Skip to main content

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!

Comments

Post a Comment

Who has two thumbs and loves comments? Nerdy April!!! Type one out and hit publish!

Popular posts from this blog

The road to curing Type 1 Diabetes

From the moment of diagnosis, the road is rough, the learning curve is steep and the stakes are literally life or death. The map is less-than-helpful - paths originating from virtually every corner, coalescing at a center point (aka "diagnosis") and bursting back outwards - some paths cross and wrap around each other but others are isolated. And even with all of these roads, most of the territory is uncharted - how did we all get here and how will we all exit? Where are the obstacles we haven't found yet? Which passage holds the key to unlocking the solution? On any given day I feel pretty isolated with this disease - I'm the only T1D in my group at work, the only one in mission control, the only one in my family. I go through the logistics of calling insurance companies, ordering supplies, changing sites and troubleshooting malfunctions mostly on my own. Even those pesky carbs really only get counted in my brain, no group think for a meal bolus here. But there i

Hot OJT

Last week I had the chance to mentor a newly certified ADCO trainee - the NASA process is called "Hot On-The-Job-Training", or Hot OJT. What makes it "hot" you ask? Well, essentially I am hands off - he is sitting at the console, working all the plan reviews and updates, making calls to other flight controllers and to the flight director, reacting to anomalies and preparing material for the shift handover. My job is to act as the fault tolerance - a backup ADCO of sorts. Tuesday was his last official day and by Wednesday morning he was in the backroom sending commands to ISS in preparation for the docking of a three-person Soyuz. Controlling ISS during the 61S Soyuz docking! The beauty of this system is the gradual buildup in responsibility. There is a subtle shift from student, to subject matter expert, to fresh operations trainee to advanced trainee and finally to certification and real-time operations flight controller - the process takes two years

The Diabetes Transportation System DTS-T1

I was looking forward to the Space Shuttle launch on Monday, then it was pushed to Wednesday and now it is scheduled for Thursday due to several electrical issues from a main engine computer controller. Ironically, our little MH-47G (due to start testing on Monday originally) has been having it's own issues and it is still unclear exactly when we will start testing. And all of this uncertainty, schedule changes, and issue-working reminds me of my little friend Diabetes [come on, you knew that was coming :-)]. Even with hard work, super awesome bolusing skills [ check out Holly's blog today, the number crunching is very impressive] and constant blood sugar checks, Diabetes can still be unpredictable, necessitate schedule changes, and cause the carrier to work through the issues. I have been lucky today, even after a late-night cocktail last night, I woke up this morning at 112, and before lunch I was an amazing 113. I love being steady like that, cruising along with hardly an
01 09 10