Named as a 2011 inductee of the College of Engineering at Illinois Hall of Fame, AE alumnus Robert H. Liebeck has been chosen to deliver the Fall 2011 Dean’s Distinguished Leadership Lecture.
Liebeck, BS 61, MS 62, PhD 68, Manager of the Blended-Wing-Body Airplane Program at Boeing, will speak on “The Future of Flight.” He will deliver the lecture at 4 p.m., Thursday, October 13, in the National Center for Supercomputing Applications Auditorium Room 1122 on the Urbana campus.
The Leadership Lecture brings eminent leaders and foremost experts to the campus to share knowledge and facilitate discussions among students, faculty, alumni, and the community on important challenges impacting global society.
On Friday, October 14, Liebeck will join ten other honorees as they are inducted in the Hall of Fame in a ceremony at 4 p.m. in 1404 Siebel Center. The Hall of Fame recognizes Illinois engineering alumni, and others affiliated with the college, who have made significant achievements in leadership, entrepreneurship, and innovation of great impact to society.
AE alumnus Robert H. Liebeck
As a world-renowned authority in the fields of aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, and aircraft design, Liebeck leads his Boeing team in developing a 500-passenger flying-wing advanced-concept subsonic transport aircraft that reduces fuel burn by 30 percent in comparison to a conventional tube and wing configuration. Boeing is collaborating with NASA in developing the BWB X-48B, a subscale prototype with a 21-foot wingspan. In the Leadership Lecture, Liebeck will present details of the design and fabrication of the X-48B, along with a video of the first flight at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center on July 20, 2007.
Time magazine named the futuristic X-48B, an 8-percent sub-scale flight demonstrator of the Boeing Blended Wing Body (BWB) subsonic transport, one of the top inventions of 2007. Recognized for its innovative design and potential to be more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly than today’s airplanes, the research aircraft is providing data that will transform air transportation.
To date, 93 test flights have established that the X-48B flies like a normal airplane. Five test pilots (three from Boeing and two from NASA) have observed, “It is a very nice airplane to fly.” Edge-of-the-flight envelope testing also has been successful.
The X-48B is a joint project between the Boeing Company, NASA, and the Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio. Cranfield Aerospace of United Kingdom constructed the airplane.
Liebeck also contributed to advances in propeller design, windmill analysis, wing design for supersonic transports, and the design of high-altitude aircraft. In his 49 years at Boeing, he served as program manager on several classified advanced-concept airplane programs. He has an extensive list of technical publications, and his airfoil work is discussed in several textbooks on aerodynamics. He attained world recognition starting in the 1970s with his novel designs for high-lift “Liebeck airfoils.”
Liebeck holds the position of Professor of the Practice of Aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and teaches courses in aerodynamics, flight mechanics, and airplane design as an adjunct professor at the University of California, Irvine.
As a consultant, he has designed wings for racing cars that won in Indianapolis 500 and Formula One races, and his wing was selected for the NASCAR “Car of Tomorrow” recently. He also designed the keel section for the yacht that won the America’s Cup in 1991, and he designed the wing for a World Championship aerobatic airplane.
Liebeck received the Daniel Guggenheim Medal, one of the most prestigious awards in aviation, in 2010. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Boeing Senior Technical Fellow, AIAA Honorary Fellow, and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He is a recipient of the AIAA Aerodynamics Award, AIAA Aircraft Design Award, AIAA Wright Brothers Lectureship in Aeronautics, ASME Spirit of St. Louis Medal, and the ICAS Award for Innovation in Aeronautics. He received the Engineering at Illinois Alumni Award for Distinguished Service in 1994.