Jun 052019

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

On December 13, 2013, I received a cellphone call from my mentor and dear friend, former Clinton U.S. transportation secretary (1997-2001), Rodney E. Slater. He informed me that he had just read in The Washington Post that my longtime mentor and dear friend, Charles Marstiller Vest had passed the day before on December 12, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia from his brief battle with pancreatic cancer.

Tears flowed immediately.

Secretary Slater, equally sadden by the loss of a great public servant colleague, comforted me saying, "I read his story in The Post and I immediately thought of you and your close relationship with Chuck. You know he told me to hire you immediately and I did."

Because of Chuck's personal recommendation to him, Secretary Slater sent the decision memo to his boss President Bill Clinton to sign and appoint me as U.S. deputy assistant secretary of transportation for technology policy (1999-2001), from which I departed my then-current post as senior policy advisor inside The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) (1997-1999), which "Uncle Chuck" placed me thereat upon approvals by President Bill Clinton and his then-Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House OSTP, The Late and The Honorable Jack Gibbons. Chuck was serving on The President's Committee of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST), co-chaired by Dr. Gibbons.

About the seminal treatise, Science, The Endless Frontier, science historian Daniel Kevles later wrote, MIT electrical engineering professor, Vannevar Bush "insisted upon the principle of Federal patronage for the advancement of knowledge in the United States, a departure that came to govern Federal science policy after World War II." [Greenberg 2001, p. 52].

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Photo Credit: G. Pascal Zachary's Book Cover, "Endless Frontier, Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century."

As Chuck's predecessor, the 13th MIT president, and the great former presidential science adviser for President Eisenhower and (more formally) President Kennedy and President Johnson, Jerome Weisner further advanced Vannevar Bush's vision to President Truman that put forth the tenets of the National Science Foundation, and that laid down the constructs of national policy for science advice to the president inside the White House. In this same traditional framework. Chuck made it possible for me to provide science advice to the cabinet secretary in Rodney E. Slater (1999-2001). Secretary Slater and I have maintained our close relationship, since his cabinet post, and I continue to provide science advice to him and to the general public even to this day.

Charles M. Vest showed me who I am in his quiet truth about who he was.

A mentor.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

In Spanish, there is an old saying:

He who speaks the truth often talks to himself."

Even so, a mentor, like Charles M. Vest, always spoke the truth about fullest access to and participation in science and technology, especially among women and underrepresented minorities like me. I so admired my mentor and dear late friend, because he "walked what he talked" about the truth of being bold in your creativity in creating knowledge, as we provide education and career opportunity for others from all walks of life.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Photo Credit: Chuck answering emails inside his stately office. The huge window overlooks MIT's Killian Court. a tree-lined courtyard with views of MIT's Great Dome, named after the 10th MIT President James Rhyne Killian, Jr. (1948–1959).

Access to education and equal opportunity for all is so poignant a value we cherish, as we celebrate the birthday of the Nobel Laureate, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life was dedicated to the advancement of a great idea of equal opportunity for all, that Charles M. Vest dedicated his distinguished career, as a teacher, a researcher, an administrator, and an adviser to government, industry, and philanthropy. Chuck was a true public servant.

There is a little tendency, hidden in each of us to be only among those we are used to be among in similar groups that we feel more comfortable with, whether we like to admit it or not. It is not enough to just be against this little tendency hidden in each of us. It takes an effort by a courageous one to reach deep down inside oneself, dig it out of oneself, admit it to oneself, and face it down to overcome it within oneself for the benefit of another.

As the beneficiary of that effort by Charles M. Vest, as my dear friend and mentor, I say this truth right now. That this man always believed in me and said to himself about me, that "I am, Who I am," and that I deserve another chance to become "Who He Was" - a public servant to others. This is who this man, Charles M. Vest, became, a man with a giving heart for me, and so many others like me, throughout his distinguished career in public service.

Uncle Chuck, who I affectionately oftentimes called him, as he gave me his welcoming folksy laughter we shared, brought me to the MIT Gas Turbine Laboratory inside the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and also to MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (with the warm helping hand up assistance of MIT civil engineering professor, Jerome Connor), as one of his four newly inaugurated Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Visiting Professors (1995-1997).

We had privately discussed earlier in 1995 his thoughts about innovating a visiting professorship program for black faculty to spend time at MIT, working with faculty and students inside the world-class research facilities of the Institute along the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, of which Chuck led as its 15th president from 1990 to 2004, the third-longest in MIT’s 152-year history.

Please excuse my personal bias here, but I see the Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Visiting Professors Program, as the truly distinguished and lasting legacy of Chuck's presidency at MIT.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

My friendship with Chuck continued for two decades, upon my completion as a MLK visiting faculty at MIT (1995-1997).

Approaching the end of my tenure at MIT, I turned to Washington for a new career move to the next level. With Chuck's backing and support of my new job application, but unfortunately, upon falling just shy of being named a White House Fellow in May 1997, six months later Chuck did the most extraordinarily selfless generosity that changed my whole life and career. He reached down and gave me his warm helping hand up and a second chance, placing me inside the Clinton White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in November 1997.

To aid my second chance after a setback, Chuck called upon the assistance of his close friends and colleagues: John M. Deutch, then Clinton U.S. deputy secretary of defense (1994-95) and MIT Institute Professor of Chemistry (who then called his good friend, Bob Nash, Clinton's Presidential Personnel Director); Ernie Moniz, then-associate director of the Clinton White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (1995-1997), and then-Clinton undersecretary of energy (1997-2001), then-MIT physics department chair, and current U.S. secretary of energy since 2013; and John H. "Jack" Gibbons, former assistant to the president for science and technology, and former director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (1993-1998).

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Photo Credit: The Late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) (left), Becky Vest (center), 15th MIT President Chuck Vest (right)

Chuck's life-altering gift to me, which I later shared with him, began immediately on my first day inside the White House back in November 1997. In the hallway of the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building, I ran into former special counsel and speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy, the late Ted Sorensen,

Sorensen and I shared a bus ride seat from The Blair House across from the White House to the Naval Academy in Annapolis six months earlier during my time as a Top 30 national finalist of the White House Fellows program, which Chuck made possible for me during my time in his MLK Visiting Professor program at MIT back in 1997.

During our brief ride together, Sorensen eloquently and quietly recounted his compelling story to me about the heart-wrenching moments, Sorensen and the close inner-circle of the Kennedy White House Staffers shared, consoling, grieving and supporting each other upon their return to a lonely Oval Office without the President on that late Friday afternoon of November 22, 1963, the fateful day of President Kennedy's assassination.

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As the first appointment that Kennedy made, as a new president, Sorensen became known as "Kennedy's intellectual blood bank, top policy aide, and alter ego," as "he knew Kennedy the man, the senator, the candidate, and the president as no other associate did throughout his time in public life."

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Photo Credit: Paul Schutzer / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images. The Late U.S. President John F. Kennedy and The Late Ted Sorensen, Kennedy's special counsel and speechwriter (right).

Sorensen and I liked each other immediately, as he, like Chuck, made me feel extremely comfortable in their presence.

Inside these great men of service to others, was a "homespun" humbleness and "sense of self" with confidence, especially so in Chuck with his West Virginia Mountaineer wholesomeness, and in Ted with his Nebraska Cornhusker charm, similar to his predecessor in Clark Clifford, Truman's special counsel and Johnson's defense secretary.

"Well I see you finally did make it into the White House after all," Sorensen whispered to me with his delightfully warm smile he always gave, as we briefly stood on the steps of the fourth floor of the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building on that fall November day in 1997.

"Yes sir, thanks to you and Chuck Vest," I said to Sorensen, spiritually somehow knowing instinctively Ted had a quiet hand in me being there in the White House with him, but also due to Chuck.

"Oh I see, this is good," Sorensen said approvingly with his Cornhusker charming smile, much like Chuck's Mountaineer welcoming smile I always will remember about him.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Photo Credit: A mechanical engineer conducts The Boston Symphony Orchestra!

Sometimes mentors, as invisible angels, work together to help one take that next step in life and career on your behalf, remarkably incognito and in secret.

With deepest appreciation, I am thinking about these two angels during this Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and at the beginning of a New Year of remembering what was those exceptional opportunities created by my mentor that got me here today.

For I celebrate the life of my longtime mentor and dear friend, Charles M. Vest, an esteemed and honorable man, who has left an indelible mark on my life, as he put me into every single job of my career, since that MIT Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professorship and the Clinton White House.

Chuck not only encouraged, but also personally trained me on how to engage the public understanding of science and technology to make an indelible impact on society and the world.

I just want you to know, I am, who I am, due to you, Uncle Chuck.

When they ask me, what I like the best, I say, it was you. When they ask us, what we like the best, they say, we all want wings.

Chuck Vest is remembered for his wings he gave to so many, through his contributions to education, his tireless advocacy for research and science, and his heartfelt support of diversity and openness, including most notably serving with your passion for mentoring others, as MIT's long-serving leader, and as former President of the National Academy of Engineering, among other noteworthy distinguished accomplishments of service "to others in otherness." In 2004, a selection of Vest's speeches from his time as President of MIT was published under the title, Pursuing the Endless Frontier: Essays on MIT and the Role of Research Universities.

I appreciate the "quiet accomplishment" of Chuck's life and spirit, and for being a wonderful personal friend and nurturing mentor to me for nearly two decades of my life.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

How I first met the 15th President of MIT?

