After Aviation Week & Space Technology reveals its Person of the Year in the first edition of the magazine in January, many readers ask how we make our selection. Some tend to think it is a scientific process, much like our Top-Performing Companies groupings, now entering its fifteenth year; it’s not. There is no metric we apply, no Person-of-the-Year measuring stick, and no algorithm. It is strictly subjective.
I call for nominations from our writing editors and subject experts around the world. The criteria is deceptively simple: who had the greatest influence on the aerospace/defense industry in the most recent calendar year, or whose actions in the past year is likely to influence the course of the aerospace industry going forward?
Like our picks to receive Laureate awards, candidates are vetted among the staff to reach a consensus. But Person of the Year should not be confused with an award; it’s not. It may not even be an honor, and one of these years our POY may even be an individual who we call to task. Person of the Year is as much a recognition of what people are doing to shake things up or influence the course of the industry as it is about the individuals themselves.
While we always hope our pick will turn out to be someone who may be a little unexpected by our readers—as in the case of the father of the Chinese space program one year, or the new breed of entrepreneurs who are laying the foundation for the emerging commercial space economy another year— in the end our selection just has to feel right. We already have made our selection for 2011, of course, and are busy pulling together a comprehensive article about our choice.
Regardless of whether our selection comes as a surprise, here’s a question: looking back on 2011, who would be your choice?