BY PATRICIA SOLOVEICHIK
If you want something done, tell Darold Cummings he can't do it.
''It's never been done'' is a poetic phrase to the Phantom Works Technical Fellow, whether it applies to a revolutionary approach for vertical lift or a winning design for his 8-year-old's pinewood race car.
Originator of 20 patents, and one of the company's top inventors, Cummings is in constant pursuit of a new way to build just about anything faster or better (faster is always better in his lexicon).
So, when you combine his obsession for challenge with his need for speed, you have a record-setting machine. Cummings has won eight world-class records at the Bonneville National Speed Races in Utah. His records at the Salt Lake Flats, set since his first foray to Bonneville in the 2000 season, include the fastest 100cc and 125cc ''open'' class motorcycle speeds. That means Cummings took a motorcycle with a 6-cubic-inch displacement engine—smaller than the average lawn mower engine—and made it race more than 100 miles per hour.
There are no cash prizes, only ''World Land Speed Record'' certificates, trophies, and a chance to be in the Bonneville record book. The motivation is purely the pleasure of facing and beating the ''never-been-done'' challenge.
''I just like designing and building things,'' and Bonneville is the ultimate testing ground for those who love speed, said Cummings, whose work in Advanced Technologies at Phantom Works gives him plenty of opportunity for pursuing his love of creating and implementing new technologies. He's always involved in a variety of futuristic projects, from new concepts for unmanned vehicles and Mach 4 airplanes to Jetsons-like visions of personal transportation vehicles.
Cummings designed and built his speed racer, relishing those special moments when others would say things like, 'your engine won't even run with that cylinder and piston you designed.' For Cummings, there's no thrill like beating the odds.
And it reinforces his principle of life—there are no right answers.
It's a principle that has him convinced his Boeing team can revolutionize transportation in the next 20 years with something so simple, so light, so cheap and so reliable the competition will be left in the dust—an experience he's grown to like.
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