Flight Path

To the Future


For many years, this column has been called “From the Corner Office.” As our new governance structure becomes a reality, and as we, your new president and new executive director, present AIAA’s new Strategic Plan, it seemed the perfect time for a new name—one that better represents our vision for this column. In the months to come you will hear from diverse voices from across the Institute whose views will help inform the Institute’s “Flight Path” to future growth and continued success. Please let us know if there are issues you would like discussed or topics we should explore.

This year has been a busy one for AIAA’s volunteer leaders and one of transition at Headquarters. Our multiyear move to the Institute’s new governance model is well underway. We continue to work with the Board of Trustees and Council of Directors to tweak the structure while experimenting with how new concepts that benefit our membership will work in reality. And if the annual meetings in May were any indication, the hard work is paying off.

The Council is truly hitting its stride, focusing on the integration of its operations, experimenting with leveraging engagement, building stronger communities, and aligning its operations with the larger institutional plan. The restructured Technical Activities Division and Regional Engagement Activities Division and new Integration and Outreach Division are quickly getting up to speed and they are to be commended.

After much hard work and deliberation, the Board—with input from the Council and AIAA staff—has developed an ambitious but achievable three-year vision—our new Strategic Plan for 2018–2021. The plan’s guiding principle is our new mission statement: AIAA exists to help aerospace professionals and their organizations succeed. It’s simple and to the point, and it’s what the aerospace community needs. The Board outlined three core strategies that will guide us as we work to achieve the strategic goals. All the goals and their objectives align with one or more of these core strategies: 1) Use the appropriate data in the analysis of decisions; 2) Be the leader in curated aerospace content; and 3) Be the thought leader in technology and capability advancement. In other words, double down on our strengths and address our weaknesses head on. And we will do that through three main goals in areas that support the mission—assure financial sustainability; increase member loyalty and investment in their professional success; and ensure that AIAA’s capacity will be sufficient to meet the needs of our members. It’s a tall order to address, but it is critical to our success. You’ll hear more detail about the Strategic Plan, and your role in it, in the months to come. The plan is available at: aiaa.org/StrategicPlan.

As the team addresses the Strategic Plan, volunteers and staff are hard at work exploring new ideas that will operationalize the Board-directed priorities to ensure success. We will be reaching out to you, the members, for your input on initiatives that you find most valuable to ensure your professional success.

What does this all mean from a practical standpoint? What changes will members see over the coming months? AIAA has always worked to support aerospace professionals. The typical career arc is evolving, and AIAA will continue to evolve to support its members at every stage of their career from student to retiree and every point in between. A big part of that will be integrating and connecting the work of the AIAA Foundation and the Institute—all for the greater good. You will see a focus on increasing the membership, making the forums more engaging with the famous AIAA technical content, and building the AIAA online presence to support this pivot.

Diversity and inclusion is essential in both the aerospace workforce and the Institute. Broadening our base, and ensuring that we communicate and act from our core values in a way that supports that goal, will be key to achieving the strategic goals. To that end, the Diversity Working Group was elevated to a Board-directed committee as a sign of AIAA’s commitment to address these issues at the highest level of the organization and to integrate those outputs into the very fabric of our mission.

Why are we doing all this? AIAA has an audacious vision. It’s based on what we as an Institute believe about ourselves, about you and what binds our global community in a way that few other industries can boast: that exploration is the essence of the human spirit. AIAA is the technical society for aeronautics and astronautics—it is our legacy and our differentiator. As the industry grows increasingly complex and interconnected with adjacent technologies, our legacy must integrate this broader thinking—systems, platforms, and mission oriented—into our operational and intellectual framework. To remain relevant and be the thought leaders of the future, we must embrace emerging and adjacent technical areas that will influence the direction of aerospace, lest we be influenced by them in ways that may not be ideal for our own industry’s future.

We have much work to do between now and 2021 and the Strategic Plan will be a regular topic of this column. AIAA needs you to succeed. Join us on this journey; participation is power! ★

To the Future