Helluva engineer: Christopher T. Jones proudly poses with his family and the Reck during the 2015 Georgia Tech Academy of Distinguished Engineering Alumni awards ceremony where he was honored.
This year, Christopher T. Jones (AE 1986) was recognized by the National Academy of Engineering for his leadership of defense logistics, sustainment, training, and system readiness in support of the U.S national security. But all of his achievements resulted from taking advantages of opportunities. And it all started at Georgia Tech.
|Jones (center) and fellow ROTC members during the AFROTC Dinner Banquet held in 1986.|
When planning for life after high school, it became clear to Jones that he had to pay his own way through college. Born and raised in Havre de Grace, Maryland, he would become the first member of his family to go to college right after high school. He chose Georgia Tech because he was interested in aerospace engineering, plus Tech had a prominent Air Force ROTC program which would partially fund his tuition through an ROTC scholarship that he acquired.
“I was highly motivated because I had to keep a 3.0 GPA or I would lose my scholarship and there was no real fallback,” said Jones. “Plus, I wanted to prove to myself and my family that I could do it.”
While at Tech, Jones was able to find support groups through his fellow classmates in aerospace engineering, cadets in ROTC, fellow members of the National Society of Black Engineers, and his teammates from intramural sports.
“I was able to interact with many different people,” said Jones. “Black, white, brown, some folks that were really rich, others that were middle class like me, and also people that were from overseas. Since Georgia Tech was a public school, it was more representative of the country in general and that actually helped me later in my career.”
|Jones standing next to a
Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk in Afghanistan, 2003
After graduation, Jones began working in the Foreign Technology Division at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio as a systems analyst on foreign ballistic missile and space systems. His job was to keep track of enemy weapon systems from an Air Force perspective then figure out how they could be countered if used against the U.S.
During that time, Jones began attending night school and obtained two master’s degrees from the University of Dayton. After that, he decided to separate from active duty and went into the Air Force reserves to focus on earning a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.
“I decided to get a Ph.D. for two reasons,” said Jones. “One was to prove to myself that I could do it, and the other was to show that black people can get Ph.D.’s too. I think the year I graduated, there were maybe five black individuals that earned aerospace engineering Ph.D. degrees in the entire country. Sometimes it’s good to think about something bigger than yourself.”
After earning his Ph.D. in helicopter flight dynamics, Jones began working for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation as a senior dynamics/acoustics engineer. In this role, he performed research for the design and development of aerospace vehicles and components which included flight and wind tunnel testing and also creation of algorithms for the active control of helicopter noise and vibration.
At this time, Jones also transitioned from the Air Force reserves to the Air National Guard and went on several deployments overseas during his 14-year career with the 103rd Air Control Squadron. He served in Afghanistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and his squadron was an active participant in Operation Noble Eagle, which was a defense of the homeland response after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
|Jones is all smiles after inspecting
the Pave Hawk helicopter
“There were a lot of Sikorsky helicopters overseas, so I was getting info on how our helicopters were performing,” said Jones. “As an engineer or designer, it’s important to make the connection between the user and the intended purpose of the equipment or device you’re working on. There’s nothing more real than something you designed or worked on being used in combat and people’s lives are dependent on its performance. In that sense, it was good for me to witness our helicopters in the field. I actually caught myself cursing engineers like myself when something broke on our equipment and we had to fix it in the middle of the dessert.”
After eight years with Sikorsky, Jones began working for Northrop Grumman and began moving into leadership roles. Early on, he was responsible for all aircraft product support activities and international programs for the E-2 Hawkeye weapon system programs. He then moved into vice president roles which later bestowed him the responsibility of leading a complex organization of 13,000 employees with annual revenues of more than $4 billion.
Jones retired from Northrop Grumman in 2020 and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering earlier this year. He is now concentrating his efforts on giving back and helping others. Jones began by donating funds to all the organizations that helped him along his way including the NAACP, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. Jones has also set up scholarships and finically supported activities that assist minorities at Georgia Tech and the University of Maryland.
|Jones proudly wearing Georgia Tech gear while stationed in Afghanistan, 2003|
“I’m focused on increasing the pipeline,” said Jones. “Getting people to college and making sure they’ve got the right opportunities and the right support to graduate.”
Jones is also participating in the Mentors in Residence program within the School of Aerospace Engineering where students can schedule time to meet with him on a video call and ask questions about anything they want. Jones also spends time assisting veterans that are transitioning into the workforce by helping them with building resumes and preparing for job interviews.
“These are groups of people I can identify with and help,” said Jones. “They just need a little boost here and there and now that I’m retired, I have the funds and time to be of assistance.”
Jones added that helping others will be a big part of his new role as a member of the National Academy of Engineering and he is very honored to have been awarded this recognition.