AHS Mourns the Loss of Dr. Sam Crews

AHS Mourns the Loss of AHS Technical Fellow Dr. Sam Crews
Army Aviation Leader of Aeromechanics, HUMS and Handling Qualities Technology

Sam CrewsDr. Samuel Tribble Crews V — a noted leader in US Army Aviation efforts to enhance the proficiency and safety of helicopters — died at his home in University City, Missouri on Friday, January 22, 2016. He was 69 years old.

Dr. Crews was born August 27, 1946, in Houston, Texas, the son of Samuel Tribble Crews IV and Julia Edge Sutherland Crews. He attended Midland, Texas schools — as well as a private school in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, where his father was on an oil exploration assignment — before graduating from Midland High School. Dr. Crews studied mechanical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, earning his BS in 1971, MS in 1975, and PhD in 1977. That same year, he began a 38-year career as an engineer for the US Army, starting in the Army Aviation Research and Development Command (AVRADCOM) in St. Louis, Missouri.

Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Crews rapidly progressed through duty positions of increasing technical and leadership responsibilities. He was promoted to Team Leader in 1982, Branch Chief in 1988, and to Chief of the Aeromechanics Division of the Aviation Engineering Directorate in 1995. In 1997 he led the transition of Aeromechanics to the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama under the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC).

In 2008, Dr. Crews was appointed as the Chief Engineer of the Aeromechanics Division. His entire career was effectively devoted to advancing the Army’s expertise in the aeromechanics technical disciplines and training, coaching and mentoring next generation government engineers. He made many significant contributions in the areas of helicopter development, qualification and fleet support with regard to aeroelasticity, ground resonance, structural dynamics and vibration. He was a principal engineer for those disciplines during the development and fielding of the UH-60A/L Black Hawk, AH-64A/D Apache, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and CH-47D Chinook, and the development of the RAH-66 Comanche. He solved numerous dynamics and vibration problems on all US Army helicopter types, serving both in leadership roles and as a subject-matter-expert on multi-disciplinary engineering teams.

Dr. Crews successfully leveraged his active interest in Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) to achieve substantial improvements in aircraft sustainment. He was also instrumental in establishing technical direction for the Aviation Vibration Analyzer (AVA), which has proven invaluable to the field for over two decades. Dr. Crews’ technical contributions to these programs were precursors to a plethora of work for onboard rotor smoothing and drivetrain vibration analysis for condition-based maintenance (CBM) techniques and applications. In addition to AVA and CBM, his leadership in developing automated aircraft weight and balance applications and automated mission planning systems attest to Dr. Crews’ continuous focus toward unburdening Army Aviation soldiers and enhancing their mission capabilities.

Moreover, Dr. Crews served as the Chairman of the US Army’s Aeromechanics Steering Committee, which prioritized technology-base programs in the aeromechanics disciplines. He was a leading proponent of improved handling qualities in vertical flight aircraft, succeeding in  advocated for additional research to improve rotary-wing partial-authority flight control systems, which led to the highly-effective digital automatic flight control systems currently fielded on CH-47F and MH-47G Chinooks. Further, the flight control system improvements developed as part of the OH-58D and UH-60M programs are directly attributable to his advocacy and unrelenting efforts to improve military aviation safety and combat effectiveness.

Crews was an AHS member for more than forty years, joining in 1975 as a graduate student at Washington University, and remained active in the Society until the end. In light of his significant engineering accomplishments, Dr. Crews was recognized as an AHS International Technical Fellow in 2010 for his career-long technical accomplishments that significantly advanced the interests of the worldwide vertical flight community.

Dr. Crews is remembered by those who worked with him for providing visionary leadership and invaluable mentoring for over 30 years throughout Army Aviation. His mentoring skill is best described by one of his mentees, stating that “Sam had a way of teaching that you didn’t realize you were being taught until long afterwards.” The successful resolution of nearly every aeromechanics issue that arose during the airworthiness certification of every currently-fielded Army aircraft can be traced directly to this extraordinary engineering leader.

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.