The Vertical Flight Society has announced the 2021 recipients of its prestigious awards programme, with this year’s winners being recognised virtually at the upcoming VFS Awards Ceremony on May 5th.

Since the establishment of the first awards programme in 1944, they have paid tribute to the outstanding leaders of VTOL aircraft and technology, serving as a catalyst for stimulating technological advances.

Mike Hirschberg, the Vertical Flight Society’s Executive Director, said: “For more than 75 years, the Vertical Flight Society has recognized the leading contributors to advancing vertical flight.

“This year’s winners highlight impressive contributions made by VFS members in advancing the state of the art of VTOL aircraft, from decades of improvements to helicopters to the latest breakthroughs in advanced rotorcraft, unmanned VTOL aircraft and electric VTOL technology.”

William (Bill) Welsh, Senior Technical Fellow, Dynamics at Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, is this year’s recipient of the Dr. Alexander Klemin Award. This is the highest honour the Vertical Flight Society bestows on an individual for notable achievement in advancing the field of vertical flight aeronautics.

Welsh was recognized for more than 40 years of contributions in the field of rotorcraft dynamics, including his leadership in advancing the state of the art in the active control of noise and vibration in helicopters. His 35 patents attest to his unique combination of theoretical expertise, understanding of complex machinery, and ingenuity to solve problems and bring new products to fruition.

The title of Honorary Fellow is granted to highly distinguished Society members who have made exceptional leadership, innovative or other meritorious contributions that have significantly advanced VFS and the vertical flight community during their career. The 2021 Honorary Fellows are:

  • Daniel (Dan) Newman, Chief Engineer, Advanced Vertical Lift, Phantom Works Division, The Boeing Company: Newman’s 38-year career in industry, academic and government has had major impacts on the development of advanced rotorcraft and other VTOL systems, while his leadership within VFS continues to support the education and development of future generations of engineers
  • Dr. James Wang, Professor, and Director of eVTOL Research and Innovation Centre, Nanyang Technical University, Singapore: Wang’s career has included leadership positions at Sikorsky and AgustaWestland/Leonardo, developing advanced rotorcraft and other VTOL systems, for which he received eight patents. He has been an ardent supporter and contributor to VFS, including educating and inspiring the next generation of VTOL engineers

The title of Technical Fellow is granted to Society members whose career-based accomplishments towards the goals and objectives of the vertical flight technical community constitute an outstanding technical achievement. The 2021 Technical Fellows are:

  • Dr. Andreas (Andy) P.F. Bernhard, Director of Aircraft Design Engineering, Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company: Bernhard’s 25+ year career in research and development in helicopter design has made notable advances in active rotor control, active vibration control, model-scale and full-scale wind tunnel testing, health and usage monitoring, and prognostics,  resulting in five patents
  • Dr. D. Douglas (Doug) Boyd, Jr.,Senior Aerospace Engineer, NASA Langley Research Center: Boyd is a world-class authority on aeroacoustics computational modeling for vertical lift vehicles, and his research is internationally recognized as some of the most significant in this field
  • Arnaud Le Pape, Director of the Helicopter Program at the Office National d’Etudes et de Recherches Aérospatiales (ONERA) — The French Aerospace Lab. Le Pape’s 20-year technical career has significantly advanced the state of the art in rotorcraft aeromechanics research, fostered international cooperation, and provided exemplary leadership in the planning and execution of rotorcraft research
  • Dr. Jayant Sirohi, Professor, Eli H. Ramona Thornton Centennial Fellow, University of Texas at Austin: Sirohi’s pioneering contributions over 20 years on the theory and application of smart sensors and actuators in vertical lift, and experimental research of coaxial rotor systems, have greatly expanded and enriched the body of knowledge

The John J. Schneider Historical Achievement Award is given in recognition of distinguished achievements by an individual in encouraging appreciation of, and enhancing access to, the history and legacy of vertical flight aircraft. This year’s recipient is Paul J. Fardink, who has made significant contributions to documenting rotorcraft history — particularly focused on developments by the US Army — through dozens of papers and articles, and by supporting the recognition of three VFS Vertical Flight Heritage Sites. 

The François-Xavier Bagnoud Award is given to an individual Society member under the age of 35 for career-to-date outstanding contributions to vertical flight technology.

This year’s winner is Dr. Michael Jones in the Rotorcraft Department of the Institute of Flight Systems at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR) — The German Aerospace Center, for his innovative research in the fields of modeling and simulation, handling qualities and simulation fidelity.

The Society’s Paul E. Haueter Award is given for an outstanding technical contribution to the field of VTOL aircraft development other than a helicopter or an operational vertical flight aircraft. The 2021 Haueter Award is awarded to John W. Piasecki, President and CEO of Piasecki Aircraft Corporation.

Over his 35-year career, he has led the company’s many innovative projects, most of which have been focused on novel VTOL research, development and flight demonstration programs to extend VTOL performance and capabilities beyond that of conventional helicopters. 

VFS announced in January that Fabio Nannoni was selected for the prestigious 2021 Alexander A. Nikolsky Honorary Lectureship, awarded to ‘an individual who has a highly distinguished career in vertical flight aircraft research and development and is skilled at communicating technical knowledge and experience.’

Nannoni is the Senior Vice President for Safety Management Governance for the Leonardo Company’s Helicopter Division, based in Cascina Costa, Italy. This, the 41st Annual Nikolsky Lecture, will be entitled, ‘Rotorcraft Design: The Crucial Influence of Safety from Concept to Fleet Support.’

It will premiere at 2pm EDT at The ceremony is open to the public. Descriptions of the awards and past recipients are available at