Momentum Member Spotlight February 2011
AIAA Congratulates Dr. David Finkleman
By: Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
AIAA has selected Dr. David Finkleman for its AIAA Member Spotlight for February, 2011. Finkleman is the 2011 recipient of the AIAA Bronze Medal for Excellence in Aerospace Standardization, is an AIAA Lifetime Fellow, an active member of the AIAA Standards Executive Council, chair of the Space Operations working group of the International Organization for Standardization Space Operations and Ground Support subcommittee, and an affiliate of the Consultataive Committee for Space Data Standards. He is also a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Dr. Finkleman currently serves as CSSI senior scientist, and is a leading authority on civil, commercial, and military space systems. At CSSI, Dr. Finkleman is responsible for evaluating and designing orbit estimation and space system simulation techniques while expanding the use of standards in space research. As chief technical officer and director of analysis for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the United States Space Command, Finkleman led an organization of U.S. and Canadian military and civilian personnel responsible for all analytical and technical matters encompassing all U.S. military satellite systems, space surveillance, ballistic missile warning and defense, and all aerospace sovereignty and control capabilities of the United States and Canada.
A retired member of the Senior Executive Service, Finkleman was the first director of kinetic energy weapons in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, and a founding member of the United States Northern Command. Finkleman has also served on numerous technical and scientific advisory and study boards for industry and the federal government. During the Vietnam War, Finkleman was a professor at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., and notes that many of the cadets he taught during that time have gone on to become generals, including AIAA Associate Fellow, Lt. Gen. Michael A. Hamel.
Dr. Finkleman joined the original Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences as a student member in 1960, while attending the Virginia Polytechnic and State University (Virginia Tech), reminiscing that he “started with a 1,000 other freshmen who had declared aerospace engineering as their major, only ten of whom completed the program.” Finkleman said a Navy Department scholarship, he received in the summer prior to starting at Virginia Tech had allowed him to work in wind tunnels at the David Taylor Model Basin, in Carderock, Md. That the job gave him the necessary insight into the rigors of the aerospace profession, which prepared him for the rigors of Virginia Tech’s engineering program.
When asked if Finkleman had any advice for young engineers and for students intent on pursuing work in the aerospace engineering field – he counseled that they should “be flexible, and remember that there is no chance that the skills they acquire in school will be enough to thrive in the workplace.” Finkleman also warned that they should remember that “being a successful engineer means staying abreast of technological developments, acquiring advanced skills, and always learning about and employing new technologies.” Finkleman also stated that AIAA is an excellent forum for the profession to use to exchange ideas, learn about emergent technologies and professional best practices, and to sustain the professional ties necessary to advance in the profession.” He summed his feelings about the importance of AIAA, by nothing that his “AIAA membership has been an invaluable element of his career.”
When not working in the office or the laboratories, Finkleman is an avid outdoorsman, who can often be found on the side of a mountain – either climbing up it, or skiing down it. An avid climber, Finkleman has completed over 100 climbs to, or above, 14,000 feet. When not outdoors, Finkleman is an avid model builder, constructing everything from card models to two meter radio controlled sailplanes. Finkleman noted that some of his models have been used by Diehls Engineering and other modeling firms for advertising purposes.
AIAA congratulates Dr. David Finkleman for his myriad lifetime accomplishments, and for his selection as the AIAA Member Spotlight for February 2011.