Monday, July 11, 2011

The MTT: Apollo 13 Style

Lately I have been having more adventures with our pimped out Black Hawk up here in Kentucky. Part of flight test is an understanding that "adventures" is really code word for nothingreallygoesasplanned. It's a love/hate relationship that you love being a part of. [That probably didn't make sense to most of you, but for my small percentage of flight test engineer readers, I'm sure you completely understand!]

Sometimes it's hard for me not to get a complex while I'm up here. I've been through entire weeks of bad weather, instrumentation delays, and personnel...ehem...issues. I thought my chances of seeing a new problem were dwindling, but I was wrong.

This week the problems were not with the aircraft, maintenance, or pilots. Nope, we had our own little problems in the telemetry trailer (which is also code word for fancy shmancy horse trailer...BTW). Just as the pilots were spinning up the engines we heard a "pop" followed by the annoying chirps from the uninterrupted power supply. Crap. Turns out we blew a fuse, but this is no time to halt a test activity!! Then another pop and half of our monitors went black. As the aircraft climbed up to altitude we were busy scrambling to turn every unnecessary power user off...including the air conditioners. I dubbed it operating in Apollo 13 mode, minus the below freezing temperatures and crew member huddle sessions.

I couldn't help but think of the book I'm reading right now. It is a history of Area 51, with large sections dedicated to the flight tests of the A-12 Black Bird. Those guys roughed it without air conditioning in the middle of the Nevada desert....all this after designing one of the most advanced aircraft WITHOUT computers.

And here I was, out in the Kentucky wilderness, with my fellow engineers, with only half the screens and twice the willpower. We were sweating (ok, if I was sweating, you can imagine the other guys), the trailer operator was working his butt off, and the test was executing.

And as my complex about being up in Kentucky grows, so does my love for this job...Apollo 13 mode and all!