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Edward A. Starosielec, Calspan vice president and visionary engineer

Edward A. Starosielec (provided photo)

Sept. 27, 1946 – Jan. 11. 2018

Edward A. Starosielec's career connected him to a variety of innovations and research: helping Olympic skiers, researching missile defense systems, testing the first cellular phone systems, and work that led to car technology and computer search engines.

The retired vice president of what is now known as Calspan died Thursday of complications from Parkinson's disease in Fox Run of Orchard Park. He was 71.

Mr. Starosielec was born in Pittsburgh and graduated from Bishop Canevin High School in 1964. He earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from Penn State University in 1968, and moved to the Buffalo Niagara region that same year.

Mr. Starosielec started his career at Cornell Aeronautical Labs, which was owned and operated by Cornell University. He initially worked in its wind tunnel, helping U.S. Olympic ski team members test the effects of wind and angles as they prepared for competition.

He continued working at the facility as it transitioned over the years to Calspan, Veridian and General Dynamics, as they operated what is now known as Calspan, headquartered in Cheektowaga. He was elevated to vice president in 1990 and retired in 2005.

Early in his career, he focused on work with Bell Telephone laboratories, researching and eventually building a ballistic missile defense system in the early 1970s. He worked closely with Bell Labs personnel in New Jersey, and managed Calspan operations at the Kwajalein Atoll radar research facilities in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. He continued his ballistic missile research by supervising research for McDonnell Douglas Corp. in California and for MIT Labs in Massachusetts.

Mr. Starosielec also established a group investigating underwater sound with Bell Labs, and later established a group to help Bell Labs and AT&T in the testing of the first cellular phone systems.

His work also touched transportation, focusing on "smart car" technology that ultimately led to technologies such as OnStar, Nexus and EZPass. Interviewed for a 1998 Viewpoints story in The Buffalo News, he looked to the future, imaging how "intelligent transportation systems" could change everyday travel.

"I think that in 50 years, your car will come equipped so that you can enter, let's say the Kensington Expressway, and get linked into a kind of electronic train that effectively ties vehicles together," he said in the article. The movement and speed of the vehicle would be controlled through electronic interaction with the roadway, he said, allowing vehicles to be clustered more closely and at faster speeds than would be safe under manual control by drivers.

Mr. Starosielec in the early 1980s formed an advanced research group that worked with DARPA and other research organizations that led to the development of sophisticated search engines in the early 1990s. These search engines were used to formulate information primarily for use in intelligence operations.

Mr. Starosielec was a graduate of the Leadership Buffalo program in 1991, and held a leadership role in organizations that established national, state and local transportation research priorities and programs.

He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Margaret; a son, Mark; two daughters, Alana Cornall and Cara Constantine; a sister, Nancy Reese; and seven grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian burial will offered 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Nativity of Our Lord Church, 26 Thorn Ave. in Orchard Park.

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