Dr. John Tomblin named 2023 Wichita Aero Club trophy recipient

Trophy Gala to take place in January

WICHITA, KAN. (Oct. 11, 2022) – Today at a special reception, the Wichita Aero Club (WAC) announced Dr. John Tomblin as the recipient of the 2023 Wichita Aero Club Trophy. Tomblin is Senior Vice President, Industry and Defense Programs; Executive Director, National Institute for Aviation Research; and Sam Bloomfield Distinguished Professor of Aerospace Engineering for Wichita State University. WAC will celebrate Dr. Tomblin at its annual trophy gala in January 2023.

“The Wichita Aero Club continues to build upon the tradition we began in 2010 by selecting a deserving candidate with solid ties to the Wichita and Kansas aviation community,” said Ashley Bowen Cook, WAC Board Chair, Trophy Committee Chair and Greteman Group Vice President. “Dr. Tomblin not only has exemplary achievements in this past year but has consistently raised the bar for our aerospace community for many years in his role at WSU and NIAR. We are excited to celebrate his many contributions.”

His nomination included the following remarks:

By believing in the abilities of Wichita State University to deliver the best aviation research directly to industry, provide real-world experience through students in applied learning programs, and find opportunities to grow the University's work in defense and MRO, Dr. John Tomblin is a key driver in the momentum the University, the community and the state have in delivering real-world solutions which are growing our economy and the Air Capital's visibility as the world's most capable aviation ecosystem.

Dr. John Tomblin, through his innovative efforts with WSU-NIAR, has placed the City of Wichita on top of an international map of aviation research, engineering and development.

About Dr. John Tomblin

John Tomblin is an advanced materials and aerospace expert with nearly 30 years of expertise. His passion is engaging university experts and resources to solve industry problems.

As senior vice president for Industry and Defense Programs for Wichita State University (WSU), Tomblin oversees more than 1,500 staff in laboratories and centers focused on applied learning, technology, innovation and smart manufacturing. These include the Cyber Security and Forensics Group, Ennovar Technology Solutions, FirePoint Innovations Center, GoCreate, Kansas Procurement and Technical Assistance Center, Molecular Diagnostics Lab, National Institute for Aviation Research, National Institute for Research and Digital Transformation, Strategic Initiatives, Shocker Career Accelerator and Technology Training Team. 

In this role, Tomblin has advanced WSU’s Innovation Campus from a 120-acre golf course to a thriving community of global partners committed to providing applied learning opportunities for WSU students while advancing industry technology and innovation. These partners include Airbus, Boston Consulting Group, Dassault Systèmes, Deloitte, Hexagon, NetApp, Spirit AeroSystems and Textron Aviation.

As executive director of WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research, Tomblin has grown the university’s aerospace engineering R&D portfolio from $20 million in 2004 to more than $190 million. This places WSU fourth among all U.S. universities that perform aerospace R&D.  This activity is driven by more than 1,100 employees in 20 laboratories encompassing 1.5 million square feet in six locations across the city of Wichita.

One of Tomblin’s most significant accomplishments is extending NASA’s AGATE program into the National Center for Advanced Materials Performance (NCAMP), which gained acceptance from the FAA and EASA in 2010 and 2014 respectively. Another significant accomplishment is the establishment and growth of the Digital Twin Program at WSU-NIAR, which has led to sustainment support and life extension for aircraft such as the F-18 Hornet, B-1 Lancer, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, F-16 Viper and M113 armored personnel carrier. He was also integral in the development and rapid growth of the NIAR WERX MRO program, established in 2020 with the announcement of its first Boeing 777 passenger to freighter conversion program.

About the WAC Trophy

The Wichita Aero Club Trophy was created to recognize both contemporaneous accomplishment or a lifetime of achievement. The Trophy is awarded annually to a living person, group, or organization with a strong relationship to the greater Wichita area on the basis of exemplary achievements in the field of aviation or aerospace accomplished during the past year or, as appropriate, over an extended period or career. The Trophy Selection Committee includes members of the WAC Board of Directors and prominent members of the aviation community.

Prior WAC Trophy Recipients

  • 2021: Ron Ryan, Pilot, Airline Founder and Philanthropist
  • 2020: Clay Lacy, Founder and former Chief Executive Officer, Clay Lacy Aviation
  • 2019: Jack Pelton, Experimental Aircraft Association CEO
  • 2018: Lynn Nichols & Yingling Aviation
  • 2017: Paul Bowen, Aviation Photographer
  • 2016: Doc’s Friends Restoration Team
  • 2015: Al Higdon, Co-Founder of Sullivan Higdon & Sink Advertising
  • 2014: Russell W. Meyer, Jr. Chairman Emeritus, Cessna Aircraft Company
  • 2013: John O’Leary & Airbus Americas Engineering
  • 2012: Jeff Turner, Spirit AeroSystems CEO
  • 2011: Velma Wallace


About the Wichita Aero Club: The Wichita Aero Club was established in 2008 to foster and promote interest in aviation, to provide a forum that focuses on the industry’s issues and achievements, and to bring together those with a passion for flight in an environment that expands and enhances professional relationships and furthers cooperation and understanding. Learn more at wichitaaero.club.