Photo of awardee

Thomas L. Maxwell

General Manager, Military Propulsion Engineering
GE Aviation

In recognition of his technical and managerial leadership of numerous aircraft engine programs

Tom Maxwell remembers the first time he put his child on a plane to fly somewhere by himself. That happened around 20 years ago, but Maxwell works in the aviation industry, so ensuring the safety of the product he produces is a mission he takes seriously and personally.

“Our purpose is to field a product that keeps its promise to the customer,” Maxwell says. “When my son got on that plane by himself, it impressed on me how important it is that the industry deliver on its promise.”

Maxwell grew up in Pennsylvania in the height of the space race. “Sputnik launched in 1957, and in the 10 years after that everyone with any aptitude for math was being counseled to go into engineering,” he says. “Aeronautical was a natural choice. Really, the whole nation rallied behind the initiative to beat Russia to the moon.”

Maxwell chose Purdue for his undergraduate studies, then went on to earn a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Cincinnati and an MBA from Xavier University. He stayed in the Cincinnati area to work his way up the ladder at GE Aviation, where he now heads the development and operation of all military engines.

“We spend about $600 million a year developing new military products, so that is part of my focus. We also get feedback every day on 15 major product lines, each of which has numerous models, so often that feedback determines what my focus will be on a particular day.”

For example, Maxwell is responsible for the 25,000 GE military engines that are out in the field, including 80 percent of the engines powering Air Force aircraft in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The desert environment is hard on engines,” says Maxwell. “So we work hard to keep the Air Force’s engines running and to resolve any problems that arise.”

Maxwell has worked on a wide variety of interesting projects in his time at GE. In a previous position he oversaw the team effort between GE and Rolls-Royce to develop the F136 engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That program has continued and the first engines are scheduled to deliver in 2012. He also was tasked with establishing a new Military Product Support Engineering organization to better serve military customers.

Maxwell says the most rewarding thing about his work is how much his customers trust him. Everything else, such as earning a Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award, is an added bonus.

“I never expected to have this honor, and I truly appreciate it,” he says. “Sometimes you’re lucky to have your achievements exceed your dreams. This award is icing on the cake. I truly am honored.”

Career Highlights

2003-present General Manager, Military Propulsion Engineering, GE Aviation
2001-2003 Director, F136 engine (F-35 Joint Strike Fighter), GE Aviation
1991-2001 Program Manager, F110 engine (F-16 and F-14 aircraft) and F101 engine (B-1 aircraft), GE Aviation
1987-1991 Established and led new group Military Product Support Engineering, GE Aviation
1982-1987 Program Manager, F118 engine (B-2 and U-2R aircraft), GE Aviation
1969-1982 Positions of increasing responsibility in engine testing and engine turbine design, GE Aviation
1976 MBA, Xavier University
1972 MSAE, University of Cincinnati
1969 BSAAE, Purdue University