When he was approached to succeed Paul Edward Gray as president of MIT, Dr. Vest had no plans to leave the University of Michigan. He told the Boston Globe in 2000 that the decision was simple, however.

“I remember receiving a note from an economist at Michigan that said, ‘Dear Chuck, Boy from West Virginia becomes president of MIT. The American dream.’ A lot of people would find that corny, but my entire life was devoted to engineering education, and MIT is the absolute pinnacle,” Dr. Vest said. “So when the opportunity came, there really was no choice. I felt this position would offer a bully pulpit for science and technology; it was a call to national service.”

I am privileged that our paths crossed, immediately as Chuck considered the offer to lead MIT as “a call to national service,” back in 1990.

You see Chuck, as University of Michigan provost, was our small closing banquet keynote speaker at the 10th International Invitational Symposium on the Unification of Finite Element Methods in Theory and Tests, July 19, 1990, at Wooster Polytechnic Institute in Wooster, Massachusetts.

Immediately, I was inspired by the fact that Chuck took time from his travel from Boston back to Ann Arbor to close his most extraordinary life-changing day by sharing with 25 young engineers at a small banquet dinner about his joyful delight in answering his sudden call to national service. You see that call was to serve as president of MIT, just given to him by his predecessor, the 14th MIT president, Paul Edward Gray.

With emotion in his eye, I vividly and unforgettably recall, Chuck sharing with our small group of young engineers immediately before beginning his speech that he had just left a meeting in Boston Logan Airport with Dr. Gray, who had just offered him the 15th presidency of MIT.

Fate suddenly called upon the right man at the right time with the right fit. That was Charles M. Vest.

All 25 of us young engineers rose to our feet in standing ovation. I was so struck by Chuck's sincerity in sharing his life altering moment with us in such a humble setting, well before any reports of the international news broke about his momentous moment in life and career.

I liked Chuck immediately, I recall saying to myself upon meeting him two decades ago. I wanted to be just like him for the rest of my life and career upon meeting and getting to know him that evening.

That is what a role model and mentor is truly about. Being there as Chuck was that day, and every day, ever since, for the last 20 years of my life.

What I loved most about Chuck was his humanity. I recalled all I could think about was how blessed Chuck was as a humble gentleman, the moment I met him after his most inspirational keynote speech about being bold in our questioning in engineering research and science.

Since then as friends, I followed his career and he shaped mine. I collected and read every single one of his speeches and letters as MIT's 15th president. They have formed my opinions and judgement. Moreover, they have shaped my dedication to university administration, corporate governance, and government service, as well as, fed my passion to raising the public understanding of science and technology.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Photo: The Late and Honorable Charles Marstiller Vest, Ph.D., My Mentor, who placed me in the Clinton White House, and every job afterwards, until his untimely death in December 12, 2013.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Chuck was collaboratively responsible for my duty to national service.

As a member of the President's Committee of Advisers for Science and Technology (PCAST), Chuck spearheaded along with his PCAST colleagues, Judith Rodin, Ph.D., then-President of the University of Pennsylvania, now President of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Shirley Malcolm of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Clinton Race Initiative Panel that I help pull together, alongside an extraordinary team of dedicated White House science office staff with Chuck's extraordinary assistance back in 1998.

Chuck took under his wing this Cincinnati-native searching for how to make a difference for others and taught me how to lead OSTP’s contribution to President Clinton’s Initiative on Race, which resulted in the policy document, Meeting America’s Needs for the Scientific and Technological Challenges of the Twenty-First Century – A White House Roundtable Dialogue for President Clinton’s Initiative on Race.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Chuck also gave me an extraordinary opportunity to served on an inter-agency working group issue, he cared deeply about, involving the future of the partnership between government, universities, and industry of the United States. This resulted in a seminal policy document of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), Renewing the Federal Government-University Research Partnership for the 21st Century.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Photo Credit: MIT News. MIT President Chuck Vest, Rebecca Vest, and President Bill Clinton

These calls to national service bestowed upon me by Chuck's mentoring grace still stand as fundamental stalwarts of my thinking, as I continue answering that call even today in his spirit, as my absentee teacher and mentor.

Chuck, inspired me, pushed me, and empowered me. He had the foresight to see in me skills and ability I could not sometimes see in myself.

The word “mentor” has become somewhat overused or diluted these days. My relationship with Chuck transcended the common perception of a mentor.

Chuck was more than that to me, he was like a father. He was my guardian angel. He made career and life balance for me that was life-changing. He put the wheels in motion to make this important balance happen for me, even before I knew what I had in mind for myself or he had in mind for me.

Gently asking his connections to connect with me, he used his "persuasive" power as a president, and his "gentle" influence as a gentleman in a way that created opportunities for me that otherwise would not have been possible for me. His blessings took a chance on me and convinced others to believe in me as well.

In return, I will always live up to his expectations of making a difference for others in partnerships of responsibility and accountability with integrity and trust through self-expression and generosity, because I do not want to disappoint his spiritual legacy personally to me, as my mentor and dear friend.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Photo Credit: MIT Graduation Day. 15th MIT President Chuck Vest and Friend.

A good friend, who is an executive recruiter, recently shared with me a conversation she had with Chuck about me. The purpose of the conversation was to conduct a reference call by the recruiter, as Chuck was called to quietly persuade with his invisible dedication to me, yet another next step in my career. I have done these similar types of quiet calls numerous of times for my own student mentees over decades.

The recruiter recounted the reference call, as she opened their conversation discussing me and noted "how he paused during the conversation and in such a loving and affectionate way" asked, “What is Ollie up to now?” Chuck said with a chuckle. What struck her most was the thoughtful way he answered her questions and the sense of pride he expressed, as he learned that I was tackling yet another career opportunity challenge.

Through our friendship I often recalled Chuck's caring nature and warmth, a gentle disposition that proved to be a source of calm, strength and reason, as I would turn to him time and time again for direction and guidance throughout these past couple of decades.

Chuck never gave up on me and I am forever grateful for his patience and persistence. He came to my rescue on many occasions, picking me up and renewing in me a sense of "self and self-worth," often at times, when I felt all hope was lost. He was my biggest cheerleader and shared in my accomplishments, when I achieved new milestones in my life, achievements that were made possible by his unwavering encouragement, job recommendations, and professional guidance.

Chuck Vest was my anchor, my rock, and I am following in his footsteps in life. He made a profound impression and impact on me that I will never forget for as long as I live.

This is a mentor in life and in spirit. This is what I am, who I aim to be better, just as you, Charles M. Vest.

I remember Chuck as a gentle and compassionate soul; someone who nourished my spirit, and who had a profound impact on my life, as well as the lives of others.

If there is anything I have learned from Chuck Vest, it is to always realize how our words and actions can shape and impact the lives of others. I have learned the importance of giving of oneself.

For it is not how much you amass that determines the full measure of a man or a woman, but it is how many lives you have touched along the way.

Chuck has profoundly touched my life, and I deeply miss him. But, I will not forget the lessons he taught me, and I will not give up the balance of a purposeful life and a fulfilling career.

Here's my pledge to my mentor and dear friend's spirit, as I remember Chuck on this anniversary of his passing.

I will uphold his honorable life as a gentleman, his spirit as a teacher and a president, and his guiding light as a mentor.

I promise to carry the beacons of discovery, inquiry, diversity and knowledge that he became as a man and so eloquently shared during his life and calling to national and international service.

I will rededicate myself to being the role model to others that Chuck instilled in me, as my enduring contribution to his legacy of selfless-generosity and service to others.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Chuck's Call to National Service in Cambridge, as chronicled via The Boston Globe.

Born in Morgantown, West Virginia, Charles Marstiller Vest grew up in a coal mining community that also was home to West Virginia University, where his father was a math professor. Chuck described his mother as a gifted amateur genealogist.

“I built radios, read about space as long as I can remember,” Chuck told the Boston Globe in 2000. “I gave serious thought to studying history, but my strongest passion was science and technology.”

He graduated from West Virginia University in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

In June that year he married Rebecca McCue and they soon moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. He started graduate school at the University of Michigan, while she finished her undergraduate studies and went on to receive a master’s in remedial reading.

From the University of Michigan, Chuck received a master’s and a doctorate, both in mechanical engineering, in 1964 and 1967. Remaining at the university, he became an assistant professor in 1968, an associate professor in 1972, and a full professor in 1977, teaching in areas such as heat transfer, thermodynamics, and fluid mechanics. His research was in heat transfer and the engineering applications of laser optics and holography.

“I loved teaching,” Chuck told the Boston Globe. “I always enjoyed explaining things and had some ability to do so.”

As a favor to a colleague, he took a part-time job as associate dean in 1981 and found a new path. “One day I realized I was accomplishing more as an administrator than as a researcher and teacher,” Chuck told the Boston Globe in 2000. “I enjoyed fostering the careers of younger faculty.”

Named dean of engineering in 1986, Chuck became the university’s provost and vice president for academic affairs.

"During his years in Cambridge, MIT’s endowment grew from $1.4 billion to $5.1 billion. At the time of Dr. Vest’s departure, more than two-thirds of women on the faculty had been hired during his tenure, and MIT had hired its first female department head in the sciences. The percentage of underrepresented minority undergraduates increased from 14 to 20. Among graduate students, that number grew from 3 to 5 percent. The number of female undergraduates increased from 34 to 42 percent," chronicles the Boston Globe.

