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Photo of Dr. McErlean Dr. Donald P. McErlean
  • Senior Aerospace Engineering Consultant
  • Former Engineering Fellow/Research Scientist, L-3 Technologies
  • Former Director, Aerodynamics and Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design, L-3 Technologies, Platform Integration Division
  • Former Chief Engineer, Naval Air Systems Command

Dr. McErlean is currently a senior aerospace engineering consultant. A member of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, he specializes in airworthiness, certification, and airframe engineering and safety. He is also a member of the Faculty of Baylor University, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science.

From 2007 until 2016, Dr. McErlean was employed by L-3 Technologies, where he served as an Engineering Fellow and Research Scientist of the Platform Integration Division of the Aerospace Systems Group. He was responsible for the management of research and development, technical assessment of new business opportunities, and development of technical personnel and policy strategies in support of the division. He also held organizational assignments as Director of Aerodynamics and Director of Mechanical and Industrial Design.

Dr. McErlean left Federal service in 2005 following a career of more than 35 years. Upon retirement, he became President of the Center for Strategic Analysis, which provided high-level expertise to both industry and Government in areas of national interest, emerging technology, and public policy.

From 1966 to 1994, Dr. McErlean served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, retiring at the rank of Lt. Colonel. From 1970 until 1987, he served in various technical and management positions with Air Force System Command (AFSC) both as an active duty Air Force officer and a civilian engineer. Leaving AFSC in 1987, he was appointed a member of the Federal Senior Executive Service (SES) and served as the Director of Air Vehicle and Crew Systems Technology at the Naval Air Development Center. In 1994, he served in a joint assignment when the Navy and Air Force jointly selected Dr. McErlean to serve as Technical Director for the Joint Strike Fighter Program. In 1996, he joined the engineering management team of the Naval Air Systems Command and served as Head of the Air Vehicle Engineering Department, Executive Director for Command-Wide Test and Evaluation, and Executive Director of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division. He subsequently served as the Deputy Assistant Commander for Logistics and Fleet Support and oversaw the Naval Aviation buildup for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his final position prior to retirement from Federal service, Dr. McErlean was appointed Deputy Assistant Commander for Research and Engineering (Naval Aviation’s civilian Chief Engineer).

Dr. McErlean is the recipient of several SES awards for exceptional performance as well as the Presidential Rank Award from Presidents George W. Bush and William J. Clinton. In 1987, he received the Exceptional Civilian Performance Medal from the Air Force. He is the recipient of the Navy Superior Civilian Performance Medal and the Navy Distinguished Civilian Performance Medal, the Navy’s highest civilian award for performance.

Dr. McErlean received his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering (fluid dynamics major, applied mathematics minor) from Rutgers University and an M.S.M. from the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


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NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA Official: Evette Whatley
Curator: Christopher Brunner
Last Updated: April 20, 2018
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