Flight Path

It’s More Than a Tagline


This is my first column as executive director of AIAA. My first few months on the job have been insightful, interesting, and very educational. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming years. Please reach out too and let me know what you think of your Institute—what we do well, and what we could do better. The AIAA Engage platform is a great way to connect, or you can email me at Daniel.Dumbacher@aiaa.org. I look forward to talking with you at section events, forums, conferences, or here at our Reston headquarters. I want to hear from you!

Have you ever noticed the “Shaping the Future of Aerospace” motto in the AIAA logo? I have come to realize how little we use this key statement. “Shaping the Future of Aerospace” is a daily and continuous endeavor for AIAA.

AIAA “shapes the future of aerospace” in many ways. Our members are designing, building, integrating, testing, and operating commercial and military aircraft and systems, developing new air traffic control technologies and systems, executing near-Earth and far-reaching science missions, developing next-generation space transportation systems and technologies, all for the benefit of our global society. Your daily work across industry, academia, and government, combined with your passion, makes everyone’s lives better and richer.

At a deeper level, what does “shaping the future of aerospace” mean? To me it means that we are constantly challenging ourselves to be future focused—to ask, “where is the aerospace profession headed in aviation and space?” In other words, how do we as Institute members and staff ensure that AIAA remains relevant!

Aviation is exploring new technologies in hypersonics, air traffic control, data analytics, and efficiencies needed for the commercial market. Space is transitioning from the past—government funding driving the research and development—to private enterprise increasingly participating and defining new markets, more efficient methods, and new and innovative technologies. Across the profession we should be asking “what do we need to do to prepare for the future 5, 10, 15 years out?” We must adjust to, and prepare for, the coming changes in aviation and space to shape the future of aerospace effectively.

We owe this to the next generation, paying it forward as our mentors did. The leaders of the generation before us set the bar high, challenged us, trained us, and established the programs to address national security, civil space, and aviation needs—all to benefit society. Importantly, they recognized it was a “long-term game.” It is imperative that we change with the times, address the new and changing needs, and help mold the future to remain the world’s leading authority on aeronautics and astronautics.

The challenge to all of us is that we think and act to continue “Shaping the Future of Aerospace”. How do we do that? We recognize that the fast-paced and changing environments in aviation and space require exploring new partnerships and collaborations, new ways of engaging with our current members, former members, and potential new members, both individual and corporate. With this recognition, we seek and develop new relationships, strengthen our current relationships, challenge ourselves to prepare for the future, do it faster, and most importantly prepare the next generation.

As we strive to meet the highest of standards and shape the aerospace profession we must remember that we have a deep responsibility to the future generations of aerospace professionals and society. All of us, with our individual stories, started our career journeys in grade school, proceeded through undergraduate studies (and for some graduate studies), and off to our respective careers. Our desire to make things happen, take control of our futures, and ultimately make a difference is the same desire of the generations following us. We wanted to be relevant, and so does the next generation! All of us—no matter the career stage—can help the generations that follow to “shape the future of aerospace.”

We have the tools in place. We have the dedicated and passionate membership. We have the AIAA Strategic Plan for 2018–2021, which you will be hearing more about soon. We have the governance structure we need in place and the process streamlined. We have the AIAA staff to help execute. Let’s put our focus on the future, rather than the past, and go make it happen! ★

It’s More Than a Tagline