Chuck's leadership on diversity “changed my life and that of many women in science,” Nancy Hopkins, a professor who served on one of the committees that prepared the gender inequity report, told the Globe in 2003 when he announced he would retire the following year. “It made you appreciate that a truly good person can use a position of power to fix a problem, and that is what great institutions are all about.”

Still, what became one of Chuck’s most significant legacies remained for him a cause for reflection. “I’m disappointed that we’ve been unable to move more rapidly in building the diversity of our faculty and graduate student body,” Chuck told the Globe in 2003, when asked to name his greatest regret.

As former president of MIT and the National Academy of Engineering, Chuck was a national treasure of science, engineering and technology, higher education and public policy. His vision and legacy establishes that knowledge is own by no one. Rather, knowledge is open to all through MIT OpenCourseWare (shown below), initiated under his tenure of university presidential leadership in Cambridge.

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Most of all, Chuck was a champion of diversity and he was willing to stand in the gap to right past inequalities in gender and among underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Hundreds of women and minorities in the STEM fields owe our careers to the numerous initiatives Chuck established during his call to national service.

Chuck served on the President's Committee of Advisers for Science and Technology throughout President Bill Clinton's Administration and President George W. Bush's Administration, receiving respect from both sides of the aisle, and many members of Congress.

"I grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia and attended public schools there where I learned many valuable things. I learned that every human being is important, has something to offer, and can be a friend and colleague." - Charles Marstiller Vest (2006)

I am, Who I am, Due to You, Charles M. Vest

Photo Credit: Kemper Vest Gay (daughter, front left), Mrs. Rebecca Vest (front right), John Vest (son, rear left), 15th MIT President Chuck Vest (rear right).

"We greatly appreciate the many stories Chuck's friends and colleagues have shared about the impact he had on their lives. It is heart-warming to know that so many others saw in Chuck the same wonderful qualities that his family did: his kindness, humor, humility, compassion, and wisdom. Chuck cared deeply about his work, but cared about people most of all."

- Becky Vest and Family (February 20, 2014, The National Academy of Engineering Council and the Vest Family, Celebration of Charles M. Vest's Life, National Academy of Sciences Building, Washington, DC)


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Apr 242018

Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

BREAKING NEWS on April 2, 2018: A Boeing 737, performing as Southwest Flight 957, en-route from Chicago to Newark, New Jersey, carrying 73 passengers, landed safely at Cleveland’s Hopkins International Airport for maintenance on a window that cracked on the outside pane. No fatalities occurred during the aircraft’s emergency landing. The crew made the decision to divert for a “maintenance review” of a layer of the aircraft’s window pane, Southwest said Wednesday. The flight landed in Cleveland a little more than an hour after leaving Chicago’s Midway Airport, according to FlightAware.

SWA Crack Window - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

What are the Actual Incidences of Cracked or Shattered Cockpit Windshields and Passenger Cabin Windows?

It is a Delta spokesperson’s statement on May 7, 2014 that gets folks thinking about the actual likelihood or rarity of cracked or shattered cockpit windshield or cracked passenger cabin window occurrences and such aircraft safety breaches.

In fact, cracked or shattered cockpit windshield or cracked passenger cabin window occurrences, during commercial aircraft flights at normal cruise altitudes, ranging 20-38 thousand feet, happen more often than one might think. Every week or two there is a cracked or shattered cockpit windshield incident happening on one of the nearly 90 thousands flights airborne each day (or nearly 33 million flights annually) around the world.

SWA Crash 2 576x1024 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Remarkably, for every cracked or shattered cockpit windshield or cracked passenger cabin window incident reported, there is likely one that is not reported. International aviation safety protocols among airlines and international transport ministries have varying reporting standards of such incidents. Airlines typically do not like to widely disclose such safety breaches for obvious reasons of natural passenger and crew uneasiness, apprehension, and discomfort.

SWA Crash 3 576x1024 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

During an aircraft safety breach of a cracked or shattered cockpit windshield, as similarly during spasmodic occurrences of aircraft engine malfunctions or failures, the standard procedures in such safety breaches is for the pilots to immediately go on oxygen, and to divert the flight plan. Whereupon communication with air traffic controllers, the pilots immediately lands the aircraft at the nearest airport.

SWA Crash 4 768x1024 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

The nearly 5-6 thousand flight-cycles an airlines’ aircraft asset undergoes produces extreme thermal changes across the cockpit windshields and passenger cabin windows. This can cause moderate flight-cycle fatigue failures of the windshields, inducing face-plate and/or windshield layered construction cracks.

SWA Crash 5 768x1024 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Above Photo Credits: via Twitter, Southwest 952 Passenger Alejandro Aguina (@Dro_AA)

SWA Crash 6 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Aircraft Cockpit Windshield Loading and Layered Construction

An aircraft at normal horizontal level cruise, at say 38,000 feet, like that of Delta flight 110, has four primary forces, which are: (i) an upward lift, L, (ii) a downward weight, W, (iii) a forward thrust, T, and (iv) a backward drag, D. The lift-to-drag ratio, L/D, is an aircraft aeronautical design parameter. The aircraft vehicle structural weight opposes the lift, which is also closely-aligned to the vehicle drag, D, (as an inherent function of the lift-to-drag ratio, L/D), and which is also equally-aligned to the thrust, T, (defined as a ratio of the aircraft’s fully-loaded weight, W, to the aircraft’s aeronautical design parameter, L/D).

An aircraft cockpit windshield principally carries two components of surface loads, a backwardly-directed, horizontal surface drag, d, (opposing some portion of forward vehicle thrust, T), and an upwardly-directed, vertical surface lift, v (opposing some portion of the downward vehicle weight, W).

From a materials engineering standpoint, cockpit windshields, typically weighing between 25-40 pounds, depending on the type of windshield build, are typically constructed of several layers:

(1) A glass face-plate, roughly 1/10″ thick;

(2) A Polyvinyl Butryal (PVB) layer, about 1/8″ thick;

(3) A stretched acrylic layer, approximately 1″ thick;

(4) An additional PVB layer, nearly 1/10″ thick;

(5) An additional stretched acrylic layer, approximately 1″ thick.

During a commercial flight, pilots have to heat the cockpit windshields to address the external environmental elements impacting cockpit windshields. Some aircraft will engage the window heater before descent to “soften” the acrylic layer in case of a strike. Aircraft cockpit windshields are typically designed to withstand the impact of an eight pound bird striking the aircraft front, according to Boeing aircraft engineers. Heating of the windshield makes the windshield more pliable and able to withstand an impact from a ‘bird-strike’.


A Boeing 737-700, performing as Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 about 20 minutes into its journey from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on its way to Dallas, and carrying 144 passengers and 5 crew members onboard, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia International Airport at about 11:20am on Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

Cover Photo Credit: Taylor Lewis

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

This after its left CFM56 engine exploded (shown above) with engine debris flying off during a 500 miles per hour cruise-speed flight at 32,000 feet over Philadelphia, and smashing an over-the-wing window (shown below).

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

This immediately resulted in about a 30-45 second depressurization of the passenger cabin that pulled a woman partly out of the cabin, according to her naturally distraught family speaking to reporters. 

Fellow passengers frantically worked to yank her back inside the airliner as it depressurized and quickly descended about three thousands of feet per minute from its 500 miles per hour cruising speed and altitude of 36,000 feet, recounts a number of nearby passengers.

“The plane dropped immediately,” said Matt Tranchin, who was sitting three rows behind the broken window. “Plane smelled like smoke. Ash was all around us.” (via NBC Philadelphia News)

The late woman, who died later in a nearby Philadelphia hospital (whose family and loved ones have our sincere condolences and sympathies), was identified as 43 year old Jennifer Riordan of Albuquerque, New Mexico. She became the first and only passenger fatality on a Southwest Airlines flight in the carrier’s 51 year history. She was on a business trip for Wells Fargo, where she worked. She was pulled out of the plane up to her waist — her blood splattering other windows, passengers said.

“You hear the pop and she was sucked out from the waist up,” one passenger told NBC Nightly News. “There was blood on the windows … her arms were actually out of the airplane and her head was out of the airplane.”

According to local NBC Philadelphia reporting: “Eric Zilbert, another passenger, said “several heroic gentlemen” pulled Riordan back into the plane and immediately performed CPR. Tranchin said she was covered in blood.

Peggy Phillips, a nurse, said she and another passenger performed about 20 minutes of CPR on the victim.

“It just wasn’t going to be enough,” Phillips said.”

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

The heroic pilot of the Boeing 737-700, Tammie Jo Shults, as trained in the military (shown above and below today), had calmly put the airliner into a sudden dive at a controlled 3,000 feet per minute decent to a lower altitude leveling out at 10,000 feet. 

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Oxygen masks dropped immediately to the faces of the rest of the 144 passengers and 5 crew members onboard terrified and strapped in their seats.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

“We left LaGuardia heading to Dallas and we were west of Philly, when we lost the left side engine and diverted to Philly,” a passenger told CNN. “Shrapnel hit the window causing a serious injury (to one passenger who later died in a nearby hospital in Philadelphia). 

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

“We have a part of the aircraft missing,” the pilot, Tammie Jo Shults, said to Philadelphia air traffic control.

