Rhonda Walthall

Prism Award

Rhonda Walthall, Prism Award, Headshot

Rhonda Walthall

Collins Aerospace

For outstanding technical leadership and expertise; for mentoring the next generation of engineers; and for leading efforts to make prognostics and health management a standard practice for all aircraft systems.

Rhonda Walthall is an industry recognized leader in the development of standards and best practices for prognostics and health management (PHM) solutions. She is a Technical Fellow at Collins Aerospace in Charlotte, North Carolina, a division of Raytheon Technologies. She focuses on design for PHM for aircraft systems and components, predictive analytics, and 5G to enable proactive maintenance. She has spent 33 years advancing integrated aircraft health management technologies and training the next generation of engineers.

Walthall began her career in 1987 as an engine performance engineer on the MD-11 program for the McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company. She developed a method to evaluate the impact of off-nominal operations of the environmental control system on engine performance. For her discovery, she was nominated for the company’s Amelia Earhart Award for outstanding women engineers.

After eight years with McDonnell Douglas, Walthall joined Northwest Airlines as an aircraft and engine condition monitoring engineer. She helped to launch the Flight Operations Quality Assurance program still used today at Delta Airlines. She transferred to Raytheon Technologies, and during the past 18 years, has been promoted to positions of increasing responsibility. She started as a lead systems engineer and advanced to Technical Fellow, a position that recognizes outstanding technical leadership and expertise and is given to less than 1% of the engineering population.

Walthall has made it her practice to mentor early- to midcareer engineers, providing guidance on matters such as career advancement, organizational culture, inclusion, training, and education. Her involvement in professional organizations started while she was a student at Purdue University. She led the Purdue Collegiate Section of the Society of Women Engineers and was president of the Purdue Chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She also became involved in SAE International, the PHM Society, and Women in Aviation International.

Through SWE she organized several STEM-related programs held at Collins to acquaint girls with opportunities in engineering. These have included the popular Introduce a Girl to Engineering for fifth- and sixth-grade girls and Invention Convention, which encourages students through grade 12 to make an invention that addresses a worldwide problem.

Walthall sits on the board of directors of SAE International and the PHM Society, for which she was the organization’s first woman fellow. She has chaired committees and served as judges within these organizations and has participated in the planning and execution of many conferences.

She has received numerous awards, including Outstanding Aerospace Engineer (2020) from Purdue University and SAE International’s Rodica Baranescu Award for Technical and Leadership Excellence (2018). The Baranescu Award celebrates the success of women in the mobility engineering profession and their role in encouraging young people to pursue STEM careers.

Walthall holds a B.S. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Pepperdine University.

She has been married to her husband, Larry, for 22 years. Her “children” have included numerous cats and dogs and a few ducks. Walthall enjoys traveling the world, working jigsaw puzzles, and taking long walks in nature.

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