John Patierno, head of the Northrop research and development team that designed and built the controversial B-2 Stealth bomber, died Saturday at a Newport Beach hospital of cancer. He was 54 and until January had retained the title of corporate vice president and general manager of the company’s 12,000-employee B-2 division in Pico Rivera.
Before that he had been closely involved for 10 years in the studies that led to the secret technology that Northrop hopes will make the controversial B-2 the bomber of the future.
The bombers, which will cost $500 million each and which are currently undergoing wing redesign, came at the end of a 33-year career in aerodynamics for Patierno. During that time, and beginning with the Air Force’s T-38 jet trainer, a Northrop spokesman said, Patierno had played a role in the design of every aircraft produced by the company.
A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from USC, Patierno earlier this year was presented the Reed Aeronautics Award, the highest honor granted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
His survivors include his wife, Jean Rose, four children, three grandchildren, his mother, stepfather and a sister.