Asked whether the plane was on fire, she responded: “No, it’s not on fire, but part of it is missing. They (crew members in the cabin) said there is a hole and someone went out.”

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

“It definitely was a stable landing,” passenger Kristopher Johnson told CNN. “When we finally landed, it was relatively smooth. Kind of a typical landing.”

Pilot Tammie Jo Shults had performed a brilliantly cool “Sully-Like Landing on the Hudson” onto the Philadelphia International Airport runaway.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

“We are aware that Southwest flight #1380 from New York La Guardia (LGA) to Dallas Love Field (DAL) has diverted to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). We are in the process of transporting customers and crew into the terminal. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-700, has 143 Customers and five crew members onboard,” Southwest Airlines said in a released statement on Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

“We are in the process of gathering more information. Safety is always our top priority at Southwest Airlines, and we are working diligently to support our customers and crews at this time.”

“Southwest is statistically the world’s safest airline. Since starting operations in Texas in 1971, no passenger had been killed in any crash in the 51 year history of the domestic carrier (until Southwest Flight 1380, which killed one passenger),” The Independent (U.K.) reports.

“The airline, based in Dallas, is likely soon to overtake Delta to become the carrier that flies the highest number of domestic passengers.”

Reuters recently reported: “Airlines recorded zero accident deaths in commercial passenger jets last year, according to a Dutch consulting firm and an aviation safety group that tracks crashes, making 2017 the safest year on record for commercial air travel … In comparison, there were 16 accidents and 303 deaths in 2016 among airliners.”

Dutch aviation consulting firm To70 and the Aviation Safety Network both reported on January 1, 2018, there were no commercial passenger jet fatalities in 2017.

“2017 was the safest year for aviation ever,” said Adrian Young of To70.

According to Reuters: “To70 estimated that the fatal accident rate for large commercial passenger flights is 0.06 per million flights, or one fatal accident for every 16 million flights.

The Aviation Safety Network also reported there were no commercial passenger jet deaths in 2017, but 10 fatal airliner accidents resulting in 44 fatalities onboard and 35 persons on the ground, including cargo planes and commercial passenger turbo prop aircraft.”

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt and a team of investigators landed in Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon to inspect the Boeing 737-700. During a Tuesday night press conference, Sumwalt said “a part of the plane’s engine covering was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles west of Philadelphia. He also said one of the engine’s fan blades was separated and missing.”

“The blade was separated at the point where it would come to the hub and there was evidence of metal fatigue,” according to Sumwalt.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Flight 1380’s engine — a CFM56 — is widely used in commercial aircraft. The $10 Million (list price) CFM International CFM56 series is “a family of high-bypass turbofan aircraft engines made by CFM International, with a thrust range of 18,500 to 34,000 pounds-force,” according to Wikipedia.

Southwest 1380 Boeing 737-700 engine’s nacelles are designed to prevent debris from breaking off the engine and flying into the fuselage. The engine will eventually be detached from the plane and taken to an off-site facility for study.

NTSB investigators are looking into why a metal fatigued fan blade on the engine caused the catastrophic engine explosion, and why the left CFM56 engine nacelle casing didn’t contain the engine debris from hitting the left wing and left-side fuselage and breaking the passenger cabin window.

Sumwalt said the NTSB investigation will be conducted for over a year.

The CFM56 engine manufacturer put out a service bulletin in the fall, telling all airlines to inspect the fan blades after a similar incident as the aircraft loss event on Tuesday involving another Southwest flight. Maintenance crews of the air carrier checked Flight 1380 on Sunday, April 22. 

According to NBC Philadelphia News: “In 2016, a Southwest Airlines flight traveling from New Orleans to Orlando diverted to Pensacola, when an engine blew out mid-flight. No injuries were reported, but the plane sustained extensive damage similar to what happened on Southwest Flight 1380 on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, as the engine’s inlet was torn away revealing additional damage to the fuselage, wing, winglet, and tail stabilizer.”

On Sunday, April 22, 2018, Southwest Airlines suspended flights of about 48 aircraft with CFM56 engines, among all flights of the carrier’s roughly 4000 Boeing 737 fleet for CFM56 engine fan blade inspections. This as the FAA on Friday called for more broader mandatory aircraft and CFM56 engine fan blade inspections for micro-cracking and high-cycle metal fatigue.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Southwest said in a news release that this move to cancel flights on Sunday comes as a part of their accelerated engine fan blade inspection program, announced on Tuesday night — not the emergency directive issued by the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday. The directive requires operators to inspect fan blades on certain engines within 20 days, according to the FAA’s website.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Southwest 1380 Fallout is Emerging Micro-Aging Aircraft and Engine Micro-cracking Detection Technologies.

Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: What more could you ask of life? Aviation combined all the elements I loved.” ─ Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., Aviator

The advanced technology of the world’s aircraft (via, Boeing vs Airbus) manufacturers and aircraft engine manufacturers (via, United Technologies Pratt & Whitney, General Electric, and Rolls Royce) allow travelers by air to consider such extraordinary transportation as routine nowadays in their daily lives. Sixty years ago, such human mobility activities inside air transport vehicles, weighing over 750,000 pounds, and carrying 400-500 people across 6,000 miles of land and sea at 500-650 miles per hour, was unthinkable.

According to a November 2016 FAA report entitled, “The Economic Impact of Civil Aviation on the U.S. Economy,” “American aviation means so much for so many people. Things like safety, security, efficiency, freedom, adventure and commerce come to mind. Aviation accounts for more than 5% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), contributes $1.6 trillion dollars in total economic activity, and supports nearly 11 million jobs. Aviation manufacturing continues to be the nation’s top net export (as one of the few scientific and technological positive balances of global trade for America).”

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Photo Credit: Wikipedia. “Aloha Airlines Flight 243 (IATA: AQ243, ICAO: AAH243) was a scheduled Aloha Airlines flight between Hilo and Honolulu in Hawaii. On April 28, 1988, a Boeing 737-297 serving the flight suffered extensive damage after an explosive decompression in flight, but was able to land safely at Kahului Airport on Maui. There was one fatality, flight attendant Clarabelle Lansing, who was ejected from the airplane. Another 65 passengers and crew were injured. The safe landing of the aircraft, despite the substantial damage inflicted by the decompression, established Aloha Airlines Flight 243 (like the Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 incident on Tuesday, April 17, 2018as significant events in the history of aviation, with far-reaching effects on aviation safety policies and procedures.”

We need to rebuild our “Fast Transportation Infrastructure Technology” to keep up with our now “Fast Growing Economy,” so we can put our “Fast Capital” to work and create JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, especially to unite rural and urban regions across this country.

So, here’s how government, university, and industry partners inside the micro-aging aircraft research community are responding. 

First of all, Aging Aircraft Conferences, including the 2018 Aircraft Airworthiness and Sustainment Conference, address sustainability and structural integrity concerns that have significantly escalated in the micro-aging of military aircraft, space vehicles, and commercial aircraft fleet in the past decade. These technical conferences focus on safety of micro-aging aircraft operating near or beyond their original design service criteria. Also addressed are conventional aging aircraft issues alongside aircraft fleet life cycles, and new aircraft entering the fleet with advanced materials and structures and advanced manufacturing technologies.

Still further, the 2018 Engine Propulsion Safety and Sustainment Conference brings together government, academic, and industry representatives, who are addressing advanced turbine engines technologies used in space vehicles, military aircraft,  and commercial passenger aircraft aimed at improving performance and operability, reducing engine mishaps, maintenance costs, and increasing average service time on the aircraft wing.

I attended the 2017 Aircraft Airworthiness and Sustainment Conference and the 2017 Engine Propulsion Safety and Sustainment Conference held at the Sheraton Downtown Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona on May 22-25, 2017.

Thereat we’ve learned that crack detection and statistical assessments of damage tolerant design of aircraft structures and engines is a quantitative measure of our capacity of nondestructive evaluation inspection technologies (including fluorescent penetration, eddy currents and ultrasound) to detect flaws. These techniques provide mathematical statistical input to probabilistic fracture science and mechanics to estimate the probability that a structural flaw or micro-crack could go undetected in manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of aircraft engines or main aircraft structures (wings, fuselage or tail section). 

Such mico-aging or micro-cracking detection technologies have been in place for several decades and employed by the United States Air Force in its Engine Structural Integrity Programs, which has been adopted by the Micro-Aging Aircraft research community and industrial firms, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Airbus, General Electric, United Technologies Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

The need remains acute for standardized procedures, criteria, innovative methodologies for recognition of aircraft structures and aircraft engine micro-aging inspections, and fundamentals of flaw detection systems capabilities affected by these three detection factors in aircraft engines parts, particularly:

(1) new materials design (and blade subsurface inhomogeneity associated with powder metallic and titanium blades and integrated bladed rotors, even in the future involving emerging micro-nano architectured-material additive manufacturing 3-D printing technologies);

(2) fatigue cracks, scratchesflaw or defects (because not all scratches are critical, and not all flaws and defects are created equally);

(3) parts design considerations and inspection conditions ─ USAF, DOD, FAA, Lockheed Martin, NASA, and Deloitte are leading the evolution of additive manufacturing as a promising new tool in the application, maintenance and safety of aircraft engines parts. Re-engineering is often required to use additive manufacturing to make a load-bearing, fatigue critical replacement part. This emerging parts design and inspection technology has implications for aircraft airworthiness and sustainability of aircraft propulsion systems.

