Richard L. Mange named 2023 AE Distinguished Alumni

4/10/2023 Debra Levey Larson

Written by Debra Levey Larson

Richard L. Mange
Richard L. Mange

Richard L. Mange earned three degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, B.S. ’86, M.S. ’90, and Ph.D. ’96. His 37-year career in the aerospace industry includes 11 years at McDonnell Douglas Aerospace in St. Louis, and 25 years at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Ft. Worth. During this career, Mange held positions of increasing responsibility culminating in his current position as the F-35 Chief Engineer, responsible for ensuring the safety, airworthiness, and technical integrity of all F-35 Engineering products. He is the 2023 Aerospace Engineering Distinguished Alumni.

Vice President and Chief Engineer at Lockheed Martin Linda O’Brien said Rick Mange is recognized as a consummate technical leader at Lockheed Martin and in the industry.

“Rick makes some of the most difficult decisions in the Lockheed Martin business on a daily basis—decisions that have serious implications on human life, national defense, and shareholder value,” O’Brien said. “His elite educational background and comprehensive aerospace experience, his technical judgment, steady, logical decision-making, and his impeccable integrity make him one of the most respected technical leaders in the company.”

Factory floor photo of F-35s at Lookheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth Photo: Courtesy Lockheed Martin
Factory floor photo of F-35s at Lookheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth Photo: Courtesy Lockheed Martin

During his career as an aerodynamicist, Mange helped pioneer the use of advanced experimental methods such as pressure-sensitive paint and particle image velocimetry in practical applications on high-performance fighter aircraft.

“Throughout his 25 years as a leader on the F-35 Program, Mange has been a driving force throughout the lifecycle of the program from prototype testing through air system design and ramp to full-rate production and fleet sustainment,” O’Brien said. “As the F-35 Short Take-Off Vertical Landing Aerodynamics Lead, he led the effort to characterize the X-35B STOVL characteristics leading up to a successful first flight, which was a vertical takeoff. Subsequent flights of the X-35B included a historic first-ever Short Takeoff, level supersonic accel and vertical landing, which was dubbed Mission X.”

Flight of F-35s over the desert
Flight of F-35s over the desert Photo: Courtesy Lockheed Martin

Mange led an award-winning F-35 STOVL Jet Effects wind tunnel effort which significantly pushed the state of the art for SJE wind tunnel model design and testing and was the subject of multiple technical papers. The database produced through this effort has been used without correction throughout F-35 flight test and production.

Early in his career at Lockheed Martin, Mange served as the Ship Captain for the first F-35B model ever produced—the BF-1. He led the engineering efforts to complete the aircraft’s detailed design, then transition that design into production. This aircraft was produced and successfully flew on time, ensuring that F-35B models were included in the second lot of jets purchased by the United States Government.

Richard Mange at a board meeting
Richard Mange at a board meeting. Left is Laura Bogusch, B.S. '95, MS T.A.M. '97, Boeing

“As the F-35 Chief Engineer, Rick has helped lead the program from initial low-rate production into full-rate production across final delivery sites in three countries. During his tenure, the program has produced more than 865 airplanes, has flown over 590,000 flight hours, and now has 14 different countries/services operating the jet. This was accomplished with an unprecedented safety record during an exponential production ramp, all while developing and fielding new capabilities in parallel,” O’Brien said.

Mange has served as a member of the Department of Aerospace Engineering’s alumni advisory board for six years. He has served in a variety of roles for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, including technical paper author, technical committee member and chair, forum organizer, deputy director, and director. He has won the highest awards given by the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company and the Lockheed Martin Corporation multiple times.

Share this story

This story was published April 10, 2023.