Robert H. Liebeck

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Robert H. Liebeck
OccupationAircraft engineer
Known forAircraft designs
Liebeck airfoils

Robert Hauschild Liebeck is an American aerodynamicist,[1] professor[2] and aerospace engineer at the Boeing Company.[3] He currently heads Boeing's Blended Wing Body ("BWB") program[4][5] and has been a member of the National Academy of Engineering since 1992.[3][6] He is best known for his contributions to aircraft design[6] and his pioneering airfoil designs known as the "Liebeck Airfoil".[7]


Liebeck pursued studies in aerospace engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1961, a Master of Science in 1962 and a PhD in 1968.[2][8][9][10] It was while pursuing his PhD that he produced the first airfoil designs that would come to be known as the "Liebeck Airfoil".[3][9][10]


Liebeck worked summers at the Douglas Aircraft Company, located in Santa Monica, California,[4] until he joined the permanent staff in 1968.[3] He remained with the company after its merger with McDonnell Douglas, which later merged with Boeing in 1997.[4][11] He has managed several of Boeing's airplane programs through which several advanced-concept aircraft were designed.[3][9][10] A Senior Technical Fellow of the Boeing Company, he now serves as program manager of the company's blended wing body program.[6]


Liebeck airfoils[edit]

Designs made by Liebeck during research for his doctoral thesis "Optimization of Airfoils for Maximum Lift", have been applied to the design of high-altitude aircraft. This class of airfoils has been used by NASCAR in its Car of Tomorrow which debuted in 2007.[3]

Boeing X-48 test model

Blended wing body[edit]

Boeing has invested in a blended wing body airplane program since 1993, a program which Liebeck manages.[4] Run through Boeing's Phantom Works division, the program has been researching, designing and prototyping a new aircraft design which would reduce energy consumption and noise production.[8][9] Initially funded by a grant from NASA of $90,000, the aircraft design moves away from the usual tube-and-wing design and instead has the wings blended into the body.[4] This design was developed by Liebeck, in conjunction with other members of the research team.[6][8] Liebeck's team first released a remote-driven model, the X-48, in 1997, and several others subsequently.[3][6][8][10][12]

Other designs[edit]

Liebeck's designs include propellers, wind turbines. wings for racing cars that have won the Indianapolis 500 and the Formula One World Championship, the wing for NASCAR's "Car of Tomorrow," the keel for the America³ yacht which won the 1992 America's Cup, and the wing for a World Championship aerobatic airplane[3][6][8][9][10]

Teaching career[edit]

Liebeck has lectured in aerodynamics and aircraft design courses at several universities.[6] Since 1995 he has been a Professor of the Practice of Aerodynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he lectures in aeronautics.[3][8][9][10] Since 2000, Liebeck has also been an adjunct professor at the University of California, Irvine.[3][6] He was also an adjunct professor teaching aerodynamics, flight mechanics and airplane design at the University of Southern California from 1977 to 2000.[3][8]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Liebeck was presented with the Brigadier General Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager International Aeronautical Achievement Award in 2012.[6] In 2011 Liebeck was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the College of Engineering at Illinois, an honor which "recognizes Illinois engineering alumni, and others affiliated with the college, who have made significant achievements in leadership, entrepreneurship, and innovation of great impact to society".[6][8] That same year he was presented with "Engineering the Future" award from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering for his work in aeronautics and contributions to the school.[6]

Liebeck's awards and honors include:


  • Liebeck, R. H. (2004). "Design of the Blended Wing Body Subsonic Transport". Journal of Aircraft. 41 (1): 10–25. doi:10.2514/1.9084.
  • Liebeck, Robert H. (1995). "Advanced Subsonic Airplane: Design and Economic Studies". NASA Contractor Report. 195443.
  • Adkins, Charles N.; Liebeck, Robert H. (1994). "Design of optimum propellers". Journal of Propulsion and Power. 10 (5): 676–682. doi:10.2514/3.23779.
  • Callaghan, J.; Liebeck, R. (1990). "Some Thoughts on the Design of Subsonic Transport Aircraft for the 21st Century". SAE Technical Paper 901987. SAE Technical Paper Series. 1. doi:10.4271/901987.
  • Liebeck, Robert H. (1989). "Low Reynolds Number Airfoil Design for Subsonic Compressible Flow". Low Reynolds Number Aerodynamics. Lecture Notes in Engineering. 54. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 314–330. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-84010-4_23. ISBN 978-3-540-51884-6.
  • Liebeck, Robert H. (1978). "Design of Subsonic Airfoils for High Lift". Journal of Aircraft. 15 (9, number 9): 547–561. doi:10.2514/3.58406.
  • Liebeck, Robert H. (1973). "A Class of Airfoils Designed for High Lift in Incompressible Flow". Journal of Aircraft. 10 (10, number 10): 610–617. doi:10.2514/3.60268.
  • Liebeck, Robert H.; Douglas Aircraft Co. (1971). Theoretical Studies on the Aerodynamics of Slat-Airfoil Combinations. Long Beach, California: Defense Technical Information Center.
  • Liebeck, R. H.; Ormsbee, A.I. (1970). "Optimization of airfoils for maximum lift". Journal of Aircraft. 7 (5): 409–416. doi:10.2514/3.44192.


  1. ^ Garrison, Peter (August 2009). "Batplane". Air & Space magazine.
  2. ^ a b c Litant, William (15 July 2010). "Liebeck to receive Guggenheim Medal". Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Sales, Bob (2006–2007). "Head of Boeing's Blended Wing Project blends passions for planes and teaching". Aero-Astro. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e Pae, Peter (9 February 2001). "Boeing Developing Wing-Body Aircraft".
  5. ^ "Radical new design from Boeing". 12 February 2001. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Erik Wirtanen (1 March 2012). "Adjunct Professor Robert H. Liebeck Receives Brigadier General Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager International Aeronautical Achievement Award". Archived from the original on 9 February 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  7. ^ Bold, Kathryn (26 June 2012). "No mere flight of fancy: Engineering professor working on experimental plane that could transform air travel".
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Rick Kubetz, ed. (14 September 2011). "Liebeck to Deliver Dean's Distinguished Leadership Lecture". Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "Robert H. Liebeck" (PDF). International Aeronautical Science and Engineering Workshop. Hong Kong, China. 24–27 May 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h "MAE to host first Warren Geidt Memorial Lecture: Robert H. Liebeck, Boeing, October 28th". 8 October 2010. Archived from the original on 9 February 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  11. ^ "Boeing Chronology, 1997–2001". Boeing. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  12. ^ Parsch, Andreas (24 November 2009). "Boeing X-48". Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  13. ^ a b "2010 honorees and their innovations" (PDF). Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  14. ^ a b c d e f