Atlee Cunningham

Mechanical Engineering Hall of Fame, 2022
B.S., Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, 1961
M.S., Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, 1963
Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, 1966

Atlee has worked since October 1965, at the Fort Worth facility of the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company (formerly General Dynamics, Fort Worth Division until 1993), where he gained many years of experience. His areas of expertise include development of steady and unsteady aerodynamic methods, aeroelasticity and buffet prediction methods, wind and water tunnel testing for unsteady flows, and flight testing. Atlee has two aerodynamics related patents; and has taught as a Visiting Industrial Professor in the SMU, UT Austin and UT Arlington graduate schools. Also, he has been a member of several NATO/STO technical teams concerned with Aeroelasticity, unsteady separated flows and computational uncertainty. He has published more than 50 technical papers and reports in these subject areas.

Some examples of his experiences are: 1) Conducted the Static Aeroelastic Analysis with the code he developed, for Lightweight Fighter Proposal which led to the F-16 development. 2) Developed an unsteady Aerodynamic code for Subsonic and Supersonic flows for NASA Langley Contract. This code was used for all F-16 flutter analysis for over 20 years. 3) Developed a Nonlinear Aeroelastic code for AFRL. 4) Conducted buffet studies and developed Buffet Prediction Code for NASA AMES. 5) Conducted extensive unsteady wind tunnel testing with the Netherlands Aerospace Laboratory (NLR), Amsterdam, for high angle flows and transonic vibration conditions. 6) Conducted re-design and flight test verification for an improved F-16 Ventral Fin (now the standard spare for all F-16’s). 7) Numerous accident/incident investigations including buffet and free-play induced fatigue at well as wake vortex encounters. 8) Conducted wind tunnel investigation for F-35 wing fuel dumping simulation. 9) Developed methods for uncertainty analysis of F-22 and F35 vertical-tail buffet. 10) Lead for flight test investigation of the F-16 CFT cabin air vent cracking problem. Atlee was also technical lead for wind tunnel investigation of the F-16 canopy rain pooling problem. Besides being provided an F-16 aircraft fuselage for the model by F-16 Program Office, he also provided support and guidance to NASA for developing a new technique for testing with rain (from a fire hose) in the 40x80 wind tunnel at NASA Ames.

Before joining General Dynamics in October 1965 while in school, Atlee worked part time for two and a half years in the UT mechanical engineering machine shops as a machinist building test equipment for several graduate students’ research projects. Later he designed and built test equipment for both his Masters’ and PhD projects. For the UT Petroleum Engineering Dept in summer of 1959, he also designed and built a “deep bore hole stress simulator” to hold rock samples and subject them to pressures up to 40,000 psi. It was used for demonstrating rock fracture characteristics associated with drilling, and the last he heard, it was still being used by the department in the 1990’s. Atlee was also a member of the US Naval Reserve from 1956 to 1965, and from October 1962 to August 1964, after finishing his MSME, he served on board the USS Saratoga (CV 60) aircraft carrier as a Damage Controlman, 2nd Class. He returned to UT and finished his PhD course work in October 1965 before starting work at General Dynamics.

As a select Senior Fellow at Lockheed Martin (LM) Aeronautics, Atlee is counted on to apply his expert knowledge and experience to LM's most difficult technical challenges. He provides technical consultation, problem resolution and guidance for the entire program lifecycle and has produced a legacy of achievements (most notably on the F-16 design and development). With more than 55 years of experience with Lockheed Martin (and its heritage companies) Atlee is a wealth of knowledge. Further, he is very approachable and always willing to share his knowledge and help mentor, in addition to developing and teaching courses to LM engineers. He is a very effective communicator and excels at explaining complex subjects in a straightforward manner. Atlee has a gentle demeanor and gracious personality that makes working with him a pleasure.