Hank Queen

Vice President, Engineering and Manufacturing
Commercial Airplanes Group
The Boeing Company
BSAE ’74

For his outstanding engineering leadership within the world’s largest commercial airplane manufacturer, and for his service to Purdue University, the College of Engineering is proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Hank Queen.

His Eyes on the Sky

“I’m one of those people that whenever an airplane flies over I stop and look up,” Hank Queen says. “It’s just in my blood. All my life I’ve been challenged and interested in all things mechanical, and I particularly loved airplanes. I can remember even being three years old and looking up at an airplane and wondering how it does that.”

As Vice President of Engineering and Manufacturing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes—a global organization of over 40,000 engineering personnel, with an annual multi-billion-dollar budget—Queen has plenty of opportunity to stop and watch the giants of the skies.

Both Queen’s father and grandfather were miners, and Queen grew up in a West Virginia coal mining town called Lando Mines. When the mine closed, the town was bulldozed to one end and burned by the company, and the Queen family moved to Huntington, West Virginia.

Queen studied engineering at the West Virginia University but chose not to finish his degree there. “I quit school the last semester of my senior year,” he says, “and I decided I would never be an engineer.” He followed his family to Indiana “because it seemed like an interesting thing to do,” Queen says. “I had never been that far west.” He then transferred to Purdue to finish his education.

A Passion for People

Queen began his career as a tool designer in Columbus, Indiana, before taking a job as an engineer for Boeing. At that time he had no desire to work in a management position.

“I had a stint in management about five years into my work at Boeing,” Queen says, “and I found I just didn’t like it.” So he returned to engineering, but it was the interaction with another employee that changed the direction of his career. “I worked with a guy that, for the first time, helped me understand that you can do engineering and make a significant contribution,” Queen says, “but you can do that with other people, not just on your own.”

This gentleman’s name was Mac Kiyono, a first-level manager at Boeing. “He was just such a neat leader,” Queen says. “He had a terrific perspective on life, and people and leadership. And he inspired me to want to be more like him.”

And there was some quality that Kiyono noticed in Queen.

“He told me, and remember, I was just an engineer at this time, ‘You’re going to be vice president of engineering someday.’ And I said, ‘Mac, you are out of your mind.’”

But when Queen returned to management in 1987, he found that his friend and mentor had been right after all.

“I didn’t really know that I had it,” Queen says, “but I have a real passion for people. I really felt good about watching other people be successful, which is at the heart of being a good manager, because your success is when other people are successful.”

A Tale of Two Feelings

Queen flew through the company ranks. He has worked as a service engineering manager for the 767 fleet, as a chief project engineer on the extended-range version of the 767, and as the director of the Twin-Aisle Airplane Program, which oversaw the technical integration of the 747, 767, and 777 family of airplanes. In 2000 he was named vice president in the Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group.

“A lot of my job is coaching and mentoring and developing and understanding human dynamics,” Queen says, “because people in a way are a large-scale systems problem. It has such a personal deep meaning when things go well.

“But things don’t always go well.”

The years since the 9/11 tragedy have been hard on the air travel industry; over the last three years, Queen’s organization has dropped from 22,000 people to 15,000 people. “And it’s just been a heartbreaking thing to have people come into your office and cry, knowing that you can still have respect for people and treat them with dignity and value their contribution. So it’s been the best of times and the worst of times—it’s been a tale of two feelings.”

Throughout his career, Queen credits his training as an engineer as a keystone to his success.

“That same rigor and understanding how to go about identifying what’s important and what’s not important: people, process, products, and performance—not to blow Purdue’s horn, but the quality of the staff, of the professors, of the people, I felt so fortunate that life led me to graduate from Purdue, because they taught us how to solve problems. And that was much more valuable than just learning a lot of technical things.”

2004 Vice President of Engineering and Manufacturing, Boeing
2001 Outstanding Aerospace Engineering Award, Purdue
2000-04 Vice President, Engineering and Product Integrity, Boeing
1999-2000 Director of Engineering for Twin-Aisle Airplane Programs, Boeing
1997-99 Chief Project Engineer, 767-400ER Program, Boeing
1995-97 Chief Project Engineer, 767 Program, Boeing
1990-95 Service Engineer Manager, Boeing
1982-90 Electrical and Avionics, Service Engineering, Boeing
1975 Engineer, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group

BSAE ’74, Purdue University