Memorial Tributes: Volume 26
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  • WELKO E. GASICH (1922-2022)




    WELKO ELTON GASICH of Los Angeles, California, passed away January 14, 2022, of heart failure with his beloved wife by his side. He was 99 years old.1

    He was born March 28, 1922, in the small farming community of Cupertino, California, to Elija and Catherine (née Paviso) Gasich. His father was an orchardist, and during Welko’s youth he worked hard picking fruit and driving the tractor. When he was 10 years old, his Uncle Louis Paviso gave him a ride in his airplane and that was the beginning of Welko’s interest in aircraft.

    He graduated from Palo Alto High School and went on to receive his BA degree (cum laude) in mechanical engineering from Stanford University (Bacon Scholar) in 1943. His graduate studies were interrupted by World War II when he served in the United States Navy as a flight test engineer, achieving the rank of lieutenant.

    As an officer on detached duty with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), he was placed at Moffett Field to correlate the P-39 flight test results of drag divergence Mach number with wind tunnel tests. He also was the project engineer in charge of propeller tests on an XSB2D-1 single-engine airplane that eventually crashed due to engine failure; he and the pilot survived, but the airplane was destroyed. After his active duty in the US Navy (1944–46), he continued in the US Naval Reserve until April 1954, when he was honorably discharged.

    He returned to Stanford in 1947 and completed his master of science degree in aeronautical engineering. The next year he received a professional degree of aeronautical engineer from the California Institute of Technology.

    He began his career at the Douglas Aircraft Company, El Segundo Division, working in the fields of aerodynamics and aeroelasticity on a variety of aircraft. Then for three years he worked at the Rand Corporation, in Santa Monica, as chief of aircraft design on various programs in support of the United States Air Force.

    In 1953 he was asked to join the Northrop Corporation, and remained there for the next 35 years. His first assignment was chief of preliminary design. He had a major role in the company’s conception and development of the Air Force’s lightweight supersonic jet trainer, the T-38 Talon, of which he was a copatentee. The T-38 entered service with the USAF in 1960 and, with its outstanding performance, is still in service today. He was also integrally involved in the design of the F-5 (copatentee) as well as the F-5A and the F-5E supersonic fighters. In 1956 he was promoted to director of advanced systems and in 1961 to vice president of engineering and assistant general manager – technical.

    After completing Stanford’s Sloan Executive Program in the Graduate School of Business (1966–67), he was made general manager of the Ventura Division, in charge of subsystems such as the parachute recovery system for Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space vehicles. In 1971 he returned to Northrop’s Aircraft Division as general manager. He worked on the NASA M-2 and HL-10 space recovery vehicles as well as the A-9, YF-17, and F-18 fighters and the early B-2 bomber. Thereafter, he was appointed a corporate officer and senior vice president of advanced projects. In 1985 he was elected executive vice president of programs until his retirement in September 1988.

    For his work on supersonic aircraft design and leadership in the engineering field Welko was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1979. He was also elected a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

    In addition, he was a member of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff Scientific Advisory Group, chair of the Stanford Engineering Advisory Council, and a member of the SAE Board of Directors and various university engineering advisory boards. He was also national president of the Stanford Business School Alumni Association.

    Welko’s community activities included serving the Boy Scouts of America as chair of both Scout-O-Rama for Los Angeles County and the Explorer Scout Executive Committee. He also chaired the United Way Fund for Southwestern Los Angeles. In 1994 he became a founding member of the Petersen Automotive Museum and one of the original Checkered Flag 200 members. He was a member of the Conquistadores del Cielo for 50 years and a member of the Bel-Air Country Club for 48 years.

    Upon his retirement from aerospace, he had more time for his avocation—automobiles. One of his lifelong ambitions was to study the key factor in determining the horsepower output of racing engines. After two years of research on Ferrari engines, he established that bore/stroke ratio was a powerful index of engine performance. Having written various articles on technical subjects and engineering management over the years, he authored the book Forty Years of Ferrari V-12 Engines (SAE, 1990).

    Welko is survived by his loving wife Patricia (née Gudgel) Gasich, their son Mark David Gasich, and many cousins throughout America and Serbia. He is greatly missed and will never be forgotten.


    1Adapted from his obituary published in the Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2022, at the request of his wife. Available at