AIAA Member Spotlight – December 2018 Written 14 December 2018 by Lawrence Garrett, AIAA web editor
Sticking to Early Passion for Aerospace Proved Catalyst for Extraordinary Career
By Lawrence Garrett, AIAA Web Editor
The aerospace industry is fortunate that AIAA Associate Fellow Dr. Mark B. Tischler ultimately took his father’s advice when applying to college and stuck with his lifelong dream of pursuing a career in aerospace engineering. Tischler made this gamble in the 1970s – when aerospace seemed in decline with the end of America’s missions to the moon and the cancellation of the U.S. Supersonic Transport program.
For Tischler – who, as a junior high student, received an Estes model rocket set from his parents for Chanukah; who’d been “amazed and inspired” by the NASA Gemini and Apollo launches in the 1960s; and who was “awestruck” watching jumbo jets takeoff as a boy, thinking the feat was “some kind of modern miracle” – when it came time to choose a college and set a career path, the idea of pursuing something other than aerospace engineering didn’t last long.
Complicating Tischler’s decision at the time was the fact that a close and trusted friend, and fellow rocket enthusiast, took his own father’s advice and opted for another career path, abandoning his aeronautical engineering dreams.
“If you follow your passion, there will always be great opportunities,” Tischler’s father advised him. Following that advice, Tischler enrolled at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, and never looked back. “Dad was right,” observed Tischler.
The aerospace industry, and the Institute, have benefited as a result, as Tischler has made numerous invaluable contributions over the course of an exemplary career. Tischler currently serves as a Senior Technologist (ST) in the Army Aviation Development Directorate (ADD) of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), Moffett Field, CA, a position he’s held since 2002.
In this role, Tischler is the U.S. Army’s most senior subject matter expert (SME) in the area of flight control technologies and leads and mentors a team of approximately 15 researchers and software developers. During his time at AMRDEC, Tischler has served on numerous technical, awards, and selection panels while helping “craft and express the importance of scientific discovery, and emphasizes a technical career track for senior researchers” he said.
Tischler, who earned B.S. (1978) and M.S. (1979) degrees in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, and a Ph.D. (1987) from Stanford University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, noted that his career at AMRDEC “has spanned three major efforts: system identification; flight control design and analysis; and international collaboration.”
Tischler’s extensive research in system identification began during his first AMRDEC assignment as a flight test engineer, conducting frequency-sweep flight testing and associated frequency-domain system identification of the XV-15 tiltrotor aircraft in hover and forward flight. His work resulted in the development of new test and analysis methods for hovering rotorcraft. With the help of an excellent software programmer, Tischler “evolved” his original system identification code “into a sophisticated graphical user interface (GUI)-based tool CIFER® (Comprehensive Identification from Frequency Responses).”
Released in 1993, CIFER® has been continually upgraded and advanced by Tischler and his team. The application is now suitable for “a wide range of applications to manned and UAV aircraft and rotorcraft dynamics,” Tischler noted.
Through a combination of flight-test demonstrations, conference and journal publications, short course offerings, software development, and two comprehensive AIAA textbooks on the subject: Aircraft and Rotorcraft System Identification (2006), and Aircraft and Rotorcraft System Identification: Engineering Methods with Flight Test Examples, Second Edition (2012), Tischler and his team have established their test and analysis methods and CIFER® as “worldwide standards, and the U.S. Army is considered the world leader in this field.”
Tischler is also a pioneer in experimental fly-by-wire (FBW) technology, having been a key member of the Army team that characterized and validated an independent analysis of the Boeing Helicopter Advanced Digital Optical Control System (ADOCS), established under the U.S. Army’s Science and Technology (S&T) 6.3 program on the UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter. He said the technology, initially flight tested in 1985, constituted “arguably the first operationally representative, multiple redundant, full-authority FBW helicopter with a modern side-stick controller.”
In the years that followed, Tischler discovered a real need existed for a “sophisticated and flexible ‘one-stop-shop’ flight control design environment for rapid design integration, data resources management, and flight control evaluation/optimization for the many design criteria (specifications).”
