Robert H. Liebeck

Robert  H. Liebeck
Robert H. Liebeck
World-renowned leader in aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, and aircraft design.

Robert H. Liebeck's contributions to wing design and the design of airplanes from high-altitude aircraft to subsonic transports impact many forms of air transportation today. In his 50 years at Boeing, he has served as program manager on several advanced-concept airplane programs. He has an extensive list of technical publications, and his airfoil work is discussed in several textbooks on aerodynamics. He attained world recognition starting in the 1970s with his novel designs for high-lift "Liebeck airfoils."

As a world-renowned authority in the fields of aerodynamics and aircrafts design, Liebeck is a cocreator of the Blended-Wing-Body (BWB) subsonic transport airplane. In turn, he manages the BWB Program at Boeing, leading to the development of a 500-passanger flying-wing subsonic transport aircraft that offers the potential for a 30 percent reduction in fuel burn when compared to today's conventional tube and wing airplane configurations. The BWB X-48B, a subscale prototype with a 21-foot wingspan, is undergoing development byBoeing in collaboration with NASA.

The futuristic X-48B — an 8-percent sub-scale flight demonstrator of the Boeing Blended Wing Body (BWB) subsonic transport — was named one of the year's top inventions by Time magazine in 2007. Recognized for its innovative design and potential to be more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly than today's airplanes, the research aircraft is providing data that will transform air transportation.

To date, 93 test flights at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (Edwards Air Force Base) have established that the X-48B flies like a normal airplane. Edge-of-the-flight envelope testing also has been successful. The X-48B is a joint project between the Boeing Company, NASA, and the Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio. Cranfield Aerospace of United Kingdom constructed the airplane.

Liebeck also holds the position of Professor of the Practice of Aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and teaches courses in aerodynamics, flight mechanics, and airplane design as an adjunct professor at the University of California, Irvine. As a consultant, he has designed wings for racing cars that won in Indianapolis 500 and Formula One races, and his wing was selected for the NASCAR "Car of Tomorrow" recently. He also designed the keel section for the yacht that won the America's Cup in 1991, and he designed the wing for a World Championship aerobatic airplane.

Liebeck received the Daniel Guggenheim Medal in 2010, one of the most prestigious awards in aviation. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Boeing Senior Technical Fellow, AIAA Honorary Fellow, and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He is a recipient of the AIAA Aerodynamics Award, AIAA Aircraft Design Award, AIAA Wright Brothers Lectureship in Aeronautics, ASME Spirit of St. Louis Medal, and ICAS Award for Innovation in Aeronautics. He received the Engineering at Illinois Alumni Award for Distinguished Service in 1994.


  • BS, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, 1961
  • MS, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, 1962
  • PHD, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, 1968