What Makes an Engineer Tick?

'As I grew up, many things changed, but my captivation with and love of air and space flight never did.'

On the heels of Engineers Week (Feb. 16-22), I find myself reflecting on why I became an engineer. The answer is simple: There was never any other choice. The best way to describe it is to tell my story.

As a young boy picking strawberries in the field with my mom, I could not help but look up every time a Grumman F-14 Tomcat from the local training facility flew overhead. Sorry, Mom, for not picking more berries, but the distraction was too much to overcome.

In 1984, I had the privilege of meeting Maj. Chuck Sewell, the chief flight test pilot for Grumman at the time. Not only did he fly the Tomcat, but he was also the pilot of the X-29 experimental, forward-swept wing airplane. Over the next several years, Maj. Sewell invested in me and further sparked my interest in aerospace. I had the privilege of touring the Grumman facility and seeing the F-14s and X-29 up close.

As I grew up, many things changed, but my captivation with and love of air and space flight never did. My journey took me from the U.S. Naval Academy, to a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts, to Embry-Riddle, and finally to Honeywell.

Every engineering college student undergoes a rigorous training program that eliminates some, and ensures all who succeed are equipped for the challenge ahead. Graduating with a degree in aerospace engineering was the day I transitioned from a young boy who couldn’t help but look up at the sky, to a man who had the training and capability to actually make flight possible. That is a privilege and a responsibility.

God granted us the ability to dream, the ability to fly and the ability to reach beyond what we think our limits are. What we do with that ability and that dream is what makes the difference in aerospace.

As engineers, we are wired to solve problems and to create new things, to challenge the status quo and push the limits. When we do, incredible things happen. The Wright Brothers proved that; Elmer and Lawrence Sperry proved that; Amelia Earhart proved that; Charles Lindbergh proved that; the Gemini program proved that; Apollo 11 proved that; the SR-71 program proved that; Honeywell’s aviation and space technology prove that, and the list goes on.

I am honored and proud to be a part of the aerospace industry. Someday when I talk with my grandchildren and tell them what I spent my career doing, I will tell them that I used what God gave me: I impacted the aerospace industry, made new aircraft and spacecraft possible and contributed to aviation and space flight being safer and better.

As an engineer, the passion behind what we do makes us tick. It’s what drives us.

Maj. Sewell’s Korean War flight helmet still sits on my desk at home. I cannot help but pause every time I walk past it, to remember someone who invested in a young boy who had his head in the clouds — and encouraged him to never take it out of the clouds.

Editor’s Note: Hurt earned a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle in 1997. He is an engineering director at Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix and is Honeywell’s executive focal liaison to Embry-Riddle.