AIAA celebrates 50th anniversary

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

AIAA celebrates 50th anniversaryThe China Lake Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics celebrated 50 years with a dinner and awards ceremony at Victoria’s at the Heritage on Feb. 21.

Members who joined at the local section’s inception in 1963, and have been members ever since, were honored with brass plaques attached to sandstone.

These honored longterm members are Frank Knemeyer, Kinge Okauchi, Bertha Ryan, Lloyd Smith and Alan Hugo.

China Lake Section officers, also honored with trophies, were Ed Jeter, Randy Sturgeon, Ying-Ming Lee, Ned Smith, Steve Goad, Jeff Scott and Randy Drobny.

Other members who were present and received 50th anniversary plaques were Frank Markarian, Peggy Chun, Elsa Hennings, Carrie Cope and Don Herigstad.

“At one time, there were over 30 professional societies in the Indian Wells Valley,” said Goad. “Now the AIAA is the only professional society left at China Lake.”

The main speaker, Wallace Martin, entertained the group with a PowerPoint slide and video presentation focusing on the Historic Aerospace Site award AIAA presented to China Lake in 2006, as well as projects local AIAA members had worked on and film clips of Hollywood movies that featured special-effects versions of weaponry developed at China Lake.

Martin praised the wide variety, technical expertise and consistent quality of the many team efforts throughout the past nearly 70 years at China Lake.

The AIAA , a worldwide organization, has more than 35,000 members. It was formed from two original groups — the American Interplanetary Society, formed in 1930 by a group of science fiction writers and enthusiasts, but few technical experts; and the Institute of American Sciences, formed as the American version of the Royal Aeronautical Society in the United Kingdom and intended for scientists and engineers interested in aeronautical sciences.

Curiously, IAS rejected Amelia Earhart for membership on the basis of her gender.

The rules were changed and women were admitted as members after Earhart’s death in 1939.

The two societies came together in 1963 to form AIAA, which includes engineers, enthusiasts, experts, teachers of mathematics and other science and college students.

The society is very active, providing speakers, educational outreach, and development of young professionals.

For more information about AIAA, see

Story First Published: 2013-02-27