Mike Rush began his long aviation career as an avionics technician in the U.S. Navy.
While working on aircraft, he vowed to get into aircraft design and help make maintenance easier for technicians and mechanics on the flight line.
That's been one of his goals over the years, Rush said.
Today, Rush, 54, holds dual roles at Boeing's Wichita facility, which he joined in 1984.
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Rush is chief engineer for the Wichita site, responsible for the engineering staff, the processes, tools and infrastructure for all programs performed at the facility.
He also serves as chief engineer for Boeing's Global Transport and Executive Systems, where he has engineering oversight on the VC-25, commonly known as Air Force One, program and the E-4B, C-32, C-40 and E-6 programs.
Rush is responsible for the designs and their technical integrity and the daily activities in regard to Boeing's global transport platforms.
Boeing employs 825 engineers in Wichita.
Rush was born in Wichita and grew up here and in Independence. He joined the Navy, then accepted a position with FlightSafety International in Tulsa as an electronics technician.
Four years later, he joined Boeing Wichita and has held various software and systems integrations assignments.
Before his current assignments, Rush served as Global Transport and Executive Systems senior engineering manager.
He holds an undergraduate degree in business management and a minor in computer sciences from Newman University. He has a master's in management information systems from the University of Phoenix.
He and his wife, Alice, have two sons and three grandchildren. They like to spend time with family, boat, fish and relax at the lake, Rush said.
The Wichita facility uses an existing commercial jet as a platform and modifies it to take on a different role. What's your biggest challenge?
"Regardless of the unique customer requirements we have, our job... is always ensuring the original design integrity of that jet is still maintained.
"That almost gives you a different unique challenge than if you did a clean sheet design. You have to ensure that whatever you do, you haven't degraded the original capability of that jet."
What do you like best about engineering design?
"The ability to create a design, see it being installed onto an airplane, watch it work... and see a quality product being delivered to our customers.... When you see that airplane leave and knowing you had a hand designing it, installing it and testing it... there's nothing more satisfying."
Your favorite program was the airborne laser program, where you served as systems electrical engineering chief. The site heavily modified a 747 to take on chemical lasers and equipment. What made it your favorite?
"From an engineering standpoint, there were quite a few challenges and design aspects on that program.... It was unbelievable the modifications we did to that jet."
Your biggest challenge was integrating products from a number of companies _ the lasers came from one company, the beam control/fire control came from another, for example.
"It was a massive integration effort.... I got to deal with multiple companies and multiple divisions within Boeing. (We had to ensure) the platform still met the technical integrity of the original platform of the 747."
Boeing celebrated a victory when it won the U.S. Air Force contract for new refueling tankers. What is your role?
"My support to that program is ensuring I provide them the right engineers and the right processes and tools so they can execute their work statement. The challenge with that as the program moves forward in the design phase is ensuring I'm supporting those with the capabilities (they need) as they need them."
About 250 Boeing Wichita engineers are working on the tanker program. What are they working on?
"It's from a big picture standpoint taking a commercial derivative airplane (a 767) and doing modifications to that — changing that into the tanker function."
The industry worries about having engineers to fill the pipeline over the next few years as engineers retire. What should be done?
"That is a concern with all industries. From an engineering standpoint, from an educational standpoint, we've got to continue to work with schools and promote the engineering function."
What would you or tell students to encourage them to consider engineering as a career?
"Engineering is all about taking and turning dreams and ideas into reality. That's what this is really about.... That's what makes it so exciting."