As a result, “rigorous” research began on a multi-year effort “to develop the Control Designer’s Unified Interface (CONDUIT®) for aircraft and rotorcraft flight control design, optimization, and evaluation,” said Tischler. In 2017, following 10 years of research that netted software algorithm improvements, the expansion of flight-test applications, and number of numerous papers in the AIAA and AHS, Tischler and his colleagues authored the go-to book on the subject, titled, Practical Methods for Aircraft and Rotorcraft Flight Control Design: An Optimization-Based Approach(AIAA, 2017).
Today, said Tischler, CONDUIT® serves as the industry standard for flight control analysis and design, and “large centers for fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft development, as well as specialists in control system design and academia, use CONDUIT® as an integral part of their control system development processes.”
Tischler said he believed since early on that “just writing research papers and moving on was not adequate to ensure the transition of our work to industry.” To guarantee the transition, he advised, “extra steps” need to be taken, such as the development of industry-grade software and user’s guides, short course offerings, and authoring books. “Looking back to where we started 35 years ago, this approach has worked, and we have greatly influenced the methods and tools used in the flight dynamics and control community,” Tischler shared.
Tischler has also been a leader in the realm of international collaboration. From 1985 to 1989, he was Principal Investigator for the U.S.-German Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), tasked with developing and comparing system identification methods with the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
This collaboration led to the creation of the Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development (AGARD) Flight Mechanics Panel Working Group 18 on Rotorcraft System Identification, led by one of Tischler’s life-long mentors, Dr. Peter Hamel, Director (retired) of the DLR Institute of Flight Mechanics. “The unique achievements of this working group,” Tischler noted, was the dedicated flight testing, in-depth collaborative data analysis, week-long technical discourse over differences in methods and results at each of our interim meetings, and ultimately the production of a landmark technical report, “AGARD-AR-280 Rotorcraft System Identification” (1991), and an associated international short course (1991).Tischler said the experience revealed to him the “great value of international collaboration to learn from each other’s efforts.”
Encouraged by another one of his mentors, Dr. Richard “Dick” Carlson, Tischler established the U.S.-Israel MOU on “Rotorcraft Aeromechanics and Man-Machine Integration Technology,” in 1986. Dr. Tischler remained the U.S. lead for 30 years, wrapping up his Technical Project Officer (TPO) role in a celebratory event in Israel marking 30 years of outstanding collaboration, hosted by the Israel Ministry of Defence and the U.S. Embassy in 2016. The agreement, Tischler noted, “was recognized as the best U.S.-Israel research collaboration by both countries and won the first U.S. Army International Collaboration award in 2010,” in addition to earning Tischler the Department of the Army’s Superior Civilian Service Award in 2017, for “founding and leading the U.S.-Israel cooperation for the U.S. for three decades.”
Tischler has been honored with a number of other industry awards, including best overall paper at AIAA forums in 2005, 2015, and 2017, as well as NASA’s Turning Goals Into Reality (TGIR) Award for Engineering Innovation in 2001, and AIAA’s 2007 Aerospace Software Engineering Award, for developing CONDUIT®.
An AIAA Associate Fellow since 2001, Tischler is also a Technical Fellow of the American Helicopter Society and a four-time recipient of the Army’s highest award for Research and Development Achievement (RDA), having won the award in 1989, 1997, 2002, and 2007.
Tischler said the most “prestigious,” award he’s received, in 2009, is the Distinguished Senior Professional Presidential Rank Award (PRA), the highest bestowed upon a U.S. civil servant. Tischler received the honor during a 2010 U.S. State Department ceremony hosted by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “I was so grateful that my dad lived to see me receive this prestigious award,” he said, crediting his father for his constant encouragement and for having bought him “that model rocket set.” Recently, Tischler learned that he will once again receive the Distinguished Senior Professional Presidential Rank Award (PRA) for 2018, thus achieving the rare distinction of earning the Distinguished PRA award twice.
Tischler also credits AIAA for helping advance his career. “AIAA has had a central place in my career from the start.” he said. As a student member, he gained “lifelong” writing and presentation skills while participating in the Mid-Eastern Regional Student Competition, where he earned first place for the continuation of the model rocket glider project he first started on in high school. Since then, Tischler has gone on to author over 170 papers during his career, for presentation at AIAA forums and publication in AIAA journals. This, he said, gives his work “important international exposure,” and provides countless networking opportunities.
