john tonkovich in the cockpit of a F/A-18 Super Hornet with sky in background

John Tonkovich

John Tonkovich

January 28, 2020

The School of Engineering at is #PNWEngineeringProud of alumnus John Tonkovich! A May 2012 Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering graduate, he is a current Naval Aviator in the U.S. Navy, flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Hometown: Griffith, IN

High School: Griffith High School, Class of 2008

PNW degree: Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, May 2012

Why did you choose your field of study?

Math and science always clicked with me growing up. Additionally, I felt that any type of STEM degree would benefit me the most with the type of job I wanted to do.

Why did you choose PNW?

I chose PNW because it was close to home, affordable, and they have a respected and accredited engineering program.

What was your most rewarding academic experience at PNW?

My most rewarding academic experience was finally being able to look back after four years of hard work and dedication and being able to walk head-on into a career feeling prepared for any outcome.

Any specific classroom projects/learning experiences at PNW that were beneficial to you?

I would say that the senior design project was the most beneficial to me. Due to PNW’s close proximity to heavy industry, it allowed not just myself but others in my graduating class to integrate with a large variety of industries across all disciplines. This exposure allowed us to take the knowledge we accrued and apply it to real industry problems.

Apart from the actual engineering work, we had to balance real industry considerations that included budgeting, manufacturing, and timeline constraints that are not always present in the lab or classroom environment. It gave us all a real appreciation for the challenges that engineers face on a day-to-day basis.

F/A-18 super hornet flown by john tonkovich with aircraft carrier and ship below

During deployment in support of US 6th Fleet operations, stationed in the Adriatic Sea with carrier USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75), June 2018.

Faculty and/or staff members who helped you along your journey at PNW:

Professors Bipin Pai, Dave Kozel, and Nicolae Tarfulea for writing letters of recommendation for my officer/pilot application.

Awards received at PNW:

  • 2012 Distinguished Graduating Senior in the Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Best and Brightest Scholarship Recipient

Where are you currently working?

I’m a Naval Aviator in the U.S. Navy currently stationed at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet. I’m a fully qualified Level 4 Combat Division Lead and Mission Commander in all the unique mission sets employed by strike fighter aviation.

Aside from my primary flying duties, I’m also the squadron’s Avionics and Armaments Division Officer. I mentor and lead 46 sailors who oversee the maintenance of the aircraft’s electronics/avionics and the loading/arming of all Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface weapons employed by the F/A-18.

Final thoughts about your PNW education:

The education I received at PNW gave me the technical aptitude and critical thinking I rely on minute-by-minute in a fast paced, sometimes unforgiving, and constantly changing career.