image of Walt Downing

Walt Downing, P.E.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Southwest Research Institute

M.B.A., University of Texas at San Antonio, 1986
B.S., Electrical Engineering, Southern Methodist University, 1973
Graduate study, Electrical Engineering, University of Houston, 1976

Mr. Downing is the Chief Operating Officer and serves on the Board of Directors of Southwest Research Institute. He directs the operations of the Institute’s technical divisions and administers internal research, capital equipment, and other resources and services.

While attending college, Mr. Downing completed a two-year cooperative work-study program as an electronic engineer trainee with the U.S. Air Force Security Service at the Air Force Cryptologic Depot Laboratory. Upon graduation, Mr. Downing accepted an electrical engineering position in the petrochemical division of Brown & Root, Inc., where he designed process instrumentation and control systems.

Mr. Downing joined Southwest Research Institute as a senior research engineer in the Data Systems Department of the Electronic Systems Division. His engineering assignments included design and development of an automated system for reliability testing of ballistic missile reentry vehicle electronics.

Moving into technical management, Mr. Downing became manager of the Instrumentation and Control Systems Section to develop a new technical program area at the Institute. The technical program area evolved into the field of automated testing of aircraft electronics that became the Avionics and Support Systems Section. This section gained national recognition for work in the field of modular automated test equipment for the U.S. Air Force.

Mr. Downing expanded his technical program area into avionics systems design and development. Recognizing the unique needs of military customers who must manage avionics systems far beyond commercial electronics lifetimes, the section began to focus on solving reliability and maintainability problems with existing systems through technology insertion. Mr. Downing managed the U.S. Air Force Design Engineering Program, a major R&M initiative. Under this program, Mr. Downing directed over $100 million of contract research, thereby growing his section into a department and later into a division. As division vice president, his job functions included planning, organizing, directing and controlling of research and development in the field of avionics and associated aerospace electronics, technologies for training, maintenance, and logistics support.

Following a brief assignment as vice president for planning and program development, Mr. Downing was appointed executive vice president and member of the board of directors.


  • Registered Professional Engineer, Texas and Florida


  • U.S. Air Force
    • Electronic Engineer Trainee, 1971-73
  • Brown & Root, Inc.
    • Design Engineer, 1974-79
  • Southwest Research Institute
    • 1979; senior research engineer
    • 1979-81; section manager,
    • 1981-88; department directo
    • 1988-94; division vice president
    • 1994-7; vice president for planning and program development
    • 1998; executive vice president
    • 1998-present;
    • chief operating officer, 2016-present
  • University of Texas at San Antonio, School of Business, Department of Management and Marketing
    • Instructor, 1990-92


  • Life Senior Member Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • IEEE Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society, Board of Governors [2000-6, 2012-present]
  • VP Technical Operations [2015-present]
  • Central Texas Section Joint Chapter Chair [2016-present]
  • IEEE Systems Council VP Technical Operations [2017];
  • IEEE AUTOTESTCON Board of Directors [1996-9, 2001-9, 2014-present]
  • IEEE Eta Kappa Nu
  • University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) College of Engineering Advisory Council
  • UTSA College of Business Advisory Council
  • St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees, Audit and Ethics Committee Chair [2015-present]
  • Chairman of the BioMed SA Board of Directors
  • Free Trade Alliance San Antonio Board of Directors