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Glenn Liston retiring after 37 years of service to the Air Force, Department of Defense

  • Published
  • By Deidre Ortiz
  • AEDC/PA
Glenn Liston, chief of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) High Speed Experimentation Branch at Arnold Air Force Base, will retire from Air Force civilian service June 30 after 37 years of federal service.

Liston was selected to establish the new branch in May 2014 and to oversee the operations of the government and contractor teams conducting experimental research within the AEDC von Kármán Gas Dynamics Facility (VKF) at Arnold.

“I supervise a team of about 16 members that make up the AFRL team,” Liston said. “I got here in October 2014 and set up the office and started hiring. We were fully staffed by December 2015.”

He commented that many individuals across the AEDC team at Arnold supported the effort to start up the branch, and saw to it that the High Speed Experimentation Branch had a successful start.

“Our standup involved close collaboration with a lot of different organizations, which is also why our team works so well now, because we have support from the Finance and Contracting offices, the Test Operations Division, Test Support Division, the Test Systems Sustainment Division and all these groups coming together,” he said. “They play such a major factor in our success as a branch.”

AFRL is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, which is where Liston was located prior to transferring to his new role at Arnold.

“Before coming here I had been working as part of the AFRL High Speed Systems Division for the Aerospace Systems Directorate,” he said. “Dr. Doug Blake (a former executive director for AEDC) had come from AFRL. He was a key reason why this AFRL branch got stood up at Arnold.”

Liston graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1982. Following this, he went on active duty in the U.S. Air Force as an engineer. He achieved the rank of Captain.

“My wife and I were both active duty at the time in Sunnyvale, California, at the Satellite Control Center,” he said.

Then in 1987, he started a DOD civilian position with the Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB. In 1994, he received his master’s degree in Management Science from the University of Dayton in Ohio.

Most of his career has been with Air Force laboratory organizations. He started working for AFRL when it stood up in 1997.

Liston mentioned that he is glad to have had the opportunity to work at Arnold, having worked closely with members of Team AEDC over the years, but never having visited the site in Tennessee until 2010.

“I had previously worked with many of AEDC’s hypersonic leaders, including Dr. Tom Fetterhoff, Mr. Ed Tucker, Dr. Doug Garrard, Ms. Sharon Rigney and Dr. Dan Marren,” he said.

Regarding his assignment at Arnold, Liston said, “It’s been a really cool position because I enjoy doing new things and exploring new concepts. Helping start this new branch, working with young team members who are post-doctorate researchers or who came from industry, and just getting the branch to be really self-sufficient has been great. It’s really motivating to me to help this branch to be effective, and I enjoy coming into work every day.”

He added he has also seen his team grow considerably in their abilities and confidence.
“Instead of me asking them to do something, they now come to me and tell me what they’ve accomplished,” Liston said. “That is a little scary, but immensely satisfying.”

In addition to being proud of what his team has accomplished, he’s also leaving with several memorable experiences. Supporting the reactivation of VKF Wind Tunnel D was one of those experiences.

“The way that the branch members came together with our Team AEDC partners to un-mothball and bring the facility back online is just incredible,” he said. “The first operational run of Tunnel D in February – that was really cool!”

Over the entirety of his career, Liston said his very best moment was probably the first flight of the X-51A WaveRider, an experimental vehicle which had the longest air-breathing, scramjet-powered hypersonic flight in May 2013.

“The first flight of the X-51A was in 2010, and it was significant for me because I was involved in the early studies of the aircraft. I helped define what would eventually become the Air Force HyTech program at Wright-Patterson, developing propulsion and airframe technologies for scramjet powered vehicles,” Liston said. “HyTech set the foundation for DOD’s National Aerospace Initiative, and that was responsible for getting funding for X-51A. The Air Force-DARPA-Boeing-Pratt & Whitney demonstration program team was led by Charlie Brink, and they took the X-51A from vision to flight.”

Now that he’s retiring, he is reflecting on his career and time at Arnold.

“Everyone here was delightful to work with from my very first day,” Liston recalled. “As a native born Northerner, I have grown to like the winters here, and the Team AEDC folks are really great to work with.”

In retirement, Liston plans to spend more time with family – his first grandchild is expected over the summer - and work on his hobbies.

“Family is the center of my life,” he said. “My kids are grown now and they’re in Ohio. I plan to continue to be active in the community and as a member of the Knights of Columbus. I plan to do more boating and tinker in the garage on some hands-on projects. I’m sure my wife will have a honey-do list a mile long.”

Liston isn’t leaving work behind entirely though, planning to continue to work part-time as a hypersonic subject matter expert and also work on some personal projects. He will be splitting his time between Tennessee and Ohio.