Micro-aging Aircraft research and development is also driven nowadays by real parts micro-crack detection technologies for aircraft structures and engines technical communities. Real parts micro-crack detection is extremely complex, because it is influenced by these four aspects: 

(1) material properties ─ composition, heat treatments, and cleanliness of the material of engine parts;

(2) flaw or defect characteristics ─ character, size, shape, and location of engine parts flaws or defects;

(3) design and manufacturing considerations ─ accessibility, surface condition, and repairs of engine parts;

(4) inspection conditions ─ such as lighting and temperatures.

This allows aerospace scientists and engineers to share fracture science and mechanics technology and airframe and engines structural integrity experience to best arm FAA regulators with better damage tolerance guidance, particularly in the area of nondestructive evaluation systems development and implementation. 

This also calls for ongoing needs in micro-aging and micro-cracking detection models of parts, capacity building of inspection equipment and techniques, and improved methods of measuring inspection systems capabilities. 

Overarching above all this is the urgent need for synergy among government, universities, and industry to create complete organizational integration of parts quality, manufacturing, and engineering for field implementation of laboratory-developed inspection systems across the Micro-Aging Aircraft community.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Micro-aging of Aircraft is an Established Engineering Science. 

Evolving over four decades has been the United States Air Force (USAF) Aircraft Structural Integrity Program (ASIP). Below are the United States Department of Defense F-22 ASIP Case Study Lessons Re-Learned in the fallout of the recent Southwest Flight 1380 crash landing from micro-cracking of its aircraft engine fan, which led to the Boeing 737-700 Aircraft Structural breach from an engine “fan blade debris salad” spread, killing one woman fatally impacted by the sudden passenger cabin decompression for a horrific 30-45 seconds.

Looking back in history, the original national research and development solicitation for the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) was issued by the USAF in July 1986. At that time back in the Reagan Administration locked-in an escalating arms race with the former Soviet Union, a new air superiority fighter was needed to strategically compete with emerging Soviet fighter capability (Su-27, MIG-29), and to effectively replace the F-15 and F-16 military fighter fleet.

In April 1991, a United States Defense Department contract was awarded to a joint-industrial partnership between Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Boeing.

The F-22 aircraft specification included “durability and damage tolerant design tasks” (including structural micro-cracking of aircraft engines and structural micro-aging of aircraft frame systems) laid out in a seminal 1975 USAF Report on “Aircraft Structural Integrity,” originally outlined by The Late Jack Lincoln (see Appendix). This report also serve to task the United States Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Safety Oversight for the next four decades.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

F-22 design was fully compliant with Aircraft Structural Integrity Program requirements in structural fracture mechanism and controls (considering parts durability, micro-aging damage tolerances, micro-cracking propagation science, and aircraft structural sizing criteria ─ established at the Aircraft Structural Integrity Program’s inception ─ alongside fail-safe design requirements for damage tolerant micro-mechanical (and even nano-mechanical and genomics of) materials, and for probabilistic mechanics approaches for solutions of micro-aging aircraft concerns.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Photo Credit: John W. Lincoln, “Risk Assessments – USAF Experience,” Aeronautical Systems Division of USAF/AFSC, Proceedings of the International Workshop on Structural Integrity of Aging Airplanes, March 31 – April 2, 1992, Atlanta, Georgia.

DOD, USAF, and FAA overall aircraft safety risk assessment goals over the next four decades to today have been guided by a “determination of the probability of failure of an aircraft selected at random from a population of similar aircraft. The primary result of the calculation is the single flight probability of failure. This is the probability that failure will occur on a single flight of an aircraft selected randomly from the population. From this, the probability of failure after a given time and the expected number of aircraft losses may be determined” ─ in Jack Lincoln’s own words in describing the USAF’s experience in aircraft risk assessments back in 1992.


900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters
Photo Credit: John W. Lincoln, “Risk Assessments – USAF Experience,” Aeronautical Systems Division of USAF/AFSC, Proceedings of the International Workshop on Structural Integrity of Aging Airplanes, March 31 – April 2, 1992, Atlanta, Georgia.
Since then, micro-aging aircraft risk assessments have been the standard protocol on numerous USAF aircraft, including “the B-52 Wing, KC-135 wing, C-5A wing, C-141B fuselage and wing, F5 fuselage, T-38 fuselage and wing, and the T-37 complete aircraft,” according to Dr. Lincoln. 
The USAF generally concludes “for military aircraft that a single flight probability of 1 in a millionth or less is adequate for long term operations.” If this extremely low probability number is multipled by the size of the military aircraft fleet (or even by the size of Southwest Airlines’ commercial passenger exclusively Boeing 737 fleet for about 4000 flights a day), consequently, an expected level of aircraft loss events may be reasonably estimated.
Imagine these astronomical odds for the commercial passenger Boeing 737 performing as Southwest Flight 1380! Crash landing this aircraft was the work akin to Scully’s Landing on the Hudson in New York City.

The Aircraft Structural Integrity Program (ASIP) dates back to a 1950’s Air Force publication on structural integrity requirements. It was known from an early stage that ASIP was a vital program in prolonging the life and ensuring the structural safety of all aircraft. Meetings began in the 1970’s, but it wasn’t until 1984 that it was reshaped into the current conference format. Incidents like the 1988 Aloha Flight 243 Air Disaster highlighted the importance of ASIP requirements and the contributions of the ASIP community, to preclude the recurrence of such tragedies in the future. The ASIP Conference helps to accomplish this through the personal interactions of its attendees, resulting in the exchange of vital ideas and technology. In 1996, the ASIP Committee established the Lincoln Award to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions throughout their distinguished careers to ensure the structural integrity and safety of our aircraft.

Why John (Jack) W. Lincoln, Ph.D., P.E. (1928 – 2002) Matters!

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Credit: Aircraft Structural Integrity Program (ASIP) Conference, November 26-29, 2018, Downtown Hyatt Regency Phoenix, Arizona.

The Accomplishments of Dr. John (Jack) W. Lincoln

“Dr. John (Jack) W. Lincoln is still recognized internationally as an expert in structural integrity and a champion of aviation safety. From his early days as an aviator, piloting a DC-3 aircraft for his father’s Dallas, Texas based “Lincoln Airlines,” his contributions as Chief of Structures at Vought Aerospace, to his career with the United States Air Force (USAF), Dr. Lincoln was a pioneer in aerospace engineering.

Dr. Lincoln is credited with maturing the Aircraft Structural Integrity Program (ASIP) into a robust process that is now institutionalized within the Air Force and recognized worldwide as the model for ensuring aircraft structural airworthiness. The USAF’s unparalleled worldwide aircraft structural safety record since 1980 is directly attributable to Dr. Lincoln’s leadership in the field of structures technology.

In 1971, Dr. Lincoln brought 22 years of structural design experience from Vought Aerospace to the Aeronautical Systems Division (ASD) of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and accumulated another 29 years of service to both military and commercial structural integrity processes over his distinguished career. Dr. Lincoln’s initial assignment with the Air Force in 1971 was to direct an independent review of the C-5A aircraft. This work determined the structural modifications required to achieve the originally planned service life for this aircraft. For his outstanding contributions in this area, Dr. Lincoln was awarded the 1973 USAF Meritorious Civilian Service Medal. During his career in the Air Force, he has influenced the design of many aircraft including the C-5B, B-1B, F-15E, F-16, T-46, C-17, F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter.

As a Technical Expert and then Technical Advisor for Engineering, he directed the execution of damage tolerance assessments for many of the USAF major aircraft weapon systems. This effort defined the inspection, maintenance, repair and modification programs required to maintain flight safety of each of these aircraft. Dr. Lincoln participated in a multitude of engine damage tolerance assessments and was the driving force behind development of the damage tolerance approach for Air Force helicopters.

Dr. Lincoln worked tirelessly with leaders in the military and commercial aerospace technology arena and developed industry standards for transition of new structural technologies to full-scale development. He served as an advisor and principal participant in ad hoc panels of the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board addressing structural integrity issues on systems including the C-5A, KC-135, C-130 and the C-141.

In the interest of commercial aviation safety and the advancement of damage tolerance principles, he worked extensively with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), acting in a capacity as a senior technical advisor. Dr. Lincoln’s affiliation with and contributions to the FAA spanned many years. For example, in 1979 at the request of the FAA, he led the damage tolerance assessment by Douglas Aircraft Company of the DC-10 pylon following the crash of a DC-10 at Chicago, Illinois. His findings and recommendations permitted the FAA to identify the cause of failure and institute a maintenance program that would preclude a reoccurrence of this problem in the future.

Dr. Lincoln was an active member of the FAA sponsored Technical Oversight Group on Aging Aircraft (TOGAA). This group was charged with examining the problems of aging in the commercial fleet and advised the FAA on design and maintenance actions required for aircraft ranging from small commuter class to large transports. Dr. Lincoln drafted rules for the application of damage tolerance to commuter aircraft design. As a part of the effort with TOGAA, he has established guidelines for the continued airworthiness of commuter class aircraft.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

USAF Career Highlights

In 1972, amidst significant public debate over structural shortfalls in the Air Force’s newest transport aircraft, the C-5A Galaxy, Lieutenant General Stewart, commander of the Aeronautical Systems Division, requested that Dr. Lincoln lead an Independent Review Team (IRT) for that program. The IRT was a major challenge since the hundred people composing the independent team, recruited from all over the United States and the United Kingdom, had no previous experience with this aircraft. Further, damage tolerance procedures were developed and applied to the C-5A by the IRT under the direction of Dr. Lincoln, the first application of these procedures to a transport aircraft and thus formed the basis for future aircraft damage tolerance assessments undertaken by the USAF. The culmination of this one-year effort included a briefing by Dr. Lincoln to the Secretary of the Air Force where he successfully championed the IRT recommendations for the C-5A program modifications.

