Meet the experts

Boeing names 11 new Senior Technical Fellows.

By Dan Raley | Boeing Writer

Among nearly 50,000 engineers, scientists and technical professionals working for Boeing around the world, the Technical Fellowship represents the best of an already formidable technical team.

This year, Boeing advanced 11 of the company’s top talent to the role of Senior Technical Fellow, the highest achievement for technical leadership. They are recognized for their commitment to personal and professional excellence and are major contributors at an industry level. They are recognized as authorities on the national and international stage.

Senior Technical Fellows demonstrate routinely their ability to overcome technical barriers and stand up for the tenets and values of Boeing’s Engineering Code. And their continuing dedication to innovate drives Boeing’s leadership in aerospace.

Joe Brinker

Joe Brinker

Autonomy and Unmanned Systems

Fielding an intelligence

Joe Brinker might be the best person to stop and pester for directions. Among his many achievements, he makes a living out of automated route planning.

As the chief architect for Boeing’s Battle Management Optimization Services, Brinker creates algorithms that can send an unmanned aerial system on a designated path through contested airspace, enabling it to perform various functions without engagement.

Solving an even harder problem, he will direct multiple vehicles through the same unsecured environment, one where they figure out how to divvy up tasks and work in concert effectively.

The Illinois native earned the role of Boeing Senior Technical Fellow for his ability to gauge the needs of a fast-moving unmanned marketplace and provide ready solutions.

“Whole areas have really exploded,” Brinker said. There’s interest at the highest levels of the company, where autonomy and artificial intelligence are considered second century projects. It’s a wide-open field with broad applications. ”Brinker spent the first part of his career at Boeing developing guidance, navigation and control capabilities for multiple defense projects.

As an STF in autonomy and unmanned systems, he expects his role to encompass more of the enterprise.

“There is a lot of commonality in terms of problems in military and commercial (products),” he said. “Being able to develop common solutions for autonomy and artificial intelligence provides more benefit and leverage to Boeing in the end. It also enables technical excellence.”

Photo: Boeing, Eric Shindelbower

    Michael Drake

    Michael Drake

    Aircraft Configuration Design

    Bringing it all together

    Michael Drake accompanied his father to work at times, and this experience had a profound effect on him and his own career choices. They were together at higher altitudes.

    Dad, a pilot, did Boeing flight crew training in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And the younger Drake sometimes got to ride in the jumpseat with his dad when he worked for Iran Air in the mid-1970s.

    “I kind of always knew I was going to do something with flying,” he said.

    For more than three decades, Drake has been a Boeing configuration designer, working nearly every major airplane project during that time, including some that weren’t pursued. The Sonic Cruiser. The 600- to 800-seat New Large Airplane. He also worked on the 787 Dreamliner, and recently the 737 MAX 10.

    “My job is one everybody wants—I configure, lay out and architect airplanes,” Drake said. “I like the creative process of designing. I love a challenge.”

    Drake doesn’t have to be an expert in every area of airplane building, but he needs to know something about everything. His expert ability to grasp the big picture is one reason he was selected as a Senior Technical Fellow, the first from his field in several years.

    As an STF, Drake can provide solutions on an even wider level across the company. He can be a leader without giving up his grass-roots work.

    “New technology gives us the opportunity to do new airplanes different than before,” he said. “Electric propulsion and autonomous operations are two exciting developments, to see where they’re market visible. It’s an exciting time.”

    Photo: Boeing, Paul Gordon

      Don Farr

      Don Farr

      Systems Engineering

      Putting pieces together

      Don Farr is a systems engineer who delivers model-based solutions for multiple enterprise programs, specifically relating to the way Boeing is revolutionizing manufacturing. He determines how different systems should fit and interact together. He’s a details guy.

      “You approach design from multiple directions,” Farr said. “Model-based engineering is all about early integration of multiple domains into a design for performance, while accounting for manufacturability. If you design it right, then it’s inexpensive to build and make.”

      Based in Huntsville, Alabama, Boeing’s hub for systems engineering, Farr has lent his expertise to a wide variety of projects, many of them proprietary. He’s served as chief technologist for the next-generation Ground-based Midcourse Defense weapon system, developed a state-of-the-art computing lab to address tech development in data analytics, and led a research team to implement Boeing’s first enterprise digital thread using the 777X folding wingtip.

      Farr has treated the arc of his aerospace career much like the specifics of his work, deciding when and how it should come together, always with the future in mind. He took on bigger assignments and harder problems with the goal of someday becoming a Senior Technical Fellow. He now has the opportunity to help shape the company’s strategic direction, especially digitally.

      “It’s the ultimate of where I want to be in my career,” Farr said.

      Photo: Boeing, Alan Marts

        Ian Fialho

        Ian Fialho

        Modeling and Simulation

        Making the math add up

        Ian Fialho joined Boeing 20 years ago because it offered him a chance to work on some of aerospace’s most challenging projects, to provide multidisciplinary modeling and simulation for complex dynamic systems.

