Way back in my career as a NASA engineer, I spent most of my time training. You see, I wasn't a design engineer - I was an operations engineer - we got to take all the cool stuff that the rest of the aerospace industry built, and make them fly. Much of that work was operating and troubleshooting systems, and part of the job was learning how to fix things "on the fly" so to speak - including things that were never designed to be fixed in flight. Did you ever see the scene in the movie Apollo 13, when they had to make square CO2 absorber cartridges fit round holes? That successful effort lead to an entire discipline in the Space Shuttle program, and we all got a chance to learn the procedures for re-wiring, troubleshooting, and replacing avionics boxes in flight. Continue reading "Learn to Wire Well"
John Glenn, a lifelong pilot and public figure who is best known as the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, died Thursday at 95. The retired military airman and four-term U.S. senator was hospitalized in Columbus, Ohio, about a week ago in declining health. Glenn, a native of Cambridge in eastern Ohio, is the state's "ultimate hometown hero, and his passing today is an occasion for all of us to grieve," Ohio Gov. John Kasich tweeted. Glenn is a decorated military pilot who flew combat missions in World War II and the Korean War before flying as a military test pilot and joining NASA's astronaut program in 1958. Continue reading "Astronaut, Fighter Pilot John Glenn Dead At 95"
Bear with me a few paragraphs as I talk a little about my previous life. I have been in aviation since my teenage years, and was incredibly fortunate to spend most of my career in the operation and testing of spacecraft, primarily the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. Those were incredible decades, flying incredibly complex machinery with little to no margin for error. And sometimes – errors were made. Continue reading "Kindred Spirits – Fallen Colleagues"
Do you recognize this Homebuilder? I ran into this old NASA coworker at the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio this past week. Joe Engle (Maj Gen, USAF, Ret.) was in town to watch them roll one of "his" old airplanes into the brand new building at the museum (so new that we all had to wear helmets and safety vests because the building isn't actually finished). The airplane being enshrined? The X-15 ship #2. Joe mentioned that of the three X-15's built, this was the only one that he DIDN'T get to fly – it was under repair when he joined the program, and he flew ships #1 and #3. Continue reading "Real Homebuilder"
Many homebuilders don't know of the debt they owe to an organization that would have been 100 years old today - the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). NACA morphed into the NASA in 1958, but we can still see its heritage in large wind tunnels and research complexes around the country. Many (if not most) homebuilts today have something that came from basic NACA research - at least a NACA duct or a NACA designed airfoil. Much of what we know about aerodynamics and making airplanes faster and more efficient came from the laboratories and wind tunnels of NACA in the first half of the last century. Today we celebrate the Centennial of the founding of NACA and thank the men and women of that pioneering agency for the advances that took humankind from KittyHawk to the lunar surface in just 66 years. Continue reading "Celebrate the Centennial of NASA's Predecessor: The NACA"
The CAFE Foundation announced recently that Google will sponsor the NASA Centennial Challenge flight competition known as the Green Flight Challenge. CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency) will conduct the event from September 25 through October 2, 2011, at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, California. The NASA-funded prize purse of $1.65 million makes this the largest ever prize for aviation. Competing aircraft must demonstrate at least 100 mph and 200 passenger mpg on a 200-mile flight. Continue reading "Google Signs on as Green Flight Challenge Sponsor"