Academy cadet earns national leadership award

  • Published
  • By Amber Baillie
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
The top cadet in the U.S. Air Force Academy's Aeronautics Department was recognized for being among the best aerospace graduates in the country last week in the nation's capital.

Cadet 1st Class Christopher Shannon received the 2014 Tomorrow's Leaders Award during the 57th Annual Laureates Awards March 6 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., for his outstanding leadership and NASA research here.

Shannon holds a 3.98 grade point average and is in the top one percent of the 2014 graduating class.

"I was extremely honored to have been selected to receive such a prestigious award," he said. "I feel extremely blessed to have been given so many opportunities to excel, and I'm glad I was able to represent the Academy well at this event."

Shannon was one of four service academy cadets selected for the award by Aviation Week, the largest multimedia information and services provider for the global aviation, aerospace and defense industries. Recipients were honored for their accomplishments in aviation, aerospace and defense.

"The award sheds a little light on what opportunities and capabilities cadets have to succeed," he said. "It shows the leaders of the aerospace industry that our nation is in good hands as we press into the future."

Shannon worked with Dr. Tom Yechout, an Academy Aeronautical Engineering professor, and Cadet 1st Class Josh Hunt, to determine the aerodynamic characteristics of the NASA Maraia Capsule in subsonic flight.

"We figured out how the capsule would fly during the last phases of re-entry," Shannon said. "The Maraia Capsule is a new autonomous vehicle that will be used by NASA as a sample return vehicle from the International Space Station, as well as a vertical test bed for future space capsules. For the past three semesters we've conducted wind tunnel tests in the aero lab here."

Shannon has also served as president of two engineering honor societies here, Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Gamma Tau. Last semester he received the Outstanding Squadron Commander Award for Cadet Squadron 16 and has received accolades as a soaring instructor pilot here.

"One of the wonderful aspects of teaching at the Academy is when I have a cadet who is outstanding academically and is also an incredible person," said Dr. Russ Cummings, professor and department head in the Academy's Aeronautics Department. "Chris Shannon is a great combination of both attributes. He excels in his classes and has shown himself to be an outstanding researcher. He is active in various cadet and community projects, and is on his way to Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduate school."

The Laureates Awards (produced by Aviation Week) is one of the industry's top events and attracts hundreds of industry pioneers and leaders throughout the world.

"Aviation Week provides the widest possible platform for honoring a cadet, with industry executives, aerospace workers, military leaders, and others as readers," Cummings said. "This award identifies Chris as among the very best aerospace graduates in the U.S. and provides the Academy with worldwide exposure due to his honor."

Shannon is an aeronautical engineering major here and said he hopes to become a test pilot in the Air Force.

"It's the perfect combination of flying and engineering," Shannon said. "I'd like to be a pilot because I think it's an incredibly exciting opportunity to serve my country and I have a true passion for flying."