Born: United States of America
Primarily active in: United States of America
Alex Stoll, Conceptual Design Lead, Joby Aviation
Alex Morgan Stoll was born on Nov. 1, 1985, in San Francisco, California, and moved to Austin, Texas, in 1987, and Lubbock, Texas, in 1997. There he attended Preston Smith Elementary, Cavazos Junior High, and graduated from Lubbock High School in 2004, while also taking classes at Texas Tech University (2002–2004). He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rice University in 2008, as well as both master’s (2009) and engineer’s (2012) degrees in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University in 2011.
As an undergraduate, Stoll did a summer mechanical engineering internship at KHS AG in Dortmund, Germany, where he also improved his German language proficiency; he also did a yearlong study abroad at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. NASA internships at the Dryden Flight Research Center on the SOFIA aircraft testbed and the Ames Research Center, focused on control systems, flight testing and computer-aided design (CAD). A final internship after his master’s degree was with Blue Origin in Kent, Washington, where he designed and simulated a parachute cover jettison system intended for the crew capsule.
While working on his engineer’s degree, he served as a research assistant at the Aircraft Aerodynamics and Design Group. His 2012 thesis, under the lab’s director Prof. Ilan Kroo, was “Design of Quiet UAV Propellers” (Kroo was then also the Principal Scientist and founding CEO of Zee Aero, which is now Wisk Aero).
In April 2012, Stoll became the first full-time employee at Joby Aviation. There, he had an immediate impact on the design of Joby’s eVTOL aircraft design. Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt highlighted his contributions to vertical flight in his keynote talk at the Transformative Vertical Flight (TVF) Technical Meeting in January 2020. After explaining that Joby had designed an aircraft called the Monarch prior to hiring Stoll, Bevirt stated, “But then Alex Stoll joined the team and he built a really comprehensive system optimization model with the goal of minimizing the cost per passenger mile, and this allowed us to optimize every single parameter of the aircraft — the diameter of the propellers, the number of propellers, the area of the wing, the number of passengers — and look at what drove the lowest cost per passenger mile. Because we believed what was really the critical piece to enabling adoption was we needed to get this to the point where it is cost competitive with driving a car. And, with that, we took Monarch and hung it on the ceiling, because it wasn’t designed for the speed that makes sense for an air taxi operation. And so, we set out to design [the current] air taxi and the goals were really about making something that was safe, that was quiet and that was affordable.”
As Joby’s Aeromechanics Lead, Stoll was a co-author on 21 patents and a frequent contributor to conference papers. His past publications are prominently displayed on his personal website, www.alexstoll.com. A decade ago, these were theoretical AIAA papers, but recently, as the company has proven its capabilities, Stoll had been a co-author of VFS conference papers at Forum 77 and Forum 78; he was a planned author or co-author on three Joby papers for Forum 79. He was also an active officer in the VFS San Francisco Bay Area Chapter and staffed the VFS booth at the GoFly Flyoff on Feb. 29, 2020, interacting with kids and adults interested in learning more about VFS and vertical flight.
Stoll was an attendee and speaker at the first VFS Transformative Vertical Flight Workshop in August 2014, and a regular attendee at every TVF Workshop/eVTOL Symposium and Annual Forum every year thereafter. He was also a founding member of the VFS Hydrogen eVTOL Council, and a regular attendee of the monthly webinars, as well as an attendee at the Society’s 1st Hydrogen Aero Symposium in March 2022. Notably, the most recent patent granted is on hydrogen, “High efficiency hydrogen fueled high altitude thermodynamic fuel cell system and aircraft using same,” US Patent 11565607, granted Jan. 31, 2023.
Stoll changed the course of history with his contribution to developing a practical eVTOL aircraft. We can only imagine what more this innovative pioneer would have contributed to aviation in the coming decades had his life not been cut so tragically short.
“Alex embraced life with an infectious enthusiasm. He was fun-loving, adventurous, fearless, inspired, colorful, kind, and had a ready laugh,” his family wrote in his obituary. “Each week might find him dancing, listening to live music, going to parties, or organizing and curating the playlist for happy hour at 5:00 on the dot on Fridays at Joby. He hated ‘boring’ clothes and had a distinctive personal style.”
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Alex Stoll, our colleague and a creative genius, who was not just an integral part of our team, but a cherished member of the Joby family,” Bevirt said in a statement published in AviationWeek. “Alex’s legacy will continue to inspire us as we strive to build upon the foundation [he] helped establish. We will channel our love for Alex into redoubling our efforts to realize his dream of transforming transportation.”
Alex Stoll passed away on Feb. 16, 2023 in a tragic car accident in Santa Cruz, California. At the age of 37, he had already made contributions to vertical flight greater than perhaps any other individual working on electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft design. He was posthumously selected for the 2023 VFS Paul E. Haueter Award, “given for an outstanding technical contribution to the field of vertical take-off and landing aircraft development other than a helicopter or an operational vertical flight aircraft.”
“Alex had worked at Joby for more than a decade, playing a hugely significant role in the design of our aircraft and the definition of a company culture that continues to contribute to the Joby's success," the company said in a statement.
VFS Update: Vertiflite May/June 2023