Steve Hamblin '99

Mechanical Engineering Technology

Flying High

Have a dream job description? For Steve Hamblin, ’99 it’s “responsible for everything that sticks out of the plane horizontally: the wings, the horizontal stabilizers and the control surfaces on them.” The “plane” being the “world’s fastest certified piston-powered aircraft on the planet.” Hamblin is Project Engineer – Wing, for Columbia Aircraft in Bend, Oregon, where the “sports car” of single-engine piston airplanes is designed and manufactured.

Through a series of serendipitous events, and the great reputation of OIT and its engineering students, Steve turned a lifelong love of planes and flying into his dream job.

Steve grew up in Klamath Falls, and upon graduation wanted to spread his wings. He enrolled in the Engineering Physics program at Northwest Nazarene in Nampa, ID, where he completed his first two years. At that point, wanting more hands-on experience, he realized that OIT was the perfect place to complete his degree. According to Hamblin, the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at OIT “clicked with my personality. I always liked to take things apart and see how they worked.”

Upon graduation, Hamblin went into the semiconductor industry in Boise for 6 years “It’s as bare-bones mechanical engineering experience as you can get.” There Hamblin honed his skills in areas such as basic machine design, the design of highly toleranced and fit-dependant assemblies, cost reduction, design for manufacturability and design reliability.

Once Hamblin and wife, Nichole (Hughes) Hamblin’99—also an OIT alum in Dental Hygiene—had a baby, they decided to move back to Oregon to be closer to family.

Steve attributes his opportunity at Columbia and his some of his subsequent success in his position there, to the great reputation of the OIT grads who preceded him at Columbia Aircraft. Steve feels the responsibility of that reputation as well. Just as Steve reaped the benefits of his predecessor’s reputation, “you need to perform well for the engineers who coming down the road from OIT 5 years from now.”

Steve marvels that he got this position with “no aviation experience, no composites experience,” but clearly the strength of his OIT education and the reputation of OIT grads contributed to his success at Columbia. According to Hamblin, he “started with the company ‘in the trenches’ as a Liaison engineer,” which gave him a great deal of composite and general aviation experience. From that position Hamblin learned that basics and then applied that knowledge to the design position. Hamblin also attributes the experience gained during his 6 years in the semiconductor industry, where the production, manufacturing, assembly, and functionality requirements are very similar to those of his current position.

In addition to designing, Steve gets plenty of “right or back-seat time” in Columbia R&D planes, testing his designs with the engineering test pilots. Steve’s love of planes has extended to his personal life as well, where he’s working on his private pilot license.