“I design aircraft for 10-to-15 years down the road, sometimes 20-to-25 years,” Stille said. “There is a lot of risk in that. Electronics change every six months. Military customers change every three years. It’s tough to project what the vision, as well as the technology, will be down the road. You’re betting that you are going to be able to make it all work when you finally get there.”
The Maranatha alumnus works as an engineer for Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Connecticut. He recently returned to Wisconsin for the EAA AirVenture Convention in Oshkosh. Stille accompanied Sikorsky’s X2 Technology Demonstrator, a compound helicopter with coaxial rotors (mounted above each other, but turning in opposite directions) and unofficially the world’s fastest helicopter. The company’s new S-97 Raider high speed scout and attack helicopter will incorporate technology from the X2.
“The stuff I have designed is pretty much across the board—large military transports, attack helicopters, transports for oil rigs, bizjets (business jets),” Stille said. “I’ve worked on both military and commercial projects.”
Stille knew aircraft design was his calling when he came to Maranatha in the fall of 1992 after graduating from Berean Baptist School in Rockford, IL. Although he only spent a year on campus, Stille met his wife and learned spiritual truths that still impact his life today.
“I knew I wanted to go off to engineering school, but I also knew that time spent at a Christian college is good for everybody,” Stille said.
It was certainly good for his three brothers. Brian (’88) is now an attorney in the Green Bay area. Brent (B.J.) graduated in 1990 and is now pastor of First Baptist Church in Litchfield, MI. Brad (’94) is an associate pastor and the administrator at Wixom Christian School in Wixom, MI. Brandon’s wife, Laura (Whitcomb, AA ’93), is a former administrative assistant to Dr. John Brock, Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Brandon earned his undergraduate degree at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and his master’s degree at George Washington University. He worked as a civil servant for NASA, where his team’s projects included the X-43A. That jet set a world speed record (Mach 9.6, or nearly 7,000 miles per hour) in 2004.
Stille had already moved on to Sikorsky before that record flight. He has registered several patents, including one for rotors for large vertical-lift transport helicopters and one for a system that prevents a catastrophic shift in payload weight on a helicopter transporting a large load.
“I describe it as a seatbelt for really heavy loads, such as a 30-ton vehicle,” Stille said.
His “other job,” as his wife jokes, is at his local church. Brandon and Laura help direct youth and adult choirs, special music, and the sound and technical ministries. There is also another job—sharing Christ with those he comes in contact with.
“I work with a lot of engineers, and engineers are known to be a little eccentric,” Stille said. “When I share my faith, they just think I’m also being eccentric. But, for the most part, they listen.
“I pray every day for patience and grace. I also pray that I can be creative and bring something realistic to the final design stage. I want my concepts to be able to become real someday. When you’ve been able to solve a problem and one of your co-workers looks at you and says, ‘That’s exactly the right answer,’ you’ve had a successful day.”