AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala to Confer Top Honors Written 2 April 2018

CONTACT: John Blacksten 

Black-Tie Event Honors Aerospace’s Best and Brightest

April 2, 2018 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has announced the 2018 recipients of its most prestigious awards. Presentation of these awards and recognition of the Institute’s newly elected Fellows and Honorary Fellows will take place on May 2 at the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. 

The AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala is an annual black-tie event recognizing the most influential and inspiring individuals in aerospace, whose outstanding contributions merit the highest accolades. 

The winners are: 

  • AIAA Foundation Award for Excellence: Honda Aircraft Company
  • AIAA Goddard Astronautics Award: Gwynne E. Shotwell, SpaceX
  • AIAA Reed Aeronautics Award: Mark Drela, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • AIAA Distinguished Service Award: Mary L. Snitch, Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Daniel Guggenheim Medal: Paul M. Bevilaqua, Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired)
  • AIAA Public Service Award: George C. Nield, Federal Aviation Administration
  • AIAA Lawrence Sperry Award: Michael D. West, Australian Department of Defence

“These honorees are leading the way to our industry’s future and inspiring their colleagues and the next generation to reach further and dream bigger,” said AIAA President Jim Maser. “Their skill, determination, and hard work are the catalyst for faster innovation and demonstrated progress. We congratulate them on their achievements and thank them for their dedication to AIAA and the aerospace community.” 

Award citations:

AIAA Foundation Award for Excellence 
The AIAA Foundation Board of Trustees recognizes excellence within the aerospace community exemplifying the inspirational qualities that inspire the global community. Those individuals, teams, programs, or organizations whose current noteworthy accomplishment, unique accomplishments for the duration of a program, or extraordinary lifetime contributions represent "excellence within the aerospace community" and generate "inspiration for the global community" are awarded.

The Honda Aircraft Company won “for leading the design, development and commercialization of HondaJet, an advanced light business jet; pioneering advanced aerodynamic and structural technology; and leading Honda into aviation; and for setting a new standard in business aviation.”

AIAA Goddard Astronautics Award 
The highest honor AIAA bestows for notable achievement in the field of astronautics. It was endowed by Mrs. Goddard in the 1940s as the ARS Goddard Memorial Award to commemorate her husband, Robert H. Goddard—rocket visionary, pioneer, bold experimentalist, and superb engineer whose early liquid rocket engine launches set the stage for the development of astronautics.

Gwynne E. Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, won for her “extraordinary leadership and vision in the field of space exploration and groundbreaking contributions to aerospace technology.”

AIAA Reed Aeronautics Award 
The highest honor AIAA bestows for notable achievement in the field of aeronautics. The award is named after Dr. Sylvanus A. Reed, the aeronautical engineer, designer, and founding member of the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences in 1932. Reed was the first to develop a propeller system composed of metal rather than wood. His aluminum alloy propeller gave Jimmy Doolittle's plane the speed it needed to win the 1925 Schneider Cup race and brought the inventor much credit and many rewards.

Mark Drela, Terry J. Kohler Professor and Director of the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, won for his “unique sustained contributions to a broad range of path-breaking aircraft designs and for development of widely used aircraft design software.”

AIAA Distinguished Service Award 
AIAA recognizes an individual member who has provided distinguished service to the Institute over a period of years.

Mary L. Snitch, Senior Manager of Global Science & Technology Engagement at Lockheed Martin Corporation, won for two decades of significant contributions to AIAA, ranging from tireless advocacy for funding, to national and international influence on aerospace policy, to substantial impact on organizational and management improvements.”

Daniel Guggenheim Medal 
The Daniel Guggenheim Medal was established in 1929 for the purpose of honoring persons who make notable achievements in the advancement of aeronautics. Its first recipient was Orville Wright. The medal is jointly sponsored by AIAA, AHS, ASME, and SAE.

Paul M. Bevilaqua, aretired Manager of Advanced Development Programs at Lockheed Martin Corporation, won “for the conception and demonstration of the multi-cycle propulsion system and other technologies enabling the production of the F-35 supersonic V/STOL Strike Fighters.”

AIAA Public Service Award 
The highest recognition AIAA bestows to a person outside the aerospace community who has shown consistent and visible support for national aviation and space goals.

George C. Nield, Associate Administrator Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, won “for his dedicated service to our nation’s space programs, and his ongoing efforts to encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space transportation.”

AIAA Lawrence Sperry Award 
The Lawrence Sperry Award is presented for a notable contribution made by a young person, age 35 or under, to the advancement of aeronautics or astronautics. This award honors Lawrence B. Sperry, pioneer aviator and inventor, who died in 1923 in a forced landing while attempting a flight across the English Channel.

Michael D. West, Engineering Manager at the Australian Department of Defence, won “for significant contributions to AIAA and the Australian aerospace sector through policy, education, and innovative scientific research activities.”

Please visit for more information about the award recipients.

About AIAA 
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 85 countries, and 95 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @AIAA.



American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics 
12700 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 200, Reston, VA 20191-5807 
Phone: 703.264.7558 Fax: 703.264.7551