Dr. Wilson N. Felder was unquestionably a pioneer and expert in the fields of aviation technology and systems engineering, and all of us that enjoyed his speeches, guidance, articles, and friendly discussions will miss him very much. Dr. Felder died August 20, 2019, at the age of 73.
Dr. Felder was most recently a Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Systems and Enterprises at the Stevens Institute of Technology. Before he joined Stevens, Dr. Felder was the 15th and longest-serving Director of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) William J. Hughes Technical Center, the nation’s leading air transportation system research laboratory. Prior to that posting, he was the FAA’s Director of Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation; and he co-chaired the Aeronautics Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council. Before his Senior Executive Service positions in FAA, Dr. Felder was employed by TRW until he retired as Vice President in 2001 after 23 years of service.
He also served as an active and reserve Naval Officer. He began his military career by enlisting as a Signalman, and he was deployed to Vietnam and the Mediterranean Sea aboard the USS Butte (AE-27). He retired from the active reserve with the rank of Commander and the Special Duty of Intelligence.
Dr. Felder was an instrument-rated private pilot, a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and he served on the board of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) for ten years, first serving as Director of the Aircraft Group and later as Vice President for Standards.
He recently served as the Secretary of the Board of the International Test and Evaluation Association (ITEA). He was also a great advocate and author for The ITEA Journal of Test and Evaluation. Dr. Felder developed his unique Hot Wash feature for The Journal of Test and Evaluation. That feature was a key contribution for 12 issues from September 2013 until December 2016 – no one has authored that many features for The Journal of Test and Evaluation. We did not thank him enough. Dr. Felder was also the Guest Editor for the December 2015 issue; his “Inside the Beltway” author for that issue was Mr. Michael D. Griffin, PhD, now the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. The articles Dr. Felder gathered for that issue were so numerous that they filled that issue and were a major component of the next 3 issues. For the September 2017 issue, Dr. Felder, with Major General (Retired) George Harrison, authored an article on remotely piloted vehicle operations. For the June 2018 issue, Dr. Felder rescued us when he agreed to author a Guest Editorial when we were sure we would not have any features for that issue. Dr. Felder also researched ways to make The Journal of Test and Evaluation searchable by anyone, and he encouraged ITEA to allow members and nonmembers to search article titles and content. When we complete that process, it should be dedicated in his name. “Thank you” cannot be said enough.
Dr. Felder held a Bachelor’s Degree (1968), Master’s (1972), and a PhD (1978) from the University of Virginia. His research interests included the theory of complex systems; heuristics for the design, development, and operation of complex systems; and strategies for complex system test and evaluation.
Wilson Felder was born July 20, 1946 in New York, New York. He moved with his parents, Thomas and Betty, and his younger sister, Bettina, to Florence, Italy. He attended schools in Italy and Switzerland before returning to boarding school at St. Mark’s School, graduating in 1968.
The condolences and tributes to his life and contributions have been numerous: always excited about something he had read and eager to discuss what it meant, a fine man and wonderful aviation leader, having a wonderful way of inspiring others to do the best they can, created environments where contractors and civil servants worked as a team, fair and honest, smart and caring, open and interested in everyone and everything, a true intellectual gentleman who brought kindness and fun to the workplace, a very strong effective and ethical leader, and a key leader for the National Capital Area Boy Scouts organization and Troop 52 in Chevy Chase and DC.
Dr. Felder is survived by his wife, Laura, children Will (Kate) and Julia (John), and two grandchildren. Internment with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery will occur at a later date.
Fair winds and following seas, shipmate.