Dr. Leland Nicolai to receive Aerospace Engineering Alumni Merit Award 2020

Leland Nicolai, distinguished U-M alumnus, is honored by the Michigan Engineering Alumni Board.

The Department of Aerospace Engineering wishes to congratulate alumnus Dr. Leland Nicolai (Col. USAF (Ret.), U-M PhD ’68), who will receive the Aerospace Engineering Alumni Merit Award 2020, which is presented to an alumnus/a who has given generously of their time and talents to further College projects and activities. It is one of the CoE Alumni Awards given by the Michigan Engineering Alumni Board honoring alumni who have contributed substantially to their field.

Portrait of Dr. Leland Nicolai (Col. USAF (Ret.), U-M PhD ’68)

Dr. Nicolai’s  distinguished career includes 23 years of service in the USAF as an R&D officer and instructor at the USAF Academy, 33 years as an aerospace engineer and designer, and educator of over 3000 aerospace engineers in aircraft design. He is the author of four textbooks on aircraft design.

Among his achievements in the field of aerospace engineering, Dr. Nicolai designed and developed the DARPA low-signature, nuclear-armed Advanced Cruise Missile (code name TEAL DAWN). Convair San Diego built 460 of them and they were deployed in 1990 as the USAF AGM-129A and decommissioned in 2012. He also designed the 500 lb, unmanned, AFFDL X-56 flutter research vehicle to explore high aspect ratio HALE flight technologies.

Among his awards, Dr. Nicolai is a Lockheed Martin Fellow, an AIAA Fellow, and is recipient of the AIAA Aircraft Design award, the SAE Kelly Johnson Aircraft Design award, the S. Cal. Engineering Council Kelly Johnson Aircraft Design Award, the AIAA Summerfield award, NATO/AGARD Outstanding Service award, LM Aero Presidents award, and LM Skunk Works Golden Skunk award.    


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