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Obituary of Dr. Barnes W. McCormick Jr.


Dr. Barnes W. McCormick, Jr., died suddenly and unexpectedly on October 29, 2017, at Mount Nittany Medical Center. Dr. McCormick is survived by his wife of 71 years, Emily Hess McCormick, his daughter, Mrs. Cynthia Miceli, her husband, Kenneth Miceli of Mechanicsburg, PA, five grandchildren, Mrs. Joan Fairbank (husband Jeremiah) of Phoenix, MD, Mr. Gerald Miceli (wife Ashley) of Downingtown, PA, Mrs. Rebecca Benfield (husband Jeffrey) of Philadelphia, Mrs. Emily Guy (husband Jeffrey) of New Cumberland, PA, Mr. Thomas Miceli of Chicago, and seven great grandchildren, Luca Barnes Fairbank, James Fairbank, Libby Fairbank and Thomas Fairbank of Phoenix, MD, Charles Miceli of Downingtown, PA, Drew Cynthia Guy of New Cumberland, PA, and Lucy Benfield of Philadelphia.

Dr. McCormick, born in Waycross, GA in 1926, was the son of the late Edwina and Barnes McCormick, Sr. He graduated from West Chester (PA) High School in 1944 and served in the US Navy. Honorably discharged in 1946, he and his wife were soon married in Hazleton, PA. They settled in State College, PA, where he earned a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University in aeronautical engineering. Dr. McCormick was employed by Penn State’s Ordnance Research Laboratory (now Applied Research Laboratory) while pursuing his Ph.D.. After earning his doctorate degree in 1954, he joined the Piasecki Helicopter Co. (now Boeing Helicopters) in 1955 where he later rose to the position of Chief of Aerodynamics. In 1958 he moved to Kansas where he was named Head of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Wichita (now Wichita State University). However, he left just one year later to return to his beloved Penn State. He served as the Head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at PSU from 1969 until 1985 when he was named the Boeing Professor of Aerospace Engineering. He retired from Penn State in 1991 but continued to teach voluntarily through 2015 (age 89). In 1967, he began a short course at Penn State relating to helicopters and vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. He participated in that course as a lecturer and coordinator until 2013. This course is one of the longest-running short courses in the history of the University.

Dr. McCormick was active in many professional activities that reached beyond Penn State. He was an accomplished author of three textbooks relating to aerodynamics and one reference book concerning aircraft accident reconstruction. He was well known throughout the aerospace industry and he served as a consultant to many companies. He presented invited lectures in Australia, Germany, Italy, Turkey, and Russia as well as serving for seven years as the US Coordinator for AGARD, a NATO scientific committee. He served as vice chairman of the US Congressional Advisory Committee on Aeronautics and also chaired a committee for the Department of Energy to review its wind energy program. Dr. McCormick was also active as an expert witness and participated in approximately 60 litigations relating to aircraft accidents. Finally, he served as the vice president of education for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He also served as the journal editor and its technical director for the American Helicopter Society. Dr. McCormick was a Fellow of both of these societies.

One of Dr. McCormick’s accomplishments was recognized by the Penn State Alumni Association in the form of a Penn State Historical Marker located on the edge of Foundry Park (between Hammond Building and the Hintz Alumni Center) at the University Park Campus. The purpose of these markers is: “to honor major figures and accomplishments from the University’s past. They stand as tangible evidence that Penn State recognizes its heritage.” The marker reads: “In 1965, Penn State Aerospace Engineer Barnes W. McCormick led a research team that made the first measurements of the details of wake turbulence behind a full-scale airplane. These measurements, using aircraft flown at University Park Airport, were instrumental in setting the separation distances between aircraft operating in and out of airports worldwide, distances codified today in FAA and international regulations.”

While he was a giant in the field of aerospace, he left a large footprint in his personal life as well. His kindness, wisdom, and humor will be greatly missed. All are invited to please share your professional and personal memories of Barney by sending them to The Aerospace Department will then forward this collection of tributes to both his family and his colleagues.

In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to contribute to the McCormick Academic Excellence Fund, Department of Aerospace Engineering, 229 Hammond Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.
Visitation with the family will be held at the Nittany Lion Inn’s Alumni Lounge (formerly the Fireside Room) at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, November 17, 2017, with a memorial service at 11:00 a.m. Following the service, a reception will be held at 12:30 p.m. in the Nittany Lion Inn Ballroom. Burial with full military honors will follow at 3:00 p.m. at Centre County Memorial Park, 1032 Benner Pike, State College.

Dr. McCormick’s family wishes to express special thanks to the caring staff at The Village at Penn State (where he lived independently for the past four years) and also to the staff at the Atrium (within the Village, where his wife Emily resides). His family is also grateful to the caring staff at Mount Nittany Medical Center’s Palliative Care Unit (4th Floor Medical-Oncology) where he stayed but one day.

Name of Deceased

Dr. Barnes W. McCormick Jr.

Date of Death


Date of Birth


Funeral Home

Mark D. Heintzelman Funeral & Cremation Services

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