In a follow-on evaluation in 1979, Dr. Lincoln chaired the C-5A Structural Information Enhancement Program. Dr. Lincoln pioneered a new application of aircraft inspection data, structural testing and fail-safe analysis in the use probabilistic software he developed to perform a risk analysis and made projections for the onset of widespread fatigue damage in the fleet. The results of his evaluation permitted the Air Force to continue safe operations with limitations until wing replacements could be implemented. Dr. Lincoln’s impact on this system survives today with the decision to extend the operational life of the C-5A by another 20 years.

During the period from 1975 to 1990, he directed the damage tolerance assessments of many of the major weapon system in the USAF inventory. These efforts involved all major aerospace manufacturers and included multidiscipline structural analysis representing over a million man-hours of work. In addition to providing the Air Force critical information on operational utility, this effort defined and implemented individual aircraft tracking programs based on damage tolerance principles. This approach to fleet management is a mainstay in Air Force aircraft fleet management and a principal basis for the operational safety record enjoyed by the USAF. The work performed by Dr. Lincoln during this period made possible a significant life extension program for the KC-135 and provided critical information in the decision to perform major upgrade modifications on the C-141 and B-52 programs. Dr. Lincoln served as a member of the steering group for damage tolerance assessments of the F100 and TF34 engines. These assessments were pioneering efforts that established the procedures for many engine damage tolerance assessments that followed in both the military and commercial worlds.

He served as chairperson of the F-15 Structural Review Committee. This committee investigated the cause of an in-flight wing failure from overload and provided oversight on activities relating to fatigue problems on the vertical tail and wing. This activity led to the development and implementation of damage tolerance criteria on the F-15 and resolution of the F-15 buffet issues that had caused numerous failures in the vertical tail.

In 1986, he led an independent review of the T-37 aircraft to determine the modifications needed to permit this aircraft to remain in operational service for an additional fifteen years. Again, he applied the probabilistic methods he had developed in a risk assessment of the aircraft structure, permitting continued fleet operations with provisions for inspections.

He served as chairperson of a review team in 1988 to assess the impact of a full-scale static test failure of the F-16 wing. Performing a risk assessment of the aircraft based on data from operational aircraft, he provided rationale for a redesign to restore the aircraft to its original static strength requirement.

He served on a National Aeronautics and Space Administrative (NASA) committee for the certification of hypersonic vehicles. This activity led to the establishment of a specification for a facility to perform hypersonic testing of aircraft such as the National Aerospace Plane. It also served to introduce damage tolerance requirements in the design of spacecraft.

In response to a 1990 request from Mr. Jack Welch, Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, he performed an independent study on the structural modification program for the F-16 aircraft. This effort was difficult because of the early cracking of aircraft that had seen operational usage approximately eight times more severe than the design usage. This effort provided senior Air Force leadership with the assurance that the aircraft needed these modifications and also gave them an independent assessment of the costs of implementing them.

In response to a 1991 request from Major General Gillis, Commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Dr. Lincoln performed a risk assessment of the C-141 structural wing containing multi-site fatigue damage type cracking. Dr. Lincoln’s risk assessment involved the assessment of the airworthiness of cracked (a) span-wise splices, (b) wing plank weep holes and (c) multiple critical structural frames. His analysis identified repair, replacement and inspection options for maintaining the safety of the C-141 aircraft during the Desert Shield/Desert Storm conflict and permitted the full operational capability of the aircraft to be used. He briefed his findings to General Johnson, Commander of the Air Mobility Command, which resulted in an extensive inspection program. In a follow-on Scientific Advisory Board Review, Dr. Lincoln’s recommendations on implementation of recently developed composite patching of the wing skins on the C-141 were accepted and the fleet was restored to full operational capability. Without Dr. Lincoln’s efforts, the complete C-141 fleet would have been grounded. Subsequently, Dr. Lincoln responded to a request by the Department of Defense (DOD), and conducted an independent assessment of the remaining life of the C-141 aircraft. His findings and recommendations were used in the decision to press forward with the development of the C-17 as a future replacement aircraft.

At the request of Lieutenant General Fain in 1992, he served as leader of the USAF team working with the US Navy to develop the Joint Structures Specification Guide. These criteria served as the principal guidance for contemporary USAF and Navy aircraft design. He was the Senior Civilian Participant in an USAF Scientific Advisory Board Summer Study in 1994; tenets developed by Dr. Lincoln were briefed to the Chief of Staff and served as the basis for aging aircraft research and development.

At the request on Major General Franklin, Program Executive Officer (PEO) for the C-17, he acted as senior advisor in the executive independent review of the C-17 test wing failure that occurred in 1992. He briefed his findings and recommendations to Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff. His input and the work of this committee outlined a recovery plan that resulted in the successful retest of a modified wing.

In 1995 he chaired an independent review team assessment of F-16 service life. The review determined actions required to ensure that the aircraft could reach its 8,000-life goal. Included was a recovery action for the significant cracking being experienced in the fuselage bulkhead that supports the vertical tail.

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Contributions to Commercial and International Aviation

At the request of the FAA, Dr. Lincoln performed an independent assessment of the Boeing 747 structure in 1987. His evaluation led to a series of detailed inspections of the aircraft in prescribed locations. In 1979 he oversaw the damage tolerance assessment performed on the DC-10 engine pylon following the mishap of a DC-10 in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Lincoln served as a tenured member of the TOGAA chartered by the FAA after the highly publicized 1988 Aloha Airlines incident. Dr. Lincoln’s work in this group focused on issues of widespread fatigue damage in commercial aircraft. In support of the evaluation of the Aloha incident, Dr. Lincoln helped formulate the Airworthiness Directives permitting safe operations of both the 737 and the 727. In 1990, following the in-flight structural failure of the DC-10 engine resulting in the mishap at Sioux City, Iowa, he was called on for his technical expertise in the development of a recovery plan for the material issue that contributed to the engine disc failure.

As a senior technical advisor with the TOGAA, Dr. Lincoln advised the FAA on research and development initiatives related to aging commercial aircraft. His interaction with researchers at Iowa State University, Wayne State University, The Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University and Sandia National Laboratory resulted in significant technological gains in the area of non-destructive inspection techniques. He wrote the Advisory Circular for the FAA Administrator for Certification and Regulation, which serves as the standard for the structural integrity of commuter class aircraft operated in the United States. His technical expertise was key in the development of a recovery program for the hard alpha problem, which is a material contamination issue in the titanium engine disc, that caused the crash of the DC-10 at Sioux City, Iowa.

Starting in 1990, Dr. Lincoln figured prominently in the work of the International Committee on Fatigue (ICAF), presenting papers recognized internationally for their contribution to aircraft structural integrity. In this forum, he shared his extensive knowledge of aircraft damage tolerance, probabilistic methods, technology transition, widespread fatigue damage in aircraft, full-scale aircraft structural testing and aircraft repair concepts. He has been acknowledged as an international expert in his field by aircraft structural experts from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1997, Dr. Lincoln was awarded the F.J. Plantema Award, the highest international honor for contributions for solving structural fatigue issues, by unanimous vote of the delegates of those nations forming the ICAF, and he was the plenary speaker at their conference.

He was a member of The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP) AER-TP4 Panel Structures and Structural Dynamics and MAT-TP8 Panel on Composite Materials. The TTCP is a cooperative program among Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In this capacity, he has acted as the principal contributor to specifications for the use of composites in aircraft structures.

He was a prominent member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development (AGARD) and later RTO Advanced Vehicles Technology Panel. He presented his works on probabilistic methods and structural integrity to international experts in Lindau, Germany, Bath, United Kingdom, Bordeaux, France, and Rotterdam, the Netherlands. At the request of the FAA and NASA, he was a long-standing member of the organizing committee of FAA/NASA international meetings forum.

Beginning in 1984, Dr. Lincoln served as chairperson of the annual Aircraft Structural Integrity Program Conference and as host to domestic and international aerospace experts promoting military and commercial aircraft structural integrity. In 1996, Dr. Lincoln was recognized for his lifelong contributions during the annual international ASIP conference by being selected as the first recipient of the Dr. John W. Lincoln Award. This record is spectacular in view of the fact that many of the aircraft in the USAF inventory have flown safely well beyond their original design service life and continue to meet the United States’ vital military missions.

The South Korean government solicited Dr. Lincoln’s assistance in 1995 in assessing the viability of their new trainer. He proposed and the government adopted his recommendations on structural integrity actions. Also in 1995, Israeli Air Force (IAF) requested Dr. Lincoln’s support in addressing several structural issues with aircraft mechanical systems. His recommendations led to a cooperative USAF/IAF development program that substantially enhanced mechanical system integrity.


