Born: United States of America
Primarily active in: United States of America

Dr. Vicki E. Panhuise, Vice President, Commercial and Military Helicopters, Honeywell Aerospace

As Vice President of Commercial and Military Helicopters for Honeywell Aerospace, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, Vicki Panhuise leads a unique rotorcraft organization with broad expertise in engines, avionics, and systems. She explains, “If there’s something going into a helicopter from Honeywell, no matter who the customer is, it goes through this business.” Ms. Panhuise assumed her leadership position in July 2006, coming from the Honeywell regional aircraft business and building upon a distinguished background in engineering management.

The daughter of teachers in upstate New York, Ms. Panhuise was drawn to engineering and aerospace early. “I was very good in mathematics and science, and I really liked applied math. I also wanted to be an astronaut. I followed the space program religiously on my little black-and-white TV.” Women engineers were nevertheless uncommon in the 1960s. “In high school, I decided I wanted to take drafting . . . and was told by the principal the only way I could take drafting was if I found another girl who would take drafting with me. We would be sharing a board together, and you wouldn’t want to have a boy and a girl together at the same board.”

In a high school graduating class of just 83 students, the engineering hopeful was told by a guidance counselor, “Girls who are good in math and science become teachers.” However, with acceptances from both Cornell University and Wells College, Ms. Panhuise chose the small, liberal arts women’s college to take a different path, and graduated in 1975 with her bachelors in mathematics with a minor in physics. A short course in radioactive isotopic procedures led her to a nuclear engineering post-graduate program at the University of Missouri, Colombia with a minor in electrical engineering. There, she did research in neutron radiography and earned her doctorate in 1979.

Her first job at General Electric in Schenectady, New York focused the young PhD on non-destructive testing (NDT) for large steam turbines. Ms. Panhuise recalls, “It was interesting for me, exciting. I was the first woman engineer in that department . . . learning how engineers work with a manufacturing group.” She adds, “This was 1979, so the individual, personal computer was just getting introduced, and we were doing automation with computer technology.”

A non-destructive test program for engine maker Garrett Corp. (now part of Honeywell) during her graduate studies at the University of Missouri ultimately led to job offers for both Ms. Panhuise and her husband in 1980. Ms. Panhuise became part of the team in Phoenix, Arizona developing the automated eddy current and ultrasonic engine inspection systems and worked on field-based NDT for the T800 turboshaft of the Army’s Comanche armed reconnaissance helicopter. She recalls, “We were working on making sure NDT was reliable. We were using the same kind of technology that had been promoted in military systems for several years.” Vicki Panhuise remains a member of the American Society of Nondestructive Testing and holds numerous honors, including technical awards for the development of automated eddy current inspection, dual-alloy turbine wheel inspection, and computerized ultrasonic scanning systems.

Ms. Panhuise earned her MBA from the University of Arizona and served in engineering management posts for the Honeywell Engines, Systems & Services (ES&S) businesses in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, Arizona. In Tucson, she ran the business unit charged with cabin pressure controls, Auxiliary Power Units, and Full Authority Digital Electronic Controls for both fixed-wing and helicopter applications. Ms. Panhuise notes, “One of the key things around the product development business is introducing very robust design practices and measurement systems governing how the design process is being done.”

Honeywell evolved its Six Sigma quality processes from the Total Quality Management System of the early 1990s, and Ms. Panhuise earned her Six Sigma Green Belt certification in 1999 and Black Belt status in 2004. Improvements to the LTS101 turboshaft were developed under Six Sigma processes, and Ms. Panhuise notes, “The 101 is now a very, very reliable engine. We are now using the 101 to retrofit AStar helicopters, and we’re getting very good results from the LTS101.” The turboshaft also provided the engineering lineage of the next-generation HTS900-2 due for certification later this year.

Ms. Panhuise served as vice president of operations, programs, and site leader for Honeywell’s Business, Regional & General Aviation in Glendale, Arizona and gained broader exposure to the helicopter business as Honeywell grew its rotorcraft systems portfolio. “The first programs I worked on were all fixed-wing,” she recalls. “It wasn’t really until the acquisition of the Lycoming business that our helicopter business really grew.” As Vice President of Program Management for Honeywell’s Aerospace Electronics from 2000 to 2004, she was heavily involved with development of the Primus Epic avionics suite for the AgustaWestland AW139.

