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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    Preparing Workers for the Future

    Thursday, 16 January 2014

    By Ben Iannotta, posted at 4:40 p.m. EST


    Air transportation, autonomous flight, quantum computing – those are among the areas that could draw problem-solving oriented students and young professionals to the industry in the coming years, members of a workforce development panel said at AIAA’s SciTech Forum.

    “Boeing right now is really in the middle of an unprecedented growth path” fed by such projects as the 777X and the KC-46 military refueling tankers, said Larry Schneider, Boeing’s chief engineer for the 777 program. This will create significant workforce opportunities, he said.

    Jamie Peraire, head of the aeronautics and astronautics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said environmental impacts must be taken into account as more and more aircraft take to the skies.

    The workforce must figure out how to meet the demand and “do that in a way that you’re not going to impact the environment too negatively,” he said.  “We will need new aircraft, propulsion systems,” Peraire explained. Why? Because nitrogen oxide, or NOx, emissions from engine combustion have different impacts at 30,000 feet than they do at ground level, he said.

    Jennifer Byrne, vice president for corporate engineering and technology at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said creativity will be needed to prepare the workforce to take full advantage of new technologies, such as quantum computing. She said Lockheed Martin worked with Under Armour on the superfast suits U.S. speed skaters will don at the Sochi Winter Olympics, partly to acquaint engineers with early quantum computing. Lockheed used supercomputers in conjunction with a quantum computer at University of Southern California site to figure out which materials would be best for the suit.

    Darryll Pines, dean of the Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, said the FAA’s selection of unmanned aircraft test sites could drive employment, although he displayed a map of the U.S. showing the kinds of restrictions various states have placed on unmanned flying. “It’s going to take some time, but it’s going to grow,” he said.