The Academites had the opportunity to meet and talk with the President and CEO of Ohio Aerospace Institute, Dr. Michael Heil. Ohio Aerospace Institute is an organization that strives to “build Ohio’s aerospace economy through research and technology development, education and training, and collaboration and information exchange.” Succinctly stated by Dr. Heil, their main goal is to promote synergy between aerospace researchers in the government, academia, and private industry.
Like many of those in the aerospace field, Dr. Heil has an aerospace (and military) background, as his father served as a pilot in World War II. He pursued engineering degrees focusing on aerospace structures at prestigious schools such as Columbia, the Air Force Academy and the Air Force Institute of Technology. After holding numerous high-level positions and performing research within his field, he reached his current position at OAI.
Dr. Heil’s talk included many things, from America’s aerospace past to the future goals of the Ohio aerospace industry. One major point that was reiterated was that the United States has generally led the aerospace industry worldwide, providing only the highest quality product. Another important note was that Ohio and NASA Glenn Research Facility have always played significant roles in the development of new aerospace technologies. In fact, the state of Ohio uses the slogan “The birthplace of aviation pioneers,” which is more than accurate since the Wright brothers, John Glenn, and Neil Armstrong were all Ohio natives. Dr. Heil also educated the Academites on the standings of the Glenn Research Facility against other NASA centers. For example, NASA Glenn has more R&D 100 winners than all of the other NASA facilities combined!
The meeting ended with an open question and answer session, in which the Academites asked Dr. Heil for his opinion on NASA’s long term plans, politics, Ohio’s aerospace future, and even the role of China in space. Overall, it was a night well spent learning much about aerospace history and politics.