Dr. Lincoln was a highly respected engineer, recognized both nationally and internationally, for his outstanding knowledge of structural technologies and probabilistic risk assessment methods for ensuring aircraft airworthiness. His legacy as a pioneer in the field of structural integrity and damage tolerance has undoubtedly made a significant contribution to the continuing airworthiness and safety of military and commercial fixed and rotary wing aircraft and engines. Dr. Lincoln influenced foreign and domestic commercial and military aircraft development through industrial and/or governmental agency representatives and through organizations such as NATO, TTCP, ICAF and the FAA.

He was a leader in his field and a mentor to aspiring young engineers and maintenance personnel. Through his vision, demeanor and leadership he guided and greatly influenced the design and maintenance philosophy of today’s aircraft. In particular, his technical expertise was critical to the development of maintenance policies and operation of United States Air Force aircraft. Dr. Lincoln’s enduring legacy continues to advance the engineering sciences that are essential to prolonging the safe operational life of our military fleet of air vehicles. In his work in both commercial and government sectors, he made substantial contributions to the structural integrity of over fifty-five aircraft and missiles.

Dr. Lincoln was internationally recognized for his work in structural integrity and probabilistic risk assessment methods. In 2005, the revision of the Department of Defense’s MIL-STD-1530C (ASIP) incorporated Dr. Lincoln’s probabilistic risk assessment concepts and criteria so that his approaches would be promulgated and provide direction to those responsible for ensuring the initial and continuing airworthiness of aircraft and missile structures.

Thanks to Dr. Lincoln’s influence, the area of Structural Fatigue and Risk Analysis techniques, the USAF’s record of structural failures in flight has gone to near zero. This has also translated into near zero structural failures in flight in the commercial world, even though some of the aircraft are well over 60 years old and are still flying revenue passengers. Finally, even though Dr. Lincoln’s work has been in the aircraft structures, it has seen global applications in areas such as trucks and cars.“

900 - Southwest 1380: Micro-Aging Aircraft, Why Jack Lincoln Matters

Previous Lincoln Award Winners

Year Lincoln Award Winners

2017 Mr. Robert J. Burt

2016 Dr. Anders Blom

2015 Mr. Ed Ingram

2014 Mr. Larry Perkins

2013 Dr. Thomas R. Brussat

2012 Mr. James L. Rudd

2011 Mr. Len Reid

2010 Professor Graham Clark

2009 Mr. Robert M. Bader

2008 Dr. Joseph P. Gallagher

2007 Dr. Alan P. Berens

2006 Dr. Ulf G. Goranson

2005 Mr. Charles R. Saff

2004 Mr. Robert Bell

2003 Mr. Ward Rummel

2002 Mr. Royce Forman

2001 Prof. James C. Newman, Jr.

2000 Prof. Alten Grandt, Jr.

1999 Prof. Jaap Schijve

1998 Mr. Thomas Swift

1997 Mr. Charles F. Tiffany

1996 Dr. John W. Lincoln


About The Author

Oliver G. McGee III is a teacher, a researcher, an administrator, and an advisor to government, corporations and philanthropy. He is former department chair (2016-17) and professor of mechanical engineering at Texas Tech University. He is former professor of mechanical engineering and former Vice President for Research and Compliance (2007-08) at Howard University. Dr. McGee is former Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Inc. He was Professor and former department chair (2001-2005) of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Geodetic Science at Ohio State University. He is the first African-American to hold a professorship and a departmental chair leadership in the century-and-a-quarter history of Ohio State University’s engineering college. Dr. McGee has also held several professorships and research positions at Georgia Tech and MIT.

McGee is the former United States (U.S.) Deputy Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Technology Policy (1999-2001) at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and former Senior Policy Advisor (1997-1999) in The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He is a NASDAQ certified graduate of UCLA John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management’s 2013 Director Education and Certification Program, and NYSE Governance Services Guide to Corporate Board Education’s 2003 Directors’ Consortium (on corporate board governance).

McGee is a 2012-13 American Council on Education Fellow at UCLA Office of the Chancellor Gene Block. He is a 2013 University of California Berkeley Institutes on Higher Education (BIHE) graduate. He is also an Executive Leadership Academy Fellow of the University of California, Berkeley Center of Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) and the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE), Inc. McGee is an American Association of State Colleges & Universities’ (AASCU) Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI) Fellow – educational leadership and management development programs for prospective university chancellors and presidents.

Education Background: Ohio State University, Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Civil Engineering, University of Arizona, Masters of Science (M.S.) in Civil Engineering, University of Arizona, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Engineering Mechanics, Aerospace Engineering (Minor), The University of Chicago, Booth School, Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A.), The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Certificate of Professional Development (C.P.D.), Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy – Certificate of Fund Raising Management (C.F.R.M.).

Partnership Possibilities for America – Invested in STEEP Giving Forward, founded by McGee in 2010, is based in Washington, DC.

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Mar 162018

FIU Bridge Collapse: Why Müller-Breslau Matters

Speculation continues to mount regarding the cause of Florida International University’s deadly Pedestrian Bridge Collapse. After a day has passed with no knowledge of the origins of the bridge’s collapse, this article addresses a principal cause of the FIU Bridge Collapse, and why a 19th century German structural engineering principle known as Müller-Breslau Matters Most (as depicted in the above cover diagram of this piece constructed with the help of my fine students at Texas Tech University, Mr. Virgilio A. Gomez (@virgilioAgomez), mechanical engineering masters degree candidate under my guidance inside the Edward Whitacre College of Engineering, and Ms. Alexandria Reeves (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandria-reeves-b30760118), undergraduate junior business major inside the Jerry Rawls College of Business).

Video Credit: @OliverMcGee on #FIUBridge Collapse, #FoxNews Your World with Neil Cavuto (3-16-18)

Five dozen kids currently enrolled in my Aircraft Structures, and Aircraft Jet Engines and Rocket Propulsion classes at Texas Tech University, including receiving my Elementary Structural Analysis and Intermediate Structural Analysis principles are entering into a brief introduction to Herr Müller-Breslau.

These students can now understand why Müller-Breslau‘s proven structural engineering principle is as relevant for them to learn today in the wake of the tragic FIU Bridge Collapse in Miami, Florida, as it was for me decades ago. I had my similar training at The Ohio State University Department of Civil Engineering’s elementary and intermediate structural analysis classes and highway bridge analysis and design class of The Late Professor Charles B. Smith. This led me to the privilege to teach similar structural analysis classes at Ohio State, Georgia Tech, MIT, Howard University, and Texas Tech.

But first, let’s take a closer look at the backstory here, specifically at what occurred to cause this catastrophic bridge collapse?

A newly installed bridge heralded days earlier, as an innovation of prefabricated construction engineering suddenly collapsed on Southwest Eighth Street, an eight-lane high-traffic highway near Florida International University’s (FIU) campus in Miami on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at about 1:30pm Eastern, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Division Chief Paul Estopinan said in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

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Multiple automobiles were trapped underneath the collapsed pedestrian bridge. Firefighters, who are now in “search and rescue mode,” are utilizing trained canines, search cameras and sensitive listening devices, throughout the night and into the morning. They have pulled out at least six deceased people from the rubble, as of Friday, March 16, 2018, and ten other people were taken to nearby Kendall Regional Medical Center, Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey said at a Thursday evening press conference and Associated Press.

This is how the FIU Bridge of integrated truss and post-tension prestressed concrete construction appeared in this video days before collapsing.

This surveillance video shows the moment the bridge collapsed and local commentary reveals that the bridge lacked necessary mid-span support as suggested in the cover diagram of this piece. In addition, the local commentary questions why the traffic along Southwest Eighth Street was not halted as construction engineers performed their stress tests on Thursday.

President Trump tweeted: “Continuing to monitor the heartbreaking bridge collapse at FIU – so tragic. Many brave First Responders rushed in to save lives. Thank you for your courage. Praying this evening for all who are affected.”

FIU officials said in a statement: “We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge.”

“This bridge was going to provide a safe transportation for pedestrians to cross between the university and the City of Sweetwater,” said Orlando Lopez, mayor of Sweetwater.

900 - FIU Bridge Collapse: Why Müller-Breslau Matters

FIU, one of the 10 largest American universities with nearly 54,000 students enrolled, has been rocked by this tragic transportation infrastructure collapse.

900 - FIU Bridge Collapse: Why Müller-Breslau Matters

The 174-foot long pedestrian bridge was assembled on-site days earlier on Saturday from prefabricated post-tension prestressed concrete spans along the closed sidewalk of the highway. After which, the assembled prefabricated continuous prestressed concrete beam that was hinging on one support was swung 90 degrees across the highway, and was then hinged on the other support on the other side of the Southwest Eighth Street highway.

“The $14.2 million dollar bridge had been partially assembled by the side of the highway, in order to not obstruct the flow of traffic on the seven-lane highway during construction, and was slated to open in 2019,” according to the Miami  Herald. But its “innovative installation,” which “saw workers move the walkway into place before the main support tower had been installed, was risky,” University of California, Berkeley engineering professor Robert Bea told the Associated Press.

As reported in Time: “The bridge was also unusually heavy, employing concrete elements, such as trusses and a concrete roof, rather than lighter weight steel,” according to Ralph Verrastro, an engineer and expert in accelerated construction projects.

900 - FIU Bridge Collapse: Why Müller-Breslau Matters

Munilla Construction, a family-own firm that worked on the bridge, called the accident a “catastrophic collapse” and promised to conduct “a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong.”

