The organization cites Covert for “lifelong contributions to aeronautics teaching; research through advancements in state-of-the-art wind tunnel testing at subsonic, supersonic, and hypersonic speeds; and public service.” The AIAA award is named after Dr. Sylvanus A. Reed, aeronautical engineer, designer, and founding member of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences. Covert will receive the award at a May 12 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Covert’s career includes activities spanning research, teaching and public service. His aeronautics career began in 1946 at the Naval Air Modification Unit’s Pilotless Aircraft Division where he worked on projects leading to the Sparrow missile. In the 1950s, he conducted tests on numerous aircraft types, including the famed F-4 Phantom, at the MIT Naval Supersonic Wind Tunnel. His interest in the problems of supporting aircraft models in wind tunnels led him to develop the world’s first practical wind tunnel magnetic suspension system.
From 1972-73, Covert was chief scientist of the U.S. Air Force, and from 1978-79 he was technical director of the European Office of Aerospace Research and Development. Later, he was a NASA consultant on the Space Shuttle main engine, and was a member of the commission that examined the Space Shuttle Challenger accident.
Covert was appointed to the MIT faculty in 1963. He was head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics from 1985 until 1990.
In 2005, Covert was presented the Daniel Guggenheim Medal, one of the most prestigious honors in aviation.
Professor Covert is a fellow and an honorary fellow of several learned societies, and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the AGARD Von Karman Medal, the AIAA Ground Testing Award, AIAA Durand Lectureship, U.S. Air Force Exceptional Civilian Service Medal, and University Educator of the Year.
A native of Rapid City, S.D., Covert holds an SB and SM from the University of Minnesota, and an ScD (1958) from MIT. He lives in Concord with his wife, Mary Rutford Covert.