Vertical Flight Foundation Scholarships

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Guillermo Costa

Pennsylvania State University

"From the first episode of MASH that I watched as a boy with my father, to the final landing during my checkride, I have always been in love with aviation. As the first person in my family's history to hold both an engineering degree and a pilot's certificate, it is difficult to imagine that I would ever be happy or even useful in any field but aerospace. This love was cemented during six NASA internships as well as my last year of undergrad, which was spent working part-time at Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Long Beach, CA. These experiences have been invaluable in teaching me not only how the industry works, but in demonstrating just how demanding the task of creating an aircraft can actually be.

I had a slightly different preparation for my career in engineering. I actually came from the world of project management and finance; however, as enjoyable as accounting and securities analysis might be, it was only in engineering that I could finally satisfy my curiosity to learn how “all the pieces came together.” In short, I fell in love with engineering because, in one way or another, the end result is always a physical product whose performance is readily measurable and indisputable. My previous work and life experiences, combined with my very hands-on nature, made engineering a natural fit. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to attend two extremely good schools: Cal Poly for my undergraduate degree, and Penn State for my Master’s. I have always felt that engineers must embrace, first and foremost, a practical approach to solving problems; in this regard, I have had a long line of very intelligent and very dedicated mentors to guide me, and I hope that my career will favorably reflect the values, philosophies, and ethics of those who have come before."

How did you get interested in vertical flight?

"I became interested in Penn State's Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence during the summer before my senior year of my undergraduate curriculum. I was interning at NASA Ames Research Center's aeromechanics branch, and received an intensive and challenging assignment concerning the design of a transport-sized (150- and 300-passenger) commercial tiltrotor. I like to think that it was this assignment - the study of an unconventional vehicle by an unconventional person – that first sparked my interest in rotorcraft."

What impact has receiving the VFF scholarship had for you?

"The VFF Scholarship, to me, is most significant in its motivation. The accolades are wonderful and the recognition is very rewarding, but with the receipt of the scholarship comes the responsibility of knowing that the award represents the faith of the industry. Thousands apply for the scholarship, but very few are selected; that fact should never be far from the minds of the award’s recipients. And as recipients, we must continually demonstrate through hard work and dedication that the faith of the industry was not misplaced. The VFF Scholarship is instantly recognized by everyone in the rotorcraft field as a high honor for young (or, at least, young-at-heart) engineers, and it has provided me with many opportunities that I might not have otherwise had. I sincerely hope that it will continue to provide opportunities for others in the future."

Tell us about your future plans.

"I believe that it is the mastery of vertical flight that will provide decades of fertile research and and technological advancement for engineers and organizations the world over, I am eager to make my own contributions to the field. In fact, I have just recently begun working as an aerospace engineer at NAVAIR, Patuxent River."

Update: After finishing his studies, Guillermo worked as an aerospace engineer at the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, Maryland. He currently serves as an aircraft certification project lead at IOMAX USA.

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