Thomas E. Speer

Thomas E. Speer

Thomas E. Speer

Poulsbo, Wash.

Thomas Edward. Speer, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and aerospace engineer, passed away peacefully on Nov. 8, 2022, from cancer, attended to by his wife Kathy and son Sean. Born at McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kan., and raised in Stanwood, Iowa, Tom was the eldest son of Dr. Edward and Lenora Speer.

A National Merit Finalist in high

school, Tom and

 went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University in 1975. After completing ROTC, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force and began his career as an aeronautical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He was chosen to attend the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB in California, where he graduated with top honors as a flight test engineer in 1980.

Tom’s subsequent assignments were with the Canadian Air Force at Cold Lake in Alberta, Canada, then at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, where he earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology and worked as the control system integration manager for the Short Take Off and Landing/Maneuver Technology Demonstrator aircraft. He later served as chief of aeronautical engineering for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in London, and then returned to Edwards AFB, where he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1996.

Following his time in the Air Force, Tom joined the Boeing Corporation in Seattle, where he worked for 14 years in a variety of programs. He was a principal engineer on the Tier III- DarkStar unmanned aircraft program and the Lead Engineer for the KC-767 Aerial Refueling Boom control law development among other projects. He was recognized by Boeing for his outstanding work attaining the level Boeing Associate Technical Fellow, and holds 19 patents under his name.

Tom’s passion for sailing began when he was young and continued throughout his life. His expertise in aerodynamics, flight testing, and flight mechanics made him a valuable member of the engineering design team for the 33rd America’s Cup. From 2008 to 2010, he worked as a consulting engineer for BMW Oracle Racing, where he helped design and build the massive trimaran USA-17. In February 2010, USA-17 went on to win the 33rd America’s Cup races in Valencia, Spain, bringing the Cup back to America. President Obama recognized the AC-33 BMW Oracle Team, including Tom and the design team, at the White House.

After retiring from Boeing in 2010, Tom joined Oracle Team USA as wing designer for the 34th America’s Cup, raced in spectacular 72 ft AC72 wing-sail foiling catamarans. These were the fastest sailboats ever to compete for the America’s Cup, reaching speeds of 50 miles per hour (more than twice the speed of the wind) and cost over $10 million to build. In the longest match racing series in AC history, Oracle Team USA defeated Emirates Team New Zealand 9-8 in September 2013 on San Francisco Bay, with a stunning, eight race come-from-behind win. Tom was widely recognized for his wing-sail design for AC-33 and AC-34 and was widely quoted in numerous print and on-line sources, including the LA Times, Sail Magazine, Sailing World, and the British sailing publication Seahorse Magazine. Tom was frequently invited to speak on wing-sail aerodynamics and one of his presentations from 2014 is available online.

In 2013 Tom joined his third AC design team for the 35th America’s Cup held in Bermuda in 2017. For AC-35 Tom designed hydrofoils and wing-sails and created a dynamic velocity prediction program used to optimize Oracle Team USA’s 50ft AC50 wing-sail foiling catamarans. He was once again working with the finest yacht designers and sailors in the world, racing the most extreme fast boats.

Tom will be remembered as a brilliant engineer, a skilled sailor, and a loving husband and father.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Kathy Long; son, Sean (Imogen); stepsons, Brett Ryder and Cory Daiker (Kim); mother, Lenora Speer; brother, Brad (Janet); sisters, Kristin Morgan (Richard Morgan) and Kymberly Speer (Charles Cuda); one grandson; two step-granddaughters; and numerous nieces and nephews. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

A memorial service for Tom will be held April 29, 2023, at the Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to “Read to Rover” (c/o Olympic Mountain Pet Pals organization,; or the American Legion, P.O. Box 0042, Stanwood, IA 52337.

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