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Aviation pioneers in Manassas tapped for AIAA highest honors

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has recognized key Electra principals with two of its highest awards. The awards were to be presented at the AIAA’s Awards Gala today, May 18, 2023, at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The AIAA is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. 

John S. Langford is receiving the 2023 AIAA Reed Aeronautics Award, the highest honor AIAA bestows for notable achievements in aeronautics, and Mark Drela has been elected as an AIAA Class of 2023 Honorary Fellow.  Langford and Drela have worked together for 45 years, since they first collaborated on the exploration of human-powered flight at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with the Chrysalis, Monarch, and Daedalus aircraft projects.

Langford currently leads Electra as its founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and was previously founder of Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas where he served as CEO from 1989-2019. Drela was a key contributor to many projects at Aurora and, along with John Hansman, originated the concept for the Electra eSTOL aircraft while at MIT.

Langford and Drela are both members of the National Academy of Engineering, and both hold doctoral degrees from the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. 

The AIAA award cites Langford “For exemplary achievement as an outstanding aeronautical engineer, visionary leadership in the development of autonomous flight, and relentless advocacy of the future aerospace workforce.” The Reed Aeronautics Award is named after Dr. Sylvanus A. Reed, aeronautical engineer, designer, and founding member of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences in 1932. 

Drela is one of three newly elected AIAA Honorary Fellows, the highest distinction conferred by AIAA that recognizes preeminent individuals who have had long and highly contributory careers in aerospace and who embody the highest possible standards in aeronautics and astronautics. In 1933, Orville Wright became the first AIAA Honorary Fellow.

World-renowned as an aerodynamicist and human-powered vehicle expert, Drela is the Terry J. Kohler Professor at the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. His primary research interests are in low speed and transonic aerodynamics, physical modeling and design of aircraft and aeromechanical devices, and computational aerodynamic design methodology. 

About, Inc. is a next-gen aerospace company leading the way in sustainable urban and regional mobility. The company is building clean, hybrid-electric, ultra-short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) airplanes that fly people and cargo quieter, further, and more affordably. Electra’s technology delivers 2.5x the payload and 10X longer range with 70% lower operating costs than vertical takeoff alternatives with much less certification risk, proving that climate-friendly technology can also be cost-effective. Electra’s team includes some of the most respected and successful entrepreneurs and engineers in novel aircraft design, and its technology development is supported by NASA and the U.S. Air Force Agility Prime program.

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