that Dan has taken the role with an amazing amount of enthusiasm and energy, and I am sure that Dan’s experience in government, academia, and his work with private industry during 35 years at NASA will help take AIAA to the next level. In May, I will hand off the president’s gavel to my successor, John Langford. John, a member for more than 40 years, is CEO and president of Aurora Flight Sciences, now a Boeing Company, and has the forward-thinking entrepreneurial spirit that is sure to help draw a new generation of aerospace professionals to AIAA.

Thank you for the opportunity to be your president. I look forward to working with Dan and John for the rest of my term, and then as chair of the AIAA Foundation. We are all part of a tremendous organization with limitless potential. If we remain future-focused and increase our reach, relevance, and engagement there is nothing we can’t accomplish together. ★

It’s Been An Honor