        As a newly installed Senior Technical Fellow, he lends his expertise to the International Space Station, the Space Launch System, the CST-100 Starliner, tankers, bombers, airliners and more.

        “What appealed to me is that the math is very similar in all of these fields,” Fialho said.

        He’s studied hose-drogue and boom refueling performance, spacecraft engine thrust vector control and debris analysis from the Space Shuttle Columbia incident. No less important, he used his knowledge of vibration isolation to help build a necessary piece of equipment suitable for the Space Station—a treadmill.

        “When you run, you generate a lot of force when you hit the treadmill,” Fialho said. “The Space Station can’t take that kind of movement. We built a really fancy shock absorber, like in a car, to absorb the energy.”

        As an STF, he feels great responsibility to make sure technological excellence is driven across all of Boeing. In his mind, his timing couldn’t be better.

        “We’ve seen the rapid evolution of humankind over the last decade—it’s a huge opportunity,” he said. “People like me are very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I remind myself of that every day.”

        Photo: Boeing, Elizabeth Morrell

          Len Inderhees

          Len Inderhees

          Guidance, Navigation and Control

          Steering the way

          Len Inderhees wanted to study flight control, but his university didn’t offer classes on the subject. The aspiring aerospace engineer joined the military—as an intern, not an airman—at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, to complete his education.

          In this capacity, Inderhees took every class the Air Force had to offer on control theory. He was the only civilian seated among pilots. A promising career was launched that eventually directed him to Boeing. He was drawn to how all of the systems interact.

          “I saw the potential in using active controls on airplanes,” he said. “That’s really been a shaper of the industry over the last 50 years—going from simple, mechanically controlled airplanes to heavily integrated fly-by-wire.”

          Inderhees guides all commercial flight control projects in progress at Boeing, among them the 777X and a potential new airplane program. He learns what works and doesn’t work on an Iron Bird, a flight control simulation built in a spacious Boeing facility near Seattle.

          His flight control expertise led to his selection as a Senior Technical Fellow, a reward that brings greater opportunity.

          “I recognize that I can contribute on a wider level than I have been,” he said. “The breadth of what I’m able to see and the type of project that’s underway is quite impressive. As I work on them, I’m more and more impressed by the capability of The Boeing Company.”

          Photo: Boeing, Paul Gordon

            Janice Karty

            Janice Karty

            Electromagnetic Environmental Effects

            Running interference

            As a young girl filled with curiosity, Janice Karty regularly traveled with her family on vacations to national parks in the West and gazed at the stars. Her interest in the galaxies overhead grew so strong she considered becoming an astrophysicist.

            Today, Karty still fixates on the atmosphere—only at lower altitudes and in a slightly different capacity. As a Boeing electrophysics engineer and scientist, she ensures that aircraft systems are protected in the event of natural or man-made intrusions—everything from lightning strikes to adversaries jamming the frequencies.

            “When you had old antenna TVs, you turned on a blender and you could see electromagnetic interference,” Karty said. “The same kinds of things happen when you have electromagnetic interference working into an aircraft. It can happen to any piece of equipment.”

            In devising ways to keep people safe in the skies, Karty is an expert in the theory, analysis and application of electromagnetics. Karty’s skill and expertise in this work earned her a spot as a Boeing Senior Technical Fellow, the first woman named to the position from Boeing’s St. Louis campus.

            “I figure if I have the qualifications, it doesn’t matter how I look,” Karty said. “I was the only girl in a lot of my math classes in high school. I never let it bother me because I was so interested in learning the material. If you show you’re capable, you will be noticed, respected and understood.”

            Photo: Boeing, Eric Shindelbower

              Jay Lowell

              Jay Lowell

              Systems, Support and Analytics

              Solving more than problems

              Jay Lowell studied and taught atomic physics.

              He worked for a software company that made first-person shooter video games to learn how to use the technology to enable Special Forces units to rehearse aoperations. He also served for two decades as a U.S. Air Force physicist and a DARPA program manager, developing new technologies based on quantum mechanical effects.

              All of this brought him to Boeing, where in six years the systems engineer has engaged in problem-solving for three major projects—commercial airplanes electromagnetic effects, 777 fuselage upright automated build and 787 battery incident response.

              What he solves are puzzles, mysteries and dilemmas.

              “I call it forensics systems engineering,” Lowell said. “The most interesting and challenging problems are not software or hardware; they’re both. You have to understand how both work to make an impact on the world.”

              Lowell, named a Senior Technical Fellow this year, does work that ensures a lightning strike is contained and doesn’t reach a fuel cell. He separates good and bad behaviors exhibited by 777 robots, seeking ways for them to be more efficient. He expects more high-level challenges to come his way.

              “I came to Boeing to work on solving big, hard problems,” he said. “The diversity of things I’ll see in the future will be much higher. If it’s still an interesting problem, then I’m happy.”

