Nick Tran selected for the Aviation Week Network’s 2024 20 Twenties Class

These top 20 students are poised to make significant strides in the arenas of aviation, aerospace or defense.

Nick Tran stands in his graduation clothes next to a small airplane in a hanger

Nick Tran, a graduate student in the Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) Department at the University of Michigan (U-M), has been distinguished as one of the select 20 Twenties class of 2024 by Aviation Week Network. Chosen from an international cohort, these 20 students are poised to make significant strides in the areas of aviation, aerospace or defense.

“Being a part of the 20 Twenties Class of 2024 is an incredible honor, and I am truly grateful for this recognition of my work in such a dynamic industry,” said Tran. “I’m excited to continue contributing to its growth.” 

After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from U-M IOE in 2023, Tran went on to further his education with a Master’s degree which he aims to finish in May 2024. Throughout his time at U-M, he has been continually involved in organizations such as Engineering Global Leadership (EGL) and the Tauber Institute for Global Operations which provides students with multidisciplinary, action-oriented education and experiences they need to solve the operations challenges of top companies around the world.

Nick Tran stands in a hilly sandy desert in a United Airlines shirt. There is nothing else around him.

As an undergrad, Tran interned at an aerospace consulting firm, Aerodynamic Advisory. He also undertook a six-month co-op at United Airlines, opting to pause his academic pursuits to immerse himself in full-time employment and gain practical insights from the aviation field.

“You’re doing data analytics, process improvement and lean implementation for one of the biggest airlines in the world,” said Tran. “This was really cool for me because I love aviation, and I was actually able to see my work have an impact on the flights that take off every day.”

Tran furthered his industry exposure with a subsequent internship at United Airlines in 2022 and pursued a graduate internship with Boeing in 2023.

Beyond his corporate experience, Tran is actively involved in the aviation community at U-M, working to organize flyouts with the Michigan Flyers and researching Hybrid-Electric Aircraft Fleet Optimization through the Laboratory for Air Transportation, Infrastructure and Connected Environments (LATTICE). Adding to his list of credentials, Tran is also a certified pilot who regularly takes to the skies.

“A mile of open road takes you one mile, but a mile of runway can take you anywhere in the world,” said Tran. “Once you see the world from above, you never want to come down. When I’m flying, I feel like nothing is holding me back.”

Tran also authored a book in 2021 titled “It’s Always Sunny Above the Clouds: Getting the Next Generation into the Cockpit,” a book aimed at demystifying the journey to becoming a licensed pilot with a budget-friendly mindset. The guide tackles the financial aspects of pilot training, exploring various scholarships, academies and tips for selecting the right flight program to suit individual needs.

Post-graduation Tran is heading back to his home state of Washington to work as an industrial engineer for Boeing. In his free time, he aims to continue pursuing his passion for aviation by teaching others how to fly, putting his words into action and getting more students into the world above the clouds.

“As a pilot, much of my life revolves around the world of aviation,” said Tran. “I’m really lucky to know what inspires me, and to have the opportunity to explore the world of flying. Whether I am working on a project, doing research or teaching, I know I have a strong foundation to rely on and learn from.” 

Celebration of his achievements took place at the 20 Twenties awards banquet in Washington D.C., held on March 14, 2024 along with three U-M winners from the U-M Aerospace Department: José Luiz Vargas de Mendonça, Sophia Papp and Maria Reitz.