Wallace "Wally" J. Hoff says that growing up on a cattle farm in Madison, S.D., steered him onto the path of engineering and a 31-year career with the local division of Westinghouse Electric Corp.
On the farm, he says, there were always combines and tractors that needed to be repaired. It was pretty much the same in engineering: "There were always challenges and opportunities."
Yesterday, Westinghouse named the 53-year-old engineer general manager of its Electronic Systems Group's Design Engineering and Manufacturing Operations Division. In this capacity, he heads the group's manufacturing operations, which account for about a third of Westinghouse's approximately 15,000 workers in Maryland.
Mr. Hoff, who is married and has four daughters, most recently served as general manager of the company's Air Force Avionics Division. In that job, he was involved in the design and development of electronic systems for the F-16 fighter plane, the B-1B bomber and the advanced tactical fighter, the next generation fighter plane that the Air Force is counting on for air superiority into the early part of the next century.
Asked about the highlights of his long career with Westinghouse, Mr. Hoff doesn't mention any of these supersonic war planes; he talks instead about some lumbering jets that the Air Force says played a major role in the outcome of the air war over Iraq.
He was referring to AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) radar planes that served as a flying air traffic control system directing thousands of daily bombing missions over the war zone.
As if directing the flights of allied aircraft weren't enough, AWACS planes were charged with keeping a wary eye out for the movement of any Iraqi planes.
"I had some involvement in the design and engineering of AWACS," he says, and it has left him with a feeling of "tremendous accomplishment." That was more than 20 years ago, a time when he was "just one of the peons" working on parts of the AWACS program, he says.
A few years ago, as head of the company's Air Force Avionics Division, Mr. Hoff was part of the Westinghouse team that developed a radar system for the advanced tactical fighter, or YF-22, a $25 billion aircraft program being built by a corporate team headed by Lockheed Corp.
While the military restricts information on the operation of the new plane, Mr. Hoff says the radar will be a marked improvement over units in today's front-line fighter. He says it will enable the pilots to track more targets simultaneously and "look" in more directions faster than is possible with current systems.
Mr. Hoff graduated from the University of South Dakota and earned a master's degree from the University of Maryland.
Mr. Hoff succeeds Aris Melisseratos, who was named general manager of corporate productivity and quality last week and transferred to headquarters in Pittsburgh.