Eddie Zavala is director for Programs and Projects at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. Appointed to the position in March 2023, he is responsible for the advocacy, formulation, and implementation of the center’s flight projects as well as policy and business management of the center’s programs.
Prior to his current assignment, Zavala served as acting deputy center director at Armstrong, assisting the center director in the management of the NASA field center, focusing on strategy, business processes, and institutional management.
Zavala was director of Center Operations at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, from 2020 to 2022. He planned, directed, and coordinated the center’s management operations necessary to support center missions – ensuring the operational status of approximately 1,930 acres, including horizontal infrastructure, federal airfield operations, and key facilities.
He was acting director of Safety and Mission Assurance at Ames from 2019 to 2020, overseeing all center activities and project responsibilities for Health/Medical Safety, Facility (Ground) Safety, System Safety, Mission Assurance, and Flight Safety. He was responsible for the Ames’ initial response to the COVID pandemic in March 2020.
From 2012 to 2019, Zavala was program manager of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), the world’s largest airborne observatory, based at NASA Armstrong’s Building 703 in Palmdale, California. The aircraft was retired in September 2022. Under his leadership, the program – a cooperative effort between NASA (Ames and Armstrong) and the German Aerospace Center – completed the development phase, implemented an improved cross-center organizational construct, became fully operational in May 2014, and completed the five-year prime mission. He oversaw the overall observatory operations (science and aircraft) at both NASA centers. Zavala joined NASA Ames in October 2015 with the transfer of the SOFIA program management responsibility to the Silicon Valley center.
Zavala first came to NASA in 1989 as a cooperative education student at NASA Armstrong. In 1991, he began his professional career as a flight systems research engineer. As a member of the F/A-18 Systems Research Aircraft project, he developed technical expertise in fly-by-light (fiber optics) technology and electrical actuation control systems.
He transferred to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in 1998. As a space shuttle flight controller, he supported several shuttle missions and participated in shuttle avionics upgrade projects. He returned to NASA Armstrong in 2000, where he was manager on the Intelligent Flight Controls, Flight and Systems Demonstrations, and Subsonic Fixed Wing projects. He also served as mission director, responsible for the center’s full portfolio of aeronautics projects. In November 2007, Zavala transitioned to the SOFIA program as the deputy program manager.
Zavala earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1991 from Texas A&M University. He holds the advanced/expert-level Office of Management and Budget Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers. Zavala is a recipient of the 2011 and 2016 NASA Exceptional Achievement medal and the 2014 NASA Outstanding Leadership medal.