AHS Mourns the Loss of Dr. Bob Wood

AHS Mourns the Loss of AHS Honorary Fellow Dr. Bob Wood
Aeromechanics Engineer, Researcher and Professor

Bob Wood Dr. Edward Roberts (Bob) Wood died Jan. 22, 2016 in Monterey, California after a long illness; he was 87. During his long career, Wood worked at Sikorsky, Lockheed, Hughes and McDonnell Douglas, and taught courses in helicopter technology at Georgia Tech, UCLA, California Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, the Naval Test Pilot School, Air Force Institute of Technology and the Naval Postgraduate School.

Wood was born in New York on Dec. 18, 1928. He graduated from Cornell in 1951 with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Civil Engineering. Following Cornell, he went directly into the US Air Force, serving in the Korean War (1951-53) as a 1st Lieutenant. He entered Yale University as a graduate student and instructor in Fall 1953 and was awarded a Master’s degree in Engineering Mechanics in 1955.

Wood joined the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company in New York City in 1955 as an Assistant Editor on the weekly magazine, Engineering News-Record. However, in 1957, due to his lifelong interest in aeronautics he responded to an advertisement and joined Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut as a Dynamics Engineer. At Sikorsky, he was active in both flight test and dynamic analysis, as well as acoustics, and contributed to the design and development of the H-34, H-37, H-3 and CH-53A helicopters. He was promoted to Assistant Head, Dynamics Section in 1960.

He took leave from Sikorsky in Fall 1964 to pursue advanced studies in dynamics at Yale University, receiving a Doctor of Engineering Degree from Yale in 1967. From Yale he received a joint appointment at Georgia Tech as an Associate Professor in Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. At the urging of Dr. Bob Loewy and Mr. Dick White, he left Georgia Tech in June 1970 to work with them, and became Assistant Director of Engineering for Rochester Applied Science Associates, a firm owned in part by Dr. Loewy. RASA was an applied research firm doing work for government and industry in the fields of aeronautics, acoustics, structures and fluid dynamics.

In 1972, Dr. Wood joined Lockheed-California Company in Burbank, California as Director of Lockheed’s Rotary Wing Technology Division. In this capacity, he supervised about ninety engineers for the AH-56A Cheyenne; following cancellation of the Cheyenne in 1973, Wood became responsible for all of Lockheed’s rotary wing activities as Manager of the Rotary Wing Department, where he supervised about 30 engineers. Here, the division designed and built the 62.5 ft (19 m) blades successfully installed on America’s first horizontal axis wind turbine — NASA Mod 0 at Plum Brook, Ohio — which was used for groundbreaking research into the 1980s.

NPS Prof. Bob Wood (far left) — OH-6A HHC test From 1975 to 1985, Dr. Wood was Manager of the Aeromechanics Section for Hughes Helicopters, Inc. (later McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Company and now split into Boeing and MD Helicopters). The Aeromechanics Section comprised about 40 engineers and played a major role in the successful design and development of the US Amy’s AH-64A Apache attack helicopter. While there, Dr. Wood wrote the initial proposal and for ten years served as program manager of the company’s successful Higher Harmonic Control (HHC) research program that culminated in the successful vibration flight tests of a modified OH-6A helicopter at Yuma Proving Ground. The program demonstrated vibration reductions over 80% throughout the flight envelope.

Dr. Wood returned to academia and teaching in 1985 when he was named Professor and Department Head of Aerospace Engineering at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo. There, he was personally involved in the school’s efforts in the AHS Human Powered Helicopter Competition.

In 1988, Wood came to the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California as Professor and Department Chair. In 1991, he resumed full time teaching and research in that department. Over the two decades, his efforts at NPS were directed toward building up the rotary wing program. The core of his program comprised graduate courses in helicopter aeromechanics, stability and control, and design. He continued to teach as a professor emeritus at NPS, and remained active in industry as well, recently consulting as an expert witness on ground resonance for a major landing gear lawsuit.

Wood was the author of over 90 papers and technical reports, and the thesis supervisor to six doctoral and about 70 master’s students. He won the NPS Excellence in Teaching Award four times, as well as many other honors. At NPS, he led teams participating in the AHS Student Design Competition with a total of six first or second place wins.

Wood joined AHS in 1957, and was named an Honorary Fellow in 2007. He was a past chair of the AHS Dynamics, Education and Advanced Vertical Flight Technical Committees, and a member of the History and Vertical Flight Foundation (VFF) Scholarship Committees. He was an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), member of the AIAA V/STOL Aircraft Systems Technical Committee, and past officer of several AIAA Sections.

Notably, Wood served as the technical director of the AHS 42nd Annual Forum in Washington, DC, in June 1986, and was the General Chair of a joint AIAA/AHS/Georgia Tech VTOL Aircraft Research, Design and Operations Meeting in Feb. 1969, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Wood served as VP/President of the AHS Los Angeles Chapter (1974-1975 and 1981-1982), a member of the AHS Technical Council (1974-1977), and Western Region VP/Director-at-Large on the AHS National Board of Directors (1977-1981). He was a member of the AHS International Board of Directors again from 2003-2014.

The NPS press statement noted that “Wood was a prolific researcher while on campus, and mentored countless students through their thesis research, resulting in several awards for the [student] officers, and the institution.”

AHS International is accepting contributions to the Vertical Flight Foundation (VFF) towards a scholarship in his name. Go to www.vtol.org/vff to make a donation.