dr. karr and RSESC Director Dave Arterburn
UAH President Charles L. Karr congratulates former RSESC Director Dave Arterburn who received a career achievement award from the Vertical Flight Society, the VFS da Vinci Award, presented by the Redstone Chapter of the VFS.
Michael Mercier | UAH

David Arterburn, former director of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Rotorcraft Systems Engineering and Simulation Center (RSESC), has received a career achievement award from the Vertical Flight Society (VFS) in recognition of his induction into the da Vinci Medallion Hall of Fame. Arterburn recently retired after serving the center as director since 2013. The da Vinci Medallion Awards Program recognizes individual or corporate members of the Redstone Chapter who have made significant contributions toward advancing the goals of the American Helicopter Society.

The award was presented by Bill Lewis, president of the Vertical Flight Society, Redstone Chapter, in a ceremony conducted at the Student Services Building on the UAH campus. Formerly the American Helicopter Society, the VFS is a non-profit technical society founded in 1943 for the advancement of vertical flight. The basis for the award can be a single outstanding achievement or the cumulative result of an exceptional career in industry, academia, government or the military.

“The da Vinci Award is the VFS tactical award for proficiency,” Lewis said during the presentation. “There are three degrees to the da Vinci, and Dave is getting the Blue award, which is the highest award and really goes for his whole career. Dave spent time out at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California and was recruited to be the technical leader of experimental controls for the Army. From an Army aviator standpoint, he was an exceptional technical leader, mentor and program commander. The experimental pilot group is pretty small; there are only about 70 pilots at a time. When he came out to the Arsenal, we knew Dave was a special guy. Some are really good at the flight part, some are really good at the engineering part. Dave is a rare commodity who is good at both. I want to thank him for the leadership and the trust that he earned.”

The presentation recognized the inductee for career contributions to the vertical flight community as a military user, flight test pilot, program manager and university research engineer. Arterburn's accomplishments included working in flight controls with the Army RAdar SCAnning Link (RASCAL) system to improve operations in degraded visual environments and autonomous flight. As part of the United States Army Program Executive Office - Aviation, he championed the integration of fly-by-wire controls, “which has always been my passion,” Arterburn noted. He also served as Chief Engineer for the OH-58F cockpit upgrade program and continued his contributions to the community as director of the UAH RSESC for the previous ten years where he led a multi-disciplinary team of research engineers.

“I’ve always been really fortunate to be a part of the Army aviation community,” Arterburn said. “You could fill up a book with the people who have mentored me over the years. I feel blessed to have been in a group that accepted me and mentored me. When you’re working on a project, I can be like 80-grade sandpaper sometimes. But we were always a team, and this is really what this award is about, teams and the people making up those teams. Being at UAH has always been special. I will always be a part of this family, and if I’m ever needed, I’ll be back here.”