Drazic leads F-35 Joint Strike Fighter final assembly team
Lockheed Martin rolls out the first C-Variant of the F-35 (for aircraft carriers). Technology alumnus Nick Drazic is the manufacturing engineering manager for Final Assembly.
Nick Drazic was recruited into Lockheed Martin’s operations leadership development program when he graduated from Purdue’s College of Technology in 2006.
Like many industries in America, Lockheed Martin is facing a spate of retirements in the coming years. The leadership development program was designed as a way to prepare younger employees to fill the anticipated leadership gaps.
Drazic took full advantage of the four work rotations required of program participants. He completed the program in 2008 and has made several career advancements since.
Now, at the age of 26, he is the manufacturing engineering manager for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Final Assembly Team in Fort Worth, Texas. The F-35 program will supply thousands of aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps as well as several partner nations.
Drazic leads a 68-member team in the final steps of production before the aircraft are ready for fuel, ground operations and flight testing.
“Final Assembly completes the build of the aircraft,” he said. “We install aircraft computers, flight control surfaces, the seat and engine, and then functionally test all components as a complete system. My organization's responsibility is to make sure our mechanics have everything they need to build and test the aircraft to schedule.”
The Final Assembly team is in the beginning stages of a production run that is projected to last several decades, Drazic said. There are three variants of the aircraft, and Drazic led build teams for the first aircraft of each.
Drazic points to his senior capstone project and the teamwork inherent in the College of Technology curriculum as factors that have helped him throughout his young career.
“Purdue taught me how to think,” he said. “I learned how to break down complex problems into a bunch of pieces and then solve the little pieces. They teach you to attack problems hands on and experience it as part of a team. That is not always readily available as part of other standard curricula.”
Drazic expects to continue to take on successive leadership roles at Lockheed Martin. His next logical step would be a senior position, where he may oversee a larger team and budget profile. And even further in the future, his goal is to become an executive within the Lockheed Martin organization.
“I’ve been fascinated with airplanes and aerospace since I was very young,” he said. “You have to find something you are extremely passionate about. Working for a greater cause provides me the energy to put the extensive hours into the job to ensure our success as a team.”
Read more about the F-35 program.