AIAA has published three of Tischler’s four textbooks and hosted around a dozen of his two-day short courses. He taught an international webinar on UAV system identification methods in 2018 to a large audience, and will follow this up with another AIAA webinar on UAV flight control methods in 2019.
At the 2019 AIAA SciTech Forum, set for 7-11 January in San Diego, Tischler will teach the short course, Aircraft and Rotorcraft System Identification Engineering Methods for Manned and UAV Applications with Hands-on Training using CIFER®, followed by his flight control course with Tom Berger in conjunction with the 2019 AVIATION conference. He said the courses are “highly recommended for graduate students, practicing engineers and managers,” and provide “an important opportunity to be immersed in system identification and flight control methods, software, and best practices, for two days.”
AIAA forums, noted Tischler, offer “a unique and highly stimulating environment that gathers the best work from around the world… pushing away from your desk, attending conference presentations by the leading researchers in the world, and having a chance to exchange ideas during the coffee breaks inevitably sparks new research ideas and opportunities for future collaborations.”
In addition to Tischler’s many accomplishments, he's also served as a research advisor and mentor to 61 Masters and PhD students and to many flight control engineers that have worked on his team. Tischler’s advice for aspiring aerospace engineers and young professionals is to “seek out mentors throughout your career,” as they will help you maintain the right career path, and serve as needed role models. He also suggests it’s wise to “learn what other researchers have done before and build on the accomplishment of others.”
Tischler also advises aerospace engineering students and young professionals to learn “validated and widely-used tools, like CIFER® & CONDUIT®, as these skills will open many opportunities.” He recommends they take advantage of AIAA membership, and read Aerospace America, which will help them “stay abreast of the latest news and events in our community.” He encourages AIAA forum attendance, reading the AIAA Journal of Guidance, Control and Navigation, and looking for chances to collaborate with mentors in the field. “Remember,” Tischler advised, “learning one good idea from someone else can save you hundreds of hours of reinventing the wheel!”
Tischler stressed the importance of publishing one’s work. “I have published over 170 papers in my career, and I have found that the discipline of clearly explaining your methods, results, and impact of your work to the greater aerospace community both in presentation and written forms at AIAA and AHS conferences and journals provides a unique opportunity for feedback, networking, and building your reputation,” Tischler explained. He learned the important skill of explaining complex engineering phenomena in simple physical terms from early colleagues at his first employer, System Technology, Inc. (Duane “Mac” McRuer, Irv Ashkenas, and Tom Myers), and his PhD advisor Prof. Arthur Bryson, Jr.)
Tischler believes we are now “living in a ‘Golden Age’ of flight dynamics and control.” For decades, the basic configuration layout of aircraft and rotorcraft remained largely unchanged, Tischler noted, and it wasn’t until recently that there’s been “an explosion of new concepts from high-speed rotorcraft and pervasive interest in autonomous navigation/control, to the widespread availability of highly capable, low cost drones and vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL) vehicles,” including “air mobility” vehicles which are designed to carry three to four people via electric powered rotorcraft above congested roads. Tischler calls them “a most fascinating disruptive technology.”
He marveled that he “grew up on The Jetsons air taxi in the 1960s and now, 50 years later, it is nearly real.”
In his free time, Tischler enjoys several hobbies, including dancing – having taught several different disciplines for more than 20 years; hiking – stating that he often achieves a “breakthrough” on some research problem “after a few hours in nature”; and windsurfing, which he’s been passionate about for the past 35 years.
In a rare synergy of work and leisure activities, Tischler was windsurfing on the San Francisco Bay when the wind suddenly dropped, leaving him unable to stand on his windsurfer and swimming precariously in the middle of the Bay. The local Fire Rescue sent out a highly capable quad rotor drone with a stabilized camera to pinpoint Tischler, and directed the effort to rescue him. The drone footage was relayed to the Fire Marshall "to verify that I was ok physically (though a bit sea sick) and to direct the jet ski rescuers to my location to pick me up and haul in my equipment,” he said, adding that, once again, the “dual use” nature of rotorcraft technology was made very clear.
The Institute salutes Dr. Mark Tischler for his outstanding leadership, countless contributions, and for serving as a shining example to future generations of aerospace engineers. We wish him all the best in the years to come.