Fixed- and rotary-wing applications remain discrete markets for Honeywell. “They are separate businesses,” says Ms. Panhuise, “. . . but we use similar products. Even with our turboshaft engines, we’ll see similarities between them and the technologies used in our turbofan engines.” Primus Epic avionics now in the AW139 are used on the Gulfstream 450 and 550 and the Cessna Sovereign business jets.

Honeywell’s growing helicopter business also bridges commercial and military markets. Ms. Panhuise observes, “The requirements are different. If you talk about what is required for a commercial corporate pilot versus an Army aviator. . . . For commercial business, it centers on safety, the safety of passengers and crews. When you’re talking about the military business, it’s about survivability. It’s about mission readiness. There are different reasons why they buy products and different requirements.” The current engine business mix includes the civil LTS101, the military T55L-714A and the dual-use HTS900-2. Honeywell is working with the Army to identify T55 growth options. It has bid on AATD’s small, heavy fuel engine for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and light helicopters, and on the Advanced Affordable Engine program aimed at a future Apache/Black Hawk replacement.

Honeywell supplies the Avionics Control Management System for Dutch Chinooks and the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System certified for commercial helicopters. “Part of what’s different is how they buy. In the military – which is mostly United Stated military and Foreign Military Sales – you have certain government regulations you have to adhere to contractually. With the commercial, you’re dealing directly with the OEM and what’s happening in the marketplace. . . How they do pricing and analysis and is regulated. In the commercial world it’s market value. That’s a different model, but there is commonality there in the products, and what’s necessary for the operator and the pilot.” Commercial processors, displays, memory devices, and inertial measurement units are shared by Honeywell civil and military helicopter systems.

Honeywell independent research and development efforts are underway in cable warning and obstacle avoidance, and the Integrated Primary Flight Display. Honeywell’s synthetic vision expertise earned the company a place on the Sikorsky Sandblaster team under contract to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to demonstrate an integrated, affordable system for degraded visual environments. Honeywell will contribute synthetic vision and an advanced pilot-vehicle interface to an integrated brownout solution with see-through sensors and advanced flight controls. The company is working on Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) for the Sikorsky S-76C++ and Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout, and it is conducting HUMS trade studies for the Boeing Chinook.

Honeywell’s helicopter business also has a significant international component. The AgustaWestland AW139 avionics suite is in production and a modernized Avionics Control Management System (ACMS) is in development for Royal Netherlands Air Force Chinooks. The Chinook T55 is poised for a new round of global orders with the Boeing CH-47, and the LHTEC T800 powers the AgustaWestland Future Lynx. Ms. Panhuise adds, “We continuously are working how best to approach Eurocopter to meet their needs.”

Honeywell’s rotary- and fixed-wing businesses draw engineering resources from a common pool. According to Ms. Panhuise, “We have a significant engineering workforce on helicopter engines and avionics, and we are expanding our global footprint to be more competitive. We have engineering in India, Czech Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, China.” She adds, “These are Honeywell facilities that are part of our team. We consider this an extension of our engineering community.”

The global locations will take on added engineering responsibility. According to Ms. Panhuise, “When we started in Bangalore, we were doing validation and verification on software, but they are moving up the engineering chain and doing more and more significant design work and systems work. Our goal is to have them competent to mount an entire product design capability.”

The broader engineering base fills a Honeywell need. “There are some skill sets that are tough to find and are going to be harder and harder to find in the engineering workforce . . . I know from my perspective, systems engineers are always harder to find. People with skills in reliability, maintainability, those specialty-type things, are harder to find.”

Ms. Panhuise notes advances in Computer Aided Design tools have also strengthened the engineering capability of the rotorcraft industry. “When I started at Honeywell, the computers were off in a room someplace with lots of air conditioning. You inputted any design work you wanted to do with cards. If you made a mistake in your deck of cards, you waited for an hour or so before your output came out. You had all this wait time for these results. Today, it’s right at your fingertips. Everyone has a computer at their desk with more power than we had in that entire room.

“What that’s done is make engineers far more productive in what they can do and design.” She nevertheless cautions, “But there’s also a little bit of a limitation to it. When I went to engineering school, you really relied on those basic principles. You knew if an answer looked right, you could tell. Today, things are so complex, everything is done by computers. You may get an answer and think it’s okay because a computer spit it out. You still need the principles there to tell you it’s all right.”

Leadership Profile: Vertiflite Fall 2007