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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics



    AIAA Mourns the Death of Past President Allen E. Puckett

    May 20, 2014 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) mourns the death of Allen E. Puckett, AIAA Honorary Fellow, president of the Institute from 1972 to 1973, and chairman, emeritus, of Hughes Aircraft Company. Puckett passed away on March 31, 2014, in Pacific Palisades, Calif. He was 94 years old.

    “We mourn the passing of Allen Puckett, whose contributions made so much of what we take for granted today possible – from supersonic flight, to the ability to put humans on the lunar surface, to the ability to watch live TV,” said Jim Albaugh, AIAA president. “Without his genius, insight and perseverance, our world would be very different and much less connected than the world we know today. We salute Puckett’s genius, and we thank him for his years of dedication to furthering the known limits of aerospace technology, and for his leadership and support of AIAA.”

    A 1941 graduate of Harvard University, Puckett received an invitation from legendary professor Theodore von Kármán to enter the doctoral program at the California Institute of Technology. Under von Kármán’s guidance, Puckett helped design the nation’s first supersonic wind tunnel, and later developed the calculations needed for the development of delta wing theory, which allowed the prediction of the aerodynamics of supersonic aircraft. Puckett’s doctoral thesis, “Supersonic Wave Drag of Thin Airfoils,” is a classic text in the field of supersonic aircraft development. Puckett also co-wrote the seminal textbook, “Introduction to Aerodynamics of a Compressible Fluid,” and co-edited “Guided Mission Engineering” with Simon Rao.

    Puckett graduated from Cal Tech with his Ph.D. in aeronautics in 1949, and joined Hughes Aircraft Corp., switching his area of research to electronics. At Hughes, Puckett was instrumental in bringing about a new era in satellite communications. He championed the development of the world’s first geosynchronous satellite, which enabled the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games to be broadcast live to the world – the first Olympics to be broadcast in that manner. Puckett also led Hughes’ involvement in NASA’s Surveyor program, producing unmanned spacecraft that helped to determine if a lunar landing was possible and transmitted images of the lunar surface back to Earth. The Surveyor program helped make the Apollo moon landings a reality. Puckett became president of Hughes Aircraft in 1977 and chairman of the board in 1978.

    Puckett was a longtime member of the University of Southern California’s Board of Trustees, and also sat on the corporate boards of General Dynamics Corp., Lone Star Industries, Fluor Corp., and Logicon.

    Among Puckett’s many honors were AIAA’s Lawrence Sperry Award, the American Astronautical Society’s Lloyd V. Berkner Award, the Brandeis University Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Technology, the IEEE Frederick Phillips Award, and the Electronics Industries Association Medal of Honor. Puckett was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, and was also awarded the Legion of Honor by the government of France.


    AIAA is the largest aerospace professional society in the world, serving a diverse range of more than 35,000 individual members from 80 countries, and 100 corporate members. AIAA members help make the world safer, more connected, more accessible, and more prosperous. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @AIAA.



    American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 500, Reston, VA 20191-4344
    Phone: 703.264.7558 Fax: 703.264.7551