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SAMPE @ 75 - Dr. John Tracy Article

Dr. John Tracy


Dr. John Tracy has helped realize the promise of composite materials for commercial and military aircraft through his technological contributions, his promotion of advanced materials technology, and his technical and executive level leadership.  His roots are in composite materials having started his aerospace career as an engineer at McDonnell Douglas.  One of his early achievements was the development and implementation of analytical and experimental techniques related to the failure of advanced composite structures subjected to hostile environments, the influence of defects on laminate behavior, and joining methods for composites.  John concluded his career by attaining the highest technical position within the world’s largest aerospace company and top U.S exporter, Boeing.  In 2006, he was named Boeing Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of their Engineering, Operations & Technology organization, overseeing more than 100,000 employees and lead the company’s investment in materials and process technology.

This comment from a speech Dr. Tracy made in a ground-breaking ceremony for a composites manufacturer’s new factory in January 2016 sums up his career-long passion and vision: “In closing, I’d like to share a personal thought: I started my Boeing career 35 years ago.  As someone with a background in materials and structures, I dreamed that one day I’d see large aerospace vehicles made from composites ... because I knew that composites would lead to valuable and innovative new products.  Today, I’m very happy to see that these dreams have come true”.

As a Boeing executive, he has led the engineering team as it worked on some of the aerospace industry’s most novel breakthroughs of the 2000s. These include:

  • The X-37 experimental 30-foot unmanned space plane, the first reusable spacecraft since Space
  • The Phantom Eye, a hydrogen-powered, 150-foot unmanned demonstrator aircraft that tests various technologies, including surveillance capabilities
  • The 787 Dreamliner, the first passenger airplane to pioneer widespread use of composites for primary structure.

He has received international recognition from numerous technical societies including SAMPE’s Lubin Award.  John is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

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