              Photo: Boeing Paul Gordon

                Kevin Paxton

                Kevin Paxton

                Weapons and Surveillance

                Innovating behind the scenes

                Kevin Paxton has done a lot of innovative things in his Boeing career, and it is reflected on his resume. However, his work history doesn’t always explain exactly what he’s accomplished.

                As a chief scientist and engineer for weapons and surveillance, Paxton is known as an industry leader for his design of electro-optical systems for small satellites. He also was the lead engineer in the development of the kill vehicle as part of the American nuclear missile defense system.

                Paxton has recently focused on the growth of small satellites that use new advanced sensor processing technologies to find and photograph targets, and operate more autonomously than ever before.

                During these developments, he has helped build a vertical capability to design and test advanced sensor technologies suitable for satellites and weapon systems. As a new Senior Technical Fellow, he has been able to share the technology to see where it fits other programs across Boeing.

                 “The technology is complicated, it’s very complicated, and I think that’s what appeals to me,” Paxton said. “We’re always learning. 

                “There is no standing still. There’s always new technology—it’s all about how we will bring it into our system,” he added.

                Photo: Boeing, Paul Pinner

                  John Sullivan

                  John Sullivan

                  Space and Missile Systems

                  Making the connection

                  John Sullivan is chief engineer for Boeing end-to-end systems, which means he finds creative ways to connect the world.

                  As an internationally recognized expert in large-scale satellite communications, Sullivan weaves together algorithms, software, hardware, sensors, optics, antennas, radios, signal processing and other intricate technologies to create one-of-a-kind products.

                  Colleagues and customers alike refer to the California-based Sullivan as “the problem solver.” Fellow engineers credit him with continually challenging them and offering valuable suggestions and critiques that lead to positive defense and commercial project development. This recognition led to his designation as a Boeing Senior Technical Fellow.

                  Sullivan was a driving force behind Mexsat, a satellite wireless system that connects government aircraft, maritime and vehicular platforms for multiple Mexican agencies; and Thuraya, a data services system centered in the United Arab Emirates that involves satellites, mobile phones and an operations center.

                  He also has worked on countless classified projects and is considered a pioneer in protected communications. He led the development of an anti-jam communication system now utilized on multiple Boeing-developed platforms. Early on in his career, he enabled a 10 percent increase in satellite solar power with no modifications to the original design, leading to his first patent.

                  Photo: Boeing, Paul Pinner

                    P.J. Wilcynski

                    P.J. Wilcynski

                    Payloads Chief Architect

                    Doing the inside job

                    P.J. Wilcynski will never forget his first airplane ride. The commercial flight carried him and his family from Syracuse, New York, to a vacation in Miami. The experience also

                    went a long way to determining his career path.

                    As a boy that day, Wilcynski was fascinated with the interior of the airplane, how the flight attendant efficiently worked the galley, how all the different sections neatly fit together.

                    “Everything seemed like it was designed for a purpose and there was a place for everything,” he said. “It was life-changing, it really was.”

                    Wilcynski is a Boeing Senior Technical Fellow based in Everett, Washington, the first STF with payloads expertise. He’s an airline industry expert in interior architecture,

                    configuration, and airline operational and regulatory requirements. He’s worked at Boeing for almost four decades, knowing all along exactly what he wanted to do. He joined Boeing after graduating from MIT with an architectural design degree.

                    For nearly two decades, Wilcynski has immersed himself in interiors product development, beginning with the Sonic Cruiser and carrying over to the ensuing twin-aisle programs, making advancements with each new design. As an STF, Wilcynski has the added responsibility of inspiring colleagues to share in his devotion to interiors.

                    “My focus for the near term is creating a space and environment for others to learn from my experiences and carry on with what we do,” he said.

                    Photo: Boeing, Paul Gordon

                      Ian Willson

                      Ian Willson

                      Data Engineering

                      Accessing the information

                      Boeing has no shortage of analytical data. In some cases, trillions of rows of information are accessible, just waiting to be shared.

                      For Ian Willson, the challenge has been getting this rapidly expanding data warehouse that he oversees in front of the rest of the enterprise and showing programs how

                      it can help them.

                      Willson, chief data strategist for Analytics & Information Management Services and the Boeing AnalytX platform, is the first Boeing Senior Technical Fellow for

                      data engineering.

                      “As an STF, I’m involved in bringing us all together,” he said. “Other STFs and chief engineers are calling now and saying, ‘We want to do analytics, and we want to do something with you.’”

                      Willson has proved nimble in heading up parallel data analytics, a fast-moving technological tool for Boeing and for aerospace in general.

                      Once the founder of the first online air travel booking service, the Canadian native sees his Boeing role as two-fold: providing a digital thread, or connecting all aspects of design, manufacturing and service for an airplane; and offering a digital twin, or providing simulation and analysis to optimize design, flight test and troubleshooting.

                      “You can’t slap it together,” Willson said of a data solution. “You have to understand quality and data engineering at a scale to effectively build solutions on shared data.

                      Otherwise, you could spend a million dollars trying to solve one problem.”

                      Photo: Boeing, Marian Lockhart