A Tribute to Irving Ashkenas.

Irving Ashkenas (1916-2011)

Irving Ashkenas, distinguished aerospace engineer and co-founder of Systems Technology, Inc., passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles, California on April 10, 2011. Irving Ashkenas was born in New York City on September 3, 1916, the son of Max and Rose Ashkenas. He was 94 years old.

A Distinguished Career

Irving Ashkenas attended the California Institute of Technology where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree and two Masters Degrees and graduated with honors in 1939. His professional career began at North American Aviation where he played a key role in the development of the P-51, one of the most famous aircraft of World War II. The original design was prone to overheating and Ashkenas developed an air inlet design that overcame this problem. During his fourteen years with Northrop Aircraft he worked on the aerodynamics and control system design of such pioneering aircraft as the Northrop flying wings, and the P-61 and F-89 fighters.

In 1957 Irving Ashkenas co-founded Systems Technology, Inc., an internationally acclaimed company specializing in systems analysis of air, sea and ground vehicles and human operator dynamics. Here Ashkenas had responsibility for and made significant and innovative contributions to over 30 aircraft and missiles. During his long and distinguished career Ashkenas served on a number of investigative and government oversight committees, generated some 70 technical papers, wrote five books and held eight patents for various aircraft control systems and a device for measuring the psychomotor capability of pilots and astronauts. Ashkenas co-authored the widely acclaimed “Aircraft Dynamics and Automatic Control” along with his colleagues Duane McRuer and Dunstan Graham.

Ashkenas was a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a recipient of their Mechanics and Control of Flight Award for 1970. He was cited in 1984 for his AIAA paper, “25 Years of Handling Qualities Research”. He directed and assembled a 1988 international lecture series sponsored by the Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development (AGARD), the aeronautical research and development arm of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).

Ashkenas was the AIAA “Distinguished Lecturer” for 1990-1992 and in 1992 was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering. He served as an independent consultant to Northrop Aircraft’s stealth bomber project from 1982-1987, reflecting expertise derived from his early work on Northrop’s XB-35 and YB-49 “Flying Wing” aircraft. In 1989 he reported on a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sponsored study of performance improvements attainable through longitudinal automatic stabilization in tailless Flying Wing aircraft. After his retirement at age 77, he remained an active member of the Board of STI and in 2007 was elected Chairman.

An Active Life

Irving Ashkenas was a man of many interests and abilities. An avid sports enthusiast, he played handball, squash, badminton, tennis, golf and enjoyed horseback riding, swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and skiing. He was an active member of UCLA’s PLATO Society and took weekly singing classes through Santa Monica City College’s Emeritus program. Ashkenas and his wife, Shirley, loved to travel and enjoyed Los Angeles’ cultural life, attending concerts, opera, dance and theater programs. They supported many Los Angeles area charities and were longtime members of Temple Beth Am.

Irving Ashkenas is survived by his devoted and loving wife, Shirley, his son, Adam, his daughter, Sharon Fabian, grandchildren Sara and Erin Fabian and numerous nieces and nephews. Services were held on April 13, 2011 at Eden Memorial Park in Mission Hills, California.