Wayne S. Tygert

787-10 Chief Project Engineer
Boeing Commercial Airplanes

For his impact on the field of aerospace engineering by continuously redefining the cutting edge of commercial airplanes and delivering technical innovation and improved aircraft performance

Any engineer working in a highly technical, high-profile job might tell you that the devil is in the details. But Wayne Tygert would also suggest that you keep an eye on the big picture. He has applied that bigger lens to daily assignments that have led to advances in flight while working for one company, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, for just a shade over 30 years.

From his birthplace in Nyack, New York, a small town just north of the Big Apple and west of the Hudson River, Tygert moved west to Purdue, as the first family member to attend college. With the Seattle-based Boeing, his first stop post Purdue, he says, "I just kept going west and stopped when I hit the water."

His company climb has never stopped. Tygert's journey — from day one (Jan. 14, 1986) as an entry-level engineer supporting dynamic flight load analyses for the 747-400 program to today as the 787-10 Chief Project Engineer — has been marked by technical achievements and awarded by continually increasing responsibilities.

The growing responsibilities, always greeted with his own high expectations, helped him develop a collaborative leadership style. "As the chief engineer of an airplane program, I’m accountable and responsible for the safety and product integrity of that airplane," says Tygert, currently at work on the development phase of the 787-10, a third installment of Boeing's Dreamliner, a wide-body, twin-engine aircraft distinguished by its fuel efficiency and use of composite materials.

Prepared for workplace challenges by the rigors of an education in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Tygert says he developed the engineering knowhow "not just from a fundamental standpoint, but also on an approach to problem solving. Sometimes it's more about where you go to find an answer, rather than develop it yourself."

Tygert says Boeing engineers are constantly challenged to push the envelope of technology, turning lessons learned into real benefits in the next airplane. "Our customers — the airlines and the flying public — expect that. A new airplane that gets more than 20 percent performance improvements over its predecessor is a significant game-changer for the airlines."

With all his own professional success, Tygert also has embraced a mentoring role for the next generation of aerospace engineers. He mentors engineers at Boeing and serves as the company's focal executive for Purdue, and an active partner with the University. He personally encourages students to turn academic passions into careers while advising them to get as much "street cred" as possible by establishing a solid technical foundation and building a strong network.

"When I coach people today as they approach college graduation, I ask if they've touched base with industry to get a feel for what actually goes on," Tygert says. "How are they going to apply their education? That's the piece I didn't quite have coming out of college."

The opportunity to reconnect with his alma mater has been particularly energizing. "It's inspiring to walk through Armstrong Hall and see how far Purdue has come with all of the integrated labs and a multidisciplinary approach," Tygert says. "It makes me want to go back to school."

As for returning to campus to receive his Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award, the New Yorker turned Seattleite by way of Purdue is both amazed and humbled. Steeped in the everyday challenges of aerodynamic analysis, environmental performance, and test flights, Tygert downplays the list of accomplishments he has achieved during his career. "Still," he says, "it's a tremendous honor to be thought of in this light."

Career Highlights

2015-present 787-10 Chief Project Engineer, Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA)
2010-2015 Director of Flight Sciences, BCA
2009-2010 Loads and Dynamics Chief Engineer, BCA
2007-2009 787 Airplane Development Leader, BCA
2005-2007 Loads and Dynamics Senior Manager, BCA
1998-2004 Various technical managerial positions, BCA
1991-1998 Lead Engineer, 777 Systems Structure Interaction Group, BCA
1986-1991 Engineer, Structures Dynamic Loads Group, BCA
1985 BSAAE, Purdue University