Creating the Future Vertical Workforce

Tri Rotor MAVs at UMD, May 2011The Vertical Flight Society leads advocacy efforts to advance vertical flight, bringing together members from industry, academia and government to tackle the toughest challenges.

The VTOL workforce is at a critical juncture. At the same time that the US Department of Defense is developing multi-billion dollar acquisition efforts and companies struggle to hire hundreds of additional talented VTOL engineers every year, the Electric VTOL Revolution also requires hundreds of new engineers per company to continue gathering momentum. In 2020, VFS forecast that 10,000 additional engineers were needed over the next decade to support planned military and civil rotorcraft developments, as well the burgeoning eVTOL / advanced air mobility (AAM) market. 

One way to achieve the needed increase in VTOL talent is by transforming the current aerospace and defense workforce with the best IDEA: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility. In 2021, VFS kicked off a new initiative called DiversiFlite to help the industry foster an inclusive community that grows stronger through diversity and equity, with considerations for both the workforce and customers through accessibility.

WAW LogoVFS has published several commentaries and reports on the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), linked below. In addition, VFS has partnered with Women & Drones to attract more women to careers in vertical flight. And the VFS Student Design Competition for 2021 was for an "eVTOL Air Taxi for Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRM)," highlighting the important need for accessibility in vertical flight transportation in the future. 

WOVEN logo (448 px wide png)In May 2024, VFS held the kickoff meeting for its Women in Vertical Flight Engineering Network (WOVEN), "for women by women to guide professional development, help navigate career hurdles, provide mentorship and make friends!" Check out our article on WOVEN by founding member Dr. Natasha Schatzman from the July/August 2024 issue of our Vertiflite magazine. 

VFS Workforce Reports:

VFS commentaries & related documents:

Additional resources:

The biggest challenge facing the entire rotorcraft industry is the competition for [STEM] talent with non-traditional defense firms like Amazon and Google, which can offer substantially more money. Right now, many of the major rotorcraft primes are undertaking large efforts to hire engineering talent to work on clean sheet designs of new products and lines.

VFS Support of Agility Prime

VFS support of Agility Prime: links to VFS presentations, April 29, 2020 

VFS also organized the Agility Prime Launch Webinar Panel on University Research & Education: How to Build the eVTOL Workforce (on YouTube), May 1, 2020 

Moderator: Mike Hirschberg, Executive Director, Vertical Flight Society 

Mike Hirschberg has served as the Executive Director of the Vertical Flight Society (VFS), the global non-profit professional society for those working to advance vertical flight, since 2011. He has worked for 30+ years on advanced technology development in the aerospace industry, primarily in vertical flight. Hirschberg is an Associate Fellow and Lifetime Member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS).

Presentation: University Research & Education: How to Build the eVTOL Workforce (2MB PDF)

Prof. Marilyn J. Smith, Director, Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence (VLRCOE), Georgia Institute of Technology

Prof. Smith leads the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Army-Navy-NASA Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence. With more than 170 publications in aeromechanics, Smith serves on the editorial boards of four highly-ranked aerospace journals and is currently the VFS Deputy Technical Director for Aeromechanics, becoming the overall VFS Technical Director this July. She is a Fellow of VFS, AIAA and RAeS, and is on the Board of Directors of VFS and the Vertical Lift Consortium.

Presentation: Agile, Innovative (e)VTOL Education for the US (2MB PDF)

Prof. Carlos E. S. Cesnik, Clarence L. (Kelly) Johnson Professor; and Director, Active Aeroelasticity and Structures Research Laboratory, University of Michigan

Prof. Cesnik is the Director of the University of Michigan Active Aeroelasticity and Structures Research Laboratory. He has 30+ years of industry and academic experience in the field of aeroelasticity with a focus on multi-physics modeling, analysis, design, simulation and experimentation of different classes of aircraft, and has over 350 publications. Cesnik is a Fellow of AIAA, VFS and RAeS, a Lifetime Member of AIAA and VFS, and is AIAA’s Director for the Aerospace Design and Structures Group.

Presentation: Development of an Intellectually Responsive Aerospace Workforce for the Emerging AAM Enterprise (12MB PDF)

Prof. Farhan Gandhi, Rosalind and John J. Redfern Jr., ’33 Endowed Chair in Aerospace Engineering; Aerospace Program Director; and Director, Center for Mobility with Vertical Lift (MOVE), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Prof. Gandhi is the Director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Aerospace Program and Director of RPI’s Center for Mobility with Vertical Lift (MOVE). His research focuses on VTOL aeromechanics and advanced VTOL aircraft configurations, and he has authored over 290 technical papers in these areas. His research group at RPI currently comprises of 2 research scientists and 14 graduate students. Gandhi is a Fellow of AIAA and VFS and serves on the VFS Technical Council.

Presentation: Thoughts on eVTOL Workforce Development (1MB PDF)

Posted 2020-04-22; updated 2024-05-29