Dr. Michael Heil, President of Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI) presented at talk on “Aerospace Engineering Career Perspectives.” Dr. Heil was born in Germany to parents who were in the Air Force and spent most of his youth traveling around the U.S. as his family moved due to his parents’ military employment. He chose the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) based on his parents’ background, as well as, his love for his country and his will to serve. While at the USAFA, he changed his major from political science to engineering because he liked the problem-solving aspects offered by engineering. He later went on to receive his Master’s degree from Columbia University in Flight Structures and his Ph.D. from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in Aerospace Engineering. He spent 30 years active duty in the USAF, working at top research centers such as Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) in Dayton, Ohio and the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma, Tennessee.
One of Dr. Heil’s main points was that the U.S. has risen far in its world ranking in the aerospace field since the inception of flight, but is in extreme danger of falling behind countries such as China, India, and Japan due to failures in education in the STEM fields. He also mentioned that the opening of Asian markets in aviation could lead to the purchase of as many as 33,500 airliners by 2030; that will account for $4.1 trillion in revenue. Right now, U.S. aviation is still in line to receive most of these sales, but the U.S. must continue to innovate to stay ahead of others in one of the nation’s strongest fields.
Dr. Heil was also very adamant about the role the state of Ohio has played in U.S. and worldwide aviation. In addition to housing NASA Glenn and WPAFB, Ohio is, also, home to GE Aviation, the world leader in aerospace propulsion technology. He mentioned that NASA Glenn looks to benefit well from NASA’s new focus on green aviation and next-generation Space transportation. He also highlighted the fact that Cleveland has produced the most Astronauts of any single metropolitan area.