Five University of Maryland (UMD) Department of Aerospace Engineering alumni were recognized this year by the Vertical Flight Society (VFS) for their many contributions to the advancement of rotorcraft.

Anubhav Datta, Ph.D. ‘04 was named a 2024 Technical Fellow for his research and academic leadership in the rotorcraft aeromechanics discipline. Datta, who is an Associate Professor in the department and co-director of UMD’s Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center, is an award-winning researcher and educator who has led significant contributions to the state of the art in vertical flight engineering, having educated and mentored a generation of rotary wing engineers who have gone on to successful careers in Industry, government, and academia.

The title of Technical Fellow is granted to society members whose career-based accomplishments towards the goals and objectives of the vertical flight technical community constitute an outstanding technical achievement.

Carl Ockier, M.S. ’90, a Senior Expert of Rotorcraft Flight Test Engineering at Airbus Helicopters, was named a 2024 Technical Fellow, in recognition for his record of career-based outstanding technical achievements in the fields of handling qualities, flight testing and rotorcraft evaluation.

Dr. Brahmananda Panda, Ph.D. ’85 was selected for the 2024 Alexander A. Nikolsky Honorary Lectureship. The Lectureship is awarded to “an individual who has a highly distinguished career in vertical flight aircraft research and development and is skilled at communicating technical knowledge and experience.”

Panda is a Boeing Technical Fellow and a Boeing Designated Expert in the area of rotorcraft aeromechanics methodology and its application to rotor dynamics, loads, vibration and aeroelastic stability. During his 44-year career, including 33 years at Boeing, Panda has significantly advanced the capabilities of multidisciplinary rotorcraft analysis tools. 

His Nikolsky Lecture is entitled, “Rotorcraft Aeromechanics Methodology and its Application to Rotor Dynamics, Loads, Vibration and Aeroelastic Stability at Boeing, ” and will be presented during the VFS’ 80th Annual Forum & Technology Display on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

Clifford Smith, Ph.D. ’95 was named a 2024 Honorary Fellow, a designation given to highly distinguished VFS members who have made exceptional leadership, innovative or other meritorious contributions that have significantly advanced the society and the vertical flight community during their career.

Smith is a Lockheed Martin Fellow and a leader in the test community who always engages on complex test efforts developing innovative test solutions while mentoring coaching young engineers. He was recognized for this exceptional leadership in Test and Evaluation and for his inspiring leadership of the next generation of vertical flight engineers, as well as his dedicated and energetic service of the Vertical Flight Society for the last 30 years.

William Staruk, M.S. ’12, Ph.D. ’17 received the annual François-Xavier Bagnoud Award in recognition of his significant contributions in advancing three-dimensional modeling and wind-tunnel testing of rotors.

The Bagnoud Award is given to a society member who is 35 years old or younger for outstanding career-to-date contributions to vertical flight technology.

During his time at UMD, Staruk was an integral team member of UMD’s Human-Powered Helicopter Project and developed a next-generation toolset for 3D structural modeling of helicopter rotors as part of his graduate research. He is currently an aeromechanics engineer at Joby Aviation.

"This year marks another remarkable year for UMD rotorcraft, as the Vertical Flight Society recognizes our alumni  both among those with such promising early careers in the field, and those who have made great lifetime accomplishments," said Datta. "That they graduated 40 years apart is a testament to our continued tradition of excellence at Maryland, which also includes our seven current students who received 2024 Vertical Flight Foundation Scholarships. They are perhaps the toughest and most competitive of all awards."

The Nikolsky Lectureship is the highest honor in rotorcraft, named after Igor Sikorsky's Chief of Structures and Design. The Bagnoud award is the highest honor under age 35, named after a brilliant helicopter pilot who dedicated his life to saving others and lost his own at 24 while serving as a transport pilot in Mali.

The University of Maryland is home to the Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center which has been a leader in rotorcraft research and the education of future engineers and leaders in the field.

The Vertical Flight Society was founded as the American Helicopter Society in 1943 by the pioneers of the helicopter industry, who believed that technological cooperation and collaboration was essential to advance vertical flight.

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March 15, 2024

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"This year marks another remarkable year for UMD rotorcraft, as the Vertical Flight Society recognizes our alumni  both among those with such promising early careers in the field, and those who have made great lifetime accomplishments.That they graduated 40 years apart is a testament to our continued tradition of excellence at Maryland."

Anubhav Datta, associate professor & co-director of UMD's Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center

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