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The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)

is the world's largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.

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    Momentum Member Spotlight – May 2014

    AIAA Congratulates Michael Yarymovych
    By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications

    Michael_YarymovychThis month, the member spotlight is illuminating outstanding service to AIAA, traveling to Osprey, Florida, and falling on Michael Yarymovych, winner of the 2014 AIAA Distinguished Service Award, for “60 years of dedicated service to IAS, ARS, AIAA and IAF, and for outstanding leadership for the aerospace profession in government, industry and the international community.”

    Yarymovych, president of Sarasota Space Associates, has been a member of AIAA since 1952. He retired from the Boeing Company and worked previously as vice president, Engineering, and Advanced Systems Development, at Rockwell International during the time of the development of the Space Shuttle, GPS, and missile defense. His many contributions to AIAA include serving as president in 1982; his creation of the Institute Development Committee, which develops new initiatives for the benefit of AIAA and its members; his involvement in revising the criteria used to select AIAA Fellows; and his development of the Fellows nomination process now in use by the Institute. He has served on the Institute’s Membership Committee, International Activities Committee, and Technical Activities Committee, and has chaired the Honors and Awards Committee. He has also chaired and served on the Fellow and Honorary Fellow Selection Committees. Yarymovych was a session chair or co-chair throughout the years at many of AIAA’s technical conferences.   

    At an international level, Yarymovych has served as president of the International Academy of Astronautics. His work has ensured that AIAA has had strong involvement in the programs and activities of the International Astronautical Federation. He also was director and chairman of the NATO Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development, and later the NATO Research and Technology Organization. He was also chief scientist of the U.S. Air Force.

    A senior fellow of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, Yarymovych has also served on the Defense Science Board, the National Research Council Committee on the Future Air Force Needs for Survivability, and the Strategic Defense Initiative Council. Committed to furthering the education of engineers and scientists, he has also served on advisory boards at Stanford University, the California State University – Long Beach, and the California Polytechnic Institute, among others.

    Almost as if he stepped out of the pages of Leon Uris’ novel Armageddon, Yarymovych said that his inspiration to pursue a career in aerospace stemmed from his experiences during the Berlin Airlift in 1948. “I was growing up in post-war Berlin, Germany. During the Soviet blockade of the city, we were supplied food and fuel by the so-called Berlin Airlift. The DC-3s that were coming in four-minute intervals to Templehof airport were quite a sight for a 14-year-old boy, and especially the chocolates and candy that the U.S. Air Force pilots were dropping on approach and takeoff. Right then I decided to be an aeronautical engineer to design and build these flying machines. Also an old high school teacher gave me a book on astronomy, so I got excited about exploration of the stars.” Yarymovych also cited his father's influence, explaining, “My father was a mechanical engineer, and when he was growing up, the automobile was the exciting new technology. It must have been in the Yarymovych genes to be interested in the latest moving machines.”

    Looking back over his long career, Yarymovych singled out one moment as his absolute favorite: “Without a doubt, it was being asked by Joe Shea to join his Systems Engineering team laying the foundations of the Apollo system in 1962. I joined the NASA Apollo team in Washington as Assistant Director of Flight Systems, defining the requirements for all the internal systems, such as power, navigation, and attitude control. At that time I was 29 years old, and so were most of my colleagues. Joe Shea was the "old man" at the age of 35.”

    When asked what advice he would give to college students who were pursuing a degree in aerospace, Yarymovych replied, “Aerospace is still a very exciting engineering field to be in. But now it is a combination of a lot of disciplines. So as a student spread out your interests beyond aerodynamics and structures, and study computer science, electronics and chemistry to be a systems designer that embraces a variety of disciplines.”

    For his peers already in aerospace careers, Yarymovych had this advice: “While being a professional, don't get stuck in a narrow rut. Designing aerospace systems is a major league team sport. You must be a team player. Show your excellence in your assigned/chosen part, but look out for alternative paths and solutions. You don't have to jump from company to company to succeed; you can progress within a large company very well, but look for lateral promotion opportunities within.” Yarymovych also pointed out the role that senior professionals can play in helping newer workers: “Older company members must be role models for younger engineers, but in this new technology world where many things change very rapidly, the older engineers must provide the corporate memory of what has been already tried, so as not to reinvent old failed concepts.”

    Yarymovych encouraged high school students thinking about going into aerospace to supplement their academic work with visits to launches, museums, and, if possible, factories, so they can also examine the end result of science and engineering. “High school kids are fascinated by new technology, but the flying things that are shown on computer screens make it all took very easy and do not give a person the feeling of how big things get in real life. They should take field trips to places where flying machines are built. It is a must to visit the Air and Space Museum, not just downtown Washington, but also the Udvar Hazy extension near Dulles Airport, to see the various flying machines that were built. They must visit Cape Canaveral to see the physical magnitude and complexity of a rocket, or the Boeing airplane production line in Seattle, so that they get an appreciation of the scale of their future professional involvement. Summer internships at aerospace companies are extremely useful in forming career objectives.”

    Yarymovych concluded our interview with these thoughts about the value of AIAA to the aerospace profession, “In every profession there is a need for interaction with one's peers. The mark of a professional is a lifelong desire to learn, improve, and teach others. In the aerospace field AIAA provides an opportunity to look beyond the daily routine of an engineer's life. Above all membership in AIAA is a personal attestation of being an aerospace professional. Although some companies pay AIAA membership fees for their employees, the employee should take it upon him/herself to make this a personal belonging. You should feel that you belong to the professional society because you are a professional regardless of what company you happen to work for this year. The professional association with AIAA should stay with you all your life. Also AIAA provides important information services to the government, especially to Congress, where sometimes there is little appreciation of technical facts and national needs. AIAA symposia and technical conferences provide not only learning opportunities, but also showcase industry products to various commercial and government customers.  Another very important role of AIAA is its involvement in the international technology scene. Aerospace technology is proliferated throughout the world, and it is important to learn from others, as well as to make sure that the United States stays ahead of the other international competitors.”

    AIAA congratulates Michael Yarymovych on winning the 2014 Distinguished Service award, and for being selected as the May Member Spotlight, and thanks him for his long service to the Institute!