Founder And Former Chairman of AeroVironment Was 81
It is with sadness
Aero-News has learned Dr. Paul MacCready, internationally renowned
and Caltech-trained scientist, innovator and entrepreneur, as well
as founder and former chairman of the board of directors of
AeroVironment, Inc., passed away in his sleep Tuesday, after a
His passing occurred less than one week after the 30th
anniversary of one of his most notable accomplishments -- the
record-setting flight of his human powered airplane, the Gossamer
Condor, according to the company.
"The world has lost a man of unique vision, and the people of AV
have lost a mentor and friend," said Tim Conver, AeroVironment's
chairman, chief executive officer and president. "Paul was an
inspiration to so many people around the globe who were touched by
his accomplishments and his innovative approach of 'doing more with
"The people of AV are diminished today as a result of his
passing. At the same time, we are better for having known and
worked with him, and we re-dedicate our efforts to the important
work that carries on his legacy. Of all his accomplishments, Paul's
greatest contribution may have been his remarkable ability to
demonstrate that 'impossible' is no match for human imagination and
perseverance. On behalf of everyone at AeroVironment, I express my
sincere condolences to Paul's wife Judy, his three sons and his two
grandchildren," Conver continued.
Dr. MacCready regularly donated time and resources to education
and to organizations promoting critical thinking, creativity and
awareness of global challenges.
MacCready founded AeroVironment in 1971 and this month
celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Kremer prize-winning flight
of the Gossamer Condor (shown below), which made the world's first
sustained, controlled flight powered solely by a human on August
23, 1977. The feat led to Dr. MacCready being nicknamed the "father
of human-powered flight."
MacCready also designed and built a follow-up airplane, the
Gossamer Albatross, which completed a successful crossing of the
English Channel on June 12, 1979 -- winning the second Kremer prize
in the process. Led by MacCready, AeroVironment later built the
Gossamer Penguin, a 3/4 scale variant of the Albatross that
utilized solar panels mounted above the wing to power the
one-seat aircraft's small electric motor.
That slow and flimsy aircraft (shown at right) proved unable to
cross the Channel... but a larger, more substantial solar-powered
plane, the Solar Challenger, completed a trip from Paris to Manston
on July 7, 1981.
The Los Angeles Times
reports MacCready believed his successes, such as more than 30
prestigious awards, including the Collier Trophy for achievement in
aeronautics and astronautics, plus five honorary degrees, was
probably due to a nerdy childhood.
"I was always the smallest kid in the class," he told the
National Aviation Hall of Fame. "I was not especially coordinated
-- certainly not the athletic type -- and socially immature.
"And so, when I began getting into model airplanes, and getting
into contests and creating new things, I probably got more
psychological benefit from that than I would have from some of the
other typical school things," he said. "Nobody seemed to be quite
as motivated for the new and strange as I was."
MacCready was named Engineer of the Century by the American
Society of Mechanical Engineers and selected Graduate of the Decade
by the California Institute of Technology. He was named one of the
100 greatest minds of the 20th century by Time Magazine.
In recent talks and presentations around the world he would
typically leave his audiences with the following thought,
reflecting his focus on the changing relationship between humans,
nature and technology.
"Over billions of years, on a unique sphere, chance has painted
a thin covering of life -- complex, improbable, wonderful and
fragile. Suddenly we humans (a recently arrived species no longer
subject to the checks and balances inherent in nature), have grown
in population, technology, and intelligence to a position of
terrible power: we now wield the paintbrush."
Plans for a private memorial service are pending.