Flight Path

Turning Challenges into Success


I’m sure you remember, as I do, the first time you presented a research paper. It’s a defining moment — the thought and hard work you put into your research with the intent of advancing the conversation. For many students, an AIAA Regional Student Paper Conference is the first opportunity for them to receive that all-important professional feedback on their research and presentation style. It’s their first taste of presenting their own work and what it can mean to their careers and to the aerospace community.

I’m calling on you to support the AIAA Regional Student Paper Conferences and participate by working with students, who also may be able to teach you something new. Abstracts for many of the regional conferences are due this month and the Region I–Region VI conferences take place in March and April (aiaa.org/StudentConferences).

The student conference schedule is: 29–31 March in Austin, Texas, for Region IV; 4–5 April in Cocoa Beach, Florida, for Region II; 4–5 April in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Region V; 5–7 April in Cleveland, Ohio, for Region III; 5–6 April 2019 in College Park, Maryland, for Region I; 6–7 April in San Luis Obispo, California, for Region VI.

If you can’t attend a conference, reach out to student branches in your region to discuss your aerospace experiences. Students appreciate hearing your stories from the engineering and personal perspectives.

AIAA and the aerospace community are dedicated to developing a robust workforce and increasing diversity in the industry. We have complex challenges before us and need a variety of perspectives and experiences to develop the innovative solutions. I hope you met some of the Diversity Scholars at AIAA forums this year. Collaborating with AIAA’s Diversity Working Group, the AIAA Foundation began this program last year. In 2018 we brought 70 students to AIAA forums and we are keeping the momentum going this year. Fifteen Diversity Scholars attended the 2019 AIAA SciTech Forum, which had record student attendance of almost 1,500!

As we concentrate on AIAA’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan goals, our clear mission is to help aerospace professionals and their organizations succeed. We’ll be increasing our membership and engagement by using data to make solid decisions, leading in curated aerospace content, and being the authority in technology and capability advancement. We’re focused on transformative flight, air mobility and autonomy, and the space ecosystem.

To accomplish this, we ask you to make your voice heard. It’s time to vote! You’ll be voting for a new President-Elect and openings on the AIAA Council of Directors. AIAA is fortunate to have such dedicated and qualified leaders who give their time and expertise to help this organization flourish. Your choices for President-Elect are: Basil Hassan of Sandia National Laboratories, George Nield of Commercial Space Technologies, LLC, and Wanda Sigur of Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired). Detailed information on the President-Elect and Council of Directors candidates can be found at aiaa.org/2019-AIAA-Election.

The 2019 AIAA SciTech Forum was a rousing success because of our members. When the federal government shut down and caused speakers, presenters, and attendees to cancel their plans, we sent out a call to the technical committees to fill the gaps. The TCs stepped up and then some. Thank you!

Even with the government shutdown, we had a record-breaking 4,500 attendees, including more than 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students. I learned more about how on demand is transforming aerospace. There were five plenary sessions, nine Forum 360s, and about 500 technical sessions, which featured more than 2,300 paper presentations. This year has begun with challenges and success, a fitting combination for aerospace. I’m looking forward to what’s next!

Lastly, in October AIAA hosts the 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Washington, DC. The theme for the Congress is “The Power of the Past, the Promise of the Future.” This annual gathering brings together the international space communities to discuss programmatic, technical, and policy issues. AIAA is honored to be the host organization. This will be a major opportunity for AIAA to demonstrate its ability to convene the experts and perspectives, It’s also a chance for DC policymakers to see and touch spaceflight hardware and meet the experts. We look forward to seeing the AIAA membership at IAC 2019!

Have a great February! ★

Turning Challenges into Success