Boeing Commercial Airplanes
SPEEA member is BCA ‘Engineer of the Year’
By Karen McLean
SPEEA publications editor
EVERET T – Congratulations to Vedad Mahmulyin, a SPEEA member, who was named Boeing Commercial Airplanes
‘Engineer of the Year.’
His award-winning idea will save Boeing more
money “than I will make in many lifetimes,” he said.
But in recounting the challenges to push for the
idea that involves a software solution to a problem with the horizontal stabilizer and improved
analysis for vertical stabilizers (tail), he faced so
many obstacles others might have given up.
Where did his perseverance come from? His background with the 787 in general and work experience in related areas are certainly contributing
factors to the confidence he had in his idea. But his
life experience also plays a part in not giving up.
He was in high school when war exploded in
his home country of Bosnia. “Everyone in my
hometown was either killed or put into concentration camps and survivors were kicked out,”
he said. His mother was killed, and his father
was sent to a concentration camp. Mahmulyin
went to Croatia, Turkey and then moved to
Olympia, Wash., before attending the University
of Washington for a degree in engineering.
“Having that kind of experience – I was never
hungry, but I had pretty much nothing else – it
did engrain efficiency – not to waste.”
For the solution that led to his award, he saw a way
to modify flight control functions on the 787-10 to
reuse the empennage (tail) of the 787-9 to accom-modate the larger size of the 787-10.
“With the conflicting requirements of stability
and control and structural loads, we found an
optimized common-ground solution,” he said.
The solution would save the company the cost
and time of designing, building, and testing a
whole new empennage.
Mahmulyin, a loads engineer in flight science,
knew from his previous work in Stability and
Control about some of the
“It was a complex matrix of
failure scenarios. Because
of that complexity, it was
not obvious it would work.
There seemed to have
been a lot of risk to commit to this change.”
He had also been assigned
to the 787 “pretty much
from the beginning,” or in
other words since 2003.
“Having all of these problems and issues on the 787
kind of forced you to really
understand the painful
details of the design – we
frequently had to look at a
lot of details to get out of
trouble. The 787 was good
engineering training for a lot of people. It forced
them to learn things (they might not otherwise).”
He pursued his idea for the empennage solution
for about two years – starting with about four
people and ultimately involving around 50 oth-
ers. The skepticism was no surprise. If his solution failed, the timeline to create new tails could
have delayed the program by one to two years.
His efforts to “sell” managers on the idea made
it to the Airplane Level Studies (ALS), where he
ultimately received the green light to put the idea
through the matrix of tests.
Late last year, enough of the risk assessment
and testing was complete to call it done, or as
Mahmulyin said, “when all pencils were down,”
with the exception of a few ‘pencils’ remaining in
the stress group.
If not for a war in Bosnia,
Mahmulyin might have
followed in his father’s
footsteps and become a doctor. He was good at math
and physics in school. He
changed careers because of
the cost and time to get a
medical degree. “I was here
(in the U.S.) by myself – I
needed something quicker.”
Engineering was his backup degree, he said, and
when he realized Boeing
was in Seattle, the choice
was perfectly clear to pursue an engineering degree
“I’m fascinated with air-
planes,” said Mahmulyin,
Having union representation and a contract are
added benefits to working at Boeing, he said in
response to what he thought of SPEEA.
“I support SPEEA. The union is essential
to Boeing’s existence. Airplanes are not cars
or software. Engineering mistakes can destroy
life and the airline industry. Having an experienced, respected and team-oriented engineering workforce is essential to Boeing’s success. I
do not want to fly on an airplane designed by
engineers who have to negotiate their own raises
and benefits, “stepping over” other engineers to
prove their worth or superiority. Teamwork and
willingness to share knowledge is key to our collective success and Boeing’s existence.”
Vedad Mahmulyin, a level-three loads engi-neer/scientist, calls the award-winning idea a
“simplistic solution with software.” By modifying the 787-9 empennage (horizontal and vertical stabilizer) software for the 787-10, that cuts
down on the cost of designing, testing, certifying and manufacturing new parts. The solution
also increases performance because the airplane
weighs less than it would have with an empennage specifically designed for the 787-10.
Support for SPEEA
I support SPEEA. The union is essential
to Boeing’s existence. Airplanes are not
cars or software. Engineering mistakes can
destroy life and the airline industry. Having
an experienced, respected and team-oriented
engineering workforce is essential to Boeing’s
success. I do not want to fly on an airplane
designed by engineers who have to negotiate
their own raises and benefits, “stepping over”
other engineers to prove their worth or
superiority. Teamwork and willingness to
share knowledge is key to our collective
success and Boeing’s existence.
Vedad Mahmulyin, Engineer of the Year