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Patrick Jordan '82


MCI alum Patrick Jordan '82 (pictured right) has a passion for the outdoors including mountain biking, hiking, and more.

Patrick Jordan, Class of 1982, gives a lot of credit to his education at MCI in preparing him for a celebrated career in the field of aerospace engineering. From embracing expert systems and the early forms of artificial intelligence, to now revolutionizing the safety of our aircrafts, we checked in with Jordan to hear his story and his recommendation for current and future MCI students.

Patrick Jordan '82 was born in New Jersey, but his father was originally from Vassalboro. When he was nine years old his family moved back to central Maine and eventually found their way to Pittsfield, where they lived on Libby Street just around 100 yards away from our MCI campus. Growing up Jordan always looked forward to attending Maine Central Institute and continuing to further his education, and the MCI experience did not disappoint.

"MCI always felt like my backyard, because it kind of was my backyard," said Jordan. "So when I got to MCI it really felt like home, everybody got along… the big thing about MCI that I really thought was great was going from building to building and that whole campus environment, it was very unique for a high school at that time."

Jordan recalls that back then in the middle of Maine, it could feel isolating without the internet to make connections across the state and globe. However, at MCI you could connect with international students and people from all over the world, which Jordan said gave him a much deeper understanding of the world around him and encouraged him to get out of his comfort zone. He remembers that the rigor of his MCI education matched or exceeded his first year of college, and that teachers like Ron Bessey, Jon Slagle, Wayne Stilphen, Rosalie Williams, and others truly impacted his view on learning and continuing to ask the tough questions. While at MCI, Jordan participated in soccer and tennis (the latter of which he went to States), was involved musically in concert band, jazz band, pep band, and marching band, and was also a member of the Math team.

From an early age, Jordan knew that he was fascinated with aircrafts and the lengths it took to get these complex vehicles up in the air. His senior year the Space Shuttle program started to take flight, and this all but sealed the deal for Jordan. It wasn't a matter of if he would study the field of aerospace engineering, it was where. Jordan decided to take his ambitions to the Cal Poly College of Engineering, which offered a rare four-year degree in Aerospace Engineering. Traveling across the entire country from Maine to California is an inspiring feat for any student, but it was a no-brainer for Jordan. At this time, Southern California was the hub for all things involving aerospace innovation. With the Edwards Air Force Base within driving distance, Jordan has many fond memories of piling into beater cars with his small group of friends and heading out to the desert to camp out and watch the shuttles land. It was a rush, and it only cemented that this was what Jordan was meant to be doing.

After receiving his BS in Aerospace Engineering, Jordan would eventually further his education with a degree in Project Management from the University of Phoenix and his MBA from Arizona State University. After leaving Cal Poly he immediately started looking for work, and found his way ou to the deserts of Phoenix, Arizona. Jordan began working for a company called Allied Signal, which was originally an industrial mining manufacturer but began developing auxiliary power units for planes during World War II. These power units where then transitioned over during the inception of the commercial air industry. Jordan began working as a mechanical engineer in 1987,  where he created auxiliary power units that were small jet engines that could run on the ground as a ground unit or inside a plane to provide power when the main engines didn't have to run. For almost the next 15 years, Jordan would work as an engineer for Allied Signal filling a multitude of different roles, including running computer simulations of engines, mastering vibrations and rotor dynamics, and learning the world of expert systems and early forms of artificial intelligence. 

"Even 30 years ago, one of the first things that we learned was even when something looks simple, it’s much more complicated," explained Jordan. "Even something as simple as designing a bolt or fastener, there’s a lot of details associated with that and to capture that in an expert system took quite a bit of time." The expert systems Jordan worked on were all about developing a central program that could tie together all their existing analytic tools and help design parts of the engines. "It’s still a lot of inference from the large amounts of data to try to figure out what the patterns are so you can discern a rule and make a decision based on those rules… there’s a lot more work that goes into these systems than people realize, but once it gets developed and you keep training it and know how to use it, it can be very impressive what they can accomplish."

Working in evacuation systems, Jordan helps maintain the safety and certification of inflatables housed in aircrafts, including this A380 that he and his team worked on in Germany.

After leaving Phoenix to work with Airbus in Europe on their expert systems, Jordan made his way back Arizona and worked as an independent contractor helping different companies with any engineering expertise they might need. After traveling back and forth across the state, Jordan was ready to settle back down and ended up hiring on at Goodrich Aerospace, which through a number of mergers and acquisitions has now become part of Raytheon Technologies. Raytheon is largely known for their weapon technology, but the company has dozens of other divisions including Collins Aerospace, which deals with anything that goes inside of an aircraft including automated flight decks, wheels and brakes, seats, and more.

At Collins, Jordan specifically works as Chief Engineer of the Evacuation Systems division. In Evacuation Systems, Jordan and his team work on the large inflatable slides that help transport passengers safely down to the ground in case of evacuation and emergency.  It is Jordan's job to manage the younger engineers working on the project and make sure that everything is meeting the engineering standards of the company. It is also their responsibility to make sure that all certifications, documentations, and evidence for developing new forms of evacuation slides are submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration and any other international organizations to prove that their systems will perform as they are intended.

"I like to tell people, I hope you never have to use what we design... but if you need to, it works," said Jordan. "We like to remind people that the stuff we do doesn’t get seen a lot, but when there is a disaster it’s essential... it has to work and it has to save people’s lives, and we try to instill that in our engineers.” There's a lot of work that goes into testing these evacuation systems, as they can't be analyzed using test weight like other parts of the plane. Real people are used to make sure these slides work effectively, and there's a lot of analysis that goes into making sure these people and any future users can exit the plane safely. As Jordan emphasized, it's all about being prepared for when disaster strikes and making sure that they have all done their part in aiding the passengers.

While Jordan has found his new home in Phoenix, he still tries to travel back to Maine every year during the summer to see his family and reconnect with others. Back in Arizona, Jordan has a real passion for the outdoors as he enjoys mountain biking, hiking, and soaking in the Arizona scenery. He frequently hikes the Grand Canyon rim to rim, traversing the canyon South to North in an entire day. Jordan recently reconnected with MCI through the new Dow Global Alumni Series, which welcomes alums to join a panel and discuss a variety of different topics for our school and alumni community. When asked what he would recommend to current and future MCI students, Jordan emphasized how crucial it is for students to widen their horizons and take advantage of MCI's large array of subjects and areas of study.

"Keep your interest in everything around you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions," remarked Jordan. "I know someone might say they just like math, but when you get out in the world you’ll need to communicate to someone and write… even if you have a natural tendency to be an engineer, remember to appreciate the other things that teachers are teaching you, you’ll be using all of those skills in the future.”

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