“Munilla Construction has also been fined more than $50,000 for 11 safety violations over the past five years,” according to Occupational Safety Health Administration records, Time reports.

Two construction workers were on the pedestrian bridge when it collapsed, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue confirmed, and “were believed to be conducting a stress test on the unfinished bridge,” reports the Miami Herald. “Over tightening steel cables that run through the bridge slab sections can lead the structure to “camber,” or buckle,” experts told the Miami Herald.

Construction engineers were performing post-tension moment stress tests across the 8-span continuous prestressed concrete bridge, when it suddenly collapsed onto the 8-lane Southwest Eighth Street highway, akin to what we recently observed with the Amtrak 501 derailment outside of Seattle, Washington!

The prefabricated concrete bridge down at #FIU is called “virtual construction” of structural engineering akin to “virtual manufacturing” used in aircraft designs at #Boeing & #Airbus. Prefabricated Civil Engineering Systems are the future of construction & installation of America’s Infrastructure.


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Who is Müller-Breslau?

Let me introduce you to a German  structural designer and classical structural engineering pioneer. 

Heinrich Franz Bernhard Müller (born May 13, 1851 in Wroclaw, Poland and died April 24, 1925 in Grunewald, Germany, “known as Müller-Breslau from around 1875 to distinguish him from other people with similar names”) was a German civil engineer. He made early advances in the structural analysis of continuous beams and rigid frames used in modern pedestrian and highway bridges and tall buildings.

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Essentially, Müller-Breslau establishes a longstanding principle utilized by structural engineers to sketch qualitative influences of continuous bridge supporting forces, spanwise forces, transverse shear stresses, and transverse bending moment stresses, as a basis for pedestrian and highway bridge design and analysis, including experimental stress testing of bridges.

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Why Müller-Breslau Matters in the FIU Bridge Collapse.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted on Thursday: “The cables that suspend the #Miami bridge had loosened and the engineering firm ordered that they be tightened. They were being tightened, when it collapsed today.”

This FIU Bridge Collapse, I add, is a result of a missing essential center safety support tower mechanism located at midspan across the enormously long 174-foot span of the integrated truss post-tension prestressed concrete continuous beam construction, as shown in the cover diagram of this article. 

Thus, the bridge’s failure collapse mechanism occurred around the center (as shown as a red (failure deflected) dashed line in the cover diagram of this piece), as a result of positive moment distribution stress failure (which could have been mitigated by the missing negative moment distribution stress over the missing midspan support) of the bridge under its own dead-load weight of 950-tons or 5.5 tons per linear foot of bridge span length of uniformly-distributed deadweight loading.

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Essentially, as shown in the above cover diagram, the post-tension prestressed concrete pedestrian bridge is supposedly fundamentally designed to deflect as a “smile” under positive bending moment stress between end-span supports. 

And,  it is supposedly designed to deflect as a “frown” under negative bending moment stress over middle-span supports – which was apparently missing during Thursday’s stress tests. This essentially caused the FIU bridge to collapse through a huge 140% over traverse bending deflection (as discussed below) during its prefabricated construction and installation. 

Ultimately, the FIU pedestrian bridge’s designed live-loading was to withstand a Category 5 Hurricane over a hundred years!

Müller-Breslau‘s principle demands that a middle support tower mechanism is essential to prevent the FIU pedestrian bridge collapse mechanism, as indicated by the red (failure deflected) dashed line in the cover diagram. The green (true deflected) dashed line in the cover diagram is the properly midspan tower supported equilibrium shape of the FIU pedestrian bridge, carrying its 5.5 tons per linear foot uniformly-distributed deadweight loading. This is shown atop the idealized depiction of the integrated truss post-tension prestressed concrete continuous span bridge.

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Under the FIU pedestrian bridge deadweight loading, including ideally the properly constructed midspan support tower mechanism, Müller-Breslau’s principle says the bridge’s shear stress distribution is actually proportional to a linear function of the spanswise coordinate (x) shown: V(x)=wL((5/8)-(x/L)) with a midspan support tower maximum shear stress proportional to (5wL/8). 

The bridge’s bending moment stress distribution is actually proportional to a quadratic function of the spanwise coordinate (x): M(x)=wL(Td+(x/L)Tr)(L/8), wherein as first introduced by Müller-Breslau, Td is a sensitivity of the bridge’s bending moment stress undergoing a linearly distributed transverse shear stress, and wherein Tr is a sensitivity of the bridge’s transverse bending moment stress undergoing a constant transverse shear stress distribution. This altogether leads to a midspan support tower negative transverse bending moment stress proportional to (wL)(L/8). 

Finally, the bridge’s properly midspan supported transverse deflection must actually be according to code: Ely(x)=(x/L)(2Wr+Wd)(wL**4)/48, (where L**4 symbolizes now and hereafter the bridge span length, L, raised to the fourth exponent power). And wherein, as first originated by Müller-Breslau, Wd is the bridge’s transverse bending moment stress undergoing a linearly distributed transverse shear stress, and wherein Wr is the bridge’s transverse bending moment stress undergoing a constant transverse shear stress distribution. 

This altogether leads to a maximum transverse deflection according to code at Ely(at x=50 feet from the midspan support equal to (27/5000)(wL**4), or about 0.0054(wL**4), wherein E is the elastic modulus of the bridge’s concrete material and I is the bridge’s moment of inertia or second moment of cross-sectional area transverse to the bridge’s span-wise coordinate (x).

900 - FIU Bridge Collapse: Why Müller-Breslau Matters

Under the FIU pedestrian bridge deadweight loading without the midspan tower support, as it happened during Thursday’s collapse, Müller-Breslau’s principle says the bridge’s transverse shear stress distribution is actually proportional to a linear function of the span-wise coordinate (x) with V(x)=Tr(wL/2) vanishing at the bridge’s midspan. 

The bridge’s transverse bending moment stress distribution is actually proportional to a quadratic function of the spanwise coordinate (x) with M(x)=(wL/2)L, having a midspan non-supported positive transverse bending moment stress maximum proportional to (wL)(L/8). 

Finally, as the bridge’s midspan is non-supported, its transverse bending deflection is Ely(x)=(x/L)(Wd-(x/L)Wr(x/L))(wL**4)/24, having a maximum transverse bending deflection of Ely(at x=87 feet, at the non-supported midspan) equal to (5/384)(wL**4) or about 0.013(wL**4).

In conclusion, Müller-Breslau’s principle says the FIU pedestrian bridge collapsed mathematically under an absolute value of (1-(0.013/0.0054))(100%)=140% error in its failure collapse transverse bending deflection mode (shown as a red dashed line in the cover diagram) underneath the bridge’s own deadweight. This is measured relative to its ideally proper midspan tower supported transverse bending deflection mode (shown as a green dashed line in the cover diagram) underneath the bridge’s own deadweight.

900 - FIU Bridge Collapse: Why Müller-Breslau Matters

“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy and their families. Incidents such as this, while thankfully rare, remind us of the complexity of structural systems and the great responsibility that structural engineers and contractors have to public safety,” says Indianapolis-based practicing structural engineer, Michael I. Owings, P.E., S.E. “Many eyes in this industry will be focused on the investigation over the coming weeks to ascertain the cause of the FIU bridge collapse, prevent future loss of life and restore the public’s trust.” 

I wholeheartedly agree with my very dear friend and former masters degree graduate student at Ohio State, Mr. Owings.

We are reminded that the FIU Bridge Collapse is still an ongoing investigation. We all hope to have some definitive answers very soon, that we enable us to better understand structural engineering and infrastructure safety and security threats, whether accidental or resulting from unintentional consequences, so as to avoid this kind of catastrophic and tragic extreme event in the future.

It’s just a matter of time, as people will be thinking about this bridge collapse continuously before we all really know completely all the truths behind this extreme infrastructure event and its aftermath of human recovery.

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Danke Herr Müller-Breslau

Our most compelling interest in pedestrian and historic bridge safety and security in the age of America’s crumbling infrastructure remains an ongoing and essential contemporaneous priority in discussing advanced structural engineering technology and education, as well as, considering the public’s understanding of science, engineering and technology. And, most of all, we must facilitate the diverse cultural participation in structural engineering safety and security by a global workforce of experts, working through the aftermath investigation of a pedestrian bridge collapse on the 10th largest university campus in America at Florida International University.

Besides all the talk of prefabricated concrete bridge construction, midspan tower support mechanisms, innovative bridge installation procedures, German structural engineering, post-tension prestressed concrete materials, and so forth, what investigators also have on their side are basic scientific and engineering principles.

Bridges don’t just collapse, and they don’t just fall onto busy highways. They go up and they don’t fall down.

Like everything else in this world, bridges are bound by fundamental rules of science and engineering — things like transverse shear stresses, transverse bending moment stresses, bridge deadweight to live-load ratios and, not the least, simple gravity of Sir Issac Newton.

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We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Herr Heinrich Franz Bernhard Müller-Breslau for his pioneering innovations in structural engineering analysis and design, and for his fundamental Müller-Breslau principle. This is now aiding America’s ongoing efforts in managing our stressed infrastructure and rebuilding and retrofitting it in preparation for the next generation and the generation after – On Getting to 2076 – America’s Tercentennial!

900 - FIU Bridge Collapse: Why Müller-Breslau Matters

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